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The Principle With Secret Power, Part 1

From the series Genius of Generosity

Do you sometimes wonder why the Christian life feels more duty-filled than joy-filled? Do you long to live a life filled with joy and experience a deep and intimate relationship with God? Chip explains the secret to contentment and joy!

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Message Transcript

I want to share a little part of my journey. I was very fortunate after I came to know Christ personally to have a bricklayer and an organization that was really helpful at teaching you to meet with God and not just go through the motions but really understand that He wanted to talk to you in the morning.

And I was a pretty slow learner. It was really hard to get up and learning to pray was pretty hard for me. I was a little slow there too.

But after a couple years and began to develop some really good habits and began to grow spiritually and then later I, after I graduated from college I found myself teaching and coaching basketball and then running a discipleship ministry on a college campus.

And I lived behind the bricklayer. We both went there together to launch this ministry and there was a garage apartment so I had two roommates that I was discipling. And so I’m a school teacher, imagine this, making a thousand dollars a month. It was a while ago but it was not much money even back then.

And I had a little Volkswagen, green Beetle, do you remember those? It was my very first car. I bought it used. And it just ran like a little top.

And so little by little I was beginning to learn and so I learned to give the first portion of my income and this group was great, they weren’t legalistic. They said a tenth is a good place to start but if you want to go a percentage below or above, make sure you keep your heart in the right place.

And so as I began to grow my OCD, workaholic tendencies that I grew up in, they sort of shifted into my spiritual life and I thought to myself, “If ten percent is good I don’t have many expenses,” and they were teaching about proportional giving.

And not for all the right reasons but I decided, “You know what? I’m going to double it and I’m going to go twenty.” You know, the few, the proud, the Marines, the Ingrams.

And I’m pretty proud of myself. And if it slipped out that I was giving twenty percent of my income, that sounds like a lot. But if you’re only making a thousand dollars it may not be all that much. But it sounded good.

And so I did that for a while and then I thought, “You know, I have only my expenses,” were, like, a hundred and twenty or fifty a month. And so I still had margin and saved a little bit of money, kind of learning the basics of give, save, and invest a little. And investing real small.

And so twenty percent was good and God kept blessing. So I’m going thirty. And so I was giving thirty percent of my income away and I’m coaching and teaching and unfortunately the Pharisee in me was growing. More and more I thought, “If you give ten percent, God loves you this much. If you give twenty percent, I bet He loves you this much and, man, go thirty, who knows?”

And I was in this performance orientation where I was learning to give but I was not at all generous.

And so I’m driving my little Volkswagen and I had a little commute of about forty minutes where I coached and taught and so I’m in my little green Volkswagen and it’s early in the morning.

And I hear this voice, literally, in my head, and I don’t know much. I’m a pretty new Christian so I don’t know when it’s God or when it’s the Holy Spirit, what’s going on. Or whether I’m having an illusion.

So I hear this little voice in my head say, “Chip, whose car is this?” And I’m thinking, “I don’t know where that’s coming from.” The next morning driving to work, “Chip, whose car is this?” Third morning. Fourth morning. I realized I think this might be God.

And I didn’t want to answer because I thought He might have a plan for it other than the plan I had because I’d recently married Theresa and we were going to pack everything that we had and go to Dallas to go to seminary.

And so she had a car and I had a car and hers was newer and nicer and so I’m going to sell this little car but the gas prices had started to go up and the value just skyrocketed. It was worth more six years later than when I bought it.

And so every, I was actually thinking, “I bet I can get this for it,” and then the next day I would drive, “No, I bet I can get this for it.” And then even before Craig’s List, “I bet I can get this for it.”

And so as my greed inside my mind over here is working and, “I give thirty percent,” and I was a godly, godly man, of course. God, like, morning number five He says, “Whose car is this?” And I say, “Well it’s yours, Lord.” “Oh, good, Chip. I’m glad you know that. Because you know Nancy, the girl in the ministry?” “Yeah.” “Well you know how she’s going to go with Wycliffe Bible Translators and she’s going to go to a remote tribe there in Thailand?” “Well yeah.” “Well you have two cars, right?” “Yeah.” “How many does she have?”

