Robert Morris — Am I Generous?
Turn in your Bibles, please, to John 12. We're in the series, The Blessed Life, and today's message is entitled, "Am I generous"? "Am I generous"? Look at verse 1. It says, "Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany where Lazarus was who had been dead, whom he had raised from the dead. There they made him a supper and Martha served but Lazarus was one of those who sat at the table with him. And then, Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard, anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil but one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon's son who would betray him said, 'Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?' This he said," watch verse 6 very carefully, "Not that he cared for the poor but because he was a thief and he had the money box", which was the offering box, "and he used to take what was put in it".
He actually took from the offering. Isn't that amazing? And that's what he meant. Okay. So when I read this I thought of two questions. Why would Mary give such an extravagant gift, such a generous gift? Why would she do that? And I'll explain to you later how extravagant it was. And then, the second question is, and why would it get Judas upset? There are two hearts displayed here. A heart of generosity and a heart of selfishness. And I want you to notice what revealed each heart, giving that's what revealed. So when I say, "Am I generous"? I put it in the first person so that when you say it, you're asking yourself and when I say it, I'm asking me, because, to be honest, sometimes I am, and sometimes I'm not. I still battle with this.
So let me tell you some things about generosity, alright? Three things. Number one, the enemy of generosity. The enemy of generosity is selfishness. Now, by the way, we're talking about generosity and selfishness. Let me just say something. Generosity begins with a G. Selfishness begins with an S. All right. Listen, God is generous. Satan is selfish. Just so you can always remember. Alright. God's generous. And we're all born selfish. We are, but, we're born again generous. That's the great news. We just have to renew our minds. We really want to be. If I said to you, you really want to, don't you? You say, yeah, well, I want to I just don't see how I can do it or I'm strapped or whatever, and, we want to help you do that. But I want to be generous.
I said we're all born selfish and if you think about it, one of the first words that a child learns to pronunciate very well is the word, "mine" "Mine". "Mine". And a child learns to say it at such a pitch that it will hurt a nerve that you have in your back. You'll be watching the game or something and here's what you hear from the other room, "mine, mine, mine". You ever heard that? And the parent has to get up and go through the house and find that sound. And you get to another room and it's normally a younger child pulling something from an older child, right, and the younger child is saying, "mine, mine, mine, mine", right? Okay.
Let me explain something to you. There is a place where every parent comes to when we don't care anymore about justice. We care about quiet. We don't care whose toy it is. We just want them to be quiet. And so, we end up saying something like this to the older child, "Give it to her". And the older child says, "But, dad, it really is mine". "Give it to her. She has things of mine too. Give it to her". Is that right? So we've got this word, "mine". That's why, I think, because God wants us to understand and grow out of this, listen to me, God actually uses that word, "mine" when he refers to the tithe. He says, "It's mine. Don't touch it".
Now, this an amazing story because when it talks about Judas, he makes this statement, "Why wasn't this sold and given to the poor"? Ever heard that statement before? Can I just remind you who originated that statement? Judas. "Why wasn't that sold and given to the poor"? We do this a lot because we see the extravagance or the perceived extravagance of someone else. By the way, let me give you a definition of extravagance. "The one who has more than you". That's extravagant. Now, that neighborhood there, that's an extravagant neighborhood. Until you get a raise and move into that neighborhood. Now, that one's not extravagant but now, that's extravagant. That's extravagance.
See here's we do. We always want to point to someone else so we don't have to point to us. And here's another thing that amazes me about this story in the Bible. It says, "Judas had the money box" or the offering box. Jesus was in traveling ministry. That's was an offering box. People gave offerings. We know that from scripture. People gave offerings to them, okay? So what's shocking to me is who gave Judas the money box. Well, let me ask you this question, who's the leader of this bunch? Okay. So do you think Jesus knew he was a thief when he gave him the money box? I know he knew because two years before this, two years, Jesus said, "Did I not choose you twelve and one of you is the devil"? He knew. So why would he do this?
Listen, he didn't do it for Judas to fail. He did it to give him an opportunity to pass. See God will test you, not tempt. James says, "God tempts no one". Not tempt you. And he also provides a way of escape every time you're tempted. But God will actually test you in your finances and give you an opportunity. Now, isn't it amazing too that God says, that the Bible tells us, he was a thief. And God says in Malachi, "The people who don't tithe are stealing from me". Okay. He took money out of the money box, the offering box, okay?
Some churches have boxes, some pass the plate, some have a little bag. It really doesn't matter what the method is of giving. But here's the question for you. Is there anyone that would take money out of the offering? There's none of us. None of us would do that, would we? Okay. Let me ask you another question, is there anyone that would keep money in their account that actually belongs in the offering? Wouldn't that be the same thing? All right.
