Craig Groeschel - Extravagant in Generosity
Hey, I'm excited that all of you are here today and I would love it if you would help me settle and answer a random question. All of our churches, if you're boarding an airplane and you have the choice between the window seat, the middle seat, or the aisle. How many of you would say it is God's will for you to take the window seat, I'm curious, window seat, window seat? How many of you would say aisle? Just in case I have to go to the bathroom. How many of you would say middle seat? Anybody at all? That is like a precursor for hell, that tells you what hell is gonna be like. I just wanted to establish that and answer that question. If you're new with us, we're in a message series called, "Selfless".
We live in a very selfish, self-centered culture. Week number one we talked about overcoming our selfish attitude about Christ becoming bold in spirit. Last week when we talked about being faithful in service. Next week I wanna talk about something that is very very close to my heart, I know it will speak to a lot of you, we're gonna talk about being grateful in the grind. Today, I wanna talk about overcoming our selfish attitudes and becoming extravagant in generosity, extravagant in generosity. I researched the idea of selfishness just so I would understand it more so for our message series, and I came across an article entitled, "Science Shows Us We Are Selfish". I thought that was funny because I don't need science to tell me that people are selfish. I just need to go to the mall at Christmas time, I just need to look at a two-year-old. You never ever have to have selfish lessons with a two-year-old.
"Today, I'm gonna train you how to be selfish. What I'm gonna do is just take your toy and when I do, I want you to scream at the top of your lungs, mine"! You never have to have that conversation. By nature, you can just look around and see that people are inherently selfish. According to this article, the bad news for men is this. Men are generally more selfish than women. Sorry guys. There's a study that shows that the male neural reward system is more stimulated by self-centeredness. Women, on the other hand, they're likely to get a dopamine rush whenever they do something good for other people. Why is this? Well people argue because men are wired to survive. "I'm gonna leave my cave, go out and kill something, drag it back so we can survive". We're stimulated by that. Women, on the other hand, they're nurturers and they get excited about helping everybody else survive.
So typically women are more generous. Men, how many of you all enjoy working out? You try to stay in good shape, men, you enjoy staying in good shape. If you're in good shape, the news gets worse for you. Just thought I'd tell you, the article says that bigger muscles lead to a smaller heart. On average, muscle guys... Why are you laughing? Is something... On average, muscle guys are less generous than the guys who drive by the gym, straight to the pizza restaurant. Just saying... Back to the airplane. For those of you that prefer the window seat, as do I, you are much more selfish on average than those who prefer the other seat. Why am I covering all this? It's all for my single lady friends. Single ladies, gals, don't marry a man who always goes to the gym and prefers the window seat. I think I just told Amy not to marry me.
Ladies, if you're feeling pretty good about yourself, men aren't the only ones that are selfish. When it comes to chocolate, it is every woman for herself. Studies are clear that if a woman is with her best friend and has a choice between a bigger piece of chocolate cake and a smaller piece of chocolate cake, she's gonna hose her buddy almost every single time, she's taking the bigger piece of cake and the ladies all said, "Amen". That the cake fits, eat it. Our culture is all about selfishness. What does culture tell us? Gratify yourself, indulge yourself, get whatever you can get, get what is yours, it's all about you. Jesus though, on the other hand, says, "If you want to be His disciple, you don't indulge yourself, but you start by denying yourself. If you want to follow me," Jesus said, "It's not about you getting more of what you want, it starts with self-denial, you deny yourself, you take up your cross, and then you follow Jesus".
Rather than being selfish in all we do, I believe that God calls us to extravagant generosity and for a key verse for us today, I want to look at Proverbs 21, verse 26, when Solomon was talking about lazy and selfish people and he said of them all day long the lazy and selfish craves and craves, they want more and more and more, but the righteous gives and does not hold back. I love that imagery. Even though in our culture today, it's natural to be selfish, to crave and crave and crave and crave and want more. There is another type of person who is righteous, a follower of Christ, and this person gives and doesn't hold back. We like to say it this way at our church, that we will lead the way with irrational generosity because we truly believe it's more blessed to give than it is to receive. When we give we want to give as God gave. We want to give without holding back. For those of you that are going, "Shoot, I can't believe I came on a generosity week, I should've just stayed home".
