Craig Smith - Living Generously
Well, we are wrapping up our bootcamp series today. For the last few weeks, we’ve been talking about moving our faith forward because we know that the more progress we make in our faith, the more of a difference we make in the world. And today I wanna talk to you about moving your faith and your life forward by learning to live generously. And I’m gonna be honest with you and tell you that living generously is not something that comes naturally to me, but over the years, as I’ve taken steps of obedience to God’s call to live generously, I really come to believe that living generously is what we call a keystone habit. You know what a keystone habit is? A keystone habit is something we do regularly, that leads automatically to other good things. It’s something we do regularly that leads automatically, without much thought, really, to other good things.
For instance, I was really, actually, a little disturbed to learn this, but did you know that making your bed is a keystone habit? I really did not wanna know that because that’s not my natural thing. How many of us are, like, natural, get up in the morning, first thing, make your bed? Yeah. Okay. How many of us are like, I would prefer to get back in bed as soon as possible, so I want it to be ready, so I’m not gonna make…? Okay, that’s, though, you’re my people, okay? I don’t actually do that. But I saw this study recently, it’s really interesting. And it said that 62% of people who make their beds on a reg…I’m sorry, 62% of people who don’t make their beds, in my camp, they report that they’re really kind of unhappy in life. And 71% of people who make their beds report that they’re generally pretty happy in life. And I was like, “Oh, no.”
Now, just so you know, that’s not because making your bed makes you happy. It’s not because making your bed releases all these endorphins or anything. It’s because making your bed, it’s a thing you do regularly, leads to automatically some other things. And one of the things that they found happens is when you make your bed, what you’re basically telling yourself is, “I’m a disciplined person.” And disciplined people, then, they make good decisions about eating, and they make good decisions about exercise, and that means they sleep better, and there’s all kinds of things. It just kind of cascades into a whole lot of other stuff that then results in some happiness, right? So, it’s a keystone habit. It’s something you do automatically, that, or regularly, that leads automatically to other good things. And what I’ve come to understand is that living generously is a keystone habit.
Living generously is something that if we can do it regularly, it actually leads automatically to other good things that we really all want in life. But, for me, and maybe for you, I have to acknowledge that living generously doesn’t come naturally. And as much as I’ve worked on this over the years, and God has grown me, the reality is there’s still places that I realize I am not as generous as I should be. I mean, there’s other little ways it comes out. One of them is, I see this, that whenever I’m thinking about buying something that I want, I’m always like, “Hey, it’s just really not that expensive.” When Coletta wants to buy something, my mind, like, my default reaction is, “I don’t know, hon. That seems really expensive.” Right? And that’s just a sign that there’s still room for improvement when it comes to living generously, for me, right?
Or how about this? Like, and I don’t wanna toot my own horn, but I am not the kind of person who gets front spaces in lines. I just, not the first guy in line. I, like, tend to hold back, let other people go first, because I’m just really spiritual that way. But there is one exception, and that exception is when there’s cake at the front of the line, and especially if there’s an edge piece up for grabs… You guys know what I’m talking about? Like, the piece with the, you know, it’s got two sides that are thoroughly iced. Maybe it’s got piped icing on both sides. Maybe there’s even a good icing rose kinda thing. In other words, it’s got the perfect, you know, icing to cake ratio. Like, if that piece is up for grabs, I will take out your grandma to be first in that line. And if I’m not first in line, I’m gonna be anxious and upset the whole time, afraid somebody’s gonna take my piece. Right?
And that’s just a little sign that there is still room for improvement in my life when it comes to living generously. So, how about you? Are you like me, that living generously doesn’t come naturally? If so, it’s normal, because we’re sinful, and sinfulness and generosity don’t tend to go together. But the good news is that by God’s help and his grace, and the power of the Holy Spirit, we can actually make progress, and we’re gonna find that it does really good things in our lives. And by the way, this is true regardless of your, sort of, faith position. Even if you’re not a follower of Jesus, living generously can be good for you. But if you are a follower of Jesus, living generously is a keystone habit, because living generously is foundational for living missionally. If we wanna live on mission with Jesus, living generously is a keystone habit to move us in that direction.
