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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
Until my, probably late twenties, the word “generosity” I thought was reserved for two very special groups of people. People that were very, very rich – they should be generous because they have a lot. Or people that are very, very holy because they’re so holy God will do special things for them.
I’m serious. So it’s not like I wanted to be, like, selfish. I thought I should be moderately generous but to be open, lavish, kind, over-the-top, being willing every day in every way to just share with people I thought, “If I win the lotto, if I start my own business, if I make it in major league baseball, someday then, you know…” It’s something to aspire to. To be really generous. But I don’t have a lot of money.
So generosity would be like graduate level Christianity. Someday like the few, the proud, the Marines? Someday, if I get really holy then maybe I’ll be generous. But for right now I don’t want to be greedy and selfish because that wouldn’t look good and I don’t think God would like it. So I would just sort of like to be a little generous.
And that’s sort of how I looked at things until I met a man named John Saville. Now John, you have to know, he was seventy-five years old, he’d come to Christ in his sixties and had been, gone broke a couple times and lived a life that, in some ways, he thought, boy, he really had wasted. And so he’d been a Christian about ten years and had this sense of urgency. In fact,
had just this heart to share and love people.
And so he’s seventy-five years old and I’m the pastor of this mini-church, we got thirty-five people. And I’m twenty-eight and I’m the new, young pastor and I’m filled with zeal and not very much knowledge and he’s filled with lots of knowledge and not very much zeal.
And he’s the chairman of the elders. And so I’ve never been an elder, I’ve never been a pastor, I told him I was too young to be an elder but they said, “Well, the constitution says you’re one so you just have to figure it out along the way.” I said, “Okay.”
And so but John and I, sort of, we would go to meetings and once a month I’d see him, I’d see him in church. We had nothing in common. He wasn’t into sports, he owned a CPA firm in downtown Dallas called Saville-Dodgen.
And it’s just like he was a really nice, neat old guy. He was a little kooky, honestly. You know, I was pretty into you had to be a cool Christian and something good would happen and John would rare back in a meeting, go, “Praise the Lord!” And I would go, “Oh brother, please don’t do that one in public,” you know?
And so it was about a year and John gave me a call and he said, “Chip, I’d like you to come down to Dallas and have lunch with me. I’d like to talk to you.” I said, “Okay, sounds good.”
And he said, “Now you need to wear a tie. Where we’re going to go you have to have a tie. In fact, you have to have a coat.” And I thought, “Oh brother. I own two ties and one coat.” So, okay.
And so I got in my beat up car and I drove down to downtown Dallas, got to the address and it’s an all-glass building in with all the other glass buildings and find a place to park and go up, like, the thirty-eighth floor or something. And the doors open and it’s all wood and it says, “Saville-Dodgen,” you know, “CPA firm.” Big firm. And they had this whole floor and, “Mr. Saville will see you now.”
And I walked back to his office, “Hey! Chip, how you doing?” He put his arm around me and we walked over to here and we went to this glass elevator and he punched it and it opened and we went all the way to the top floor and it opened and there was this restaurant and then racquetball courts all made out of glass and you could see all over the city and we sat down and someone with a white towel came here and someone with a towel was over here and they gave me a menu and I’d never seen a menu like this because there was no prices on it.
I said, “How would you know what to order, there’s no prices on it?” I mean, it was like very upper, upper, upper. And John said, “Oh, I really want you to get something you’ll really like, Chip. The filet is great here.” And, “Well, thank you, Mr. Saville.” “No, no, it’s John. Come on.” You know?
And so we sat down and we had this lunch and so as we got done with lunch he said, “Let’s get some coffee,” and it sort of cleared out a little bit and John had this little white box and he put it in front of me and he opened the white box and then he pulled out a brownish kind of looking checkbook and he handed it to me and he said, “Open that up.”
And so I opened it up and it said, “Pastor’s discretionary fund.” And he said, “Look at the, look at the stubs in the back.” And so I went to the back and it had, “Deposit: five, zero, zero, zero.” Five thousand dollars.
He said, “Chip, here’s what I’d like to do. I’ve been watching you for a year and I think I can trust you. I want to have a secret pact, you can’t tell anyone about this.” I said, “Well what’s this all about?”
He said, “I’m not going to live that much longer. And I have a real heart for people that are hurting and people that are poor. And so you, every day, are touching people that are hurting and poor.”
