Harvest: learning to share

There was once a very wealthy Jewish man called Sir Moses Montefiore. He was a personal friend of Queen Victoria who knighted him. He was so wealthy he was able to retire at the age of 40. He devoted his remaining 60 years to works of charity. One day, someone asked him how much he was worth. Sir Moses thought for a while and said ‘about £100, 000.’ The other person thought for a moment, and replied you must be worth be worth more than that, you must be worth at least a million.

Sir Moses said to the man, ‘you asked me what I was worth, not what I own, so I added up what I gave to charity last year. We are worth only what we are willing to share with others.’

Our thanksgiving for the abundance of food with which we are blessed in this country that we celebrate in our harvest festival today, is shown by sharing our good fortune. We give part of our crop of groceries we harvest from the supermarket to the Food Bank helping families who are in trouble in this town, who for one reason or another have not got enough money to buy food. We  raised money at the harvest supper and have a collection today to support the work of the Purfleet Trust. The charity was set up to provide help for single homeless people not eligible for help from the Council. It help people find and maintain accommodation and a day centre providing a daily hot meal. The trust has just opened this week the super Olive Branch community café in the old community centre across the churchyard, and they are training volunteers to help them gain experience in catering and find employment. 

When we give to charity we have a rough idea where the money goes but we will not be thanked personally by those who will benefit.  When we give to charity we do not give in order to be thanked but because we want to help. Jesus commends those who give discreetly without drawing attention to themselves. We should be like the servant who says 'I was only doing what I had to do, doing my duty.'

It is a wonderful thing to be generous, and some people are blessed with a generosity with their wealth and possessions, that they cannot help but sharing them. They enjoy a detachment from wealth that says what’s mine is yours.

Jesus preached detachment from wealth, and we might think that he had it in for the rich, ‘it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.’ he said. He was critical of the rich man who ignored poor Lazarus sitting in his doorway, longing to eat the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table with the dogs licking his sores. He told the rich young man to give his possessions to the poor and follow him. However it was not so much their prosperity that he was critical of, but their unwillingness to share. Jesus was hard on those who were possessed by their wealth, whose possessions controlled their lives, and made them diminished, closed off people.

How terrible it must be to have so many possessions that you are afraid to leave the house or let others in for fear of being robbed. I once met a woman who had been burgled a dozen times, her possessions had been taken time and time again.  I asked her how that made her feel and she told me that she knew that whatever she had was hers to enjoy for a short while and not for ever. Thta is actually true for all of us.

When Jesus fed the five thousand with a little bit of fish and bread, it was only because somebody gave them up, that the miracle was able to be performed. St John says that it was a young boy who have gave them to Jesus. If he had held on to them, thinking this is mine, I’m all right Jack, then there would have been no miracle.

There was a man who loved money more than anything, in the world and he got his wife to promise that when he died she would put all his money in the coffin so he could take it with him to heaven.

When he died his wife asked the funeral director to put a box into the coffin with her late husband.

Her best friend said to her after "I can’t believe you put all his money with that old miser and let it be buried with him."

"Well" she said, "I'm a good Christian woman and I stand by my word. I promised him that I was going to put all his money in the coffin with him. So I gathered all his money together paid it into my account and I wrote him a cheque, and that’s what I put in the box."

Happiness does not lie in what we own, but in what we share.