And I thought, “This is not good. This is going in a totally bad direction.” And I said, “None.” And He said, “Well she’s going to be traveling all over America to raise support and translate the Bible for those people. I want you to give your car to her because you have two and she doesn’t have any.

You know like one of those verses you memorized that, 1 John where it says that if you know someone in need and you have more than you need and you don’t give it, how can the love of God be in you?”

And I’m thinking, “I wish I wouldn’t have memorized that one.” And I’ll be honest with you it was just one of those times where reluctant, reluctant. And so of course I tell Theresa and she goes, “Oh, that’s great!” “Thanks, dear.” You know?

So eventually this is not, I want you to hear, you can give without being generous at all. I’d begrudgingly, out of obedience decide, okay, I’m going to give my car, It’s Yours, God. I understand it. I’ll do it.

And so I’m out in the garage and I, this was the day, this will date some of you but in the old days they didn’t have nice stereos in cars and you could buy these stereos and I’d saved up and you put them in your car and then you can unlock them and pull them out.

And so, and so I’m out and the doors of the little Volkswagen are out and I’ve got my knee down and I finally I’ve got it all out of there and I pull it out like this and Theresa walks out and she goes, “What are you doing?”

And I said, “What do you mean, ‘What am I doing?’” She goes, “What are you doing?” I said, “I’m getting the stereo out of my car, God said the car, He didn’t say the stereo.”

And many of you men who are married, do you remember this pose? And you’re just shamed into, “Oh, you think the stereo goes with the car?” I stuck it back in there.

Now, if you’ll open your teaching notes, there’s some real truth from these stories that I want you to get. And I’m really a little embarrassed to share those but I want you to know that you can give but not be generous.

When I told you early on this is not about money. Money is always probably the most pressing symptom. But I was giving thirty percent of my income and I wasn’t generous. I gave it begrudgingly.

In fact, I sat down earlier this week and I wrote down my motivations and what was going on in my heart.

Giving is an action. Generosity is a matter of the heart.

See you can give and not be generous but you can’t be generous without giving. When I was giving I was self-righteous, I was proud, I had a works orientation, I thought God was going to do better for me if I could give more.

I was negotiating with God. I felt superior when I heard of other people and what they gave I thought I was better than they were. I was rigorously religious but relationally challenged.

So what I want you to know is that you can actually give and totally miss the boat. See stewardship is not an obligation to fulfill but an opportunity to seize.

Now from a strict theological standpoint it certainly is an obligation and we’re going to learn why because of who actually owns what’s been entrusted to us.

But what I find is is that when I hear the word “generosity” I think of adventure. I think of joy. I think of something winsome. When I see generous people I want to hang out with them. They’re the kind of people that life’s exciting.

When I hear the word “stewardship.” Are you a good steward? That word has a lot of emotional baggage with it. I’ve heard a lot of sermons that as soon as people start talking about stewardship it feels heavy like you’re spending too much. You’re not giving enough. You could be doing more. You don’t measure up. That sounds like getting poked in the eye with a sharp stick.

And what I think is we’ve got a lot of misperceptions about stewardship and what the meaning of it is because it’s a beautiful word too.

I learned about stewardship from John Saville. He was that mid-seventies man and I was a twenty-eight year old young pastor and he brought me down to his office and he owned this company, CPA firm down in downtown Dallas and if you remember he gave me this checkbook.

And it said, “Pastor’s discretionary fund.” And he put five thousand dollars in it. And for five years I put that in my back pocket every morning and I walked around and my only goal was to figure out who had a need that John Saville wanted to meet and I was his steward.

It was his money and all I, I just played Santa Claus for five years. I mean, way better than Santa Claus, it was God. Loving and caring and writing a check to get a bus ticket back for some young run-away teen.

Or writing a check that someone gets their electric bill paid or an elderly couple that had their house infested with all these rodents and time after time after time.

And then I would go down and have a lunch and then we would laugh and John would lean back and go, “Praise the Lord!” And I would be embarrassed. And I was a steward and it was a blast! It was an adventure.

And what I want you to understand is when we start talking about the smartness or the genius of generosity it’s having the same attitude with what God’s given you that I had with John Saville.

It wasn’t my money. I wasn’t uptight about where it went. I mean, I had to give an account for it. And I wanted to make him happy. And we did become best friends. But when I gave it away I wasn’t worried like, “I’m not going to eat today or not,” it’s his money.