Where we lived it was a little bit of a depressed area out in the rural area of Texas. “And so what I’d like you to do is I’d like you to take this checkbook and I’d like you to put it in your back pocket every day and any time you feel God prompting you to meet the need of a poor person or a hurting person or some sort of ministry that you think would bring joy to my heart and glory to God, I want you to take care of it. And just do it in my name. Just don’t tell anybody it’s me but all I want you to do is…”
And so, you’ll notice on the front of your notes, I actually put this. It says: John had a desire, help poor and hurting people, I had an opportunity. I interacted with a lot of poor and hurting people. And so we made a deal. And then what he said is, “Like, every three or four months I’ll give you a call and we’ll have lunch like this.” And it was a lavish lunch and it was, and I would sit down about every four months and I would tell John stories about what I did with his money.
And early on you know, like the first, I remember driving back in my little, un-air-conditioned car and thinking, “Oh man, what if I mess up and this is his money and who am I going to give it to and I don’t know when and why.” And I got real uptight for, like, three or four days.
And then I thought, “You know, what the heck? How bad can it be giving people money away?”
And so I remember the first time I was in a grocery line and there was this young mom and if you ever have been where someone has groceries and they don’t have enough money to pay and they’re trying to figure out how much, what they should take out of the basket and, you know?
Well, she goes, “I’m really sorry but my husband he’s kind of on a binge right now and he’s left us and so I don’t have it. I’m going to drive to my mother’s but I don’t have gas and here’s my three kids.”
And this was sort of like a no brainer and I said, “Excuse me, ma’am. Do you, like, need some more food to go?” And she goes, “Well I…” And I checked it out and it was for real and I said, “You know, why don’t you get your basket and get what you really need.” And she did and she came back and then I said, “Now you…” And I paid for that and then I said, “Don’t you need some gas? I heard…” She goes, and the Safeway, 7-11 was there and I said, “Well come on over here.” And I took care of that.
And then pretty soon there was someone who was ice cold and it was an elderly couple and they couldn’t pay their electric bill and I took care of that. And it went from sort of like, “Oh, I’m afraid to mess up,” to “This is fun.” I lost my keys about twenty times in the first three years of our marriage and so finally right next to where I went out the door there’s a little ledge and I put my wallet, my keys, and John’s checkbook.
And every day it was just my ritual. Wallet, keys, checkbook. And so every day I’m walking around. Can you imagine? Every day I’m walking around thinking, “I wonder who God wants me to bless and love and help with John’s money.”
And it got to be a blast, actually. It was really fun. And you got to see what would happen and then so story after story after story and then John would call and say, “How’s it going?” I said, “Great!” He says, “Well, Chip, praise the Lord! Come on down and have lunch!” So I’d go down and pretty soon it was like, hey, up the glass elevator, walk in.
“Hey, I’ll see you what,” get Mr. Saville, we would go up. And sometimes we’d have a three-hour lunch and I’d tell him story after story after story and then after a while I noticed that when I gave the money to certain ways with certain people I got a real loud, “Praise the Lord!” And when I did other things it was, “Oh, praise the Lord.”
So I’m not dumb. I started looking to, “I think I’d like to give the money more where it really fires him up.” And three things happened. This was an amazing relationship. I did this for about six, seven years.
And later moved from that little church and John later went home to be with the Lord. But three things happened. Number one, rarely a day went by that I didn’t think of John. Now think of that. I mean, before it was like once a month elders meeting or I might see him. But I never thought of John.
He didn’t, we didn’t work out together, we didn’t have any common interest. But now that I’m spending his money, every day I’m thinking about John, asking the question, “I wonder what John would want me to do?”
Second thing that happened is I strangely became far more meticulous about balancing his checkbook than my own. And I’m a big picture person, I didn’t really like details, and so, and I never had that much money so I didn’t think it mattered.
So if I had four or five hundred dollars and the bank statement come, if it was within twenty bucks, that was close enough for me. You know? The bank’s probably right anyway.
Well, this was not a good plan for my wife who is not made at all like that. She goes, “We need to know exactly.” “Ah, well it’s going to take me two hours or three hours to figure it out,” because I wasn’t very good at details then either.
So what I realized, however, I couldn’t tell Theresa about this. So I just somehow learned to get very meticulous. I’m going to give an account to an accountant. Are you kidding me?
