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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » James Merritt » James Merritt - Generosity, Give It All You Got

James Merritt - Generosity, Give It All You Got

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    James Merritt - Generosity, Give It All You Got
TOPICS: Mirror Image, Generosity

I couldn't believe it when I read the headline. The headline read like this. This is really true, it was in the newspaper. It said, "I want the last check I write to bounce". And I thought to myself, "Now this is a fool. This is somebody that has no clue on how to manage their money, they spend every dime that they have, and they don't realize yet that there's a lot more to life than just getting and spending". But then I went ahead and read the story, and I realized you can't judge a book by its cover, 'cause I was wrong. The man that said that was Charles F. Feeney. He is, or at least he used to be, a billionaire. He made his fortune in the duty-free shopping industry, and he made a decision in 1984 he didn't tell anybody about. He made a decision to form a private foundation called Atlantic Philanthropies.

For 15 years, he ran it anonymously, even though it was one of the largest sources of charitable giving in the United States, Ireland, South Africa, and Vietnam. He secretly, without telling anybody, turned over that duty-free business to this foundation while continuing to invest in it, and he was giving money away to things like direct medical care, education for underprivileged children, criminal justice advocacy, peace-building initiatives, and here was the bottom line. Atlantic Philanthropies will close its doors sometime around 2020, and when they do, they will have given away $8 billion. It is the largest organization to have ever voluntarily shut itself down by literally giving away its last dollar.

So Mr. Feeney is not a fool, and Mr. Feeney's not irresponsible. Mr. Feeney, as a matter of fact, knows how to manage money and understands money even better than probably 95% of all of us because he understands personal prosperity is for the purpose of purposeful generosity. God doesn't give you so you'll have. You don't get just to get. God gives you to give. Prosperity is for the purpose of generosity. We're in a series that we have been calling "Mirror Image," and so once again, I want you to imagine that I give you a magic mirror. That mirror does not show you what you look like on the outside because it doesn't care what you look like on the outside.

What that mirror does is it shows you what you look like on the inside, and that mirror forces you to ask yourself a tough question. Is the facade that I put up in front of people on the outside, does it even come close to matching what I'm really like on the inside? And when you look at what's on the inside of you, do you like what you see? Are you pleased with what you see? Do you feel like you're getting the most out of you, you could be? Do you believe that God is pleased with who is inside of you? So we've been talking about character and all the different traits that go into character. We've talked about integrity, we've talked about honesty, we've talked about so many things, and today we're gonna talk about one that I believe probably comes the hardest to most of us, but it probably is the one that pays the biggest dividends, and that is generosity.

Now, before I go any further, I want you to ask yourself a question, but I don't want you to answer it till the message is over. Would you call yourself a generous person? Now don't be too quick to answer that, because frankly we would all I think like to think, well, yeah, I think I'm a generous person. And I think we would all like to have other people at least think that we are generous people. But are you really? You know, I got to thinking, in all of my years, I have never met a selfish, greedy person with high character. I mean, I never have. A matter of fact, when I was working on this message, and I gotta be real careful here, 'cause I thought of a specific person, I'm thinking about this person right now, I know him very well.

I cannot reveal his identity because it would be very harmful and some people would probably figure out who it is, but I know a man, he hoards what he has, he's very greedy, he's very selfish, and he has lots of money. He's miserable, he makes people around him miserable. I don't even believe this man could spell generosity if you spotted him 12 letters. I just don't think he could do it. And he portrays the same three traits I see in every selfish, greedy person I've ever met. If you ever meet a greedy person, you'll know it, 'cause there'll always be three things that are true about them. Number one, they'll be insecure. This man worries about his wealth all the time, worries about his money all the time. He's kinda worried about who's gonna get it after I'm gone, where's it gonna go, who's gonna get this, who's gonna get that, very insecure.

