Helping you grow closer to God
Download the Chip Ingram App
The Genius of Generosity Resources on sale now.
About this series
Genius of Generosity
Lessons from a Secret Pact Between Two Friends
What's the secret to being truly smart when it comes to managing your finances, possessions and your very life? The Creator of all things invites you to enter into deeper levels of generosity with Him, so you can become wise in your giving and generous in living. When we begin to grasp God's extravagant love and generosity toward us, we begin to be generous toward Him and others in His kingdom. The result: our generosity becomes a visible expression of our love for Him.More from this series
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.
I don’t know if you’ve ever been to a fundraising event by a really good Christian organization before but if not I hope you go to one someday. A number of years ago I was invited to one and the presentations often go like this and I’ve actually given these so there’s no criticism whatsoever. I thought it was really great.
They showed a film of the great work. I believed in the work, that’s why I went. I had supported them financially in the past. I think the head of the organization gave a short but powerful speech about the impact of the organization and I was sitting there just thinking about how much stretch, how much risk, how much could I give?
And then a guy came up who was sort of the M.C. and he was a little slicker than I liked. You ever been in one of those meetings where someone’s just a little too, I don’t know what you call it but just slick.
And so then he came back up and he said, “And now it’s that time where we all get to be a part of…” you know, that sort of smiley thing that makes me a little crazy. He goes, “Will you please take the envelopes from the middle and get them around the table?”
You know, like this, you know? And “And now I don’t want anyone to do anything but please pull out a pen. Will you, before we even make any decision, write and fill out your name.”
And I’m watching everyone look around like, “You know, I’m not I want to give but I’m not so sure about this deal and…”
And he was going, “No, please, please.” And, you know?
He created an atmosphere of peer pressure where you felt like a dummy if you didn’t do what he said. And he was very good at it. And so we fill it out. “Now notice there’s box number two, box number three, box number four. Can you give the biggest?”
And all of a sudden a little light went on. And I like this organization and I’d given to them before. And I was sitting there and I just realized this guy was trying to manipulate and if whatever I was going to give I was going to give out of compulsion and I felt guilty about it and I felt and I looked at everybody else and I don’t know if it was the Holy Spirit sort of combined with a little bit of boldness.
And I just got up and excused myself. And I took my envelope and I had it in my, it was one of those where you dress up. So I actually do have a suit. I wore the suit that time.
And I put it in my coat jacket and I went into the men’s restroom, washed my hands, pulled out the envelope, tore it in half, dropped it in the trash, and left.
And I suggest to you that whenever or wherever you feel like people are trying to manipulate or there’s compulsion or there’s agenda to try to get your money to get you to give to something that you might follow that example.
Generosity is a matter from the heart, it’s an act of worship. Money needs to be raised for the kingdom of God but it needs to be raised in a way where the vision is cast, the needs are made known as God leads, and people’s heart alignment with the integrity of what’s going on and He moves people, by the power of the Holy Spirit and it is an act of worship.
When God sees people who give the first and the best that’s regular, systematic, proportional, sacrificial, and thoughtful, voluntary, and as an act of worship from heaven He says, “This child of Mine is generous. And every promise that we read applies to that person.”
Fact number one: God blesses generous people. Fact number two: God gives us clear criteria to know whether you’re generous or not. Fact number three is our breakthrough concept: Generosity, breakthrough concept number three, is God prospers me not to raise my standard of living but to raise my standard of giving.
I got that from Randy Alcorn. It’s in a little book called The Treasure Principle. You’ll see the notes on the bottom. That’s a great line: “God prospers me to raise my standard of giving, not just my standard of living.”
When I was in seminary I had this kind of unusual job because I had very few hours and I had to figure out in very few hours how to support my family. So I took a number of tests and got a license to sell a couple things and some also some investments.
And so I went all over and I sold. And about three or four hours a night, I could do this three or four nights a week and make a thousand dollars a month and that’s what I needed to live on.