It’s not like, “Well, hey John! You know, I spent about twelve, fourteen hundred dollars in the last couple months.” Or, “You know, I helped people, three thousand bucks. I mean, give or take five hundred.” I mean, that’s not going to work with John so I got really good at keeping very clear track.
The third thing that happened and this I never expected is John and I became best friends. Literally best friends. I started going to those prisons with him. We hung out together. As he bought extravagant lunches and I told extraordinary stories of our quarterly celebrations.
And what you need to hear, there was no sense of obligation. There was no sense that we were doing some big, righteous thing. We weren’t martyrs, we weren’t saving the world. It was like an adventure, a celebration of taking someone else’s money and his heart and being his representative and just having a blast.
Does anyone here think there might be a parallel?
See generosity, the genius of generosity first, it has nothing to do with how much money you have or don’t have. Zero. It has nothing to do with how holy you think you are or are not. It has everything to do with understanding God has given us all things: Time, energy, money, talent that belong to Him. And every day is an adventure where He’s bringing people across your path that He wants some of the time deposited in you to go over here and some of the talent to go over there and some of the money to go over there.
And it’s like, and by the way, when you give it out, here’s what God promises: “I’ll make sure I fill up the account.”
Because after my lunches John would never say a word but I’d get my bank statement. So I’d spend two thousand dollars one quarter and maybe three thousand dollars another quarter and maybe only eleven hundred another quarter. And then I’d get my bank statement and guess what? Boop, five thousand dollars. He would just fill it up. And that’s the way it is with God.
The goal of generosity, the goal with our money and our time and our talent really, His heart is to build a relationship. His heart behind this is not that we just “get things done.” It’s not just that we’re generous with our money. It’s the gateway to intimacy. It’s one of the major ways God connects our heart with His heart.
In fact, let me give you a definition of “genius” and of “generosity” and I think you’ll see why I named the series this. The word “genius” is from the root word meaning, “to produce.” To be a genius, actually, it’s to produce something. It’s the personification of quality.
We call someone a genius who has great natural ability for a particular activity. And so Einstein is a genius in physics and Bill Walsh was a genius in terms of offense in football.
Any person with a high intelligence, a high IQ, we call them a genius. This special ability. It’s being wise, it’s being a little bit beyond smart.
Now the word “generosity” comes from a root word, this was interesting, to be generous, the root word comes from “noble birth” or something that’s excellent, generous, having qualities associated with being like a king or a queen or a prince or a princess. It’s to be noble minded and gracious, magnanimous. It has the underlying… a willingness at every moment of time to share.
The Hebrew word for “generous” literally means, “overflowing with water.” It’s a picture of not just meeting people’s needs but soaking it and overflowing and water being a picture of that which gives life.
The Greek word for “generosity” is the word for “ready, at any moment, to distribute. Ready to share, ready to give.” And all I want you to know is we’re going to talk about being beyond smart, beyond wise. About being genius. Do you see the bright idea on the top of your notes? It says: To be smart, and you should be smart, you should spend carefully. To be wise, and you should be wise, you should save regularly. But to be genius you should give extravagantly.
That’s what I got to do with John’s money. And it taught me a lot about how God, my Father, has entrusted things to me and He wants me to be smart, and He wants me to be wise. But He wants me to be a genius.
Let me give you four reasons now why it is genius to be generous. Because I’m just going to guess, at least there’s one or two people that maybe have my background and it’s not like you want to be selfish and, heaven forbid, you don’t want to be greedy. But the idea of being extravagantly generous is like fearful and, like, it might be for someone else.
So let me give you four specific reasons why generosity is, in fact, genius. Number one, generosity changes our lives. Generosity changes our lives. It blesses our lives, it enriches our lives, it makes life better.
The very last words we ever hear in the Bible, from Jesus, are this, and they’re not in the gospels. It’s a quote from Acts where the apostle Paul quotes Jesus and says, “Jesus said, “It’s more blessed to give than to receive.” The word “blessed” you know what it means? Happy. Welfare. Good. Uplifting. Encouraging.
People who give are more blessed even than those who get to receive. I mean, this is the ultimate win-win proposition. When you give and when you’re generous a good feeling comes inside. Well, guess what. Here’s the win-win. You get a good feeling by giving, the people who receive what you give, they get a good feeling by receiving.
