Give with the right motive.
This is the kingdom way. This is how God’s economy works. And so what some people have done is rather than the heart and the love and the compassion, it goes something like this: If you give this to her or him, then you can manipulate them so you can get back what you want.
Or I have even heard people on TV: “Send us ten dollars or a hundred dollars or ten thousand dollars and God will give you x amount of dollars!” And so it’s not giving at all. It’s manipulation. It’s giving to get, giving to get.
He says, “No, no, no, no, no, no. You miss everything if you don’t do it with the right motives.” And so he tells them the right motives. There are four characteristics of the right motives in verse 7, “Each man,” or, “each person should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”
Underline, if you would, what he has decided, underline not reluctant, underline under compulsion, and underline cheerful giver. Here are the four characteristics if you wanted to put them down.
Number one: Give voluntarily. Give voluntarily. Notice he says, “It’s not under compulsion.” It’s not some sort of “just-a-rule,” or how other people will view you. Second: Give thoughtfully. It’s not some emotional response.
Notice the line where it says, “What he has decided.” Giving isn’t about I get a surge of an emotional feeling, or just emotion. It’s saying, This is how much money God brings in, this is what percentage based on that, prayer, thinking: This is where it should go. Scripture is really clear. I need to give where there is need, I need to help the poor, I need to give where I am being spiritually ministered to, I need to support what God is doing through His Church.
So it’s thoughtful, it’s voluntary. Third: It’s enthusiastic. He says, “It’s not reluctant.” It’s not like, Well, okay. I’m supposed to do this, I don’t really want to do it. But…
When Jesus gave, it flowed from a heart of compassion. And His heart of compassion, then He gave time or He gave healing or He gave food or He gave money. And when Jesus walked on the earth, He had hands and eyes and feet and He walked and He touched and He healed. He doesn’t have a physical body. He now has a spiritual body. You’re it. You’re it!
So this isn’t like, I feel better because I gave five dollars to a homeless person. This is: I want to be a conduit of the generosity of the living God who lives inside of me. And enthusiastically, not reluctantly, I want to give. I want to make sacrifices. I may not know where it is all going to come from. I am giving first and best and I am trusting. You promised You would take care of all my needs. But I want to express Your love.
It’s not reluctant. It’s with, finally, a cheerful heart. We get our word “hilarious,” the Greek word here. It’s with a cheerful heart. It’s caring, and, by the way, it’s not, Oh, I don’t feel that happy. Maybe I shouldn’t give.
This is just a description. God loves it when you give with a cheerful heart. I was flipping the channels and was going from one station to another. And I saw, it’s a new reality TV show called, “The Briefcase.” And it was one of those, What is this? So let me tell you what the show is, because it illustrates all of this. As far as I know, none of the people in this program are Christians. And it reminded me how the DNA of God’s economy is really built into the fiber of us.
And so here’s the whole program. There’s a couple over here on the West Coast, they get a phone call, someone shows up at their door and says, “Here’s a briefcase with one hundred and one thousand dollars in it. You have seventy-two hours to decide, you can do with it whatever you want. You can keep it all, you can give it away, you can do whatever you want. You have seventy-two hours.”
Now, here’s a couple on the East Coast. And you get an email that tells you two or three paragraphs. “He’s a vet, he is going through some really rough times, his wife is going to have a baby, they don’t have any health insurance, etcetera, etcetera. So you can decide to help them, or you can keep it all yourself.”
What they don’t know is this family was given a briefcase with one hundred and one thousand dollars and they hear the same story. This couple is twenty years older, he has had an injury, he doesn’t have health insurance, he has one hundred and forty thousand dollars’ worth of debt, his company has broken down and he sells ice cream and the trucks are all dysfunctional, and he’s got three daughters that are all late-teens, early twenties.
And so then they get some time to make their initial decision. And both couples decide: You know what? It would be nice to help someone else, but our needs…we’ve got to look out for our family. And so they both decide, you have to email in: What is your decision after thirty-six hours? Both email in: “We are giving zero. We are giving nothing.”
Then they get another email. The email says: “Tomorrow you are going to be picked up and you are going to be flown to the opposite coast.” So they go to the opposite coast and you walk through the house, they are not here. And everything is available. You can look. The room is just left the way it is, the bills are on the tables, you can go through the drawers, you can do anything.
And so the one couple goes in and they look and they see the prosthesis, and then they saw his medals and Purple Heart. And then they see a picture of his wife, Oh, she is having a baby. And then they look at what little they have and then they walk through, and the lady is so overcome, because she feels like, I was so selfish. This is where we were twenty years ago, and this young couple needs this way more. And he has served our country.
And she begins to cry. And they get in the little van with the cameras, and they have to stop the van, because the dissonance between: I want to keep it all for us, and, how can we not help them? She actually, they stopped the van, she throws up.
The other couple who flies to the other end, they are not going to give anything and they are younger and he is the Afghan guy and they look and they go, Oh, this is a nice neighborhood. They don’t need our money. Then they walk inside. There is disrepair everywhere. And then they see here and then they go over to his business and all the trucks are broken down and then there was a stack of health bills. And he had this serious injury.
