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Giving As a Way of Life



Now, anytime I offer anything attributed to Jesus, I like to include what I call my nine-point Jesus introduction. We don’t know what Jesus said. We know what someone said Jesus said. We have to engage our own hearts and minds in our seeking.


1. We haven’t heard from everyone. Some of Jesus’ closest and most celebrated students were “edited out” by the early church. Some of Jesus’ closest and most celebrated students were women.


2. Jesus was an observant Jew. For the most part, he was teaching Jewish people from Jewish scripture. He was not starting a new religion. Christian antisemitism is but one oxymoronic distortion of Christian thought.


3. In sweeping ways, the ministry about Jesus has departed radically from the ministry of Jesus.


4. Jesus consistently denied his “specialness.” He encouraged people to do that which he did. That his students would worship him instead of following his example is antithetical to the very heart of his message.


5. Jesus was a teacher of consciousness. This means that elements of attitude, perception, belief, attachment, worth, relationship and beyond can be found in many, if not all, of his teachings.


6. If his teachings seem easy, try again. As a parabolic teacher, his intentions would have assumed the need for additional conversation, exploration, even argument.


7. One must at least approach the context of Jesus if one would approach the wisdom of Jesus. An approach to Semitic languages, Jewish history, Jewish mythology, Jewish wisdom traditions in general, and both the geography and cultures in which he lived and taught are starting points for any seeking of understanding.


8. That Jesus himself would have considered his message to somehow be exclusive is absurd.


It was in an account named Luke that the writer put words such as these into the mouth of Jesus: "The measure you use for others is the measure God uses for you."


Now, among its layers of meaning, the Bible can be interpreted metaphysically. Unity folk like this layer of meaning. Some Unity folk might go so far as to say that the Bible is a psycho-spiritual guidebook for individuals. All places represent aspects of self. All characters represent aspects of self. All situations represent aspects of self.


Our Jewish brothers and sisters, so accepted is this simultaneous multiplicity of meanings that the layers have names.

P’shat (which can be translated to mean “plain”) is that layer of meaning which tends to be literal. One might expect to find facts at this layer.

Remez (or, hint) is that layer of meaning which tends to press beyond the literal. One might expect to find allegory at this layer.

D’rash (or, inquire) is that layer of meaning which tends to press further beyond the literal. One might expect to find morality at this layer.

And Sod (or, secret) is that layer of meaning which presses even further beyond the literal. One might expect to find all manner of mystical and esoteric inspiration, all manner of symbolic and cryptic guidance at this layer.


The Hebrew acronym of sorts for these layers of meaning is Pardes (which can be translated to mean “orchard”). Pardes has been described this way: you first taste the fruit itself. Then, you taste the lingering essence of the fruit. Next, the products of the fruit (such as wine or pie; or at the end of a particularly challenging day – wine with pie). And finally, you taste the memory of the fruit.


The challenge with this is that a passage may include one layer of wisdom, two or three layers of wisdom, or all four layers of wisdom! It is possible for a teaching story to detail a history, offer an allegory, imply a morality and suggest a mystery at the same time!


And I say this is the challenge because when we try to get personal inspiration from a passage about – keeping food safe during ancient desert travel; or when we try to get objective facts from a passage about – glowing cities which descend from the skies, we end up getting nothing from either. If we wear the wrong glasses, we end up seeing nothing.


The challenge with this is that the modern mind says, “I want everything to be tidy.” And the Bible basically answers by saying, “That isn't important.”


So, it was in an account named Luke that the writer put words such as these into the mouth of Jesus: "The measure you use for others is the measure God uses for you."


So, for some, this offers a layer of meaning in which God is a man with hands who uses a measure. This man is tracking your generosity that he might respond in kind. He’s a Santa-like character, really. He knows if you’ve been bad or good, you see. You’d better watch out!


And for others, this offers a layer of meaning in which God represents something of a karmic working in life. He might even be the one who controls karmic workings. In either case, he begins to represent something of a through-me consciousness as we begin to see the connection between who we are being and how life is appearing.


And for others, this offers a layer of meaning in which we distill the story into a way of being. The story becomes of fable of sorts in which generosity becomes the moral. The passage might be treated transactionally at this level: “I will be generous with others so God will be generous with me,” or, “I will give so I can get.”