And God says, “When I find people that are liberal and generous, I will fill up their account again. Because I’m looking for people that’ll be a stream. I’m looking for people that I can drop things in the stream and it goes and they can use whatever they need and then it goes on and they love people.”
But a lot of people are a dam. God drops it in and it hits the dam. “Well, you never know. Rainy day, a lot of difficult things, we just…” And so they just keep saving, saving, hoarding, hoarding. And when they, even when they share they kind of share with this, “Well I feel obligated. I guess, I guess if I’m supposed to help out with this…”
But what’s it like when you’re around someone who says, “Hey, I got the bill this time.” What do you, what, people are winsome and attractive and people that are generous with their time. People who say, “Hey, I know you’re moving.” Does anyone like to move? No! “I’ll be over Saturday morning, I’ll help you out.”
What do you think about those kind of people? Those are the kind of people you want to be around. Generous people have friends. Generous people are attractive. Generous people are happier.
What’s the opposite of being generous? Miserly. We say, “Oh, he’s an old miser.” I mean, how many people this year are saying, “I want to be like Scrooge.” I mean, he’s no one’s hero.
Are you ready? The root word for a miser? Same root word as miserable. Selfish, greedy, non-generous people are alone, isolated, and miserable.
Now in Christian circles what happens is we work at appearing generous and can be miserly in our heart. Because we want to appear like we’re caring, we want to appear like we’re generous, we want to appear like we’re loving but real generosity comes out of the heart where you really want to help others. You’re willing to share knowing that as you give it away, God will take care of you.
Second reason is generosity connects us with others. “A generous man will prosper and he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed,” Proverbs 11:25. A generous, literally, that word “prosper,” a generous man will be fat. It doesn’t mean like you need to go to Jenny Craig or Weight Watchers but it’s this idea that you’ll prosper and you’ll have more than you need and he who refreshes others, when you give and are kind to others, will himself be refreshed.
When you give and when you’re generous of your time and generous of your talent and generous with your money, generous with your stuff, let people use your car, let them use your house, let them use this. When you’re generous it connects you with people.
I’ll never forget, I learned this in a graphic way. When I was pastoring in Santa Cruz I had four kids under the roof and I had to get my part done early and the way I worked it is I just, I just got up real early so I could get my sermon and my time done and we were at a real rapidly growing time and I had a lot of people reporting to me.
So I knew that by eight-thirty in the morning or nine when I came in if I didn’t have my work done for the day I was in trouble. So there was a little, it actually was called a donut shop but they’d make bagels. And it was a Cambodian family that came to the States and the whole family did it. And it was sort of a hole in the wall and they would start those bagels, like at three-thirty, four in the morning.
And so I’d get there about four-thirty and they would put on a couple pots of coffee and there was a little table in the corner and about four-thirty I’d get some coffee and I then I would study from four-thirty to about eight, eight-thirty.
And when I came by usually a then a guy came in, his name was Mike, and he sat and he was a homeless guy. And he sat and he, I guess had enough money for just one cup of coffee.
And if you’ve ever seen people that have done really heavy-duty drugs – they’re etched. And he was always really, really dirty. And he looked scary. Have you seen people that look scary? And every day he would sit there like this. And I’m, “Hi.” I mean, I didn’t know his name but you know.
Just walk by. And he was just in a stupor. And this went on for, like, over a year. And so I’d be in the corner and then at six-thirty a bunch of guys every day they would come. Six, seven they would talk until about eight. The eight-thirty group would come in. It was just my little corner, you know? And one day I just thought, I was actually studying about generosity and I said, “Hey, Mike! Can I buy you a cup of coffee? No, no, no, I mean it. You know, want a bagel too?” And, you know. And he kind of turned his head and he goes, “Yeah.”
So I got him a cup of coffee, “You take anything in it?” And I brought the… You know, I’m just thinking, “Maybe he can’t talk.” And so I bring cup of coffee and he didn’t want a bagel. And, okay, great. You know? So much for that. “Hey, Lord, I was really generous.” I don’t know what I was expecting.
And about five minutes later he turned around because people came in and I’d say hi to them. He says, “Your name Chip?” I said, “Yeah.” “Chip, did you see the sunrise this morning?”
And I didn’t notice. He goes, “Look.” And we were, there was glass next to us. And it was beautiful. I mean, pink, like you just couldn’t hardly imagine. And then he pointed. He says, “You see that bright star right there?” I said, “Yeah.” He says, “That’s Venus. It’s only going to be like that two, maybe three more days.”
