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The Unexpected Benefits of Generosity

April 15, 2015 8 comments

Money is a hot topic in our culture. Everyone wants more of it, anyone can get it, few seem to keep it and even fewer gladly give it. There are spenders, investors and savers, but there aren’t nearly as many givers.

The Money Trap

In America money is king. We look to it for security, happiness and freedom. We hoard it to make ourselves feel safe from potential disasters like illness, unemployment and unexpected expenses.  We spend it on frivolous pursuits like excessive shopping, expensive dinners and extravagant vacations to temporarily gratify our appetite for pleasure. Worst of all, we pursue it tirelessly working ourselves to the bone 60+ hours per week at sometimes two or even three jobs because we believe the lie that if we could some how get more of it we would be free to retire, work less and play more.

The sad reality is that money always promises, but never delivers (at least not permanently). It promises security, but breeds worry when our bank account isn’t as full as we’d hoped.  It promises happiness, but often results in disappointment when the things we buy lose their appeal. It promises freedom, but only enslaves us to our jobs and our debts.

Promises Fulfilled

The good news is that Jesus always delivers on what he promises.  Where money fails, Jesus succeeds.  Through Christ believers enjoy eternal security in the Father’s love. Since no one can undo what Jesus has done, no one can take that security away.

Through Christ believers enjoy eternal satisfaction.  Money and possessions will always lose their appeal.  Goods get more expensive and clothes wear out, but God’s presence is never ending.  Through Jesus believers live in and enjoy God’s presence for all of eternity. This is a happiness that truly satisfies.

Best of all, through Jesus believers enjoy lasting freedom.  In Christ, we are free from the anxiety, the temporary gratifications and bondage that money brings.  We are free to be at peace in God’s provision, free to enjoy the eternal satisfaction of God’s presence and free to enjoy life without the need for a never ending pursuit of material possessions.

Image via makinghistorygrow.wordpress.com

Image via makinghistorygrow.wordpress.com

The Benefits of Generosity

One of the best ways to experience more of the security, happiness and freedom that are in Jesus is to become a more generous giver.  Here are five reasons why.

1. Generosity increases our dependence on Jesus. So much of our well-being is tied to the strangle hold that money has on us. When we give generously we have no choice but to trust the Lord to be and do for us what we were looking to money to be and do for us. It is through generosity that money’s grip on us is severed and Christ’s unending supply is realized.

2. Generosity increases our delight in God. Money is important to us because of the value that we ascribe to it. By giving it away we remind ourselves that God is infinitely more valuable than anything money can buy. It is through generosity that God becomes an infinite treasure from whom we enjoy unending pleasure.

3. Generosity increases our contentment. By giving away what we cannot keep, we discover that which we cannot lose. Generosity teaches us to enjoy more of God by wanting less of this world. It gives us a deeper experience of Jesus by making room for him to fill our hearts, something he cannot do when we let money crowd that space.

4. Generosity multiplies our blessings. This is true in two ways. First, by giving to others we get to share our joy with them.  When this happens other people get to enjoy God’s blessings with us.  Second, by giving to others we are storing up for ourselves treasures in heaven.  If we keep it to ourselves we get to enjoy it now.  If we give it away we’ll enjoy it exponentially more in the kingdom.

5. Generosity advances the kingdom of God. Church planting, oversees missions, church operations and leadership training all cost money. By investing our money into the things of God we get the joy of advancing of the kingdom of God. Why wouldn’t we want to be used of God to extend his glory in all the earth?

Money can either be a god we worship or a tool with which we worship God. When money reigns supreme in our lives we miss out on the fullness of God. By giving generously, however, we learn to enjoy God for all that he’s worth. Don’t let money take from you that which only God can give you. Jesus has secured for you everything you need before God. Give yourself room to experience more of that by becoming a generous giver!

11 Principles for Becoming a More Generous Giver

October 13, 2014 2 comments
Image via nextavenue.org

Image via nextavenue.org

Generosity is an often overlooked aspect of the Christian life.  It can be such a taboo topic that many pastors and leaders won’t talk about it.  Money is so personal to us that we often won’t part with it easily.

Generosity: Our Glad Response

Jesus understood this better than anyone.  In Matthew 6:19-24 he explains that money is such a personal matter that it reveals what we worship.  Because money is given a specific value, we can determine the worth of something we own based on how much we spent on it.

The same is true for God. If the value of an object is determined by how much money we spend on it, then we can determine how much we value God by the proportion of our income that we give back to him in worship. This doesn’t mean that we can buy God’s love, acceptance or forgiveness.  Those things are given by God as a free gift to those who believe in Jesus Christ.

It does, however, mean that we can tell how much we value the love and acceptance God has given us by the way we live in response, including the way we spend money.  If we are truly grateful for the price Jesus paid to give us forgiveness of sins and acceptance before God, then we will gladly use our resources to help other people know this great gift as well. This in turn demonstrates how much we value and appreciate what Jesus has accomplished for us.

The apostle Paul echoes this big idea in 2 Corinthians 8:9 when he says, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.” The concept is simple. We give to God as our glad response to what we have received from him through Jesus.  Giving is not a matter of paying God to do something for us. It is a demonstration of gratitude for what he has already done; an act of thankfulness, not of obligation.