And every time after we would meet it was an amazing thing. I’d get a bank statement and he would just fill it back up.

So what you need to see, here’s the bright idea. The bright idea is stewardship is the path. That’s a path. We are stewards and we’ll talk about it and why.

But generosity is the adventure. Generosity is a whole new way of living and it’s way beyond money and it’s even way beyond your time and way beyond your talents. It’s like this winsome, amazing adventure where you start walking around with this breakthrough concept.

Everything I have is a gift to me from God. And I’m His money manager. It’s like my life is like a checkbook and God fills it. And He’s given me time and talent and brains and opportunity and people and friends and every single thing I have is a gift from Him.

And what He wants me to do is spend it or invest it or use it in a way that pleases Him and as we do we become best friends.

And as we do I get the joy of watching his resources flow through me and loving people. That’s the breakthrough concept. The genius behind the in-depth relationship I enjoyed with John Saville is what God wants for you and me and every single follower of Christ on the face of the earth.

Now, what I learned, even when I was giving thirty percent of my lavish income that I was getting is that I didn’t believe God owned it all. That’s when life really changes.

See I was giving thinking it’s mine and I’m better than people because look how much I’m giving. Well, wait a second. If a hundred percent of it is God’s and God says, “I’d like thirty percent of it or twenty-two percent of it or nine percent of it or a hundred percent of it,” it’s His, right?

So you don’t get any brownie points for just giving it where He says to give it. But when you begin to understand, a hundred percent, not just of your money but all that you are and all that you have is His, it completely changes…instead of Him having to pry it out of your hands and you feeling all this anxiety and being uptight about this and about that and how you’re going to do it and the guilt.

All of a sudden you realize, “Wait a second, this is Yours. Where do You want Your time to go today, Lord? Where do You want the money entrusted to me? Where do You want these relationships to go? How do You…?”

In fact, notice what the Scripture says. I actually put them right in your notes. It says, “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.” Do you live in the world? So, you’re the Lord’s. It says, “The world, and all who live in it.”

Later in Haggai he goes, “‘Silver is Mine and gold is Mine,’ declares the Lord Almighty.” Deuteronomy 8, “Remember the Lord your God for it is He who gives you the ability to produce wealth.”

I mean, it’s almost like God was thinking that some of us would be saying, “Well, yeah, you might say it’s all Yours but I work really hard for it.” And He goes, “Yeah, well, who gave you the brains, the talent, and the opportunity?” “Oh, yeah, that’s right. Thanks.”

Even your body, it says, “You are not your own, you were bought with a price,” 1 Corinthians 6:19 and 20.

The summary here is what I call, this is the principle that has secret power. I call it the Oikonomia principle. Oikeo is the Greek word for “house.” You can almost hear the word, we get our word for “economy.” Literally the word has to do with being a steward. It’s translated of being a guardian. It’s translated of being a manager.

It’s the picture of, you remember in the Old Testament Joseph. We’re in Potiphar’s house. He put him over everything. He put him over his household workers, he put him over his money, he put him over his crops. The only thing Potiphar said was, “Hey, I’m married. You take care of everything else. I entrust it to you.” That’s this word.

And the Oikonomia principle simply stated is, “All that we are and all that we have belongs to God and He has temporarily entrusted to us to manage according to His wishes.”

That’s a big thing to swallow. I mean, think about if you actually, if that went from an intellectual, “I don’t even know if I agree with it,” to an intellectual, “I agree with it,” to a, “I really believe this is true.”

Now can you imagine what that would do? Everything I have and everything I am belongs to God. And He’s temporarily entrusted it to you to spend, invest according to His wishes. With the promise that He loves you and He’s good and He’s kind and what He really wants is to work in you and through you as He directs those things so you accomplish His purposes.

This phrase or this word or this concept of the Oikonomia principle is way, way beyond money. Notice in Psalm 90: Our time is a gift from God. If you’re married, our spouse is a gift from the Lord. Your property, in Luke 16, is a gift from God. Your spiritual gifts, it says they’re given by grace, they’ve been entrusted to you. They’re a gift from God.