And I don’t know why I said, “Hey, guys!” who were over there, “Come look at this!” And we looked, all these guys, and we’re looking at the sunrise and this star. And I’m thinking, “How does this guy know this?”
And then I just sat down with him, it cost me a dollar and a half to buy a guy… and I found out why and how his children were gone, what he’d been through, where he’d been double-crossed, why he was on the streets, why he slept in the car.
He was a master craftsman. He was actually a very, very smart guy. We actually became friends. In fact, even after I left Santa Cruz when I would come back and visit I would get up real early and go over and there would be Mike. And I mean the guy would hug me. And it cost me a dollar and a half.
Generosity connects you to people. Generosity is the smartest, wisest, best way to live.
Third, generosity helps us invest in what matters most. I mean, just, you just need to mark this down. Every one of us worships something or someone. Okay? I mean, you might write that in your notes. Every one of us worships something or someone.
Where your money goes tells you who or what you worship. In other words it’s, Jesus is just real clear and every one of us has something or someone that we think, “That deserves my energy. That deserves my time. That deserves my money. And what I’m expecting is that is going to produce security and significance and happiness.”
Everyone on the face of the earth worships something and some people worship success and some work and some golf and some their kids and some their mate and some Jesus.
And so Jesus is going to be like a wise investment counselor in the Sermon on the Mount and He’s going to say, “Don’t invest over here because it won’t turn out. Bad ROI. But I do want you to invest over here. Very positive ROI. And, by the way, here’s why.” Look at it. There’s a negative command and then there’s a positive command and then He gives the reason and this is sort of investment counseling.
He says, “Do not store up for yourselves treasure on earth where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal.” And would you underline the word “for yourselves?”
Now the way that you would accumulate wealth was through fine clothing, precious metals, and grains. And so even that word “rust” has the idea, not just of metals but maybe of varmints getting in and eating your grain and ruining it.
And so basically the grammar here is, “Stop investing solely on earth and the reason is because you can suffer great loss. All those are temporal. On a bad day, a thief comes in or the rats get into your grain or someone steals it.”
Now, by the way, He’s not saying it’s wrong to save because the Scripture tells us elsewhere to save. He’s not saying that it’s wrong to prepare for the future. You know the writer of Proverbs says you need to make provision and think about what’s going to come.
And it’s not wrong to have something nice. We’re actually commanded in Scripture to enjoy the good things God gives us. This is a prohibition against selfish, greedy, hoarding that you think that this is now and I’m going to have it and my life, my success, my power, or my happiness is going to come from investing my time and energy in the right now. In temporal stuff.
Then He gives the other advice. He says, “But store up,” now would you underline – why? “…for yourselves.” This is for your benefit. He’s giving wise investment counseling. “…treasures in heaven where moth and rust do not destroy and where thieves can’t break in and steal.”
In other words, it’s a better investment because when you make this investment, a hundred percent return. And so all through the gospels Jesus talks about, what’s it…? So what would it be like to invest treasure in heaven? Treasure in heaven in Luke 16 is you give your money and your time to help other people come to Christ and when you get to heaven they will welcome you because you gave.
When you give a cup of cold water, when you provide relief and love in the name of Jesus, there’ll be a reward. That’s an eternal, heavenly treasure. When you use your money to make disciples, when you use your money to help the poor, you’re lending to the Lord.
All those things He says, that’s, there’s a bank account with your name on it with very specific reward in heaven that can’t be touched by thieves or rust or moths. So He says, “That’s great.”
Then He gives you the reason. Look at verse 21. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Literally meaning, it says, “For where you treasure your treasure, that’s where your heart will be.”
So what He’s saying is, “There’s a relationship between what you worship. Don’t make a bad investment where it will be temporal, loss, can change overnight.” Some of you know about that, right?
Jesus is just saying, He’s not saying you’re more righteous, more holy, you’re better than other people when you invest in the things that last. He’s just saying there are smart investors and there are dumb investors.
Dumb investors focus all their time, all their energy around worshipping things and people that change and that will let them down and won’t come through and can be stolen and removed from them and smart investors take a big part of their portfolio and they invest in things that can never change, never be touched, and will last forever.