So what I wanna do today is I wanna share three truths about generosity that you may not know. And they come from a short little teaching Jesus did in the Gospel of Luke. If you wanna follow along, we’re gonna be in Luke chapter 6, starting in verse 37. One short little teaching, but Jesus teaches us three things here that you might not know about living generously. He says this. He says, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you’ll be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
Short little teaching, and first thing we need to recognize is that teaching is all about generosity. And we know that because the heart of the passage, the center of the passage, and then the, and really, the entire second half of it, is all about something we naturally associate with generosity, and that is giving, right? The heart of this passage is a command and a promise. The command is to give, and the promise is, “and it will be given to you.” And then he goes on and expands that. And so we know this whole thing is really, it’s a teaching about generosity. But what’s interesting is, even though he’s teaching about generosity, he begins the teaching, not by saying something we’re supposed to give, but by something we’re not supposed to give, right?
And here’s your first truth about generosity that you may not know. Living generously is also about what we keep to ourselves. Do you know that? We tend naturally to think about generosity is always the things that we give away, and that’s certainly part of it. But what Jesus teaches us here is that living generously is also about what we keep to ourselves else. What does he say? He says, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned.” In other words, he says, if you got judgment and condemnation in your heart, here’s what you can do. Just keep that stuff to yourself. And that’s actually part of living generously, is to keep things like judgment and condemnation to ourselves. Now, there’s a distinction that we need to make here between judgment or condemnation and something the Bible calls discernment. Okay. There’s a difference between judgment, condemnation, and discernment. Okay?
And here’s the difference. Discernment is about the appropriateness of behaviors. Okay? It’s about the appropriateness of behaviors. Judgment and condemnation are about the value of people. Now, as followers of Jesus, we have to be discerning. The Bible tells us we have to be discerning about the appropriateness of behaviors. In other words, as followers of Jesus, we have to look at some behaviors and go, “Hey, that’s sin, and I can’t have anything to do with it. That’s wrong, and I can’t let it be part of my life, because it’ll get me out of alignment with God’s character, and it’ll get me off track of God’s will in my life.” And so, we have to discern the appropriateness of those behaviors. And, because we care about other people, sometimes we have to say to somebody that we love, we have to say, “Hey, I love you.” And by the way, that’s how you have to start it. Say, “I love you. And because I love you, I need to tell you that what you’re doing is sin, it’s wrong, and it’s going to hurt you.”
So, sometimes, we have to be discerning about behaviors for other people as well. The danger, of course, is that we can easily move from discerning the appropriateness of behaviors into judging and condemning the people who are caught up in those behaviors, right? One of the groups of people that Jesus had conflict with most frequently was a group of religious leaders called the Pharisees. And it’s interesting that the Pharisees and Jesus didn’t clash about discernment, that they kind of agreed on most of their discernments about what was and wasn’t sin. They clashed because the Pharisees weren’t just discerning sin, they were dismissing the people caught up in that sin. Essentially communicating, “You don’t have any real value.”
There was a very famous story where some Pharisees brought to Jesus a woman who’d been caught in adultery. And they threw her down in front of Jesus. And they said, “Hey, this woman was caught in the act of adultery, and according to the Old Testament Law, the Law of Moses, we’re supposed to stone to death anyone caught in adultery. So, what should we do, Jesus?” And they thought they had him. And Jesus said, “How about this for a plan? Whichever one of you is without sin, why don’t you go ahead and be first one to throw a stone.” And one by one, they dropped the stones and they walked away, until it was just Jesus and this woman. And Jesus looked at her and he said, “Is there no one left to condemn you?” She said, “No.”
And then Jesus said, “Then neither do I condemn you.” But he also said, “Now, go and leave your life of sin.” See, that’s discernment. It’s even discernment spoken into the life of another person. But it’s discernment spoken with love. It’s discernment spoken with a value on that human being made as God’s image. Okay? The Pharisees didn’t have a problem with discernment, but they were full of condemnation and judgment, and they didn’t keep it to themselves. They were quick to lay that on people. And so, Jesus says, “Hey, as far as this judgment and condemnation stuff goes, just keep that to yourself.” And that’s actually part of living generously. Why? Because living generously is about giving things to people that will help them, right?
But judgment and condemnation don’t help. In fact, it often weighs them down, and it anchors them to their past because it makes them feel like this is just who I am. I’m just somebody who does these things. This is… I’m a disgusting sinner. And there’s no hope in that. There’s no possibility in that. And so, Jesus says, if it’s good for somebody, if it will help them, what do we do with it? We give it away. But if it’s gonna hurt them, what do we do with it? We keep it to ourselves. Let’s do that together. If it’s not good for them, if it’s gonna hurt, then what do we do? We keep it to ourselves. He says, “This is living generously.”
