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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
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.