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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
I was a brand-new pastor, super nervous, and it was my first Easter and so, we knew the little church of thirty-five would probably mushroom to fifty people. And I was just beside myself. I couldn’t sleep all night and I had worked on the message and it still wasn’t very good and so I went into the office about four a.m. and five thirty or so, the sun was coming up and probably wasn’t a really good plan, but I so wanted to do a good job.
And the across the street was a small African American church where we had made some friends. And I heard a car door slam and I thought, It’s dawn. I wonder what is going on. And I saw a yellow, bright Cadillac pull up. And then I saw a man that I recognized, who was the chairman of our board. He was a guy who came to Christ late and his name was John.
And I watched he and his wife got out in the pre-dawn hours and all along, there were all these steps, probably twenty-five steps. And they put baskets of fruit and all kinds of different things all across. And then a little bit later, those people came to church. And it was, “Well, my lands! Who brought this? Did you do this, sister?” And they can’t figure out what’s going on and I just watched it grow and grow and grow and then people came over and said, “Well, did you all do this? Well, where did this come from?” And people were just so excited and blessed and pretty soon, they are picking it up and sharing it with one another. And I never, I dared not say a word and of course, I never told John I saw who did it.
Generosity, going out of our way to love people is at the heart of worship. Jesus said it was more blessed to give than to receive.
I don’t think you turn on a faucet and you become generous overnight. And so, I want to ask and answer five questions, because what I realized, when I grew up, if you would have asked me: “Am I generous?” I think I would have said yes. And yet, when I look back, I don’t think I was generous at all, because I didn’t understand it.
And so, first, let’s ask question number one is: what does it mean to be generous? So, a definition, this is Webster’s. “It’s showing a readiness to freely give or share money or other valuable things,” notice, “providing more than the amount needed or normal. It’s giving in abundance, ample, showing kindness and concern for others.”
And sometimes, when you get a definition, I like to ask, so, what are – get your arms around it. What are some synonyms? People that are generous are liberal, lavish, magnanimous, open-handed, free-handed, bountiful, unselfish, ungrudging, benevolent, charitable, big-hearted, free, noble, honorable, good. I don’t know about you, I would love to have some people drinking coffee and talking about me and using just some of those words, wouldn’t you? Aren’t those the kind of words you would just long for someone to say, “Oh, man, she is so big-hearted. They are so magnanimous. They are so generous. They are so unselfish.”
Another way to get your arms around a concept is to ask: so, what’s the opposite? Antonyms. The opposite of being generous is mean, stingy, selfish, meager, miserly, unwilling to share, cheap, greedy, tight, unkind, thrift, and self-seeking. Now, you don’t need to raise your hand. Anybody like that to be how people would characterize you? Right? That is ugly, right?
So, here’s what I want you to get. We all have thoughts and words and time and stuff and money and influence to share with others. You don’t have to be rich to be generous. In fact, the research tells us that the poorest people are far more generous than the wealthiest people. We all have words, we all have positive thoughts, we all have time, we all have some level of money, we all have some influence and to be generous is to be ready and willing to share, to be kind, to be concerned for others.
Now, I am going to do something that is really dangerous for me. I am going to give you ten specific reasons, both biblically and one scientific fact of why being generous is so absolutely important. It’s important for your relationships, it’s important for your eternity, it’s important for your relationship with God, it’s important about your money, it’s important about your friendships, and I am going to give you ten reasons.
But what I want you to see is to step back and go, Wow! The Bible says a lot about being generous. In fact, common sense says a lot about it.
But, why is it so important to live generously? Number one, generosity is commanded by God.
The apostle Paul will write, “Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God who richly supplies us,” notice, “with all things to enjoy.”
In other words, he is saying, “Hey, instruct people that are wealthy,” and by the way, in the context, historically, if you had enough food both for today and tomorrow, you were wealthy. Most people would go to work and then that’s why if you didn’t pay people their wages, they wouldn’t eat that night.
And then, notice, he goes on. He says, “Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous, to be ready to share,” notice the focus, “storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future so they can take hold of the life, which is life indeed.” Or, literally, the word is: so they can take hold of the life that is truly life.