And they look at it and they go, We have needs, but these people are, there are three daughters. They are in deep stuff. And so then at the end of seventy-two hours, you make your final decision, and it can’t change. They bring them both to LAX and they get in the little room, you watch them walk in, and then they get to share what they are going to do.
Now, here’s the thing. They don’t know the other couple got a briefcase. So the older couple goes first. The basically say, “Early on, we read a little bit about you. We just decided we weren’t going to give anything because of our needs. And then we visited your house. And when…” and then they tell the story.
And then they pull out this bag and they take these chunks of money, all hundred thousand. And then she is streaming with tears. And he says, “This is one of the biggest decisions we have ever made, but I think it’s one of the best ones ever. We want to give you all one hundred thousand dollars.”
And then the other couple, they are going, [gasps]. And the other couple goes, “Well, I didn’t know if you knew it, but we got a briefcase too. And we had decided not to give you all anything. And after we saw your bills, your daughters, your company and everything, we wrestled with this.”
And they watched the couples, the couples argued about what they ought to do, and so there was a lot of drama. And they put in all the money. And they said, “We decided to give you one hundred thousand dollars. We wouldn’t keep anything.”
And these two couples get up and the guy says, “Forget the money. This has been the greatest decision of my life. What it did for my wife and me. I just have to tell you, I never dreamed that I would be happier than ever before to give away one hundred thousand dollars.”
And, yet, both of them – what? Got one hundred thousand dollars. And then, of course, they wept and embraced and I just thought, Oh, God. They gave, initially, reluctantly, or nothing. Not with the right motive. They hadn’t decided. And then what happened? They saw need. They saw, We have this. How can we live like this when other people have real need? They gave out of compassion, they gave out of concern, and both of them made this huge decision that changed their perspective.
And then why were they so connected with each other? They didn’t know each other. Because your heart always follows your treasure. That is a picture of what Paul was saying. I have no idea where these people were coming from, but I will tell you, give with the right motives, give sacrificially, give generously, and you will experience what few people experience.
Finally, he is going to teach us that there is a promise, and he expands it. He says, “Here’s what you need to know,” because this is scary. Let’s not minimize this. This is scary. You mean a very definitive, specific act of generosity, off the top, with every paycheck? Yes. To cultivate a heart of compassion, to demonstrate that I am following God’s path instead of the world’s? Yes.
Well, here is the question, then, is, God, are You really going to take care of me? And so the promise is expanded. God will give you everything you need in every area of your life. Not just your finances. God will give you everything you need in every area of your life.
Verse 8 will talk about God’s ability. And I am going to read this passage all the way through. And if you have a pen, get it out, because I want you to do something. Every time you see the word all, or, every, circle it, circle it, circle it, circle it, circle it.
And then what I want you to see is, he is going to be talking about agriculture and money and seeds. And there is a principle there. It’s a metaphor. But then he is going to flip it around and he shifts it from seeds and metaphors and farmers, and he is going to say, “Money decisions, really, have to do with a harvest, not of money, but a harvest of righteousness.”
Every financial decision is a spiritual decision. Money really matters to God. But not because He wants your money. In the Bible, there are two thousand, one hundred and fifty verses on money. There are five hundred verses on prayer. And a little less than five hundred verses on faith.
Jesus, of all the parables that Jesus taught, exactly one half of all the parables are about money and possessions. Why? Because the other god, the idol, the thing that you are willing to give your life for – whatever you give your life and time and energy and focus for is what you worship.
And what He knows is that money is what we will worship. And so He taught about that so that our heart could be aligned with His, and we could be on a path of being givers and then seeing His power.
So, follow along. Notice verse 8 is about God’s ability. “God is able to make all grace abound to you,” purpose clause – why? “…so that in all things,” that’s pretty broad, “at all times,” that’s a long time, “having all that you need, you will abound,” this is not scarcity, “you will abound, you will multiply in every good work.”
Then he quotes the Old Testament, “As it is written: ‘He who is scattered abroad his gifts to the poor;’” notice, “his righteousness endures forever.” There is a connection between sacrificially giving money to help people, and righteousness. There is something that has to happen in your heart.
And then this, it gets downright crazy. Watch this. “Now He who supplies seed to the sower,” underline seed, okay? That’s what God gives us. Let’s take “seed” and must make it “money.” Okay? He gives you money. He gave you a job, He gave you skills, He gave you gifts, you have x amount of dollars. He gave you seed to the sower.
“…and bread for food,” so out of the seed that you have, let’s pretend it’s wheat. You have so much seed. You grind some of it, and some of it, you should consume. You should take care of your needs.
So, “He gives seed to the sower and bread for food; He will also supply and increase your store of seed.” So you have more than you can eat, you have more than your basic needs. Your store of seed.
So what happened is one couple had one hundred and one thousand dollars and they really looked and said, “Our needs are okay.” And the other couple did the same thing.