See, here’s a question to wrestle with. What do I need to work on keeping to myself in order to live more generously? Maybe it’s judgment. Maybe it’s condemnation. Or it might be something less obvious than that.
It could be something like one. I have a little bit of a hard time with. It could be opinions. I have a lot of opinions. And I like to share my opinions. But one of the things I’m realizing as I have adult children is that to live generously with them, and to give them space to grow into the women that God’s designed them to be, I need to be a little less forthcoming with some of my opinions. Now, understand, we’re not talking about sin stuff. They’re making really consistently wise decisions. It’s just like, “Oh, this is what I think,” or, “This is what I would do.” And you know what? That’s not giving them some of the space they need. And so, God’s been working on me, that I just need to be a little bit less forthcoming with some of my opinions, and that’s actually a process of learning to live generously with them.
So, what is it for you? What do you need to work on keeping to yourself in order to live a little bit more generously? That’s the first surprising truth, that living generously is as much about what we keep to ourselves as it is what we give away.
The second thing…he does begin to move here to something that we give. And the second truth we’re gonna find is that living generously is about more than money. We naturally tend to think about generosity in terms of money, and certainly that’s part of it, but it’s not just about money. In fact, the first thing that Jesus says we’re supposed to give has nothing to do with cash. What he says is this. He says, “Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” That’s the first giving thing he points to when he starts to talk here about living generously. He says, “Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”
Living generously is about more than just money. Forgiveness is actually a thing that we can give in order to be generous. Now, why is that generous? Why is forgiving somebody generous? Well, because it has the two big ingredients that go into living generously. The first one is that it’s gonna be helpful. Forgiving other people is helpful. It’s helpful in your relationship with them. It also can be helpful in their relationship with God, because sometimes, being forgiven by a human being is their first glimmer of hope that maybe there’s a God who could forgive them too. So, it has that first ingredient of being helpful, but it’s also got the second key ingredient of generosity. And that is that it’s costly. It’s costly to the one who gives it. And forgiveness is costly, isn’t it? Giving somebody forgiveness for something they’ve really done wrong, that costs you something.
I’m gonna tell you a story. And I just want you to know before I tell you the story that I got permission from my wife to tell you this story. Okay. You’ll see why in a second. But we’re committed to living publicly in the things that we get wrong, as well as some of the things that God’s teach us and we’re getting right.
And several years ago, you’re not gonna believe this, Coletta forgot my birthday. And my birthday’s on Valentine’s Day, so it’s hard to forget. Okay. Now, in her defense, we had already decided we were gonna celebrate it after we got back from a trip, because we were traveling out of the country, and so, it wasn’t that she completely forgot it. And then, the day of, like, we were with some friends, and they had some stuff going on. We were spending time with them, and we had a very small baby who was colicky, and she just, she cried from, like, 3:00 in the morning constantly. So we were wiped out. And so, there was a lot of stuff going on, but, you know, the day got later and later and later, and Coletta hadn’t realized that it was my birthday. Hadn’t said happy birthday or anything like that. And then late, late, late in the day, she suddenly went, “Oh, no. I forgot your birthday.” And I was like, “Yeah, you kinda did.”
Now, when Coletta and I have a conflict, I’m gonna tell you right now, the most frustrating thing that she does. Okay? I got permission on this. The most frustrating thing she does when we have conflict… See, here’s the thing. Some people go, “Oh, the most frustrating thing about conflict is you realize that you were wrong, she tells you and shows you that you’re wrong, and then you have to apologize.” No, no, no. I’ve done that so many times I’m used to that. That’s not a problem. Okay? No, the most frustrating thing she does is she realizes when she was wrong, she goes, “I am so sorry. Will you forgive me?” I hate that. Because there’s a nasty little part of me that doesn’t want to forgive it. Right?
There’s a nasty little part of me that wants to be able to hold the wrong that she did against her at some future date. Like, and let me tell you what, somebody forgetting your birthday, your wife forgetting your birthday, that is a get out of jail free card, that, like, you want to hold onto. Right? I mean, I could use that constantly. Like, “Hey honey, you know, you said, you were gonna fix the sink and you forgot.” “Well, I seem to recall once that you forgot my birthday.” “Hey Craig, you really hurt my feelings. You’re kind of insensitive.” “Well, probably not as badly as you hurt my feelings when you forgot my birthday that one time.” Like, that’s a card I wanna keep in my back pockets.