So, if for no other reason, God commands us to be generous so we invest in what is going to count, so we can take hold of life, and we can store up treasure for ourselves.
Second, generosity is the antidote to idolatry.
In your notes, it says, “Luke 1 through 15. It’s the story of the unrighteous steward. And at the end of it, Jesus said, “You can’t serve God and mammon.” God and money. And so, He tells them: generosity can break idolatry in our lives.
Third, generosity today determines the harvest for tomorrow. All through Scripture – Old Testament, New Testament, the proverbs – there is this picture of sowing and reaping. And it’s an agricultural picture. Jesus would say in Luke 6:38, “Give and it will be given unto you, good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over back into your lap. For whatever size measure that you give, it will be given back unto you.”
Paul would say in 2 Corinthians, he would say this, “Now, this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will reap also bountifully. Each one must do as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly, for God loves a cheerful giver.”
All I want you to know is, think of your time and your words and your money and your influence like seeds. And if you plant a lot of them, there is a harvest. And if you plant good ones, and there’s a harvest, if you plant just a few, you get a few back. And so, there’s this law of reciprocity in Scripture that your future relationships, your future connection, your future positivity, if you will. And I don’t mean that in the: think positive and wonderful things happen. I am talking about there is a law of sowing and reaping with your time, your energy, your words, and your money, that as you sow, the Bible is really clear, there’s a harvest.
Fourth, it’s the way generosity expresses God’s love and kindness to others. “Let your light so shine before men, that they might see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”
The young gal or the child that gets pulled out of the sex trade, the kindness at work, the school that gets remodeled. Just the – generosity is how you express God’s love.
Fifth is generosity results in joy to the giver. And six, generosity results in praise and thanksgiving to God by the recipients. 2 Corinthians it says, “You will be enriched in every way and generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. For the ministry of this service,” speaking of giving,” is not only supplying the needs of the saints, but also overflowing in thanksgiving to God.”
So, there is this weird thing that happens. When you are generous, there is a joy that you experience, but as you are generous to this person, it’s like the people who have those baskets of fruits, “Thank you, Lord!” A couple of those ladies, “Thank you, Lord! Thank you, Lord! I didn’t have any food.” John got the joy of giving, but they thanked and praised God. And that’s what happens.
Reason number seven: generosity is God’s method to fund His kingdom work. 1 Corinthians 16 says that on the first day of the week, each Christian should set aside money from, whether it’s a little or a lot, depending on what God gave you, to support God’s kingdom work.
Number eight, generosity requires us to put our finances and our priorities in order. It’s interesting, if you give God the first and the best, instead of what is left over, then sometimes you’ve got to get on a budget and sometimes you have to figure out: wait a second, we are going to offer ourselves, first to God – here’s His promise. “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things,” and in the context, it’s food, shelter, clothes, whatever you need, “they will be given to you.”
The ninth reason generosity is important: it grows our faith and develops our intimacy with Christ. As you study the Sermon on the Mount, it is so interesting as He talks about walking with God and then He talks about giving and giving privately and praying privately. He gives this radical thought: “When your Father,” that was a radical thought then, “when your Father sees what you do in secret, He will reward you.”
Generosity is one of the ways that your heart and God’s heart, because He is generous, and when you become the conduit, He actually draws you to Himself.
Number nine, generosity grows our faith and develops our intimacy with Christ. And then number ten, generosity is a prerequisite to claiming God’s promise to meet all our needs. That promise is for people who are generous with their resources. And so, those are just ten reasons just from Scripture.
Dr. Stephen Post did a longitudinal study. He picked it up from a group that started the study in 1920. And so, he did a study to find out what was the impact of generous people? The impact of generous people, habitually were generous, they are happier, they have deeper relationships, and they literally live longer.
Is that amazing? I guess it’s not. If God designed us and wired us and if His kingdom practices and purposes because He is generous, is He wants us to be generous and it gives us life when we are generous, it only makes sense that when we are miserly and living the opposite of the way God wants, that it would have negative impact. And it has positive impact.
In fact, the research now is when we are generous and when we give, the same endorphins that go off when you’re working out really hard or when you eat food or when you have sex, the same things are happening in your brain when you are a giver.