I want to talk directly to you because that was me years ago, and I want to show you three different mindsets about generosity. Three different mindsets about generosity. The first one if you're taking notes is what we call the bag mindset, the bag mindset. The person with the bag mindset believes there is never enough, there's never enough, and honestly, this is how I grew up. With a real poverty mindset, a lack, a scarcity mindset. In fact, Haggai chapter one, verse six, let me give you the context. God's people during this time were not putting God first. They were taking care of themselves or at least trying to, but they were not rebuilding the Temple of God, they did not put God first and because of it Haggai 1:6 says, "You eat, but you don't have enough; You drink, but you're not filled with drink; You clothe yourself, but no one is warm"; And he who earns wages puts it in a hole with, puts it in a bag with holes in it. You earn wages to put it in a bag with holes. The bag mindset.
Most people in my country, most Americans, tend to live this way. We don't put God first and we believe there's never enough. When it comes in but it just goes out, there's holes in the bag. I'd love to give more, I'd really love to be more generous, but there's not enough in the bag. I'd love to make a difference, I wish I didn't always worry about money, but there's just not enough in the bag. What's interesting about the bag mindset, and again, this is the way I was raised, Judas, the guy that betrayed Jesus, carried a bag. Judas was the money keeper and he was all about the bag. In fact, there's a very powerful story in Mark's gospel, Mark chapter 14, about a woman who was most likely a prostitute that had been changed by Jesus, who experiences the presence and the blessings and the goodness of Jesus, and this crazy woman took a jar of perfume with perfume in it valued at about a year's worth of wages, and when she gave and worshiped Jesus she gave and did not hold back.
She broke open the entire jar of perfume, poured it on top of Jesus as an extravagant act of worship because of who He is and because of what He's done for her, she gave and did not hold back. And Judas, the guy with the bag, speaks up and said, "What are you thinking stupid woman?! You could have sold that perfume and taken the money and given to the poor". The problem is, Judas was distorted in his own understanding and love of money, because not only was he guarding a money bag, but he was taking out for himself. He had a problem. He said you could sell this and then just shortly after, the guy who gets mad about how this is given freely, ends up betraying Jesus, selling Him for 30 pieces of silver. Why? Because he wanted to put a little more in his bag. It's the bag mindset.
This is how I grew up. It's not enough, money doesn't grow on trees, we're gonna have to go without. The rich get rich and the poor get poor, we're always gonna struggle. I wish we could do more, but there's not enough in the bag. There's the bag mindset. There's another mindset that we call the basket mindset, the basket mindset. In the bag there's never enough, but the basket there actually is enough. Let me show you the blessings of the basket. Deuteronomy 28 verses two and verse five says, "All these blessings will come on you and accompany you if you obey the Lord your God". The people of Haggai, in his time, did not put God first, they didn't rebuild the Temple, they didn't obey God, but when God's people did, Scripture says in verse five, "Your basket," everybody say, "Your basket, and your kneading trough will be blessed". There will be enough.
Let's take it to the New Testament, Luke six, verse 38, Jesus says this, Jesus says, "Give and it will be given to you". He said, "Give and it will be given to you". Notice He did not say keep and it would be given to you, He did not say hoard and it will be given to you, He says, "Give and it will be given to you. A good measure pressed down, shaken together and running over, will it be poured into your lap". Why did Jesus say, "Give and it will be given to you"? Jesus understood that you can keep what you have or you can give it. He knew that when you keep what you have, that's all you have, but when you give, God can multiply what you give. What you keep is all you have, but what you give, God multiplies. Give and it will be given to you, good measure pressed down shaken together and running over. You may say what is that imagery about good measure pressed down shaken together and running over?
The crowd that was listening to Jesus teach on this would've had a good contextual understanding because they knew that a rich landowner would often be very generous to those who were poor. And the rich landowner would say to his workers at the end of the week leave some grain at the edge of the field, and that way those who are struggling and those who are hungry can come and take that as a gift as God has blessed us with so much, we want to be a blessing to others. So think about the type of basket you would carry if you're a minimum-wage worker working for this landowner and your job is to carry the grain from the field aaaaall the way over to the barn, how full do you think you'll make your basket as you're lugging it over back and forth all day?
I can't speak for you, but I'm probably going to fill mine comfortably full. Maybe three-quarters of the way full, maybe 80% of the way full. I don't want to spill any and I don't want it to be too heavy. I'm not in a big rush, I'm getting paid by the hour, so I'm just gonna carry this over kind of comfortably to the barn, but on the other hand if my family is very very hungry and I'm receiving a generous gift from a wealthy landowner and I carry my basket to the edge of the field and I know that this is what I'm going to be able to feed my family this week, how full do you think I will fill my basket then? I will fill it good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will I fill my basket receiving the gift from a generous landowner. When you give, God gives to you good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over because what you keep is all you have, but what when you give, God multiplies it.