And so I sold to people that had low incomes and then I remember going out to north Dallas, very exclusive area. And middle incomes and then very high incomes.
And I remember sitting across the kitchen table from a man and he had the picture of the very latest Porsche and he was telling me, “Now that’s my that’s what I’m going to get.” And there was this huge, beautiful house and I laid out the presentation. It was pretty much a no brainer. I could take this money and put it over here, we can invest the difference over here.
And he looked at me and he goes, “That is really great. I’d love to do it. I just can’t afford it. “
And now help me because, see, I grew up kind of naïve. I grew up thinking that if you had, like, really nice cars and a really nice house and a really nice job you had money.
And here’s what I learned in that three years that I did that job. People who made this little window of money spent just a little bit more than that window. And then people who made this amount of money, like three times that? They spent just a little bit more than that window.
And then I met with people that had, made this kind of money and you know what they did? They found out they needed other things and the toys got more expensive and the trips got more expensive and the extra this and that. They spent more. He couldn’t afford it.
See the unconscious assumption that we operate on is when we are prospered by God and He gives us more we just think it means a bigger, nicer, better. He gives us more, well that means bigger, nicer, better.
Now you should enjoy the bigger, nicer, better when that’s God’s will. But listen to what the apostle Paul says. He says, “God is able.” 2 Corinthians chapter 9 verses 8 and 9. He continues the story.
“God is able to make all grace abound to you.” Why? “So that in all things at all times having all you need you can abound in every good work.” In other words, God wants to bless, bless, bless. In other words, there’s a pump! There’s a pump, there’s a pump, there’s a pump! As you take these steps and pour it out all grace at all times to abound in every good work.
This isn’t in financial. This is your whole life. And then notice what he says, “As it’s written: He has scattered abroad His gifts to the poor; His righteousness endures forever.”
“Now He,” speaking of God, “who gives seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness.”
And so he’s got this agricultural picture, God provides the seed, the original, great, okay. He provides it, some of the seed, what happens after the harvest is you eat it, turn it into food and bread. And then He gives you extra, abundance, more than you need so that you can reinvest it at the next year’s harvest.
He says, “That’s the picture I want you to understand.” When God gives you more than you need He gives you more than you need so if there’s people that have needs over here, God’s purposes over here, He could flow it through you to help them.
Then notice what he says, “You will be made rich.” And then underline the next line, will you? “In every way.” Not your finances. It may be finances. But he’s, you’ll be made rich when you operate this way.
First, regular, voluntary, loving, kind, from the heart. He says you’ll be made rich in every way. Then put a little box around “so that.” God increases or prospers your life to make you rich in every way so that, and read it. What’s it say? So you can be what? When?
So you can be generous on every occasion. Then look at the spiritual result. Look what happens here. “And through your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.” Do you see the circle?
You take this step of faith and you say, “Oh, God, You know what? It’s a little hard financially right now. I don’t have very much time right now. Boy, my talent and treasure, I need to just invest.” Whoo. By faith.
“Okay, these instructions, if they’re true it’s great. If they’re not I’m in trouble. By faith, Lord, here’s my first, my best, my regular, my systematic, from the heart, loving people.”
God has not prospered you to raise your standard of living but to raise your standard of giving.
Fact number four is the key to becoming habitually generous and experience habitual happiness, are you ready for this? F-A-I-T-H. It’s faith. Right?
See at the end of the day either all those verses we read in fact number one are true or false. Your behavior and my behavior along the criteria is just a very simple test where you can now know whether you’re generous or not.
If you can answer “yes” to those five things you’re generous and as you do that God will meet your needs. If you say “no” I want you to know that God is far more interested in your soul than any of your finances or your time.
And one of the loving things God does to get our attention and why Jesus talks so much about finances was He can really get us praying and thinking and reevaluating relationships and time and priorities and who is the Lord of your life when you’re under financial pressure, right?