Then he's very insensitive. The needs of other people never gets on his radar screen. It's never occurred to this man that God has blessed him in order that he might be a blessing. That never enters into his thought pattern. And then he's very inconsiderate of the feelings of others, because his greed and his selfishness has turned his heart ice cold. So today, we're going to look at a story about a woman in the Bible that every time I read this story, it is so remarkable, I wonder how in the world did this story ever get in the Bible? I remember as a kid one time, the first time I read this story, I didn't understand what the story really was all about, to be honest with you. I didn't know much about generosity.

And I read this story and I thought I just don't get it. I understand when Jesus walks on water, that oughta make the Bible. I understand when Jesus feeds 5,000 people with a few loaves and a few fish, I get that. I understand when Jesus comes back from the dead. But then you read this story, and you go, "Wow, there's no miracle in the story". There's nothing that would make you go, "Goodness gracious, I can't believe that happened". And yet the story is so phenomenal because of what Jesus said and what Jesus saw. And what Jesus said was so remarkable because what Jesus saw was so refreshing, because Jesus saw what he says to us is the greatest example of generosity he had ever seen in his life, and maybe the greatest act of generosity any human being has ever given.

Now before it get to the story, and by the way, the story's in the Gospel of Mark, chapter 12, if you wanna start finding it. It's in Mark chapter 12, the second Gospel. I want you to put yourself in this story, because we're all in this story. What is true about Jesus and this person is true about you and Jesus. It is true about what you have, it is true about what you think you have, and it's true about what you do with what you have. So we're all in this story, because this was a day when Jesus saw something, and this is what's so amazing, even though all the disciples that were with him saw exactly the same thing that he was watching, he saw something they didn't see, and he saw something in a way they didn't see it.

One of the things I've learned and it's a good practice to follow, it's amazing how when you begin to try to see the way Jesus sees, you'll see things that nobody else will see, and you'll see things in a way that nobody else will see them. And it really is amazing that this story is in the Bible because the woman that's talked about in this story does something that through the ordinary eye was so small, so insignificant, so inconsequential, so unimportant, nobody would have given it a second thought except Jesus. Nobody would have ever given that a second look except Jesus. But it's because Jesus talked about it that we're still talking about it today 2,000 years after it happened. And I want you to see three things in this story that's all related to you and me and our generosity. Number one, Jesus anticipates when we give. He anticipates when we give.

Now we're in Mark chapter 12, and let me just tell you a little story before get started. When I was growing up, I grew up back in the day when I was a kid, we didn't even know what a mall was. Malls are everywhere now. We didn't know what a mall was. And so the day came, everybody was so excited, because Hall County, Gainesville, Georgia, where I grew up, finally had their first mall. It's called Lakeshore Mall. So they built the mall. It was kinda like Six Flags or Disney World. Everybody wanted to go to the mall. That was kinda the in thing to do. Well, I can remember after kinda the newness wore off, I can remember still to this day, I think about it, I always knew when my mom and dad were absolutely bored outta their mind, I knew it, 'cause here's what they'd say, "Let's go to the mall".

You say, "Well, why were they bored"? 'Cause they didn't go to shop, we didn't have any money to shop. They didn't even window shop. You know what my mom and dad would do? Now, listen, this is torture for a kid, but here's what they'd do. There was a bench that was right in the middle of the mall. You could see people go to the food court and people go to this store and people go to that store. They'd get this bench. They would sit there for an hour, sometimes two hours, and all they would do is watch people. That's all they did, watch people. Now, I'm sorry, you got to be pretty bored when all you got to do is go to a mall and sit on a bench and watch people. And that's why when I read this story, I always think to myself, "Jesus, you must have been pretty bored this day". I mean, evidently there wasn't anybody sick that needed to be healed, wasn't anybody hungry that needed to be fed, wasn't any blind men that needed to see, because Jesus, listen to this now, Jesus decides to his disciples, "Let's go down to the temple and watch people put money in the offering".