And then He goes, because you’ve got to be asking yourself, “How does this idea of your heart and investments and why is that so important?” And so notice He’s going to give a metaphor or picture. Look at verse 32.
He says, “The eye is the lamp of your body. If your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!”
Put a box around the word “good,” put a box around the word “bad,” and circle the word “eye.” Jesus is an amazing teacher. He talks about: there are two treasures. Then He’s going to say there are two eyes. And later He’s going to say there are two masters.
And He says there’s treasure in heaven, there’s treasure in earth, which investment? Now He’s going to say, “The way that you come about deciding where to invest has to do with your eye. Your eye is the lamp of your body. Your eye is what you look through, it’s how you perceive, it’s how you decide, it’s where your focus is, it’s how you get direction about where you’re going to go.”
And then it’s a very interesting word. This word for “your eye” is “good.” The word “good,” you know how some words in English depends on the context what they mean? This word is haplos in Greek. It can either mean singularity or loyalty and focus or it can mean to be liberal or generous, depending on the context.
So He says if your eye is good, if your loyalty is toward God and you’re liberal and generous with what He’s given you, He says your body will be full of light. In other words, you’ll reflect God’s light, you’ll enjoy God’s light, you’ll share God’s light.
He says, “But if your eye is bad,” another interesting word. We actually, it’s the word poneros, it literally, it means “evil.” It’s used of Satan for being evil. And also there was a Jewish idiom that talked about the evil eye and the person with the evil eye is a selfish, greedy, hoarding person. He says, “If your eye is about you and accumulating and protecting and saving and not letting anybody in and trying to…”
He says then even the light you think you have your focus, the idea that you think, “If I just have this much then I’ll be successful. And if I’m successful then I’ll be a someone. And if I’m a someone then I’ll have security. And if I have security then people will love me and dut, dut, dut.”
He goes, “Hm. Dumb. Dumb. Bad investment.” Because He says there are two treasures you have to discern. Two eyes that give your focus. And He says and it really boils down to your focus will determine, notice, there are two masters.
He says, “No one can serve two masters.” This isn’t like double employment. He says you’ll be a slave to one or a slave to the other. You’ll either hate the one and love the other or he’ll be devoted to one and despise the other. You can’t serve God and mammon,” or money, “too.”
According to Scripture I bet the first fifteen years I was a Christian I would think, “There’s God and Satan. Good and bad. Those are the two big gods. That’s not what the Bible teaches.
The Bible teaches, there are two gods. There’s God and money. Now Satan may energize that. But, see, if I have money I think it’ll deliver me. The success, the significance, the security, the people, the admiration, the fame. Whatever it is that I think will really come through.
And Jesus says, “If you don’t get the right master because you have the wrong eye, you’ll invest in the wrong spot and you can look like things are going really, really good and just in one New York minute things can get turned upside down and that person you set your heart on is gone. That money you set your heart on evaporates. That house that was going to be the big deal is under water. The promotion that was going to make you a someone, you started the company and now the board says you’re not fit to run it anymore and they decide they want to get someone else.
And if you’ve ever been around a person who set their heart on some things and the thing crumbles, I will tell you what, it’s painful to watch.
And so the final thing He teaches here, He says, “Generosity frees our heart.” See, at the core of it what Jesus says, “You’ve got to invest. You know, I want to protect you from investments but the way to protect you from investments is I want to protect your heart. Because out of your heart flow the issues of life.”
See, when my, when I’m consumed by the god of money, I work crazy hours, I consume, I use people to get things. And what that produces is very bad, dysfunctional relationships and so, like, there’s lots of really old people in places whose kids don’t care about them and don’t talk to them and don’t relate to them because they had their focus and their eye and their master on what they could have and succeed and there weren’t relationships. Because their heart got hard. Their heart wasn’t for the things that really mattered.
I’ve never had anyone that I’ve buried say, “I’ll tell you what, man, my dad, he had the, he had the coolest watch, house, and 401k in the world. I mean, it was awesome. In fact, I took it off his wrist when they put it in the casket. That’s how good it was.”
The only thing you ever hear when people die are the relationship that people had with that person and what that person did in relationship to them. And who they impacted out of the love of their life. Very few things last.
And so the lure, see, just like, you know when all these scandals. What do they do in scandals today? If you want to know what’s going on in a scandal, what’s the old axiom? “Follow the,” come on now, “follow the money,” right? The money trail.