But she goes, “I’m so sorry. Will you forgive me?” Dadgummit. “I guess I’m gonna have to forgive you.” And here’s the problem. See, forgiveness is giving up the right to hold someone’s wrong against them. Right? That’s what forgiveness is. It’s giving up the right to hold someone’s wrong against them. And there’s a nasty little part of me, and there’s probably, if we’re really honest with each other, there’s a nasty little part of you that kinda wants to hold onto that wrong someone’s done, so that you can use it against them.
But when we forgive, we give that right up. And that’s costly. But see, that’s the two elements of generosity, right? See, generosity is giving help to others at a cost to ourselves. That’s generosity. Giving help to others at a cost to ourselves. And Jesus says, “One of the powerful ways you can begin to live more generously is you can start to be more forgiving.” Who do you need to forgive? Who has done you wrong, that you’re holding onto the rights to hold that wrong against them? Because if the Holy Spirit speaks to you about a relationship where that’s an accurate description, there’s a call of God on your life in that place to begin obeying his call to live more generously by extending that forgiveness.
See, living generously is about a lot more than just money. And if it’s about things like forgiveness, then that opens the door to the possibility that living generously is about a whole lot of things that we haven’t really thought much about. It’s about a lot more than just money. One of the things we talk about here at Mission Hills when we talk about living generously is we talk about living generously with our time, our talent, and our treasure. Just because those are convenient categories to begin to think about all the resources God’s put in our lives, our time, and our talent, and our treasure. By the way, notice it’s time, talent, and treasure, not time, talent, or treasure.
Because living generously is about being generous with every resource God has put into our lives. And what most people do, the reality is… I know what I’m always tempted to do, and I think you’ll probably find that you are as well, is we kind of pick one of those categories. We go, “I’m being really, really generous with my time, so I don’t need to be generous with my treasure, with my money.” Or maybe, maybe you’re one of those people you’re like, “I am really generous with my treasure, so I don’t need to be generous with my time. I don’t need to be serving. They got that covered. Other people can do that.” And here’s the reality, too. It’s interesting. For me, at least, what I tend to do is I tend to be most generous with those things that I feel like I have the most of. And unfortunately, that’s when I’m actually being least generous. Because if I have the most of it, then I don’t feel the sacrifice, in which case, it’s not really generosity, because, remember, generosity is about giving help to others at a cost to our ourselves, something we feel.
And so, maybe you’re going, “Hey, I’m giving really generously financially,” but the Spirit’s saying, “Yeah, but let’s talk about whether or not you’re living generously with your talent and your time.” Or maybe you’re being really generous with your time, and the Holy Spirit’s going, “Yeah, but are you being really generous with your talent and with your treasure?” It’s a question we need to wrestle with. Am I living generously with my time, talent, and treasure? Because living generously is about more than money.
Third truth about generosity you may not know is that generosity is good for us. Living generously is good for us. We kind of know that being generous is good for the people that we give to, right? But what the Bible teaches consistently, and what Jesus leans in on here, is that living generously is actually good for us. It’s good for those who give. What does he say? He says, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over.” Meaning a generous measure, right? Because if you take a measuring cup and you scoop up some wheat, there’s a lot of air between the particles of wheat. And so, if you shake it and you push it down, you create more space, and then you can get more in there. The point is, this is a generous measure. It will be poured into your lap. It’ll be given to you. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
This is generosity is good for you. And there’s a couple of ways that plays out. One of ’em is that generosity has what I sometimes think of as a boomerang effect. True generosity tends to come back to us, right? Well, what God kinda says here is that whatever posture we adopt with other people is the posture that he adopts with us. And if we adopt a generous posture with other people, then he adopts a very generous posture with us.
So, there’s a boomerang effect, that we give and it’s given to us. Now, there’s an important thing to understand here. This isn’t saying that God is a guaranteed slot machine, okay? This is not God’s get-rich-quick scheme. This is not saying that if you give God a dime, you’re gonna get back a dollar. It’s not saying that if you give God a dime, you’re always gonna get that dime back. Some people read these promises of God, and they’re like, “Oh yeah. If I wanna get rich, then I just need to give lots of money away, because then God will give me even more back.” And that’s not what God promises.