If you don't understand the imagery, imagine you going to the convenience store to get an Icee, a Slurpee... What do you call it, what do you call those things, an Icee, how do you fill up your cup? You put the Icee in there and then if you're wise you pack it down and then you fill it back up a little more, then if you're really wise you take the little plastic cup and put it on the top and then you fill it all the way up there to where it's almost coming out the very top like a volcano, then if you're sneaky, you may put a straw in, and then fill it back up. Would anybody admit to doing that? Thank you God, I feel so much better about myself right now. That's how you fill your Icee cup. When you give, God gives back to you good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over will He give unto you. It is the bag where God gives you enough.
Let me tell you a couple of stories from Scripture that are meaningful to me. The Old Testament, First Kings 17 if you want to look this story up, there was a widow who had a young son. This poor widow, all she had left was a little bit of olive oil and a very little bit of flour in her basket, and she said I'm going to make a loaf of bread and then my son and I are going to go out and we're gonna die. We have nothing else left to eat, we're gonna starve to death. Elijah the Prophet comes up and he says, "Would you give me some bread"? She was like, "I would love to do this, but I can't because all I have is a little bit of flour in my basket and after we make this loaf of bread we're gonna die". And the prophet challenges her, "Would you just, just trust God, just give to the man of God and see what happens". And this woman, who had almost nothing, made the most courageous faith-filled decision to honor God by giving to him first when she had almost nothing.
And if you read the story, what is so powerful is then from that moment on, God always multiplied what was in her basket, and she always had enough flour in the basket. In the New Testament, Jesus was teaching one day, about 5,000 men, probably another 5,000 children, and maybe 5,000 women or so. The end of the day the Disciples said, "Everybody's hungry," but nobody had any food. A little boy came up carrying a Long John Silver lunch basket, he had five loaves and two fish in it and the little boy did not keep what was in his basket, but he gave what was in his basket, and when he gave what was in his basket God multiplied it and fed everyone there, and at the end of the meal there were 12 basketfuls left over. Why 12? I do not know for sure, but I think perhaps it was so that God could give one to each of the 12 Disciples, a doggy bag for them to take home to remind them that with God there is always enough. There's the bag mindset, which is how I grew up, "There's not enough, I wish I could give more, but I simply can't".
There's the basket, God's provision. When we give, God multiplies and we have enough. There's another mindset and this is where I want to live. My word for this year is the word "abundance". Because I grew up with such a scarcity mindset and I'm trying to retrain my mind and build my faith that we always serve an abundant God. The third mindset is this. I call it the barn. When you recognize in God's kingdom there is way more than enough. There's way more than enough. Proverbs chapter three, in the Old Testament, verses nine and 10, say this, "Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of your crops," honor God with what you have and with the firstfruit of your crops, "Then your barns will be filled to overflowing". When we honor God and we put Him first with what He trusts to us, our barns will be filled to overflowing.
What does our God want? I hope you'll understand this. God always wants to be first in your life. He always wants to be first. Jesus said it in Matthew chapter six, He said, "Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and then everything else will be added unto you". Seek Him first. What do I do? At the beginning of the year I seek God purposefully in prayer and often fasting. The beginning of the day, I put God first by seeking Him in His word and talking to Him in prayer. The beginning of the week we seek God first in worship. The beginning of any increase that God gives unto us we worship Him first. In the Old Testament, it was called the firstfruits, or it's called the tithe. The tithe comes from a Hebrew word ma'aser, and it literally means one-tenth. Whatever God gives to us, in an act of worship and obedience to Him, we return one-tenth back to say, "God you are our provider. You are first in every single way. I acknowledge that everything that I have comes from you and I worship you by giving back what you declare already belongs to yourself. I bring you my firstfruits. The first of what you give to me I bring back to you".
Let's unpack this a little bit because for some this is a confusing topic. If you can pay really careful attention maybe in the next three minutes, it's gonna take concentration. If your mind is wandering and you're thinking about your next meal or whatever, try to focus for three minutes because this could be one of the richest and most, biggest spiritual revelations perhaps you've had around this topic in a long time. Track with me. Exodus chapter 13, verse two, God says this. "Dedicate to me the first born," everybody say "the first born". "Dedicate to be the firstborn among the Israelites, the first offspring to be born of both humans and animals, it belongs to me". In other words, if you're living in this time and your sheep gives birth to a lamb you give God the first lamb. You don't wait until you have 10 and then choose the ugly one. You give God the very first one. If you jump forward to verse 13 of the same chapter God says, "Redeem with a lamb every firstborn donkey, but if you do not redeem it, break its neck".
