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Why God Prospers Generous People, Part 1

From the series The Genius of Generosity

Is it possible to measure generosity? Chip continues his series “The Genius of Generosity” and reveals how you can actually measure your generosity.

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Message Transcript

I want to give you four air-tight facts about generosity that are absolutely true that will help you and help me begin to take the kind of steps that will allow us, by faith, to say, “It’s smart, it’s wise to pour out our lives.”

In fact, Jesus is called, He poured out his life as a drink offering. Paul would use the same phrase when he talked about his life and his love for the Philippian church.

So are you ready?  Four facts that I think will give us faith. Open your teaching handout, if you will and let’s dig in together.

Fact number one: God blesses generous people. Some of you have been around – do not get nervous as I share these verses because some of you are going to come to some conclusions like, “What’s he saying? Is he taking us in this…?” Just listen.

And what I want you to do as I read these verses I just want you to ask and answer the question, “Does the Bible teach that God blesses generous people, or not?” I’ve got Old Testament, New Testament, the wisest man in the world, and Jesus Himself.

Follow along. First, Acts 20:35, “In everything I did,” Luke writes, “I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words of the Lord Jesus Himself: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

Luke 6:38, from the lips of Jesus, “Give,” why? “And it will be given unto you.” Well how? “Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over will be poured into your cup. For with the measure or the size that you use it will be measured or given back to you.”

Solomon, the wisest man in the world, Proverbs 22:9, “A generous man will himself be blessed for he shares his food with the poor.” Are you getting the drift? Pretty strong argument. Solomon, Proverbs 19:17, “He who is kind to the poor lends to the Lord,” and what does God do? When people are kind to the poor, “He will reward him for what he has done.”

Deuteronomy, Moses writes, “When you’re out harvesting your field and you overlook a sheaf,” you know? You’re harvesting your field and you, “Oh, boy, we forgot that one back there.” Notice what he says, “Do not go back and get it, leave it for the alien, for the fatherless, and the widow.” Why? “So that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.”

Turn the page if you will. Proverbs 3:9 and 10. He says, “Honor the Lord,” with what? “Honor God,” what’s it look like? “Honor God with all your wealth,” how? “With the very first fruits of your crops.” You give the first and the best. What’s the result? “Then your barns will be filled to overflowing and your vats will burst out with new wine.”

And then finally, Solomon in Proverbs 11:24 and 5, I love this one. “One man gives freely yet gains all the more. Another withholds what is justly due but comes only to poverty. A generous man will prosper and he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.”

Now listen very carefully. This is not a give-to-get and this is not the Prosperity Gospel. This is not a formula where you can figure out, “Oh, this is how God has set up life. I’m going to figure out how to use God and somehow give so I can get more.” That’s just being selfish.

But what the Bible teaches from Jesus to Moses to Solomon to all through Scripture is very, very simple. You have limited capacity. You have limited time. You have limited money. You have limited opportunity. You have limited energy. You have limited talent. And God says to you, “If you will take those limitations and you will give the first and the best and trust Me, I have unlimited supply to help you fulfill My purpose in you and My purpose through you.”

The bright idea that comes out of this is this: Generous living produces emotional happiness, spiritual holiness, and as a general rule, material prosperity. No give to get, no playing games with God.

But people that are generous are happy. They’re, like, anti-Scrooge.

Well, I did a little experiment I thought to myself, “I wonder if there’s a difference between being truly generous and just assuming or thinking that you’re generous.

I went to a little strip mall where there was multiple little restaurants and a Starbucks. And I went from person to person to person and I said, “I’m trying to find a hundred people, I have one question, it’s a survey, I just want a yes or no answer, no explanation, yes or no.”

And I had young people, old people, all kind of ethnic backgrounds and I walked around and I was scared at first but then it got to be fun. I said, “Excuse me,” and two ladies are stopping, you know? “Hey, I don’t want any money, I’m not going to do anything. It’s a survey. Can I ask you this question?” And they kind of, I said, “Here it is. Do you consider yourself to be a generous person? Yes or no?”

Do you consider yourself to be a generous person? Yes or no? If I asked you that, just right now, don’t raise your hand, don’t do anything. But just your self-talk. Do you consider yourself to be a generous person? Yes or no?

Well my very unscientific survey revealed that eighty percent of the people, at that strip mall considered themselves, very quickly, to be generous people.

Only two people said, “No.” And so I couldn’t resist, I had a follow-up question, “So you don’t think you’re generous?” “No.” Kind of like, “I don’t think I’m generous and I’m not trying to be generous, buddy. Just move on. You know, get your own coffee or something.”

Now here’s what I want you to get. What if all the verses I talked about aren’t for people who think they’re generous. What if all the verses, I mean, these are the words of Jesus, the words of Solomon.