So the enemy of generosity is selfishness. Alright? Here's the number two. The extravagance of generosity. The extravagance of generosity. The reason I say extravagance is because God's a generous God and God gave an extravagant gift. Remember, His Son? That's pretty extravagant. And there are several extravagant gifts in the bible. Lots of them. I could name several of them. David, gave 21 billion. In today's economy, what David gave to the temple would be equivalent to 21 billion with B. That's extravagant. I tell you another extravagant gift a lot of people don't thing is extravagant, but, Jesus said it was extravagant, the widow gave two mites. See it's not the amount, it's the attitude behind the amount.
Mary gave 300 denarii. Denarii is the plural of denarius. The word denarius means, "a day's wage". "A day's wage". I've had students ask me how much is a day's wage? I said, well, are you talking 10 AD or 30 AD because it would be, like, the minimum wage. You understand. It changes. So 300 denarii, you would have worked about 300 days a year so that was just common vernacular for a year's wage. A years wage. So let me ask you, would a year's salary, whatever your salary is, for you to give that in one lump-sum, would that be extravagant? Sure it would, for all of us, right? Okay. Let me ask you something else. Would that be extravagant to pour on someone's feet? Because that's what she did. And Jesus said, she actually did this for the day of my burial.
This is the only anointing, by the way, that Jesus received, because, it was too late when they put him in the tomb to anoint his body. So they actually came back with a 100 pounds of spices on Sunday morning, you know, the first day of the week, to anoint his body, because, they couldn't anoint before they put him in the tomb. So they come back that morning and it says they came back early but Jesus had already checked out. So that's extravagant. So that's an extravagant gift but could you give a gift to God that would impress him? I'm talking about an amount now. The one who owns everything. The one who, by the way, paves his streets with gold. Not because he's trying to show off, it's just laying around.
So God paves his streets with gold. He has 12 foundations to the New Jerusalem, 12 foundations and all over the foundations are made of precious stones. By the way, New Jerusalem is 1380 miles long and 1380 miles wide and 1380 miles high. And again, it's not because he's trying to impress anyone, he's just got a bunch of diamonds and rubies laying around. And his gates are made of pearl. And if they're that high, they could be 1380 miles high, the gates. I don't know how high they are.
So could you give something to God that would impress him? Absolutely. Did you know you could? 2 Corinthians 8:5 says, "They first gave themselves to the Lord". Scripture, in the Old Testament, says, "God rejoices over you". Do you know what that word means? It means, he jumps up and twirls about. He jumps up and down and twirls around. See, it's not the amount, it's the attitude. It's that you give him your heart. And don't tell me that he has your heart if he doesn't have your money. Because Jesus said, "Where you treasure is, there your heart will be also". So actually, when God does get our heart, he gets our treasure.
There are three levels of giving, by the way. If you don't know this and I've done lots of studying there of giving. Three levels of giving. And I saw this years and years ago. Probably, 20, 25 years ago. Tithes, offerings, and extravagant offerings. In nearly every gift you see in the scripture, it falls under the area of a tithe, an offering, or an extravagant offering. Did you know though, that most Christian's never get to the first level of giving? You know how many Christians last year tithed ten percent of their gross income to their local church, undesignated by the way. By the way, the reason that it's undesignated, you can say I want five percent here and three percent here and two percent.
The reason you can't designate your tithe is because it doesn't belong to you. And people do want to designate money because they want to control. Can I say that again because I've seen it a lot? I've seen a lot of people try to buy me. If I give a big gift, will you do this? I'll just go answer it, no. No. So you can't designate. So you know how many Christians actually give ten percent of their gross income to their local church? It's between five and seven percent.
Ninety-three to ninety-five percent, let me say it this way, of all believers never even get to the very first level of giving. And here's the great news though, if you ever get to the first level, you'll get to the second and third because the first level breaks the curse and opens the windows of Heaven over you. And let me just tell you, when God does give you the opportunity to give an extravagant gift, it will be the greatest thing. You will look back on it for the rest of your life thinking we gave this, it was such a joy for us to do that.
So here's the third point I want to share with you is the reward of generosity. The reward of generosity. Now this same story that we read in John 12 is also in Matthew and in Mark. Let me read you one verse from Mark. Mark 14:9 says, "Assuredly I say to you, wherever the Gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her". Okay? Notice I said the reward of the generosity. She was rewarded. Where Jesus said, "Wherever the Gospel is preached, she's going to be told". She got a reward but she didn't come to get a reward, she just came to give.
I asked you, well, why did Judas, why was he so upset about this. Well, we know it's because he was a thief, that's why and he stole from God. Why though did Mary give such a generous gift? Let me answer that question, because two months before this, her brother, Lazarus, had been raised from the dead. See, generosity comes from gratitude. Grateful people are generous. Well, let me ask you something, if one of your family members was raised from the dead, would you be grateful? And do you think that might change the way you give to God? I think it changed. By they way, when I say one of your family members, let me just remind you, all of you who believe in Jesus have been raised from the dead because Ephesians says, "We were dead in our trespasses and sins and he made us alive. We were buried with him and raised to walk a new life".