Practical Generosity

In other words, our understanding of God’s generosity towards us is reflected in our generosity towards others.  If we are generous, it usually means we understand what Jesus has actually accomplished.  If we are not, it often means we don’t truly comprehend what Jesus has freely given to us on the cross. You could say that generosity is like paying it forward.  It’s giving of our resources so that others could know what God has made available to them in Christ.

Understanding this truth doesn’t necessarily make it any easier, though.  Even when we understand why we should give, it can often be difficult to take the necessary steps to actually get there. Here are 11 practical ideas that will help you out.

1. Learn to treasure Jesus. Jesus must be our most prized possession.  If we want to be generous givers, then we must learn to enjoy him so much that we are not satisfied until everyone else is enjoying him with us.  When we treasure Jesus we will gladly use our resources to demonstrate how much we value him. Money will become a means to help others value and enjoy Jesus with us. (Philippians 3:7-8; Matthew 13:44)

2. See yourself as manager, not owner. Ownership says, “I and my possessions are mine.  I will decide what to do with them.”  Stewardship says, “I and my possessions are God’s. He will decide what I do with them.”  When we rightly understand that everything we have is God’s, it’s easier to use it for his purposes rather than our own. (1 Peter 4:10; Luke 19:11-27)

3. Seek gospel transformation. The world has a much more significant effect on our lives than we would like to admit.  Many things other than God wrongly shape our worldview.  If we want to be generous givers, then we need Jesus to completely change our worldview.  We need, as Romans 12 says, to be “transformed by the renewing of our minds.” (Romans 12:2)

4. Develop a kingdom perspective. A worldly perspective puts you at the center of your life and world.  A kingdom perspective puts Jesus at the center of your life and world.  When we have a worldly perspective we will only ever spend our money on our own self-gratifying pleasures, but when we have a kingdom perspective we will invest our money into God honoring purposes that honor Jesus and make him famous. (Mark 1:14-15)

5. Give sacrificially off the top. Every time you get a paycheck make giving the first thing you do. It’s easier to give and then determine your budget, than it is to budget and then give what’s left.  This may mean you have to sacrifice TV, some entertainment, a coffee habit or a night out, but God is worthy of the best of your finances, not just your leftovers. (Proverbs 3:9)

6. Increase giving incrementally. If you’re not giving anything at all, don’t start by trying to suddenly give 40% of your income.  That’s not a sustainable life change.  Instead, try increasing your giving by 1-2% of your gross income every six months to a year.  This makes your increased generosity sustainable and much less stressful. (Proverbs 13:11)

7. Save for hard times and big opportunities. Wise financial planning is commended several times throughout Scripture.  Part of wise planning is understanding that you can’t plan everything.  Unexpected hospital visits, car maintenance issues and the single mom down the street who just lost her job aren’t things you can set an estimated time of arrival for.  Ease the burden ahead of time by setting aside a percentage of your gross income to savings.  This will allow you to continue giving generously when hard times or big opportunities arrive. (Proverbs 21:20; Proverbs 6:6-8)

8. Use a budget to live within your means. One of the best ways to give yourself the freedom to give generously is to use a budget.  Determine how much income you receive, identify your expenses, determine where you can cut back so you can give more.  Once you’ve determined the standard of living you can actually afford, be sure to live within your means.  Most people don’t have money to give because they don’t keep very good track of where it should be going. You can find a budget template online to help you get started. (1 Corinthians 4:2; 2 Corinthians 9:6; Proverbs 27:23-27)

9. Avoid and pay off debt. The Bible’s overarching theme on debt is clear.  Avoid it at all costs. As Americans, most of our financial stress comes from buying items we don’t need with money we don’t have.  It’s not that we don’t make enough money, it’s that we want too much stuff.  Learn to be content in Christ and refuse to purchase anything that you cannot pay cash for up front.  If you have debt, find a way to pay it down as fast as you can.  Don’t let yourself become or stay a slave to a lender. (Proverbs 22:7)

10. Invite accountability and coaching.  Don’t try to make financial changes on your own.  Talk to your Community Group leader, a pastor or a trusted friend who you know gives generously and budgets well.  Ask someone who is a good financial steward to help you create a budget, give generously and stay on top of your finances.  (Proverbs 15:22)

11. Think in terms of legacy. Proverbs 13:22 says, “a good man leaves an inheritance to his children.”  Another Proverb warns against foolish spending when it says that “a fool eats his children’s inheritance.”  The idea is that poor stewards think only of themselves, while wise stewards think of generations to come. If you want to be a generous and wise steward, start thinking in terms of the future.  Imagine the dozens and hundreds of people you could influence toward Jesus if you were to budget wisely and give generously.  Contrast that with the hundreds or even thousands of people that you will miss the opportunity to influence toward the Lord if you spend your money only on yourself.

Giving generously can seem like a daunting task if you’re starting from zero, but it’s not impossible.  Put these principles into practice and with some consistency you’ll see some serious progress in the long run.

This content is a summary of the sermon “Grace & Giving” preached at the Living Hope- Maryville Campus as a part of the “Stewards of Grace” sermon series.  You can view the sermon by clicking here. 

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