God’s truth, it says the gospel itself is a mystery entrusted to us. People in your life, Acts chapter 20, God gives people in your life that they’re entrusted to you, they’re a gift. Some of them they’re a gift that you watch over them and you’re responsible for and others they’re people that they’re just a gift that He wants to enrich your life. But you steward friendships and you steward people.

Every good and perfect gift, everything you have, just in case we missed something, James 1:17, “Every good and perfect gift comes from above, from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.”

Every good thing that ever comes into my life, the hand of God is behind it to express His love and concern for you. And even your physical body. I mean, one of the strongest motivations for whether it’s right eating, or exercise, or what you put in your mind is that you’re not your own, you’ve been bought with a price.

So this isn’t your body that you’re deciding what to do with. This is God’s body who says, “Now will you take good care of it? Because I have a great plan for you.”

And so at the heart of it, notice the passage there at the bottom, 1 Corinthians 4:1 and 2. Here’s the responsibility of a manager or of a steward. “Let a man regard us,” the apostle Paul says, “in this manner as servants of Christ and,” here’s our word, “stewards of the mysteries of God.”

And then in the next verse he gives the number one priority with God of a steward. “In this case, moreover, it is required of stewards that one be found,” say it out loud with me, “trustworthy.” Circle it in your notes, will you?

This is the issue. This is the issue in your life. God has given you time and talent and people and money and opportunity and leadership. You live in a time of history that is pregnant with possibilities.

And He decided, from eternity past, to place you and me at this time, in this place, with this group of people, with what you have, and He’s got a plan for you. And what He wants you to do is say, “Lord, I want to fulfill that plan entrusted to me, I want to be found trustworthy. I want to spend my time, my money in a way that I realize it’s really not mine. It’s Your time, it’s Your money, it’s Your opportunity. And I want to honor You in it.”

And here’s the thing, as we do that God’s promise is He’s a heavenly Father, He wants the very best for you.

And so the real issue, when it comes to this, the real issue is not stuff. The real issue is not what percentage. The real issue is trust. I mean, at the end of the day if I would have gone in to my friend, John Saville, and pulled out the checkbook and said, “Hey, John! I had a great time spending your money!” “Well how much is left?” “I don’t know.” “Where did you spend it?” “I really didn’t keep track of it this time. I don’t know.”

I got a real strong feeling that when I left that lunch my checkbook was not getting filled up again, right? Why? The wisest venture capitalist in all the universe is the God of all eternity.

The reason some of us don’t have opportunities, the reason some of us have relationships that break down, the reason some of us are not experiencing, even financially, all the things God wants for us, is you know what?

We’re not faithful with what He’s given us and you’re a parent, right? You have one of your kids, they wreck the car three times, do you give them the keys to the next car or not? No. Why? Because they’ve already demonstrated. Until they demonstrate they can be faithful with what you gave them here you’re not going to entrust them with…

And so here’s the question for believers, for followers of Christ. Can God trust you? Can He trust with you with a big opportunity? Could God trust you with more financial resources? Could God trust you with a great friend that’s going to be loyal to you? Could God, when He looks at your life and your character, could He trust you with a spouse right now? Or would He know, you know what? The way you treat people now, I’m not going to give a spouse in your life. You’d just produce pain in that person’s life.

Well, when all this issue of stewardship and trust came up Jesus was speaking to the religious leaders and unfortunately the religious leaders in that day have exactly the same problem as a lot of religious leaders in our day. They loved money. They were warped.

If you’ll open your Bibles, turn to Luke chapter 16 and Jesus is going to give a corrective about money and about stewardship. And He’s talking to the religious leaders and the disciples are there.

And the religious leaders at the time, they had this false formula. It’s actually been picked up by the Prosperity Gospel on our day. That if God really loves you He blesses you with material things and the more righteous you are the more material things. And it’s a give-to-get mentality.

Well, the Pharisees wanted to appear very righteous and so they were very, very greedy. Jesus described them as philarguria, lovers of money. And they would they would tithe, oh man, they would do, they followed all the rules. But they would actually even change some of the rules and the traditions to get more money for themselves so they felt like the more wealthy they could be it would indicate that they must be righteous and experience God’s blessing.

