“At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions. . . . But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:3-5).
Warren Buffett, one of the world’s leading philanthropists, has given away $37 billion since 2006. That’s quite a sum. But if you divided that $37 billion among the 7 billion people alive today, each person would receive a little over $5. Don’t spend it all in one place.
The objects of God’s love and mercy
Buffett’s generosity is indisputable, and he has pledged to give away billions more. His money supports noble causes, like fighting cancer, ending hunger, and providing clean water. However, as charitable as Buffett is, he can’t compare to the world’s leading philanthropist: God. God supports causes that others won’t touch—lost causes like you and me. When we were foolish and disobedient, that’s when the love—literally “philanthropy”—of God appeared to save us.
But this message offends people. “Who are you calling a charity case? I don’t need God’s mercy.” Even we Christians can reflect this thankless attitude. When that part of the sermon arrives where the pastor speaks about sin, we find ourselves thinking, Yeah, I’m a sinner. I get it. Just pronounce my sentence and finish already. There’s a sale on at Kohl’s!
I wonder if Warren Buffett would keep supporting a charity that shrugged off his generosity. Sadly, we don’t just shrug off God’s gracious forgiveness. We abuse it. Like a charity that spends its funds on lavish parties and fast cars for its directors, we’ve used God’s grace as a license to sin. We figure it’s no big deal—there’s more grace where that came from.
Able to show love and mercy to others
Yes, God’s forgiveness is abundant. And his generosity doesn’t just save us; it empowers us to devote ourselves to doing good (Titus 3:8). That means a Christian can roll out of bed each morning thinking, How can I make the day go better for everyone I meet?
Maybe that sounds a bit too pie-in-the-sky. Sure, we might start the day with that kind of resolve, but by late afternoon we’re tired and grumpy. When we survey our children’s messy bedrooms, we don’t see an opportunity to teach responsibility calmly. Instead, we’re sarcastic. We shout, and then we’re surprised when our children react poorly.
God supports causes that others won’t touch—lost causes like you and me.
But do you know what a Christian can remember at times like that? Baptism. When Buffett donates to a charity, he may present one of those oversized checks. Baptism is a little bit like that. It’s a visible way God assures us that we have his support. But while an oversized check is just a symbol of support, the waters of Baptism are the real deal. They actually wash away sin, and they deliver the Holy Spirit to us (Acts 2:38). Like high-octane fuel powering a race car, the Holy Spirit drives us to carry out God’s will in all matters at all times—even at 4:55 p.m., when we’re ready to lose it because we’re tired and hungry.
This is all because the world’s leading philanthropist is our friend. We’re not a lost cause anymore. We’re God’s cause—the objects of his love and mercy, able to show love and mercy to others.
Author: Daniel Habben
Volume 10, Number 1
Issue: January 2021