Redeem with the lamb every firstborn donkey, but if you do not redeem it, break its neck. What in the world does this mean? Well, there's two different types of animals. There are animals that are clean and there are animals that are unclean. A lamb is considered a clean animal, a donkey is an unclean animal. What you do is if you have an unclean donkey that is born you redeem it, you purchase the right for that donkey to live with the life of a clean lamb. If you don't purchase the life of the donkey you break the neck of the donkey because you didn't purchase his life. What in the world does all this mean? Question, when you were born were you born clean or unclean? Who knows the answer? You're born unclean. We were born as sinners. We inherit a sin nature. That's why we don't have to learn how to sin. We are unclean, we are sinful by nature, we were born unclean.
Now who is Jesus to God? Jesus was the firstborn. Jesus is the Son of God. What is He called? He's called the Lamb of God. Was Jesus clean or unclean? Jesus was clean. Jesus never ever sinned. He didn't inherit the sin nature from an earthly sinful father, but instead inherited the spiritual divine nature from His Heavenly Father, He was clean in every way. How did God give? God gave and He did not hold back. He gave His firstborn, His one and only Son. He gave the clean Lamb of God who was without spot or blemish. Why did God do this? God gave Jesus to redeem us from our sins. When did God give? God gave first, before we ever confessed our sins, before we ever said we needed Him, God gave first. Scripture says, "While we were still sinning Christ died for us". God gave first.
And what God gave, multiplied, the life of one for the life of many. The clean one for the lives of us who are unclean, and this is one reason why God says, "I'm not asking you to do something that I wouldn't already do. I did it first, now you worship me because of what I gave to you. You put me first in every area of your life. Not just financially, but this is one of the most tangible and consistent places, and it takes so much faith". When you give you don't just give 10%, but you give the first tenth, the first, the very first. It takes faith to give first. It doesn't take faith to give last. It takes so much faith and I understand that's like a mind-blowing, revolutionary, "Wow, like how can that ever be"? It takes incredible faith, and perhaps that's why, maybe God kinda knew that it was gonna be like this. It's the only time in Scripture that He gives us permission to put Him to the test. He says, "If you don't believe me, test me, try it out. Just put it to the test. Try it, worship me with a tithe, and see if I will not throw open the windows of Heaven and give you barn-type blessings".
So many blessings. Not just increase in finances, but joy, spiritual contentment, and peace. Put me first, put me first. How did God give? God gave and He didn't hold back for so much of my life I was holding back because I had the bag mindset, there's not enough in the bag. What Amy and I do now is we try to be different. Most people give big at the end of the year... We give big on January 1, every year we make the biggest offering on January 1, before there's ever any increase in that year we say, "God, we worship you big as an offering today first". That's not even in the Bible that's just what we do. We want to put you first. As a church, as a church, years ago we were paycheck to paycheck like barely making payroll again and again, and the biggest portion of debt and people said they wanted to buy our resources and I thought let's sell them our resources, and God spoke to us very clearly and said, "Why don't you give them away"?
My fear was what if we give them away and we can't afford to keep doing so? And guess what we did? By faith we gave first. We gave resources that literally now go to tens of thousands of churches. Then the YouVersion Bible app came along, but what if we sold it for 99 cents, which is what everybody told us to do, but you know what? We will lead the way with a rational generosity. We truly believe it's more blessed to give then to receive. So back when we did not have much at all, we decided to give. Now because of your generosity, because of the goodness of God, the Bible app's on 310 million devices all over the world, and years later our church is living in the barn blessings of God. But it was after we gave first.
One of the first times that Amy and I gave extravagantly, it was very extravagant, especially back then because we didn't have back then the resources that we have today, and I had an older car, I don't want to make it sound good because it was an older car we drive our car... Mine's 10-years-old today, it still works, we just drive it, and we wanted to upgrade to a better car, and so there was this family that was in real need and Amy said, "How about we give them your old car"? I said, "I got a better idea. How about we give them a good deal on our old car"? Because in my mind there wasn't enough in the bag. I want that money to put toward my upgraded one. Not enough in the bag. And she said, "Pray about it, think about it. God may speak to you". I said, "I think God spoke to me logically, that give them a good deal".