Now I'm sorry, it's gotta be a slow day when you say, "Hey, we got nothing else better to do. Let's go down to the church and watch the offering". You gotta admit, you're really hard up for something to do, to do that. Well, that's exactly what it is, they go down to the temple, and here's what happens. Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put, and he watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. Now let me tell you what's going on. When you walked into the temple, there was a certain section down at the front of the temple where the offerings were received. Jesus, we're told, purposely took a front row seat. No backseat Baptist for Jesus today. He said, "Boys, I wanna get a front row seat. I wanna be down there where I can see exactly what everybody is giving".

Now, this is so unique, because whenever Jesus was teaching or whenever Jesus was performing a miracle, normally everybody wanted a front row seat. I mean, everybody wanted that seat. This is the only time we're ever told, Jesus wanted a front row seat. Now, the reason that's strange to me, I would understand if this was a concert or a football game or a play or a wrestling match, okay? I could understand that, I get that. It's an offering, it's church, and Jesus says, "I wanna be right on the front row". And the reason why he wanted to be on the front row, he wanted to see exactly what everybody was giving.

Now I want you to imagine when we took up the offering just a moment ago, I want you to imagine that we took it up one row at a time, one section at a time, and we took it up very slowly, and I want you to imagine that I walked along and I'm watching what everybody of you, all of you, did with that basket. You wouldn't be back next week. In fact, you'd be saying, "What are you doing? How rude is this? Are you a busybody? Listen, it's none of your business whether I give or what I give. I mean, what in the world are you doing"?

Well, I got a newsflash for you. Jesus still watches what you give or don't give. He is anticipating what you give. And by the way, he wasn't the only one that was watching. The treasurer was a public place of deposit for the money that people gave to the temple. And by the way, it really was kinda fascinating to watch. They didn't pass baskets or plates or anything like that. They had a unique way of taking up the offering. There was these, the receptacles, there were 13 of them, and they were brass treasure chests that were called trumpets. And they were kinda shaped like an upside down trumpet, so you had the narrow part at the top, at the bottom, at the top, and you had the broad part down at the bottom. So what would happen is people would come in, rich people, and they would take all these coins and they would put it in the trumpet.

Well, the trumpet was circular like this, so you'd hear those coins going round and round and round till it would clang down in the end of that trumpet. You didn't have to wonder what people were giving. You could see what people were giving, you could hear what people were giving. And the longer it took for them to give, the more money that you knew they were giving. So, that's why we're told in verse 41, the rich people threw in large amounts. How did they know that? They didn't have to guess, they could see it, they could hear it. It was called sounding the trumpet. That's where we get the phrase blow your own horn, toot your horn, that's where we get it. But rich people would come, they wouldn't have to say a word. They didn't have to say, "Hey, look, look, look, I wanna show you how much I'm gonna give". They didn't have to say anything. It took them 10, 15, 20 minutes to put all those coins in that trumpet, and people would go, "Wow, look at what that guy is giving".

Well, Jesus was very observant. He's anticipating what people were giving. He knew exactly how much everybody was putting in, and he was very well aware that these rich people were putting in large sums of money. Now let me stop and make sure you understand something I'm not saying. Jesus was not condemning these rich people for giving a lot of money. He wasn't questioning their motive and why they were doing. It has nothing to do with that at all. God loves a cheerful giver, whether you're a rich person or a poor person. If you give and you give for the right reason, God loves a cheerful giver. There are rich people, I know some, they've got a good heart. Some of the greatest charitable work being done in the world today is being done by rich people.

The point that Mark is simply making is that the Lord anticipates what we give. He knows when we give, he knows when we don't give, he's marking down what we give, okay? But that is not the real point of the story. That's to set up the rest of the story. But just to understand, Jesus anticipates when we give. But here's the second thing we learn. Jesus calculates what we give. He anticipates when we give, he knows it, whether you give something or give nothing, but he calculates what we give.

