We’re looking at different values for our church. One of our values is big faith. Another value is serving. Today, I want to talk to you about a value that wasn’t one of the original values of the church when it started in 1996. God did a work in my heart and now this value is one of the core values we hold. The value is generosity.
We’re going to go on a journey through the book of Acts.
Acts 20:35 NIV
In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”
What makes this value so important to me is I was not generous at all. This is something God has done in my heart and I want to tell you that story today.
It was years ago that I read for the first time The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. He talked about a scarcity mindset vs. abundant mindset. I grew up with a scarcity mindset. That means that you have this feeling that there’s simply not enough to go around and you’d better get yours while you can.
Someone with an abundant mindset believes there’s always more. From a faith perspective, we serve an abundant God and there is always more.
Think of a cherry pie. If you cut out a big slice, the scarcity mindset doesn’t like that. The abundant mindset takes the stance that you can make more.
With this scarcity mindset, I grew up very afraid and terrified to give. I was scared to give. I liked re-gifting. Gift cards are classic for re-gifting. I once gave a gift card to a guy who did some work for me and I gave him a gift card to Chili’s. He was grateful and really appreciated the bonus gesture. Well… he called me later and took me to task because he and his buddies had gone to Chili’s and when he gave them the gift card there was only $2.43 remaining on it.
There’s nowhere to hide from that. Here I was trying to be sort of generous and I couldn’t even get there.
I want to share today one of the values of our church and we’ll start from a teaching from Corinthians. Paul wrote to these people, trying to inspire them to give to the headquarters in Jerusalem. He was writing about the Macedonians who were dirt poor yet gave a big gift. Paul was bragging on them:
2 Corinthians 8:2 NIV
In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.
When is the last time that you gave as much as you were able, and maybe even pushed it beyond that?
1 Corinthians 8:4, 5, 7 NIV
Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us. But since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you—see that you also excel in this grace of giving.
I could almost imagine that Paul slow-played the need to give and yet these people were ready to give! They didn’t need a gimmick to raise money, they gave from what they had! They were honored to give to the mission of Jesus Christ.
First, they gave their lives to Christ. And then they gave of themselves to others.
As a church, we say:
We will lead the way with irrational generosity. We truly believe it is more blessed to give than to receive.
One of my daughters was just hired as a youth pastor in Jenks, OK. Both of my daughters are 100% on their own and take care of all their bills because we believe this helps with responsibility. Mandy was moving and met with a roommate to talk about the apartment they needed to furnish. Neither of them had any furniture but a lady approached them and said, “I like to be irrationally generous. I overheard your conversation and would like to provide furniture for you.”
Mandy was shocked! I love the fact that we have thousands of crazy people out there looking for opportunities to be irrationally generous.
In the last few weeks, I’ve asked you to rate yourself when it comes to faith and when it comes to serving. I’m going to ask you to do the same today.
On a scale of 1-10, are you less generous or irrationally generous? Where would you rate yourself?
Before you put something down, let’s talk it out:
- Don’t put 10 unless you gave your life for the sins of the world.
- Don’t put 1 because that’s the devil.
- You can have a lot of money and give what most people consider to be a lot but for you it is not. So you could give, but you’re not generous.
- You could have little, but give a lot of what you have.
- Think about this not in regard to how much you give but how much you keep for yourself.
- You might find it hard to give and you don’t like talking about this in church.
- You might be giving a lot of yourself.
- Where would you rank yourself?
If you are a follower of Jesus, I want to encourage you to be irrationally generous. You don’t have to be a Christian to be irrationally generous. I know a lot of non-Christians who are generous, they are great. But if you are a Christian you really should be irrationally generous.
Isaiah 32:8 NLT
But generous people plan to do what is generous,
and they stand firm in their generosity.
Generous people plan to do what is generous. They stand firm in their generosity. Stingy people plan how they can get more. I often do this with technology. But a generous person does the same thing with giving.
When all of culture says “consume” a generous person stands firm and says “give.” Giving isn’t what we occasionally do, generous is wh we are.
I want to tell a longer version of a story that may inspire you to generosity. For me, I remember seeing my parents give to the church. I remember them writing a $20 check or putting a $20 bill in the offering and I thought, “Do you know what that could buy!?!?” Two of those $20 bills could buy a Polo shirt, but I was wearing a Knights of the Round Table knockoff brand.
When I attended church in college I heard a pastor teach, very convincingly, about the power and privilege of the tithe. I will never forget that. The tithe is returning 10% to what God has given us. The tithe pre-dated the law and Jesus even affirmed the tithe in Matthew 23:23. Tithe is mentioned in Hebrews. The Scripture actually teaches that when we don’t tithe we rob from God.
Thing is, when I was in high school I used to literally rob from God. I was an usher in the balcony section of the church. When my buddy and I transferred the money from the balcony to the basement to give it the grown up ushers, there were times when we’d snag a loose 1 or 5. Then we’d take the money and spend it on push pops. We got back into our seats before the sermon started.
Now, if you’re wondering if lightening will strike me right now… I’m wondering too. I stole from God.
As I learned what the tithe was, I was afraid to do it because I had a scarcity mindset. But I’ll never forget when I gave my first tithe and I saw the miraculous provision of God and I started to understand that 90% with His blessings goes farther than 100% without. My scarcity mindset changed.
From there, I felt like I heard two words. “Round up.” Whenever I give, I just round-up. The first time I did it was for a tip at a restaurant. The car hop was shocked. Come to find out, this person didn’t like our church or what we were about but decided to give it a shot. They’ve been attending.
Now we have church culture that rounds up.
January 2006, everything changed. People were starting to ask if they could buy our content. This was always in the back of my mind because my family could have made a lot of money if we set it up that way.
We could have sold it for a cheap price though and still made a lot of money for our church. It would have been fine. But we didn’t do that. We decided to give it all away.
I cannot put into words how difficult a decision this was. As a church, we were in debt and living paycheck to paycheck. But we put our money where our mouth was and decided to be irrationally generous. It started with sermons, transcripts, transition videos, kids curriculum, student videos, small group curriculum, and on and on.
As of last year there were 160,000 benefitted from free resources. We’ve given 6.2 million resources to churches around the world. Church Online served 5 million people across the world. As of today 8700 use the free Church Online resource to spread the Good News,
We created a Church Metrics Management System. There are 28,000 churches that use this as a free gift to make a difference in their ministries. Then people asked if they could be a LifeChurch without actually being a LifChurch and we said they could, totally free.
As of today, 166 million people downloaded the YouVersion Bible App. The Bible is not for sale.
When we start new church communities, we also give gifts that will serve that community. When we go in, we want to see lives impacted. We support mission partners all over the world.
I don’t care where you give, just give to a local church you believe in. When people are transformed, communities are transformed and the world is changed. Honestly, find a church you believe in and give.
As followers of Jesus, I believe we can be like the book of Acts when people met the needs of others, no matter the cost. What’s striking is that there isn’t one specific story of this happening, the only specific story was when someone stole something and then died. Giving was so common in that time, it happened every day. It’s just what Christians did.
Acts 4:33-34 NIV
With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all 34 that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them,brought the money from the sales
Could that be possible today? I believe it is. We could meet the needs of people in our communities. I see people who are not entitled but entrusted. We have been given much, therefore God expects much.
As followers of Jesus, we will be irrationally generous. It is better to give than to receive. This will confuse some people but then we can tell them about our generous God.
If you are a Christian, we should be irrationally generous because we serve a generous God.
This message is from Craig Groeschel at LifeChurch.tv
Teaching Series “Jesus and We”
Title: “Irrationally Generous”