Here’s what God promises, that God generously rewards generous people. God generously reward generous people. That principle’s all over the Bible. But it’s not always financial. Some people have experienced that. They’ve given financially, and God has given them more resources financially, but that’s not true for everyone. Sometimes God richly rewards in other ways. Sometimes people live generously, and God rewards them with peace. Sometimes, people will give generously, and God rewards them with joy, or with a community of people that are there for them no matter what. I mean, there’s lots of different ways that God rewards, but God always rewards, generously rewards, generous people.
See, the problem with, you know, if I give money, then I should get money back, the problem with reading His promise that way is that it misunderstands that if you’re giving to get something back, then you’re not really being what? You’re not really being generous. And it’s only true generosity gets rewarded. Which is interesting, when… I call it the boomerang effect… I had a boomerang when I was a kid, and I realized something interesting about the boomerang. The harder I tried to get that thing to come back to me, the less likely I was to get it to come back to me. If I was just trying to throw it as hard as I could, like, to get it away from me, inevitably, it came back. And it’s kinda like that. If we’re giving to get something back, we’re not really being generous, but when we’re being generous simply for the sake of being generous and being obedient to God’s call to live generously, we do find that God richly rewards that generosity. So that’s one of the ways that we find that giving is good for us, that living generously is good for us.
The other way that we find that it’s good for us is because living generously sets us free. It sets us free. Because the reality is that the blessings that God has given can become a curse, if we use them for something they were never intended for. You hear me, church?
Look at me. This is really important. The blessings God pours into your life could become, potentially, a curse in your life, if you don’t use them for what they’re intended for. And the blessings that God pours into your life are intended to be a blessing to others. And if we don’t use them that way, they actually become a curse to us, which is why Jesus, a little bit later in the Gospel of Luke, said this. He said, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you’ll be devoted to the one and you’ll despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” Does that mean money’s bad? No. Not at all. Sometimes people misquote the Bible. They go, “Well, doesn’t the Bible say that money is the root of all kinds of evil?” No. The Bible says that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. Big difference.
Money is a good gift from God. But money is a dangerous gift in some ways, because money has a tendency to attract our loyalty. It has a tendency to attract our attention, and to mistakenly cause us to believe that money is a source of security. That if we have enough of it, we’ll be secure, we’ll be safe, we’ll be good to go. And money can’t provide that. And it certainly can’t provide the deeper things in life that we need, like joy, and peace, and love. But money tends to want to become our master. And so, Jesus says, you gotta be careful. You can’t serve both God and money.
Or, if you prefer the words of the famous theologian Bob Dylan, “You’re gonna have to serve somebody.” And the question is whether or not it’s a God who loves you or money that’s incapable of love, and can’t provide any of the things that the world tries to teach us it could provide. So no, you can’t serve two masters. You can’t serve both God and money. Money is a blessing from God, but it’s potentially a dangerous blessing. So, how do we stay out from under the suffocating weight of money? How do we keep money from becoming our master?
One of the things people will say is, “Well, we just don’t have to worry about it as long as we don’t have a lot of it.” Don’t have to worry about how to keep it from becoming my master because I don’t have enough of it to be mastered by it. And that’s a massive mistake. Because let me teach you a truth. The issue isn’t how much money we have, it’s how much money has us. You hear me, church? It’s not how much money we have, it’s how much our money has us. And I can tell you, from somebody who spent a lot of his life in a place where I really wasn’t sure how I was gonna make the next mortgage payment for many months, I didn’t have a lot of money. And money could absolutely become my master in those moments, too. Because I could get focused, I could get fixated, “Well, how can I get some more of it? If I just had a little bit more of it, then, you know, then there’d be peace, there’d be security.”
And so, not having a lot of money, there was still a danger of putting an emphasis on money, that actually made it my master. And then you go onto the other side, and God’s blessed us financially, and we’re in a different place in life right now, and we have more money than we need. And then there’s that temptation to hold onto it. Because, “Hey, I might need it.” It’s not how much money you have. It’s how much your money has you. So it doesn’t matter whether you have a lot or a little. You need to understand how to keep money from becoming your master. And how do you do it? God’s principle for keeping money from becoming your master is generosity.
Listen to me. Generosity is how we keep money from becoming our master. Generosity. That’s what it is. Living generously is how we keep from being mastered by any particular blessing. And this is where it’s so important that you understand that what I’m teaching you, what God says consistently in his Word is for you, okay? It’s for you. This is nothing God wants from you. It’s nothing I want from you. This is something that we want for you. We want you to experience the peace and the joy that comes from being free from the dangers of a blessing turning into a curse because you’re unwilling to give it away.