Now, again, this story would have never made it in the Gospels, we would have never known about it, had it stopped at verse 1, because there was nothing unusual about that. They took up the offering every day. People gave offerings all the time. So that in and of itself wasn't unusual. It's what happens next that made Jesus' eyes dilate, that made him lean over and really lean in, that made him kinda under his breath go, "Wow, did you see that"? Here's what happens. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents. I mean, it even sounds anticlimactic, right? I mean, you're going, "Okay, that's it? This is in the Bible? You mean you took up black ink and white paper to put this in the Bible"? 'Cause you talk about an unlikely hero, Mark makes it plain, this woman was a three-time loser.

You say, "What do you mean"? Well, number one, she's poor. Poor people were not very well-respected in that day. Number two, she was a widow. How do you know she was a widow? 'Cause widows had a distinctive way of dressing so that you know they were widows. So she wasn't even married, didn't have a husband. Number three, third mark against her, sorry, ladies, she was a woman, and 2,000 years ago, you were considered a second-class citizen to a man if you were a woman. So here's a woman who's a three-time loser. She's poor, she's a widow, and she's a woman. And yet, she makes the front page of Jesus' newspaper, because Jesus sees something when he's watching her that nobody else saw with that supernatural spiritual vision. He sees her put in these two small copper coins. They're called mites.

If you ever go to Israel with us, we're going this year, if you ever go to Israel with us, you can buy these mites even today, 'cause they're so not worth very much money. Here's a picture of a mite right here. This is a penny, these are literally the two mites that this lady put in. I've got some at home. This is what a mite would look like. Now, you can just tell, a mite doesn't have a lot of might. That's a joke, okay? You can just tell, there's just not a lot there. Those were the smallest and the least valuable pieces of money in circulation in that day. In fact, let me put it in perspective. This is how much that woman put in that day. The average wage of a common laborer, minimum wage worker back in that day, was 15 cents a day. That's what an average laborer would make, 15 cents a day. The two coins put together were the equivalent of about 1/100 of that amount.

So today, it would be worth less than 1/10 of one cent. So you got all these rich people putting in all this money, and this little widow comes by, she drops in 1/10 of one penny, and nobody gave her offering a second thought, but Jesus gave it a second look, and he's so impressed by what this woman has done, he calls all the disciples over to see what this woman has done, and he makes a statement, that I'm gonna be honest, I'm sure when he said it, the disciples are going, "You may be the Messiah, but you're not too good in math". Because here's what he said. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, "Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury," now watch this, "than all the others". It's not just that Jesus said, "Well, she did put in a little bit more than that little boy," or "She did put in a little bit more than that little girl". He said, "Did you see what that lady just did? She put in more than all the other money that everybody else put in together".

Now I am not, would never say anything disrespectful about Jesus, ever, but I'm accounting major. I understand math and arithmetic and money, and I understand the bottom line is the bottom line. And I have to be the first one to tell you, if I had been there that day, I would have said to Jesus, "Where did you go to school? Can you tell me who your math teacher was? Can you tell me how you come to that conclusion? And Lord, with all respect, you're never gonna do my taxes". I mean, you just said to me, you saw what she gave, she put in all, more than all the rich people put together. And what they didn't realize it at the time, but Jesus was teaching them such a great lesson about generosity. Here's what he was saying, "The most generous givers do not necessarily or always give the biggest gifts".

Now that's what we think, that's not what Jesus thought. The most generous givers do not necessarily or always give the largest gifts. Simply put, generosity is not always measured by what you give. There's a difference between giving the greatest amount and being the most generous giver. A million dollars may be a dream gift, and we've gotten a million dollar gift here before, and that may be a great gift, but it may or may not make you a dream giver. A tenth of a penny may make you a dream giver. 'Cause you talk about generosity, listen to what we're learning here. You don't get a pass if you're not rich. You don't get a pass if you don't have nearly as much money as the next person.

