Uniform 08.30.2015: Because I Have Been Given Much

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Malachi 3:1-10

“Humans of New York” is a popular photoblog with more than 14,500,000 followers on Facebook. The author, photographer Brandon Stanton, went to the University of Georgia (as a History major), worked as a bond trader for a few years, and then “decided to move to New York City and take portraits of strangers on the street” (Humans of New York, “Photographer”). Since beginning in 2010, Brandon has taken thousands of photos of New Yorkers.

He also tells their stories. Each photo on Facebook is accompanied by a summary quote or blurb about that particular individual. Some are simple, while others are more involved. Perhaps most remarkable, however, are the photos of people who are trying to make a difference, either in their own lives or the lives of others. One student talked about his principal and how she’d made a huge impact on their school; his words led to an outpouring of financial support for the school, which serves underprivileged children.

Recently, Brandon traveled to Pakistan and truly humanized its people. His latest story, about a woman named Syeda Ghulam Fatima who is working tirelessly to end bond labor, touched the hearts of millions. And it did more than that. People sitting at a computer screen were so moved by Syeda’s work that they wanted to do something tangible to help her. Brandon provided a way to contribute financially to her cause, and to this date people have given more than 2 million dollars. The combination of passion and compassion can accomplish amazing things.

Throughout the Bible, God proclaims judgment on those who are not good stewards of their financial blessings. Stewardship is never an easy topic to address, but the truth is that money is a necessity in our world. Those who have enough of it are few; those who have little of it represent the majority of the world’s population.

In Malachi, the people wonder how they could possibly rob the Lord. God sends back a fiery answer that we who have been given much would do well to heed: “you say, ‘How are we robbing you?’ In your tithes and offerings! You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me—the whole nation of you! Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in my house…” (Mal 3:8-10).

People are in desperate need all around us. What will we do to help them? The words of Grace Noll Crowell’s hymn are a good place to start:

Because I have been given much I too must give;
because of Thy great bounty, Lord, each day I live,
I shall divide my gifts from thee with every person that I see
who has the need of help from me.

Because I have been sheltered, fed, by Thy good care,
I cannot see another’s lack and I not share
my glowing fire, my loaf of bread, my roof’s safe shelter overhead,
that they too may be comforted.

Because love has been lavished so upon me, Lord,
a wealth I know that was not meant for me to hoard,
I shall give love to those in need, shall show that love by word and deed;
thus shall my thanks be thanks indeed.

What better way to express our gratitude for God’s blessings than to share those blessings with another child of God?

Sources: Humans of New York, humansofnewyork.com; M. Alex Johnson, “Humans of New York Raises $2 Million to End Forced Labor in Pakistan,” 19 August 2015, NBC News, http://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/photographers-campaign-raises-2-million-end-pakistani-forced-labor-n412031 (accessed 20 August 2015)

“Because I Have Been Given Much,” words by Grace Noll Crowell, music by Phillip Landgrave, SEMINARY, Celebrating Grace hymnal, Macon GA, #665.

Discussion

1. Brandon Stanton started his photoblog with the simple mission of taking pictures of people and showing the compelling uniqueness of humanity. In time, however, his work became a mission to help some of those unique individuals. Where does your passion for a hobby meet your compassion for other people, and what can you do about it?
2. What motivates you to give to people in need?
3. Have you ever given through a campaign on a social media site or some other website? If so, what was the result of that campaign?
4. What causes are dear to you? How do you support them? While money is essential, what are some other ways that you might help these groups?
5. What does it mean to rob God? How do we know when we’re doing this, and what steps can we take to prevent it? How can those of us who have been given much—whether it’s money or love or both—give of our bounty to others?

Reference Shelf

Infertility of the Land as Punishment from YHWH.

The infertility of the land appears as a problem presumed in both halves of the book. This theme appears somewhat muted in the first half of Malachi wherein the curse of God on the land functions more as an impending threat. The people are condemned for withholding the best of what they have more than for suffering from the lack of available sacrificial animals. Malachi presumes that the land’s infertility manifests the curse from YHWH (2:2), a curse that appears to be ongoing but threatens to become more severe. This motif reaches its apex in the promise (3:8-11) that follows the call for repentance (3:6-7). In 3:8-11, a positive response will result in rain to water the crops, as well as the removal of the “locusts” who have invaded the land. The double entendre of this threat, when read against Joel, should not be missed. The “devourer” in 3:10 functions as a symbol of both infertility and military occupation. Both have significant impact on the land’s ability to feed its people. The logic of testing in 3:6-12 presumes that the land’s fertility, its ability to produce enough crops to feed the people, has failed, and that only a return to YHWH will change the situation.

James D. Nogalski, The Book of the Twelve: Micah–Malachi, Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary (Macon GA: Smyth & Helwys, 2011) 1004.

Kelley Land, a graduate of Mercer University, has been an assistant editor for Smyth & Helwys curriculum and book since 2001. She attends church and leads an adult Sunday school class in Macon, Georgia. She enjoys reading fiction, spending time with her two daughters (ages 10 and 8), and watching television shows on Netflix. Her goal for 2015 is to tackle the bass clef on the piano.

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