And Jesus is going to just cut through and here’s what He’s going to ask and answer.  Write in your notes, where it says: “Can God trust you?” you might write this question. And this question is: How do you become a wise steward? Isn’t that the sixty-four dollar question?

How do you become a wise steward? How do you become the kind of man, or woman, or student that God could look into your heart, because that’s where He looks, and say, “I can trust you with more time. I can trust you with more opportunity. I can trust you with more money. I could trust you with more leadership position. I could trust you with the souls of a handful of people. You’ll be faithful.”

And what you’re going to learn is in Luke 16 He’s going to take the good example of a bad person to teach a timeless lesson.

Here’s the setting: Correction to the Pharisees and instruction of His disciples concerning wealth and here’s the story. We pick up the story, Luke 16 verses 1 and 2 a mismanagement occurs and the steward, or the manager is going to get fired.

“Now He was also saying to the disciples there was a rich man who had a manager. And this manager was reported to him as squandering his possessions and he called him in and he said to him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your management for you can no longer be my manager.’”

So as you follow along in your Bible, or your iPad, or mobile device, whatever you’re using just understand this is a guy who was given oversight like Joseph and he was squandering it. He wasn’t a good manager and he’s going to get fired.

Now the second thing that’s going to happen, he’s going to say, “So what are my options?” He’s going to come up with two options, decide neither of those are very good and then he comes up with a very creative third option.

Picking it up in verse 3. “The manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do since my master is taking my management away from me?’” Option number one, “I’m not strong enough to dig,” in other words I can’t do just labor. “I’m ashamed to beg,” option number two, can’t do that one.

“‘I know what I shall do so that when I am removed from the management people will welcome me into their homes.’ And he summoned each one of his master’s debtors and he began saying to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ And he said, ‘A hundred measures of oil.’ And he said to him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and write fifty.’

Then he said to another, ‘How much do you owe?’ And he said, ‘One hundred measures of wheat.’ And he said to him, ‘Take your bill, write in eighty.’ And his master praised the unrighteous manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the sons of this age are more shrewd in relation to their own kind than the children of light.”

And then He makes an application. “And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by means of wealth of unrighteousness so that when it fails they will receive you into eternal dwellings.” The commendation is not that he’s a crook.  Here’s the spiritual principle. I put it in a box so that we wouldn’t miss it, because this passage has been often very poorly interpreted.

The dishonest manager used his present, temporal opportunity, his stewardship, with a view of receiving future reward. This made good business sense and according to Jesus it makes good spiritual sense.

So what Jesus is saying is here’s someone who realized, “I’m only going to have this job for a little bit more time. So I’m going to do, in this limited time, something that will allow me, once I get fired, to have these guys,” his boss, apparently, was in commodities, olive oil and wheat. And he says, “Then they’ll be indebted to me and I can say, ‘Hey, guys I need some money or I need a place to live. Remember what I did for you? In fact, if you don’t remember I could maybe let my master know what you did.’”

And so he’s just operating. He’s shrewd. He’s saying, “I’m going to take this little window of time and set myself up for the future.”

And Jesus’ application is if you could understand eternity and you could understand that this tiny, little dot called time and inside that tiny dot is a microscopic, little dot of your life that’s maybe seventy to ninety years max, He said you want to take this present, temporal, little opportunity and the wealth that God gives you and what you want to do is you want to leverage that so that after you die and there is a real heaven and there is a real hell and there is a real thing called rewards that you’ll be like John Saville who, right now I am sure, has hundreds, if not thousands of people saying, “John, I was that teenage girl and I met that Chip guy and he wrote that check. I didn’t know you’re the one who did it, thank you. I wouldn’t be here except for you.”

That’s what Jesus is saying. He’s saying, “Use this temporal management opportunity to invest wisely.

Now notice what He goes on and says, however. The teaching is faithfulness with material wealth is a prerequisite to being trusted with spiritual wealth and rewards.

Notice the axiom. Verse 10: “He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much.” Now that’s true of finances. But that’s also, that’s an axiom. That’s a timeless principle. “He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much.”

That’s what people who, look into the lives of stewards. If you’re faithful in this, God entrusts you with more. You’re faithful in that, He’ll entrust you with more. And whether it’s money or whether it’s time or whether it’s your gifts, whether it’s your talents.