Let's just imagine right now that you drive a truck or you dig ditches or you sell insurance. You make not that much. And let's just imagine right now you know you're sitting next to somebody that drove a brand new Mercedes onto this church property today. If you sit there and say, "Well, there's just no way I could ever be as generous as that person is," Jesus would say, "You don't understand what generosity's all about". Because here's what this poor widow teaches us, you don't have to be rich to be generous, you don't have to have a lot to give and you don't have to have a lot to give a lot. That's exactly what we're learning here.

See, here's why. Now this is where it's gonna upset a lot of apple carts. Jesus doesn't measure what people give the way we measure what people give. Jesus doesn't measure generosity the way we measure generosity. We look at the portion of what people give. Jesus looks at the proportion of what people give. We look at how much people put on the table. Jesus looks at how much is left in your pocket. We look at what people put in. Jesus looks at what is left over. And I wanna tell you one reason why I'm looking forward to heaven. I really, really am, not today, but I'm really looking forward to heaven. Well, today if he wants me to come, I'm ready, but I'd like to stay a while.

Just one national championship, that's all I want. We're gonna get to heaven and we're gonna find that some of the most generous people who ever walked this planet were some of the poorest people we ever knew, 'cause God doesn't measure it the way we measure it. And God doesn't look at it the way we look at it. Jesus is not impressed with how great your gift is, he's impressed with how generous your gift is. Go back to that day in the temple, okay? What happened? When those rich people gave all that money, everybody applauded. But only one person applauded when the widow gave that tenth of a penny. But that's the only applause that mattered, and that's the reason why we're talking about that story right now.

See, Jesus anticipates when we give. Jesus calculates what we give, not by how much we put on the table, but how much we leave in our pocket, not how much the gift was worth, but how much the gift really cost. Bill Gates could give a million dollars to this church. You may give $100 to this church, but your gift may be worth more than his gift. You may be more generous than that billionaire. See, Jesus calculates what we give. He anticipates when we give. If Jesus had been given out a grade for generosity, she's the only one that would have made an A plus. But you know why? 'Cause we haven't got to the real point of the story. We've not even hit the real bottom line. We've not hit the real bullseye of what this story's all about, because not only does Jesus anticipate when we give, not only does Jesus calculate what we give, watch this, Jesus evaluates why we give.

Now, this is where the story really gets good. This poor little widow becomes the hero of this story she didn't know she was writing. And Jesus says, and the disciples are going, "I can't believe what you're saying here. This is just not adding up, literally and figuratively, this is just not adding up". And Jesus says, "Okay, guys, let me tell you why I'm so enamored with this woman. Let me tell you why I'll never forget this woman. Let me tell you why 2,000 years from now, James Merritt will still be talking about this woman". Listen to this. They, that is all these other people, they all gave out of their wealth, but she, out of her poverty, put in everything, all she had to live on. And Jesus goes out of his way, and Mark goes out of his way in recounting this story to remind us just how poor this woman is. She's called poor, then we're told she gave out of her poverty.

Those are two totally different Greek words. The word for poor describes someone who's totally destitute. So she was a beggar, most likely she was homeless. Today she would have been on public assistance, government help. The second word for poverty means basically having nothing. So in other words, when you really read the story, this is what most people miss. What impressed Jesus so much was not the money that she gave, because, look, Jesus is not stupid. He knows 1/10 of a penny's not a lot of money, he knows that, he's not dumb. But Lord, you know it's not a lotta money, and yet you said she gave more than everything. Where do you come up with that? "Because," Jesus said, "she put in everything, all she had to live on".

Now, here's what you gotta understand, that little phrase to live on comes from one word in the Greek language. It's the word bios. We were taught something in high school. What were we taught in high school? Biology, that's where we get the word biology. Bios is life, logos is word, biology is the word of life, studying about life. That's what biology is. "She gave," Jesus said, "it wasn't just her money, guys, that she gave". She was giving herself. She was not just giving all that she had, she was giving all that she was. And the reason why this woman could give all of her money to God was because she'd already given all of her life to God.