What if, what if God really has a standard or a criteria that if you fulfill that you’re generous and these promises apply to you and if you just think you’re generous, which I’m now learning, eighty percent, at least, of the people think they are, then they really don’t apply to you.

And so let me give you fact number two. Fact number two is that God provides clear criteria for becoming or knowing that you’re a generous person. I mean, right out of the Bible you may have said, “Yes,” you may have said, “No,” but I will tell you, in about ten minutes you can know with absolute certainty form God’s perspective whether He looks at you as a generous person.

The first two are review and the last three are new. Characteristic number one: Genuine generosity gives the first and the best to God. When God looks at people, when they get the first crops, the first of their paycheck, the first blessing, the first opportunity, they come to God and say, “I recognize all I have belongs to You; I want to give You the first and the best.”

People who do that, from God’s perspective, are generous.

Second, genuine generosity is systematic and regular. So it’s not just an ooey gooey feeling or near Christmas or this person has a need and I gave them a couple hundred bucks or I helped this person over here.

Genuinely generous people, on a regular, systematic basis give. That 1 Corinthians, remember, 16 verse 2? Where Paul is writing to them and says, “Now on the first day of the week I want you to prepare yourself and I want you to decide in proportion to how God has blessed you, on a regular, systematic way...”

And in the New Testament times most people were paid daily, they were paid at the end of the day. Most of us get paid every two weeks, or once a month, or by commission.

And so the issue is, when I get paid, do I regularly and systematically give the first and the best to God? So that would make us generous. If I don’t do that I can feel generous but from God’s perspective I’m not.

Third criteria: Genuine generosity is proportional to our income. Notice that same passage, 1 Corinthians 16:2. He says, “Let everyone decide on the first day of the week according to,” what? “According to his income.”

Some jars are bigger than other jars. For people that have small jars, what they give and how they give it, God never measures the amount that you give, God measures the amount of the sacrifice. That’s generosity.

That’s why when the widow would drop in the two, small copper coins and the other people gave large gifts, He wasn’t saying the large gifts were bad. In fact, the temple couldn’t run without the large gifts. He just was saying, comparatively, this woman has given more than them.

Well, what you’re going to say, “Jesus, your math is all wrong.” No, they gave this much and she gave this much. Why would Jesus say she gave more? Because it was a greater sacrifice. Generosity is the first and the best. It’s regular, it’s systematic, and it’s proportional.

So it’s not like you pay a bill. You’re on a journey as God blesses you more, you get to give more, you get to be involved more, you get to stretch, you get to love, you get to expand.

I’ve had times where I was given more and then I had times where everything went down to here and one of the most humbling times in my life was just saying, “I used to be able to give this, now I can only give this.” It’s proportional.

Fourth characteristic of generous people is: Genuine generosity is sacrificial. The same setting, Paul writes a lot about generosity in 2 Corinthians chapter 8 and 9. He says, “Now brothers we want you to know about the grace that our God has given the Macedonian church.” He’s writing to the Corinthians and he’s talking about the Macedonian church.

He says, “Out of their most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty it welled up in rich generosity.” I underlined those four things because I don’t, I don’t think we think about generosity coming out of that, do you?

I’m going to be generous when there’s an extreme trial. I’m going to be generous when I’m under it. I’m going to be generous when I don’t have much at all, in fact, poverty.

He said what welled out of them was rich generosity. Now notice what he says. He says, “For I testify that they gave as much as they were able and even beyond their ability.” And then notice the motivation. “Entirely on their own they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints.”

And the service he’s talking about is over here these Jewish Christians, there was a famine. And they didn’t have any food. And these Christians over here said, Gentile Christians, they were new Christians and there used to be all this hostility but Christ broke that wall and they said, “We have and they don’t have so we’re going to share.”

See it’s sacrificial. It’s like that widow. I came across an email that I want to share with you. This is maybe one of the greatest pictures of generosity I’ve ever seen in my life. Let me read it to you. In fact, it’s close to home because it’s a dear friend. He says, “Ten years ago I stopped to have my car washed at this brand new car wash at 87 and Capitol. A couple of friends, Chuck and Patty, his wife, had spent the last couple years developing the property. It was a huge investment for them.

“As my car was being washed I went up to the office just to say ‘hello.’ After a brief chat and I was about to leave I asked Chuck, ‘Hey, um, what’s your blood type?’ He said, ‘That’s an odd question. Why?’ I said, ‘Well I need a kidney transplant.’ He said, ‘That’s interesting,’ and he said, ‘Well I have the right blood type.’ He said, ‘I think maybe, maybe God wants me to give you my kidney.’

I said, ‘Don’t make any quick decisions. Think about it, pray about it. By the way, I’ve got five or six brothers and sisters, they’re all being tested right now. Let’s just see how it works out.’