“But he who is unfaithful in a very little thing will be unfaithful in much. Therefore, if you’ve not been faithful in the use of unrighteous wealth who will entrust you with true riches? And if you have not been faithful in the use of that which is another’s who will give you that which is your own? No servant can serve two masters for he will hate the one and love the other or else he’ll be devoted to one and despise the other. You can’t serve both God and wealth.”

Now notice the commentary to the group. Now the Pharisees were lovers of money and they were listening to all these things and they were scoffing at Him or, literally, they were sneering.

He’s talking about, see, they’ve got this religious pretense like I had. Thirty percent. I wasn’t generous. I thought I owned that car. I thought I owned my gifts. I thought I owned my future. I thought I owned my dreams. I thought I was in control.

And I’m going to figure out a little way to use the religious system that I was understanding to promote me.

And God didn’t want to take away a car. God wanted to take away an idol and the only way God gets a hold of the idols in our life, often, is He asks you to surrender them.

The only way you know whether it’s really His or not is He taps you on the shoulder and says, “You know something? I want you to give that away. Or I want you to relocate. Or I’ll tell you what, I want you to cross a boundary and invite that neighbor and I want you to love him. Or I want you to take a risk over here. Your time isn’t your own, it’s not your reputation, it’s My reputation. You’re My child.”

And He says here they were scoffing. And then this last line, this is a verse I memorized that some of you if you have a little Chip Ingram in you, you might want to jot down.

This is what Jesus said to those of us that tend to have that bent toward legalism, that bent toward performance. “And He said to them, ‘You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men but God knows your heart. For that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God.’”

I wrote that on a card, memorized that, and reviewed it for years and years and years. And just kept asking God, for that which is highly esteemed among men. Let me ask you, what’s highly esteemed among men? What you drive, what your zip code number is, what’s your portfolio, how many zeros, how many letters behind your name, who you know, drop a name here and there. How you look, how you appear, your body. Right?

That which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God.

Now when God gives you nice things, when He entrusts you with position and power and wealth and opportunity and if He gives you a wonderful and nice body and you’re on a good diet and all those. And when, as a steward, you’re thinking, “Oh, God, thank You. I can’t believe how generous You’ve been. And, by the way, I just want You to know, any time, any way You want to use any of this I just, it’s in Your hands.”

See those kind of people, you know what God does? He just keeps pouring more in. He keeps pouring more in. Because He’s like one of those venture capitalists.

“We invested some money with that group and they made us a hundred million dollars, they’re coming back, what do you think we ought to do? I think we should invest some more. Next time out they win us a billion dollars. Well they got another great idea, what should we do? I think we’ll invest some more.”

What Jesus is saying is if you can understand that there isn’t scarcity, that God owns everything and that true spiritual wealth is not about money or things but it’s about relationships but the symptom, the symptom that tells you where you’re at in relationship to God and how much you trust Him is your money.

There’s a young man that I was spending some time with in Atlanta and just gifted. He was an artist and a photographer and just had all these dreams and wanted to start this ministry and he was trying this and trying that and he did an art exhibit and got with other artists in Atlanta area and everything he tried it just, it was just like there was no air in the balloon.

Just failure. Flat. Flat. And I met with the guy and he had a heart for God and he was gifted and the stuff was amazing. And I just, it was one of those times where you just thought it’s like playing basketball with a guy that has a forty inch vertical and he can’t dunk and you go, “There’s something wrong here.”

And so I went to Starbucks one day and I said, “Hey, Josh, let’s, I…” Because he said, “What’s wrong? Why is God not blessing this?” And I said, “You know, I don’t know,” but I read through Luke 16 with him and out loud and I said, “I don’t know and I don’t want to mess with your interior life, I don’t know you all that well but just let me ask you. What, like, where are you at in your finances?”

And the story comes out and he really hadn’t worked full time anywhere for two and a half, three years, was living off credit cards, had amazing amounts of debt, wasn’t giving a dime to God in any way.

And I said, “Josh, do you think it would be wise for God to entrust a ministry to you and people’s lives to you and maybe even give you a position of credibility to tell people about Christ when actually you haven’t even been faithful with the little thing: money?”

And he got in a plan to get out of debt and it was just an amazing story to watch him turn things around.