Here’s the thing. You are made to be a river, not a reservoir. You’re made to be a river, not a reservoir. Okay? The blessings of God are intended to flow into your life and to flow out of your life, blessing other people. That’s true of every blessing, financial and otherwise. You’re a river, not a reservoir. This is the rhythm of life. This is the way that God designed the world to work. And when it’s working that way, there’s health, right? The rain falls, and the river carries it out, but the reservoir holds it in.
We see it all over the world. We, you know, we see that the tides come in and then the tides go out. We breathe in, we breathe out. And if we don’t breathe out, we pass out. It doesn’t work. Life doesn’t work that way. In and out, in and out. That’s the rhythm of life, and it’s the rhythm God calls us to when we think about the resources that he’s blessed us with. This is nothing God wants from you. This is something God deeply wants for you because he loves you. So listen, one of the most powerful ways to move our faith forward is just to take the next step of generosity. Is to take the next step of generosity.
So, what’s my next step of generosity? That’s the question you wanna ask yourself. What’s my next step of generosity? And by the way, if you’re new with us, you’ll notice that I’m using the word “next step.” I’m not setting some arbitrary standard, going, “You gotta get to this level. You gotta become a super generous person.” Because the reality is, as we say often here at Mission Hills, its that small steps in the same direction will get you to places you hadn’t thought possible. You might look at your life and go, “I am not living generously in any area of my life.” And you may even, right now, in this moment, begin feeling a little bit of the stagnation that’s happening because of that. And you’re like, “But I don’t know how to get from where I am to this idea of a generous life.” Listen, all you have to do is take the next step, and then the next step. So, what’s your next step of generosity? That’s all you need to think about today.
Let me give you a roadmap for the next step of living generosity. We use this here at Mission Hills, and we’re gonna talk about money, not because that’s where all generosity comes from or because that’s the only thing we’re interested in, but because it’s easiest to grab hold of the concepts, when we just talk about money. It’ll just be simpler, but you’ll get the concepts you can apply in other areas of your life. So, here’s the roadmap to the next step. It’s nothing to something. It’s something to something sacrificial. It’s something sacrificial to what we call a tithe. And it’s a tithe to what we call spirit-led generosity. Those are your next steps. Let me just break ’em down for you. So, if you’re giving nothing, your next step is to start giving something. It really doesn’t matter how much.
The next time we do an offering, and by the way, we’re not doing another offering today. The next time you have an opportunity to give, give something. Maybe $20, maybe it’s $10, maybe it’s $5. And you might think, well, what’s $5 gonna do? Well, first off, understand that it’s gonna do something for you. You’re beginning to build a habit, something you do regularly, that’s gonna have an incredibly powerful impact on you over time, automatically. So it’s powerful in your life, even if it’s only $5. And the reality is that, you know, interesting statistic, we have several thousand people who join us at Mission Hills every weekend. We figured there’s probably 2000 to 3000 people who don’t give at all, and that’s okay. There’s no judgment. There’s no condemnation. That’s fine.
But here’s the interesting thing. If two of those thousand people started to give $5 a week, that’d be half a million dollars a year just at Mission Hills. And you’ve heard stories. Every week, we tell stories about what good God is doing with that in the world. Half a million dollars could do a lot of good in the world, advancing the cause of Christ and bringing good to people. So $5 would be good for you, and it would be good in the world. So if you’re giving nothing, your next step is just start giving something.
Now, if you’re already giving something, your next step would be to start giving something sacrificial. And what I mean by that is something that you feel a little bit. Because the reality is, a lot of us are never gonna feel $5. Okay? Now, some of you will. For some of you, $5 would be a sacrifice, and that’s fantastic. It’s different for everybody. But for a lot of us, $5 a week, we wouldn’t even notice.
So what we need to do is we need to start getting something that we feel a little bit, because the reality is that it’s when we start to feel the sacrifice that we start to feed our generosity. Okay? It’s when we start to feel the sacrifice that our generosity begins to grow. I mean, think about it. If you got a backpack with 100 pounds in it, and somebody takes out a little pack of Kleenex, your hike did not get easier. Hike gets easier, things begin to change. You begin to feel the power of generosity growing in your life when you’re actually feeding it with a sacrifice that you feel, okay? Maybe that’s an amount. Maybe it’s a percentage amount. Coletta and I, that was one of our big next steps. We started giving a percentage of our income. Now, if you’re giving something sacrificial, your next step might be what we call a tithe.
