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About this series
Being generous isn't something that comes naturally to most people but research confirms that truly generous people are happier, have a stronger immune system, and have more positive, life-giving relationships. Who wouldn't sign up for all that - right? In this series, Chip helps us understand the journey and the roadmap for getting there.More from this series
The third principle, and this is the one, at least for me, was like, Oh wow, do I really believe this, or not? Kingdom sowing is counterintuitive. That’s a big word for: it sounds really dumb when you hear it, right?
He is going to say: the kingdom works, here’s the world, and God’s kingdom principles, whoo, are the opposite. So, He is going to say: do things that you’re thinking, Now, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait. That doesn’t make, that’s illogical. Notice the wisest man in the world in Proverbs 3, verses 9 and 10. “Honor the Lord from your wealth and from the first of all your produce,” and here’s the promise, “so your barns will be filled with plenty and your vats will overflow with new wine.”
I don’t know about you, I didn’t grow up reading the Bible. Someone is telling me, “Take the very first and the very best of your work and give it to God to love and help people and God says, That’s how your barns are going to get…” That doesn’t make sense. You give away and you get more? It’s kingdom. That’s why your life becomes unexplainable.
“There’s one who scatters,” Proverbs goes on to say, chapter 11, “and it increases all the more.” That’s illogical. Well, unless you look at it literally. If you scattered more seed, a lot more would grow up. “And there is one who withholds what is justly due and it results only in want.” And we all know this by experience. “The generous man will be prosperous, and he who waters will himself be watered.”
Generous people are super attractive. Generous people have friends. Generous people have joy. Generous people are like a magnet that we all want to be around. But what we forget is they give. They have the same hours in the day that we do. Many of them have less money. In fact, all the research says poorer people are far more generous than us rich people.
Notice the words of Jesus, “Give, and it will be given unto you,” counterintuitive, “they will pour back into your lap.” Well, how are they going to pour back? Well, “Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over.” It’s a picture in an agricultural society where someone is giving you something and you shake it to make more room. He says, “God is not going to bless, He is going to really bless.” And whatever size measuring you give, you get it in return.
So, bring a cup of generosity, you’ll get a cup of generosity. Bring a bucket of generosity, get a bucket of generosity. It’s just a law of the kingdom. Now, there is no give-to-get here, by the way. That’s a perversion. There’s no, “Hey, I’m going to give away a lot because, okay, now You owe me.” Well, guess what, you have just violated the spirit of it. It’s not generosity, that’s manipulation.
Final principle is we never reap in the same season that we sow. This is why it’s hard. Okay, you are listening to me and you’re thinking, Man, I have got a bunch of debt and I am supposed to start giving? Or, Okay, I give one point three percent. Or, I am doing this or I am doing that. And even the thought of this…
Now, I have seen God do it radically, but when you begin to give, Well, I’m going to be kind to my wife. I’m going to, a new person is going to show up at work. Don’t expect the next day to get a promotion.
He says, “Don’t lose heart in doing good. In due time,” underline due time, “it will reap if you don’t grow weary. So then, what should we do? While we still have the opportunity, let us do good,” get this, “to all people.” Circle all people. We don’t just love each other. All people. Especially the people that they don’t think you care at all. The marginalized people. The people whose politics or lifestyle or sexual orientation is different. Do good to all people. That’s what Jesus did. “But, especially to the household of the faith.”
The reason we continue in unhealthy, unwise, selfish, greedy practices – and did you hear “we?” all of us – is because the consequences don’t show up right away. Small neglects in my marriage, small neglects in my investment in renewing my mind, just a little pecking around with some pornography here, just a little flirting here – nothing happened, right? Nothing happened. A little obsession with work and not really spending time that’s knowing what is on your kid’s heart. Nothing happened. Everybody seems okay.
Ten years, twelve years, twenty years. A marriage falling apart; kids disengaged. It was just a little bit of debt; it was just a little bit of neglect. Ten years later. See, you never reap in the same season that you sow. That’s why it takes faith!
The goal, God’s goal is not to get some people to come to meetings: church; listen to someone talk; sing a couple songs; and be relatively a little bit nicer and maybe a little bit more moral than the world. That is not a Christian. Those are some activities that Christians are in.
Following Jesus is: the seed of the living God, of the Holy Spirit comes and takes residence inside your body when you recognize your sin and turn from it and ask God for forgiveness and based solely on what He did on the cross and His resurrection, He actually enters your life and it begins to develop and cultivate the very character of Jesus in you as you get in community and get in His Word and talk to Him and become generous.