But see the test, there’s two tests. We’ll talk more about these things a little bit later but just here’s two financial tests that are just crystal clear that can let us know if our priorities, if, in fact, God really were trustworthy.

Test number one is: Generous stewards give the first and the best to God. There’s an Old Testament passage here and it’s all through the New Testament. It says, “Honor the Lord with all your wealth and with the first portion of your produce or your crops.”

So he says the first fruits would be like the harvest comes in or the grape has just come off the vine. You take the best and the first and you bring it to the temple and you say, “I’m not sure how many grapes are coming. I don’t know how big the harvest is going to be. I don’t know if it’s going to be a ten-fold or a twenty-fold or a thirty-fold and I don’t know. But, God, I want you to know the very first and the very best is Yours and You are the one that’s responsible and I’m a steward.” You give your first and your best to God.

And then what’s the second half of that say, “Honor the Lord with all your wealth and with the first fruits of your produce or your crops. Then your barns will be filled to overflowing and your vats will burst forth with new wine.”

See there’s no scarcity. When God sees us trust Him like that He says, “Hey, I’ll, the blessing of My hand will be upon you,” but there’s this faith thing, isn’t it? See when you’re not sure how much harvest is coming in, giving the first and the best is a little risky unless God is really real.

The second test is that generous stewards give regularly and systematically. The apostle Paul would write to the church. It says, “On the first day of every week each one of you should set aside a sum of money,” notice how much. What’s he say? “In keeping with his income.”

It means rather than looking at just a percentage as, “Hmm, well I’ve given that, I’m okay.” I mean, I’ve had, somehow God’s linked me with some people that have been extraordinarily wealthy and very blessed and I know one friend and he’s just so smart and so gifted and really loves God. And yet he kind of has this attitude that, and I mean, he’s worth, well, he’s got one piece of property that’s worth ten million dollars, it’s just an empty lot. I won’t tell you where it is. And he’s got about four different houses.

And as we talk it’s like, “Oh, yeah, I want to be faithful to God and whatever God brings in I give the first ten percent.” And he’s like, “Hey like I wrote the bill. So that’s it, right?”

And I’m thinking, “Oh man, you really don’t get it at all. It doesn’t, it says, ‘Let each on the first day of the week set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income.’”

Those that have a lot give a lot. Those that have a little just can give a little. Saving it up so that when I come they’ll, the collections won’t have to be made and Paul is saying, I’m coming, you agreed to help the poor there and the Gentile church is going to help. There’s a famine and I just want you to know, no manipulation.

Boy, the New Testament, when you feel pressured by people or you hear people making those outrageous promises on the radio if you give this then God’s going to do this.

Just forget all that stuff. The Bible is really clear. It’s an issue of the heart. He says, “I want you to get before God, I want you to decide in advance, I want it to be proportional to what God has given you so that when I come there’s no pressure, there’s no manipulation. It’s an act of worship.

Because see at the end of the day the Lord really just is wanting to increase the size of your heart and your faith that He’s trustworthy and He has a plan for you and He wants you to know, “If you’ll be faithful in little things, I have lots of money. I have lots of time. I have all these positions and opportunities that I’d like to put My children of light into but some of them I can’t put them in those because the position and the opportunity would increase their wealth and their power and they would just become proud and they would disgrace My name and they would ruin the situation.”

And so until you can be faithful in the little thing, little responsibility, and the little thing starts with money but it’s just the training wheels. And then it’s relationships. And then it’s integrity. And when we’re faithful in little things He gives more and more and more and more.

Well, on the very back there are three questions that, I guess what I’d say is if there is someone safe, it might be your mate, it might be one of your best friends, it might be your small group. But I would encourage you to ask those three questions out loud. It’s what wise stewards ask. “Am I spending the owner,” which is God’s, “money in a way that He wishes?” “Am I keeping track of the owner’s money?”

If I give thirty percent, I’m still responsible for the seventy percent. He owns it all, right? And, “Am I becoming best friends with the owner?”

If giving is like I was where, hey I got that done, I’m so glad, it’s an obligation. You may give but you’re missing what it means to be generous.

What is it that God wants to do in your life to entrust to you so that you could experience the joy and the genius of generosity?