And God says the same thing. “Your heart goes where your money flows.” So if you want your heart to be about golf, spend all your money on golf. If you want your heart to be all about business, make it all about business. If you want it to be about real estate, go.
Just you keep, you spend your money where you want your heart to be. Because that’s where you go.
And what Jesus is saying here is, “The mirror of your heart is your money.” I mean, if you just want to know where you’re at you just look at, “So, I, there’s where my money goes, those are my priorities, those are my real values.”
And so what He does is He gives us this investment plan to protect us.
So it’s genius to be generous because it changes our lives. It’s positive, it’s a win-win. It’s genius because it connects us deeply with other people. It’s genius because it helps us invest in what’s going to matter most so we’re not disappointed and have a bad investment.
And it’s genius because it frees our heart. So here’s the, kind of, sixty-four dollar question: if generosity is so smart, why isn’t everyone doing it?
I could give you the statistics among Christians, it’s not real pretty. Most Christians are not very generous. But why? If what I just taught is true why wouldn’t we be the most generous people in the world?
Now we’re going to explore that but, and I’m not talking just about your money. If you think this series is going to be about money and you’re tempted to check out, let me warn you.
Money is like the training wheels of authentic generosity. But let me highlight, this is why I struggle with not being smart. One is because wealth is powerful and deceptive. Money isn’t neutral. According to Jesus, remember He talks about the sower and the seed in Matthew 13 and Mark 4?
And the sower of God’s Word, he casts the seed and there are four different kinds of soils and there’s the hard soil and there’s shallow soil and then there’s the soil with the thorns. And the thorns that grow up are the deceitfulness of riches and the worries of other things.
This is just, this is just reality. When money is deceiving me I’m the last to know it. Most people that are greedy and hoarding think other people are greedy and hoarding, but not them! When your eye is bad, notice even Jesus said, “Even the light that’s within you,” He uses the same word. We think we’re doing okay. See, the problem is it’s so easy to be deceived and we rationalize and we’re in denial and compare ourselves to other people.
The second reason is because of the lure of mammon worship. The drive, I grew up thinking you’ve got to be successful, you’ve got to be significant, you’ve got to have security and the way you measure that is what? I remember talking to, a number of years, an executive here in the Silicon Valley, he was well connected and he had had a conversation with someone who was, you remember when they did, I don’t know, they do top forty or top fifty on Forbes now? But this guy was, they were doing top fifty at that time.
And he was fifty-one. And he wrote, like, a seven-page letter to Forbes demanding that he be put on the list because why he qualified as one of the fifty richest people in the world.
You think that’s about money? That’s like ego over the top. But the problem is I can look at that out there and say, “Oh, yeah, I can’t believe that. I mean, how many. The guy’s worth a bazillion dollars and he’s got to write eight-page letters to…”
But, see, mammon worship says: If you have enough money then you can buy that and be that and show that and this kind of car says that and this kind of watch and now you got a place in the mountains, you got a place on the beach and you got the Maserati, the Ferrari, the Bentley, whatever.
Or you’re low key about it and you have lots and just at, just at the right time you let people know what you have. And you know what? It’s all, it’s all relative. Because you may not have any of that all kind of stuff. Man, you got a pair of jeans. “You probably didn’t understand, these are Diesels, baby.” “Hey, man, Wranglers, man.”
And we all do it. We all do it. Mammon worship, impressing, success, significance, what I look like, what I’ve got, what zip code I’m in. Yaiy, yaiy, yaiy, yaiy, yaiy. And it sucks, guess what? And it just demands your life. Whatever you worship, it demands your life.
You’ve got to work and you get up early and there’s pressure.
The third reason generosity is difficult is it demands faith. If we actually believed in heaven. I mean, if I told you, if I told you, “Hey, I got this amazing investment. Ninety percent of it fails. You really need to invest with me.” You’re going to go, “What?”
That’s what Jesus is saying. Look. Treasures on earth. Ninety percent of it’s going to fail. Treasures in heaven: Hundred percent, great ROI. Where do you want to invest?
See, if you believed in heaven and I believed in heaven and I believe in eternal rewards I’d be going, “Duh.” It doesn’t mean I wouldn’t enjoy nice things now, it doesn’t mean I wouldn’t have a good savings plan. But it would mean I’d draw a line, like I have, that this is my standard of living and any and everything over above that, “God, you keep bringing it in, I’ll pass it on.”