And so at some point in time you declare and you say, “Lord, I believe, help me in my unbelief. Lord, I’m afraid to step out and trust You. My life is so busy, to give time to serve, to love, it just is so counter-intuitive. But I’m going to do it.” And then you start to experience supernatural things.
Faith says, “Refuse to chase the wind” and this is why a lot of us don’t take the step of faith. Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 2:11, “Yet when I surveyed all my hands had done and what I toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.”
And this is a man that had the palaces, the women, the money, the, anything – his heart’s desire and what he’s says is, “If accumulation, if prestige, if power, if stuff, if things could bring me security and significance and happiness and meaning and purpose I’ve done it all.”
But the people that have the most stuff, the people that have achieved the highest peaks often find themselves empty and lonely and discouraged and a lot like Scrooge.
Because at the end of the day it’s your relationship with God and your relationship with people that matter.
And so I would say refuse to chase the wind. Refuse to live out of control lives. Refuse to work seventy and eighty hours. Just refuse. Say, “What really matters?” And what happens is when you make some decisions about your finances pretty soon you’ve got to budget your money and budget your time and make some hard decisions. And you’ll see God provide.
Second on the balancing side is faith says, “Enjoy God’s provision.” I think when people start talking about generosity and the word “stewardship” you start thinking, “Well, okay, I’m never going to have anything nice and I’m never going to get to enjoy life and I’ll never go on a good vacation,” and anything nice you have, “Oh gosh I should tell people that I got this Lexus on sale and you know that swimming pool? It was just for baptisms we really didn’t want a swimming pool, you know?”
“And you know that trip when we went down to Mexico and great and took everyone with us and it was so fun, it was really great. Well it was really a missionary trip and the Hyatt, there’s a lot of up and outers that we really want to reach.”
You know what the Bible says? “Instruct,” or, “command those,” 1 Timothy 6:17 to 19. “Instruct,” or, “command those that are rich in this present world not to be conceited or fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches but to fix their hope on God,” and get, underline it in your Bible somewhere the next line, “who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy.”
If your priorities are right and you’re a generous person, you just drive that Lexus and have fun, okay? If you love a pool and your priorities are right and He gives you a pool, you know what? Get in it. Invite your friends. Have some fun. If you can go on a nice vacation, enjoy it.
But if those things are in your life and those five things aren’t then the person you’re worshipping is you, not God and who you’re trusting to bring significance and fulfillment and joy and satisfaction is a lot of little idols instead of the King of the universe.
And you’ll come up empty. And that’s why he says, “Instruct them or command them.” “Don’t put your stuff there, don’t chase the wind. But as I give to you, enjoy it.”
You just might find he, when God finds people He can pass things through, He often blesses them greatly. And the closer you get to him, what they’ll tell you is, money is the smallest of the blessings.
What’s a rich marriage worth? What’s a great relationship with your kids worth? What’s a friendship that’s heart to heart worth?
Faith says, “God rewards those who step out and trust Him.”
You want to please God? Being religious, keeping the rules, even giving, quote, money or time that is sort of all in the safe zone, here’s what God says, Hebrews 11:6, “Without faith,” it’s not hard, “it’s impossible to please God.”
Think of that. What God, because see the highest compliment you ever give to God is this, “Lord, this is very limited. This is me. But I believe that as I would give and trust my ‘limited,’ you, my Father, have ‘unlimited.’ I believe it to the point of, ‘Here’s the best of my time. Here’s the best of my money. Here’s the best of my talent. Here’s the concern for this person – that doesn’t have room in my schedule – but I’m giving it to them, and I believe that whatever I need, You’ll take care of me.’”
When God sees that, notice what the end of the verse says. It’s impossible to please God. For those who come to God must do two things: Believe He exists and He’s a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
God wants to bless. He’s a blesser. He’s generous. He wants.
Here’s what He says, “Be smart. You can either live outside of the resources in that little jar or you can trust Me and you can tap into the unlimited resources I have for your good and My glory.”