Because, see, we read this story, and here's what we think, "Man, it must have been hard for that woman to give both of these. I mean, she could have at least kept one of the coins. I mean, the woman's gotta eat something. Boy, I can't believe, I mean, how hard it was for her to give all that she had, how hard it was for her to give those two mites". No, it wasn't hard. Actually, that was the easy part. The hard part was giving God all of her heart. And what really impressed Jesus was not what she gave, it's why she gave it. It wasn't the amount. Jesus, again, he's not dumb. Shoot, no, that's nothing. It's not the amount, but look at her attitude, 'cause keep in mind she's not gonna get a tax deduction, it's not gonna be written off, she didn't do it out of show, she didn't even know anybody was looking when she gave that offering.

A matter of fact, she probably would have been embarrassed to know that somebody was. And she sure didn't give it flippantly. You know she carefully thought out what she was going to do, but the reason she did this is she was making a statement, a clear statement to God. Actions speak louder than words, and did her actions every speak loudly and ever speak clearly, because unbeknownst to everybody else, when that woman walked over to that treasury and took those two little mites, that 1/10 of a cent and dropped it in there, she was making a statement, not to you, not to me, she was making a statement to him, and here's what she was saying. God, I look to you to provide my needs. God, I love you more than I love my money. And God, I live for you and you alone.

See, here's what a lotta people don't understand, and I've learned this, I've been saying it for four decades, and people still don't believe me. There's sometimes it's real frustrating as a preacher, you say things and you go, "Now, they think I'm lying". And I'm not lying, but you're convinced I'm lying. So for example, when I say, and I do say, "Look, I don't want your money," I know some of you, let's be honest, you may even like me and you say, "You're lying. That a lie. If you don't want my money, why you passing the basket? Yeah, you want my money". No, I don't want your money. And it really blows them away that God doesn't want your money. "You're kidding me. Well, then why does God say, 'Take up an offering,' if God doesn't want my money"?

Well, first of all, it's not your money, it's his money. He can take your money from you any time he wants you, he can take you from your money any time he wants to. It's not your money. Forget the U-Haul behind the hearse, it's not gonna do you any good. It's not your money. But here's what people don't get. God doesn't want your money, he wants your heart. I don't want your money, I want your heart. Can I be honest? Can I say something? And I hate to say it in a negative way, if your heart really isn't in this church, go find a church where your heart can be. I don't mean that to be ugly or unkind, but the only people I really want coming to our church, people, their heart is in the church. That's who I want.

And see, Jesus cares not about what you give, why do you give it? Are you giving it for a tax deduction? Are you giving it as a write-off? Are you giving it out of guilt 'cause you feel bad if you don't give? You know what Jesus would say? "Keep your money. I want you to give me what you give me because you have given me your heart. I want you to give me what you give me because you love me and your thankful for what I've done for you". See, listen, I hate to tell you this, the IRS doesn't care why you give your money. They just want their money. The credit card company doesn't care why you give your money. They just want their money. The mortgage company does not care why you give your money. They want your money. That's why you never get a Christmas card from the IRS.

You never get a thank you note from your mortgage company. You never get $100 gift certificate to Cracker Barrel from your bank. They don't care why you give. You can laugh, you can smile, you can curse, you can get drunk and give, they don't care. Just give me the money. God says, "I don't want your money, I want you. I want your heart, I want your love, I want your affection, I want your total allegiance, that's what I want". He wants your heart. So let's put something in perspective. We're talking today about a poor widow. We don't know her name, don't know where she came from, don't know where she lived, don't know how she died, and yet, here we are, 2,000 years later, we still remember her, we're still talking about her for one reason, generosity.