But I want you to understand that she did not come to be rewarded but God rewarded her. God always rewards generosity. Now, let me give you the definition of generosity though. Generosity is when you give expecting nothing in return. Selfishness is when you give and think that God owes you something. That's selfishness. Generosity is when you give to not get anything back. But here's the amazing thing, God always rewards that.
Hebrews 11:6 says, "Without faith it's impossible to please him for he who comes to God must believe that he is and that he is a rewarder of those diligently seek him". This word, "rewarder", comes a Greek word that's only in the Bible one time. Only in the New Testament one time. And it's a five syllable Greek word and nearly every syllable means when you put them together from the root and all means to pay what is due. But there's one syllable that changes it and it means to reward with extravagance, to give more than what is due.
It's like if someone lost his wallet and you returned it and instead of giving you a fifty-dollar reward he gives you a five-thousand-dollar reward. You said, well there's fifty-dollars in the wallet, this, is too much. Okay? He's not rewarding the amount that you returned, he's rewarding your honesty. The attitude of your heart. See, it's not the amount it's the attitude of our heart that God rewards. And he always rewards. You have to understand, let me say, a double negative grammatically. God cannot not reward you. He's going to reward you if you give with the right heart. Here's the reason why, because it says, "God is a rewarder". He is. This is something he is.
In other words, God can't lie to you because he is truth. He can't lie because he is truth. He is truth. He is a rewarder. Lots of times God has blessed us financially but there's a difference between being blessed and being rewarded. He blesses us with finances but Genesis 12 tells us what his reward is. He said, "Your reward will be me. I'll reward you with myself". He rewards you with himself. In other words, it effects over and over your life.
So I'm going to tell you something that happened and, then I'm going to give you the rest of the story that I've never told you. Okay? I shared, one time, this with you a testimony but I've never shared the rest of the story. There was a single mom in our church and the Lord was dealing with her about tithing. And I shared the message about the thousand dollars. And this was a few years ago. I shared the message about a thousand dollars, how much to tithe, and that week she made a thousand dollars and it was the first time she had made a thousand dollars in a week. And I'm sharing about a thousand dollars and the tithe is a hundred dollars. And she's getting more and more convicted that she need to put God first in her life.
So at the end of the service, she gets her checkbook out. She writes out a check and watch, when she's about to put a $100, the Lord said to her, add $20. And she said, "Lord, this is going to be a struggle for me to do this, a tithe". And he said, well, yeah, but I want you to give an offering also. And she said, "I sat there and struggled and struggled and struggled, finally, I wrote the check for $120, put it in the offering box before I left". She's walking out to her car, now, I need you to know this, there is a man in our church that for years and years and years has carried $100 bills in his wallet and gives them to people when God tells him. He sees this woman walking to her car and the Lord says, go give that woman a $100 bill.
So he reached in his wallet, pulls it out, and right beside the $100 bill was a $20 bill and the Lord said, give her the $20 too. And he said, "Lord, I give $100 bills". And I've been doing this for years and this is... and the Lord said, no, you obey, that's what you do. And he said, when you give her the other $20 she'll know why. Now, isn't that amazing? She writes a check for $120. There's a guy that gives hundreds but he gives her a twenty.
So I tell this story to the whole church just a few years ago. I tell all of you. I go home and that night we'd invited the kids over for dinner and it was just shortly after my daughter had come back to the Lord. My daughter lived a double life for a while and I've shared that with you. And she shares it when she speaks. But it wasn't very long and I was so grateful for my daughter coming back to the Lord. So all the kids come over and my daughter says, "Can I talk to you for a minute"? And I said, yeah. So we went in my office and she gets these tears in her eyes and she says, "The story you told today about that man that gives the $100 away". I said, "Yeah". She said, "That's you, isn't it"? I said, "Yeah, sugar that's me".
And just so you know, by the way, I didn't lie to you guys. I just said there's a man in our church. And I'm in the church, okay? But I just didn't want to say it was me. I just wanted the emphasis to be on what God had done. And so, I said, "Why did you think that was me"? She said, "Because the whole time we were growing up, when you started telling that story, I was remembering all those times that you would get out of the car and you'd go talk to someone and you would put something in their hand". She said, "I had probably ten or fifteen memories come back to me". She said, "You were giving $100 bills weren't you"? I said, "Yeah". And my daughter, who had been away from the Lord looked at me and said, "Daddy, I want to be like you. I want to be like you one day".
That's a reward. That was one of the most meaningful moments of my life. When my daughter said to me, "Daddy, I want to be like you". And that is one of the most precious rewards for being a generous giver is that it extends to our children and to our family. I want to encourage you to give as the Holy Spirit leads you. And I also want to encourage you to get this series because I can't go into all the detail that I'd like to in the short amount of time we have in the television program. Thank you so much for watching. I love you so much. I love your hunger for God's word. I'm going to continue this series next time. See you then.