And tithe, if you don’t know that word, it’s an Old Testament concept, the before Jesus part of the Bible, and basically the idea is that the people of God would give the first 10% of whatever God blessed them with back to God as a way of honoring him. That’s what a tithe was. The first 10% of what we get from God, we give back to God in order to honor him. Now, I realize that’s a lot of math, right? Like, I’ve got, like, mathematical, like first…anybody confused yet? Ten percent? Like, I know, like, decimal points. What do we do? So, to simplify this, I asked a friend to break it down for us. So, check this out.
Child: Today, we are going to talk about tithing. It’s a simple topic that everyone should understand. Grown-ups love their money, but I’m only four. What’s this thing? So, I’m gonna teach you this lesson using donuts. Pretend these donuts are monies. Money doesn’t taste good as donuts. I want to eat one bite of you. They’re not my donuts, they’re God’s donuts. Since I have 10 donuts, God just wants the first donut. Just the first, not the last. If you don’t give him the first donut, you might forget. There’s car payments. Gotta pay for your house. Might have a kid like me, and I like toys. Before I take any bites, well, next time, I’m going to give God my first donut.
It’s pretty simple, right? Yeah. If you’re giving something sacrificial, maybe your next step is start giving a tithe. Coletta and I made it a practice many years ago to, whenever money comes in, we just move the decimal place one place to the left, and whatever that is, that’s your 10%. We give that to the church. And if you’re not there yet, maybe that’s the next step God’s calling you to. If you’re giving a tithe, of course, you’re done. Nowhere to go from there. Can’t possibly be any more generous than that, right? Now, you know what they say? That the biggest room in the world is the room for improvement. There’s always room for a next step. And the next step, if you’re giving a tithe, the next step is what we call spirit-led generosity. Spirit-led generosity. And what that means is that you give your first 10% to your local church, whatever church that is, and then above and beyond that, you look for opportunities to bless others and to advance the Gospel in the world, by giving opportunities. And so, Coletta and I give our first 10% to Mission Hills, and then above and beyond that, we support a number of missionaries and compassion children. And we’re always looking for other opportunities that God would lead us to, to give and bless in those ways.
Now, whether it’s nothing to something, something to something sacrificial, something sacrificial to tithe, or tithe to spirit-led generosity, there is a really important principle here, and that is that we give to God first, right? Not last. We give to God first. And what we say here at Mission Hills is that giving first honors God. Saving second practices wisdom. And living on the rest builds contentment. It’s a pretty good principle to live by. If you wanna grow in generosity, giving first honors God, saving second, putting some money aside, save, and then living on the rest, that builds contentment.
So, what’s your next step of generosity? Understanding, of course, that the God who calls you to be generous is a God who has modeled for us a generosity that we can’t ever hope to match, right? God doesn’t just tell us to be generous. He is generous. Greatest demonstration of that, a very famous verse, even if you’re new to church, you may have heard this perverse before. For God so loved the world that He… What’s, that word church?
He gave. He gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. That’s a generous God right there. He loves us so much he sent his own Son to die on the cross to pay the price for our sin that separates us from him. And then God raised him from the dead, and then he offers us salvation simply by putting our trust in him, by saying yes, to following Jesus from here on out. That is generosity we can never hope to match.
And so, our call to live generously is actually the call of a generous God to begin to experience the life of so many good things that he longs for us because of that generosity. It may be for some of you, your next step of generosity is not to begin giving, but simply to receive. To receive this gift of forgiveness and eternal life that God offers. In fact, I wanna give you a chance to do that right now. Would everyone, wherever you are, just close your eyes, bow your head. If you’re not yet a follower of Jesus, if you’ve never received his free gift of eternal life that he purchased for you on the cross, I encourage you to accept that gift right here, right now. Here’s what it looks like. You’re just gonna have a conversation with God. You’re gonna say something like this. Just repeat it in your heart after me:
God, I’ve sinned. I’ve done wrong. I’m sorry. Thank you for giving the gift of your Son. Jesus, thank you for dying on the cross to forgive me. I believe you rose from the dead. I understand that you’re offering me forgiveness and salvation, eternal life, in return for my faith. So, Jesus, I’m giving you my trust. I’m saying “yes” to following you. I’m gonna follow you from here on out. Amen.