And so that's what we did, we met them and they said we'll give you this much for it, I said, "No, we're not taking that much, we'll only receive this much". And they cried and they hugged us. "You blessed us so much. You blessed us so much". We gave and I was holding back. I decided instead of having them come pick it up, we were gonna bless them bigger, we're gonna drive it to them. And so we were driving it all the way over there and I looked at the gas tank and it was kind of low, and I thought, "We'll round up, I'm gonna fill it up for them, we're gonna give". Then I'm like, "It's kinda dirty, we're gonna take it by the carwash". So I was driving to the $3.00 carwash and then God prompted me, "Take it to the $18.00 carwash". And in the middle of the gas and the carwash, I got so excited about blessing them that I just lost control. And I said, "You're right babe, this is what we're supposed to do, we're just gonna give it all to them completely and not receive any... We're gonna give and not hold back".
And I don't tell you that story to make me look good at all because you can see where my heart started, it started with the bag mindset, it's grown to the basket, and now by the presence and the goodness of God I want to live in the barn blessings. What He brings to me, I want it to go to others. Honor the Lord with your wealth. What God gives us we honor Him with it. And with our firstfruits, always putting Him first, then your barns will be overflowing and it's not so we can build a bigger barn for ourselves, it's so we can be a bigger blessing to people all over the world. The selfish crave and crave and crave, and always want more, never ever have enough, but the righteous, the righteous, the Jesus followers give and do not hold back in the same way that our God gave His son for us, the firstborn Lamb of God, and He did not hold back.
So Father today we ask that You would speak to us, your church, build our faith God to be barn blessing believers and followers in Christ.
All of our churches today, those of you who would say, "I am a follower of Christ and with God's help I want a barn mindset, I want to be more generous, seeing needs and meeting them for the glory of God and helping people," would you lift up your hands right now, lift them up, lift them up.
Oh God thank you for people in our churches all over the nation and God for people all over the world at church Online that are recognizing you're a good God, you're an abundant God, you own the cattle on a thousand hills, God, you're not a God of lack, but you're a God of provision and blessing. I know, God, that so many people are hurting today. I pray that we would have the faith to put You first in every area of our lives. God, as you give us wisdom to manage wisely what you put under our care, and God that we would see the hand of your faithfulness in provision. God, I pray especially for those who will take one of the biggest steps of faith they'd ever taken to put you first God, to worship You with a tithe. God, I thank you that when you say test us, you will prove your faithfulness God, so reveal your heart, your goodness, your blessings in a way that we could not ever predict or ever even expect. Now God stir us, your church, to be radically generous with people around the world, to recognize as You bless us You empower and call us, God, to be a massive blessing to people. God help us to learn by faith to give and to not hold back.
As you keep praying today at all of our different churches, what's so amazing to me is the reality that God has brought some of you here for what's gonna happen in the next two minutes. You recognize you're not walking with God, you understand you're not in fellowship with Him. You have to acknowledge He is not first in your life. If you're truthful, you say you've done bad things, we all have... We've all lied, many of us have stolen, we've cheated, we say bad words, we lust, we're selfish by nature. And you can acknowledge you feel a guilt, where do I stand with God because of all these things I've done. Here's what I hope you'll understand. God gave first, God gave His firstborn, the Lamb of God, Jesus, to redeem, to purchase, to pay for our sins. We were never right with God because we're good. We're only made right with God because He is good.
By placing our faith in the perfect work of the Lamb of God, Jesus, the Savior of this world, Who was without sin, died on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins, on the third day God raised Him from the dead, so that anyone, and this includes you, who calls on His name would be saved, forgiven, and transformed. All of our churches, those who say, "I know He's not first. Today I turn from my sins, I turn toward Him, I make Him first, I call out on Jesus, I give my life to Him". That's your prayer, lift your hands higher right now, all over the place lift them up. Right back here, praise God for you. Right here, over here as well, others of you today who say yes. Both hands back here, lift them up high right back over here, praise God for you. Both of you right here, welcome into God's family. Others of you toward the back right here, keep them coming, you're leaning into it, step across the line, lift up your hand and say, "Yes Jesus, I surrender completely to you". Church Online, you guys click right below me, oh my goodness church, would you join your voices praying with those around you.
Heavenly Father, I trust You with my life. Forgive me of all my sins, make me brand new. Fill me with Your spirit so I can follow You. Show your love and make a difference in this world, in your name, thank you for new life, I give you mine. In Jesus name I pray...