God, literally, has wired us to be generous people. And here’s the amazing thing. That may be true, but it doesn’t come naturally, does it? Whether it’s two little kids or two older people, left to ourselves, if there’s only one of something and there are two people, sometimes we are polite about it, but your human nature and my human nature is: “I want that for me. I want more time, I want things for me.” And so, all I want you to know, it’s a journey in generosity.
Now, logically, if all these things are true and I think they are – they are true practically, they are true scientifically, they are certainly true biblically – here’s the summary. Living generously is the most logical, wise, and rewarding way to arrange our lives and resources. So, pause, okay? I am done with my quick run through the Bible.
Living generously – lean back, lean back, look at me for a second – is the most logical, wisest, rewarding way to arrange your life and resources. At least intellectually, would you sign off on that? Right?
Your relationships would be better, idols come down, you are arranging your finances. As you give, when you give away friendship, you get friends. When you give love, you get love back. When you give away money, God multiplies it.
So, here’s the question: if generosity is this good, it’s designed by God, and it’s even commanded, why are so few Christians generous?
Do you know, of all the Christians in America, that fifty percent of all Christians give nothing to their church, give nothing to any charitable cause? Of all the Christians in America, only three to five percent give what is called a tithe or ten percent of their income. Think of that. We will talk about that as we go on, but long before there was a law, Abraham gives to Melchizedek ten percent just as an offering to say thank you.
And then that was a part of the Mosaic law when they would, when they harvest would come in, they would give, when the first grapes came or the first wheat, they would just take the first ten percent as an offering to say thank you and then later, at the very end of the harvest, they would bring ten percent when it’s all full to say thank you. It was just a personal offering.
I did a little research once. This is a completely unscientific, anecdotal – but it has been repeatable. I have done this a couple times. I go to a little mall or, I try not to act too weird, and I just, I have a little clipboard and I act like I’m taking a survey.
And I have gone, I have just asked people, “Excuse me, sir? Would you consider, just…?” “Hey, what are you doing?” “Just one question. Just yes or no. Would you consider yourself to be a generous person? Yes or no? Excuse me, ma’am? Would you consider yourself to be a generous person? Yes or no?” You know what comes out every time? Eighty percent. I don’t know whether people are Christians or non-Christians, but I can tell you that eighty percent of all the people that you ever meet, probably including the person sitting in your seat, we think we are generous. We do!
And that presents a problem, because if we think we are generous, but we’re really not, then we are not asking God to help us be more generous or learning how to be generous, correct? So, we are going to go on a journey of generosity. And some of you, just lighten up, okay? There is no big ask coming. There is no big project coming.
You know what I want you to get? I want you to experience the joy of generosity. I want the kindness and the love of God to start trickling in your families. I want your neighborhoods to say, “What happened to Joe? What happened to Mary?” I want people at your work going, “What in the world are you learning at that church? You’re bringing us coffee here. You signed up for extra work here. You took care of me here. How come you’re being nice to me now? You have forgiven me over there.”
Because generous people change the world. The most generous person in the world was Jesus. He gave His life. Actually, He is the second most generous person. As difficult as that was, the Father gave His Son. And the Holy Spirit and the Godhead together came and just said, We love you all.
So, if you want to learn to be generous, this is – if you’re expecting a guilt trip and a lot of statistics and, “Get with the program,” and, “Why don’t you give more?” Sorry. At best, I can pump you up for two weeks and you’ll fall right back to your old way of thinking.
I want you to learn how to experience generosity and it just gets birthed inside your heart where you’ll get so excited, you’ll start saying, “Are we going overboard on this?” And what you’ll learn is you can’t go overboard.
So, how? How do you become more generous? Here’s our first steps toward living a generous life. Number one, recognize it’s a journey. If you wanted to be a classical guitar player, a great athlete – no one went from putting on the skates to doing one of those dances. No one just put on some skis and then went seven million miles up in the air and landed.
It’s a journey. So, what I want you to really think about is: what would it look like for you personally to say, wherever you are at on a scale of one to ten or one to a hundred, if I’m here, what would it look like to move toward becoming more generous? And you might even, at this moment, whisper, God, I would like to be more generous. Would You help me be more generous?
Second, reevaluate your view of God.