This is, it actually says, “My generosity manifesto,” so, this is mine, all right? This isn’t yours.
And here’s the question: do you want to be extraordinarily kind? And do you want to be extraordinarily generous? If so, you can check a box or two and at the very end, you can do this and put that somewhere. That’s what I really want to be. And God will start doing it. Or, I would never say this out loud, if you would rather choose to be a bit more selfish and a bit less generous and be miserly, which usually ends up in miserable, then I wouldn’t do anything. I really wouldn’t.
But there is, remember? We are deceived. Money has the power to deceive. We actually think we are doing okay. Your money is probably the clearest x-ray or MRI of your soul. And it’s so clear and so measurable. That’s why Jesus talked about it, because our money and hearts are connected.
So, let me walk through. Here’s my manifesto. Whatever part you’re willing and ready, by the grace of God, here’s an invitation. I hereby declare by the following actions, I’m inviting you to do that, that I believe it is as Jesus said more blessed to give than to receive.
If you really believe it’s more blessed to give than to receive, that your life is better and blessed, in every way: relationally, friendships, financially. Well, then, okay. Check number one: I thereby declare that all that I have or ever will have belongs to Christ.
Second, I hereby declare to act in obedience to God’s Word by giving back to God the first ten percent of what He has blessed and entrusted to me. And you can hear debates on tithing for today or whatever. It’s probably not worth going into. Long before there was a law, Abraham gave ten percent to Melchizedek after God richly blessed him with spoils. Pre-incarnate Christ.
Moses, they gave ten percent of everything. And if you add it all up, they gave twenty-three percent of their income because they were living in a theocracy. Part of it was like tax and the other part was these thank and voluntary offerings.
You keep moving, Jesus, His life. The Pharisees of the day, boy, they tithed but they missed the heart – mercy, justice, kindness. He said, “Don’t forsake the former,” tithing, “but you’ve got to get your heart right.” Malachi would just say, “The reason you’re having financial issues and relational issues and your life has got,” he talked about: you have a purse with holes in it. In other words, you keep putting stuff in, and it keeps leaking.
He said, “Because you are robbing God.” You declare it really belongs to Him by giving the first portion. For some of you, man, I’ll tell you, that would be a big step. You’d probably have to rearrange your finances and to do it, first, and not know how it’s going to work out – that’s faith. That was a hard one for me. But I can look back and realize: Wow!
Third is: I hereby declare that Jesus’ blessings, both financial or otherwise, are not designed primarily to raise my standard of living, but to raise my standard of giving. See, when you’re unconsciously greedy and deceived, every time you get more money, you get bigger, bigger, bigger, bigger, bigger.
But just, what if you said, “When God brings more in, maybe it’s not for a second home. Maybe it’s not for a remodel. Maybe He actually gave me some to help some refugees in Syria. Or some clean water in Africa. Or some local ministry right here.”
The next little box that I have checked is: I hereby declare to intentionally and aggressively remove the shackles of personal debt that have limited my giving, my going, and my peace. Forty to fifty percent of all marriages that fail are traced back to financial issues that cause tension.
Some of you, the next best step is, okay, I am going to give this. But we – there are certain things that are appreciable. God bless us, right? I am paying for a house. But I actually pay a bunch off on the principle every month.
Your personal debt – attack it. Go to a counselor; cut up your credit cards. There are plenty of good books about how to do that. But here’s the deal: when I pay everything on time, and I make minimum payments, I am the slave, the Scripture says. Borrowers are the slave to the lender.
The next box is: I hereby declare that I will prayerfully cap my lifestyle expenses to become an extraordinarily generous person. And this was something that I did not that long ago. I grew up really pretty poor and my wife grew up pretty poor. And we had four kids and sometimes two in college and two in private schools. And, gosh, I remember like, We have a thousand dollars in savings. We are doing really, really great.
And that wasn’t all that many years ago. But I made some decisions and one of them was to do pre-decisions about generosity because your heart is deceitful.
So, I had a guy who was a mentor. And he said, someone had asked me to write a book and I was on my first book, and he said, “I want to hire a professional financial planner for you to help you with your finances.”
So, I got with this financial planner and basically this is, they tell pastors, it’s a Christian one, “So, look, why don’t you decide, I have worked these things out, what should you give before you ever write the first book?”
So, I prayed about it. I talked with Theresa. Okay, we don’t want to be dependent on this. So, why don’t we say in advance, this was really easy: at least half of anything that comes in from any book any time, we just give to the Lord’s work. It was really pretty easy. I gave half of nothing away.