So let me just tell you this. I don't know how you're going to be remembered or how long you're gonna be remembered after you gone, I don't how long I'm gonna be remembered after I'm gone, but I'll make you a promise. You are not going to be remembered by how much you made, how much you spent, or how much you saved. If you're remembered at all, it will be because of what you gave. You won't be rewarded by God for how much you made or how much you spent or how much you saved. You'll be rewarded by God for what you gave. I guarantee you, listen, I guarantee you, this woman never knew that Jesus knew what she gave. For as far as we know, Jesus never met her, Jesus never talked to her.

I guarantee you this, I guarantee you when that little lady died and she stepped into heaven, Jesus was waiting on her, and the first thing Jesus said was, "I saw what you did, I remember you". "Excuse me"? "Oh, yeah, you're the lady that gave the two mites". "How do you know"? "Well, I was on the front row, I was watching. I'll never forget it. And little lady, 2,000 years ago, people will still be talking about it". Listen, can I share with you the greatest reason of all why we all wanna be generous?

Can I share with you the greatest reason that my prayer for you today is that you'll walk out that door and you'll say, "Oh, God, would you make me a generous person"? Because we serve a generous God, a God who is so generous who looked at you and he looked at me, and he said, "Let me tell you what I'm gonna do for you. I'm gonna send my Son to die for you". And that Son said, "And I'm gonna die on a cross for you, even though you don't deserve it. And furthermore, I'm not gonna charge you a dime. I'm not gonna charge you interest. You don't have to make any payments. This is not an installment. I'm paying the whole sin debt you've incurred off, past, present, and future. And oh, by the way, I'm gonna throw in eternal life absolutely free".

And you don't wanna give to a God like that? That's why, because we serve such a generous God. So, I'm gonna wrap all this up. You've got one life to live, I've got one life to live, and I want you to listen. You're gonna live it one of two ways. You're either gonna live your life as a generous person or you're gonna live your life as a greedy person. You will either live your life selflessly or you will live your life selfishly. You will either live your life holding everything you own with an open hand, or you're gonna live your life with everything you own in a clinched fist. There's no in between. You're not half generous and half greedy. It's not the way it works. You're either all in or you're all out.

On September the 3rd, 1939, the Nazis invaded Bielsko, Poland. There was a 15-year-old girl, her name was Gerda Weissmann, and her family, they survived in the Jewish ghetto until June 1942. That's when Gerda was taken from her mother, who was sent to a death camp, while Gerda would spend three years in a Nazi concentration camp. She was one of the few survivors. By the time she was liberated by American troops in 1945, she was 21 years old, she weighed 65 pounds. Good news, a little romantic ending, the soldier that rescued her, married her.

So it's a sweet story, but that's not the best part of the story. If you go to Boston, they have a Holocaust Memorial, and there are six glass towers representing the six extermination camps where six million Jews were killed. Five of those stories tell the story of the... Five of those towers tell the story of this unbelievable cruelty and this terrible torture that these Jewish people endured. But the sixth tower is a testimony to generosity that happened right in the middle of an extermination camp.

Gerda is the one who tells the story. It's a short story. It's entitled "One Raspberry". And this is the story you'll read on that memorial. Ilse, a childhood friend of mine, once found a raspberry in the camp and carried it in her pocket all day to present to me that night on a leaf. Imagine a world in which your entire possession is one raspberry and you give it to your friend. Imagine a world where your entire possession is one raspberry and you give it to your friend. Imagine a God who has one Son and he gives him for us. Just imagine that.

The real measure of your heart is bound up in whether or not you have a heart that wants to get or a heart that wants to give. The real measure of the value of a gift is not how much it's worth on the table, but how much is left in your pocket. That's true whether it's $2 million, two copper coins, or one raspberry. And when Jesus Christ came to this planet, he gave everything he had, including his very life, and when Jesus drew his last breath, he left nothing on the table, he left nothing in the tank. He gave to us everything he had. How can we not give our everything to him?
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