And for others, this offers a layer of meaning that’s seeking to describe something that’s happening within you. And because Jesus was a teacher of consciousness, I like to think this passage speaks beyond a man with a binder, beyond a transactional cosmic outworking, beyond a moral dictate, to a dynamic of consciousness; to a law of mind, perhaps.


And to my very best thinking today, that dynamic of consciousness, that law of mind, might be described this way: the quality of our giving prepares a place in us for the quality of our receiving. Of course, there are a hundred different ways to say it. For today: the quality of our giving prepares a place in us for the quality of our receiving.


Our work doesn’t convince God, you see. God is doing what God’s nature dictates. God is being God in, through and as God’s creation. Our work doesn’t change God or speed up God’s activity in our lives (although it can seem that way). Our work changes us.


Think of it this way: God is like the impartial flow of electricity. Its nature is to flow where there is a path of least resistance. You are the switch and this is a teaching about you turning on.


Or, God is like the impartial flow of water. Its nature is to flow where there is a path of least resistance. You are the faucet and this is a teaching about you opening up.

God is like light and you are a curtain. God is like air and you are a mouth.

I could go on.


The electricity, the water, the light, the air – these were there all along. So, while life might have us believe that we are waiting for God, I’m suggesting we consider it truer that God is waiting for us. God is waiting for us to become less resistant, we might say. Turn on to the ever-present activity of God that it might be made manifest in your world. Open up to the ever-present activity of God that it might be made manifest in your world. Pull the curtains and take a breath, maybe.


And so it is that on our journey of 40 – a journey from life-no-longer to life-not-yet – giving is suggested as one practice which is beneficial to the process, and I don’t disagree.

We are meaning-making, storytelling, problem-solving creatures, we are, and when we’re on our journey of 40, our problem-solving tendencies are accelerated. When we’re uncomfortable, our noses go down into that problem, into that discomfort. And the irony is that as our noses go down into the problem, the problem often appears to get bigger and bigger, and the resolutions appear to get smaller and smaller.


And perhaps we’ve all had the experience that as the problem appears to get bigger and bigger and our resources appear to get smaller and smaller, it can be one simple gesture of giving that brings our perspective back into balance. It can be one simple gesture of giving that lifts our noses toward the resources which were there all along. It can be one simple gesture of giving that flips the switch or turns the faucet.


And I’m not talking about giving as a strategy for denying life. I’m talking about giving as a strategy for seeing life appropriately.


For this week, your challenge is to give. Jesus goes on to affirm that this is a practice of consciousness by saying when you give, do it privately. The right hand doesn’t need to know what the left hand is doing.


I read a short article about four friends who would gather every morning (it might have been every week – I don’t remember the details) friends who would gather every morning, bake a pan of sweet rolls and deliver them to an unsuspecting individual struggling with life, along with a note that said, “Somebody loves you.” And they arrived home before their families woke up.


Not only did they deliver sweets and notes to an unsuspecting individual struggling with life, but they also anonymously paid a bill for each one. And they arrived home before their families woke up for over 30 years.


If the measure you use for others is the measure God uses for you; or, if the quality of our giving prepares a place in us for the quality of our receiving, let us put this to the test.

If you perceive a space for greater love in your life, I challenge you to quietly give some love to a shelter animal this week. Some shelter will be happy to welcome another dog walker, another storyteller, another tummy scratcher, I promise. Or give some love to an elder by listening to a story.


If you perceive a space for greater sufficiency in your life, I challenge you to quietly give a symbol of sufficiency to another. Yes, a pan of sweet rolls is a great choice. Or, when you go to the grocery store, buy a second can/box/bag of something you love (don’t buy something you wouldn’t eat) and donate it.


If you perceive a space for greater appreciation in your life, I challenge you to quietly give gratitude to another. Do you say, “Thank you,” to those in your life? Do you? “But they already know I’m grateful,” I can hear the responses even now. We imagine ourselves so busy doing the big stuff out there that we don’t have time for the little stuff right here. My experience has been that those who don’t have time for the little stuff right here aren’t often doing the big stuff out there.


Thank you, thank you, thank you.


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