“The very next day I got a phone call. Chuck said, ‘Mike, I’m your man. God told me to do this. I want to do this.’ His only request was, ‘Could we make sure we get this done before hunting season?’

“I couldn’t believe it. As it turned out all my siblings were eliminated for one reason or another. Chuck went through the testing. The results showed that he was a better match than anyone else. We had an operation.

Chuck, later, gave his testimony about this experience several times and importantly he’s met with multiple kidney donors and recipients to encourage them to consider doing what he did. “To date, five different people have received a kidney and who knows how many indirectly because of Chuck’s testimony. Even though there were unknowns, even though he was just getting his business off the ground he chose to be generous. “Consistently Chuck says this: ‘It’s the best thing I’ve ever done. I’m so thankful God allowed me to do it.’”

Kind of raises the stakes on what it means to give, doesn’t it? Most of us are sitting here, depending on where you’re at going, “Well, I think God really wants me to get my finances in order and I got a lot of debt,” or you know, “Gosh, when he used that illustration about the ten percent, I’ve been giving ten percent for twenty-two years and I thought that was just God’s and I would have to rethink my whole equation.

Some guy was willing to lay on the table and let someone cut out half of what he owns but from all I can tell kidneys are pretty important and we do have two but most of us want to have two.

But he had a friend that didn’t have any. And he gave one of his two. Are you starting to see? See when God sees that you know what the heart of God says? “There’s a generous man. There’s a generous woman. There’s a generous student.”

There’s no give-to-get. There’s no formula. It’s the heart of a father saying, “You know what? He’s treating his friend the way I feel about him. He’s loving him and he’s giving and he’s caring.” And when God sees that in your heart as evidenced by your behavior then God, guess what. He just, He’s a father. He just, He just wants to give whatever you need.

You need more time? You need more resources? You need a greater opportunity? You need more money? God has, He has unlimited supply. But only right now about 2.8 to 3 percent of all the people who claim to be born again in America are willing to say, “I believe You to the point that I would pour out the first portion of even my income let alone my time and trust that Your supernatural supply will meet all my needs.”

And the theory goes, “Well someday when I get enough or someday when things turn around or when I can get this or get…” and yet that’s not how it works.

Out of their deep poverty and severe trial. When he was starting a business, when it was the last thing you wanted to do in the world was put your life at stake, that’s sacrificial. That’s generosity.

The final characteristic of generosity, not simply the first and the best and not just systematically or proportional or sacrificial. But genuine generosity is thoughtful, voluntary, and worshipful.

Genuine generosity isn’t just hearing a series or having a, I call it a “God moment.” And I’ve them and I want to have more. But where you’re just compelled and you give and it sort of does this emotional thing and you go, “Wow.”

See, genuine generosity isn’t just thinking with your heart. It’s with your mind. And it’s an act of worship. Notice what Paul writes later in this same discussion with this church.

He says, “I thought it was necessary to urge you, brothers, to visit you in advance and finish the arrangements for the generous gift that you had promised.” So they said, “We want to help those Jews that are really going through it and there’s a famine and, hey, Paul, last visit, we’re going to help them.”

And Paul says, “Hey, I’m coming to collect the gift.” And so he says, “Then I’m going to come early and I just want to warn you and kind of give you a little heads up so it’ll be ready as a generous gift and not grudgingly.”

Because Paul knows human nature. I don’t know about you but I’ve made commitments and I prayed about it and God showed me and I made it at a right moment when I was really in fellowship with God and then it came around time to give the gift and I’m going, “Oooh maybe I didn’t really hear God. Maybe, maybe we could delay…” Right? Don’t you all do this stuff?

And so Paul knows that’s what’s happening. So he says, “Hey, let me just, I want it to be right from the heart. So little heads up, I’ll be there, who knows, couple weeks.”

And then he gives them this thoughtful suggestion. He says, “Remember this as you’re sort of weighing in the balance about being faithful to what you said. Whoever sows sparingly reaps also sparingly and whoever sows generously will reap also generously.”

And so it’s an agricultural world and he just brings them back like farmers. He goes, “Look if you put five seeds in the ground that, you’re going to have five stalks come up. You put five thousand seeds in the ground, you’ll have five thousand stalks and on each stalk there’ll be hundreds, if not thousands of other seeds so if you sow a little, a little comes back. If you sow a lot…”

So he’s getting, it’s thoughtful. But notice, then, it’s voluntary and worshipful. He goes, “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion for God loves a cheerful,” or literally, “a hilarious giver.”

It’s thoughtful. It’s based on the law of harvest. It’s voluntary. It’s not compulsive or manipulative and it’s worshipful. It brings joy to God’s heart.