What happens with most of us is our store of seed goes into, We really need, it used to be a want, we really need, we really need, in fact, we’ve got to have it right now. So we are actually going to go in debt.
And He goes, “No, no.” Look, why does He increase your store of seed and enlarge the harvest of your righteousness? If a farmer has a lot of seed, he doesn’t eat it all. And he doesn’t just stick it in a barn thinking someday, someway. What does he do? Smart farmers? I’ve got all this seed, I’m going to use some of it for me. And then what does he do? He invests it back in the ground so – what? So it continues to multiply.
When God finds people who He can channel time, compassion, and money through, He will just keep filling the pipeline. That’s why you hear all these amazing stories.
In fact, money is probably the clearest and most powerful way where you can see God show up in your life.
So, then, notice, this is the most outrageous promise ever. “You will be made rich in every way,” circle every way.
This path of God isn’t about your money! It’s about everything! “You will be made rich in every way” – why? So that you can have more? Is that what it says? “You’ll be rich in every way so you can be generous” – how often? “on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.”
And so notice, he says, “You will be rich in every way.” How much money would it be worth to have your soul be rich? To be at peace? To have purpose?
Or what about if, as you give and you become this kind of person, your relationships got better? What if I could put a price tag on your marriage is seventy-five percent better two years from now than it is right now?
Or relationship with your kids. See, when you become a generous person, you become a better friend, a better mate, a better roommate, a better employee, a better boss.
Or even, He is going to bless – what? He will bless the work of your hands. God wants, He wants to bless your work, He wants to multiply. God is generous! But He says, I want you to get on a path and you take the first step.
And then, I want to say this, because it’s true and it has been abused. He will bless your finances. A season of sowing and reaping. But people who give, one guy who works with a group called Generous Giving, he says, “I have never met a former giver. Never.”
And he says, “And I have never met an unhappy, generous person. I have met a lot of unhappy rich people. I have never met an unhappy, generous person.” And, by the way, you can write checks and not be generous. You can give out of your surplus. And it can actually be a pretty big dollar. But I can give fifty thousand to someone, and if I have ten million, it’s like, it’s not generosity. It’s nice, it’s good, please don’t stop doing it. Help a lot of people.
The last one here is your emotional wellbeing. The Wall Street Journal had an interesting article a while back, talking about a scientific study on happiness or wellbeing. And y’all know about dopamine, right? Dopamine is in our brain and it gives you that good feeling that you have after certain activities.
And they said Dopamine only is secreted in your brain and gives you that overwhelming sense of wellbeing when you do three things. Now, I would add a fourth one. When you work out, the runner’s high – dopamine – you get a little kick there.
But their article said when you eat, dopamine is secreted in your brain. Right? Right? Comfort food. We eat, Ah, I feel better! When you have sex, dopamine. Wow! This felt really good. The only other time is when you give. See, God has planted inside the DNA of your brain and your body that as you give, there’s a sense of wellbeing.
As you turn to the back page, we have the very specific moment where you get to make the decision that we talked about earlier. Do you agree that God’s way, giving – more, better – eternal perspective and compassion is the path to be happy, or do you believe it?
I put there a passage from the Old Testament when a group of people who intellectually said, “Yeah, we follow God,” but their behavior said, “We don’t trust You.” And so the prophet said, Here’s the test. Try me. I dare you. “‘Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there might be food for my house. Test me in this,’ says the Lord Almighty, ‘and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room for it.’”
And so, below that, I have given you a challenge. For the next ninety days, I call it the ninety-day challenge. It’s just a ninety-day challenge. It’s just an experiment. For ninety days, I would challenge you to give the first ten percent of every check, of all your income, to the Lord. See what happens!
Now, some of you are going, Oh, man, I’m not paying my bills now! Well, you know what? If you do this, and, by the way, this isn’t after things are left over. You do this the very first thing. And then you ask God to help you. And, yes, will some of your priorities get realigned? Will some of you have some deep talks as couples?
All I can tell you is I have a folder about like this of people who have given me, over the years, emails, letters of what happened. Now, some were blessed in their finances, some it has realigned their relationships. Here’s the thing, you have to believe to the point of acting that God’s Word is true.
Now, I would encourage you to ponder. Do you believe it, or not? And if you do, then write, “I,” and I put a place, your name, first and last name, “commit that I believe God will keep His promises. And so I give the first ten percent of my income to Him.”
Now, for some of you, you are going, like, Oh, man. You need to be on a giving journey. There are some of us that you ought to be asking ourselves, Maybe I’m giving eighteen or twenty percent now, thirty percent. In America, the average giving of evangelicals is two point two percent. Two point two percent. A very small percentage even give ten percent.
The Bible teaches proportional giving. If every believer or follower of Jesus gave what I think are the training wheels of ten percent, we would have an excess of eight hundred and fifty billion dollars a year to radically change the world.
But it starts with each one of us taking some baby steps. And so I just want to really encourage you to ponder what that would look like.