My dream is to give more and more and more and more and more until the day I die. I got plenty. I’ve got more than I ever dreamed I’d have. But it requires faith.
The number one reason people aren’t generous, other than greed and selfishness, but we just sort of, is fear. At the end of the day what is it? “I would be generous with my time but I only have so much and if I give this away.”
“I’d be generous with my talent but I can’t volunteer for that because I’ve got to keep taking care…”
“I’d be generous with my money but I’m afraid I won’t…”
God says, “Wait a second. I have unlimited supply.” The reason Jesus talked about money, the reason the Bible teaches about this, it just is the easiest way to see it. When I’ve given money and God blesses, given and God blesses, I get to see in reality, “This is real. But it requires faith.”
And there’s times where He’s a, at least in my life and people I’ve known, He asks you to take some steps when you think, “Well, if I do this then what about me?” And He goes, “Well, well, what about Me? You think I can deliver or not?”
The fourth reason is because of what I call temporal myopia. It’s just, that’s nearsighted. But I thought it sounded more cool than nearsighted. Temporal myopia.
“Jesus was teaching and as He was teaching a man yelled out, ‘Master! Master! Tell my brother to share the inheritance with me!’ And Jesus said, ‘Who made Me your financial counselor?’”
And then, He took that moment and He said, “Hey, everybody? Since that guy brings it up, beware. Beware. You better be really, really careful of the deceitfulness of money and what it will do to your heart and your relationship with God.”
“In fact, let Me tell you a story,” and this is in Luke chapter 12. And He tells the story of a man who his business was booming and booming and booming, he goes, “You know what I’m going to do? I’m just going to build bigger and bigger barns and I’m just going to eat, drink, and not worry about anybody else. Life is about me. It’s hedonism, it’s about pleasure, it’s about when I arrive. I have arrived. And I’m going to do it.”
The Bible says God required his life that night and said, “You fool.” And then Jesus explained this nearsightedness. He said, “So it will be with all those that are rich toward the things of the world but not rich toward God.”
I don’t know about you, I want to be rich toward God. And every time I’ve ever been generous, people I know that are ever generous, you know what happens? God just blesses.
What you do and how you wrestle in your own heart and that’s where you’re at, what your body language tells me, “Ooh, if this is really true I’d have to make some adjustments.” Yeah, you would. It’s called peeling off the callouses of your heart. Faith. Letting the Holy Spirit warm it up. But here’s what you need to hear. Generosity is the gateway to intimacy with God.
Some of you don’t feel real close to God. I didn’t feel very close to John Saville. You start realizing that it’s His money instead of yours and you just say, well, every day. Just that checkbook. So, how do you want to spend it today, Lord? To this day I’m still asking, God, I’ve got a few hours left in the day. How do You want to spend it today?
And as I was studying this yesterday morning and reviewing, around the table I gave each of my grown kids, around the table, and their mates, a hundred-dollar bill. And I said, “Here’s what I’d like you to do between now and Christmas. Would you just ask God as you come across someone who has a need, and it can be a poor person, a hurting person, a friend – just whatever God speaks to you – you’ve got a hundred dollars between now and Christmas, would you love them for God and in my name? Would you just do whatever you think would really…?” You know why I did that? Because I want my kids, I want my kids to understand. They’ll be pretty free spending my money, I think. Don’t you think? And they are already generous. But I just, I wanted to give them that experience between now and Christmas. And then I said, “When we get together at Christmas, tell me the stories, will you? Just tell me the stories. I just want to hear.” That’s what God has done for you and me.
Brilliant people ask these three questions. “Am I using the money entrusted to me in accordance with the owner’s wishes?” And who is the owner? God. “Am I carefully keeping account of where all the owner’s funds are going?” A lot of us, if we just got even on a basic budget, we would have excess to share with others. We are just sloppy with it.
Third, “Am I becoming best friends with the owner, by the privilege and opportunity of managing His resources?” You want to hear some answers to your prayers, try this one: Okay, God, I want to take a little – here’s fifty dollars. Twenty dollars. A hundred dollars. A thousand dollars. I am going to set it aside. Who do You want me to bless? Would You show me in the next few days as I walk around who You want me to help?
I will tell you what, He will. And you’ll give it and you’ll have this charge of joy! And something great will happen. And you’ll get connected to your Father, some of you, in ways that you never have.