But that decision, in advance, changed my world. And it has been, it’s so exciting! We are poor people. We grew up poor people, like, we couldn’t pay the rent and stuff hardly. And now, to write a check for all these orphans in Zimbabwe and the joy and the excitement and looking into people’s eyes. God wants that for you. But cap your lifestyle. And you cap it where He shows you. Do whatever God shows you to do. But at some point in time, draw a line. It’s really exciting.
And then the last one here is: I hereby declare I’ll volunteer my time and talent “x” percent of my waking hours. I’d like you to write, “ten percent.” And I am being really gracious with you. Are you ready for this? A hundred and sixty-eight hours in a week. Hardly anyone sleeps eight hours, although we should. So, eight times seven, fifty-six. Subtract that out. Now, we are down to one-twelve. Let me give you some time to eat. Take those twelve hours away. So, you’ve got a hundred hours every week. Imagine, are you ready? Imagine. Imagine.
Can you imagine if all of us gave ten hours a week? That’s ten percent of our waking – in the name of Jesus – to love people. You could volunteer in the church, you can volunteer outside the church, you could do some…
Here’s what I want to ask you: which of those boxes are you going to check, and what is your next step? You grow into generosity.
Well, here’s some specifics. First step, and just do it for ninety days. If God doesn’t show up, don’t do it anymore. But for ninety days: “I commit to take the first step in generosity by committing to give,” and you put a percentage in, “of my income and my time weekly.”
Maybe you’re saying, I don’t have much faith. This is all new to me. Dear God, I have two point five percent faith. So, that’s what I’m giving. Or five point seven. Or one point three. Or eight point nine. I don’t care what it is. It’s between you and God. On this, there’s no number here. But what if all of us did something? Half of all the people in America that are Christians give nothing. It sounds really strong, but it’s true.
But I think if I asked you, “Are you generous?” You know what? We don’t make the connection. You’re not a bad person. But we don’t get it.
Next step, “As a follower of Christ, I commit to generously and faithfully give ten percent of my time weekly.”
There are probably lots of you who know: this is what I really ought to do. I intellectually believe that. But right now, because of…I am going to give some time and I’ve got these kids in school and I’ve got this here. And things at work are a little hard and I’m concerned about the future.
Guess what – none of those things ever change. This is about faith. God, it all belongs to You. You have told me: demonstrate that I really believe that by giving first and foremost.
“Above and beyond, I commit to joyfully growing my faith and generosity by giving ‘blank’ percent above my current tithe of ten percent of my income and weekly time.” It’s interesting that as our income and things grow – I have met people that, they have been a Christian for thirty years, thirty years ago, “I believe in tithing. It all belongs to God.” They gave ten percent.
Thirty years later. “I give ten percent.” How can that be? How can our hearts not grow? How can not we see the opportunities? I can tell you what happens. We get deceived and so what happens is our lifestyle grows, but our giving doesn’t grow.
The final one here is for those of you that, everything I am talking about, you may even have the gift of giving and you’re going, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, rah, rah, rah. I believe that.” You’re giving over and above. You’re looking at a pretty big percentage. Here’s my word for some of us that are, we have been growing. Pause and just ask about your motives.
One of the dangers of getting radically generous in your giving is to begin to see numbers and, Okay, I gave twenty-nine percent last year. But I gave thirty-one percent this year. Hey, God, hey. Look at me! And just back away and just ask: is there still joy? And then ask, Okay, Lord, have I justified myself? Is there something really exciting You would put on my heart? And would I do something crazy and radical if You showed me? And just pray. Because this is always about your heart.
“Although He was rich,” speaking of Jesus, “He became poor that we, through His poverty, might become rich.” “The eyes of the Lord go to and fro throughout the whole earth, that He might strongly support those whose heart is fully His.”
Lord, I have talked a lot about money. I know You have people all across the spectrum. You have some people that actually You don’t even want any of their money today. You want them to say, Could I receive something? Could I receive forgiveness of my sins and You come live inside of me and start a brand-new life and have all my sins behind me today? Lord, that’s Your heart.
And, God, for all of us, it’s easy to say this, but it’s so true. You really, really, really neither need nor want our money, but Jesus, you talked about it so much because our heart is connected to it.
My heart’s desire is that you tender, kind, gentle, loving Holy Spirit would fill people with a level of courage and faith, that You would break the power of darkness in their heart and in mine, and that every one of us would take at least a baby step toward being more generous. Amen.