Good morning! We are in part three of a four-part message series called Making Change. What are we doing? We are seeking God to make significant changes in how we manage the resources that God trusts to us. We are making change.
In this message series, we’re actually looking at four really big thoughts. If you’ve been with us for the last two weeks, you know the first two well. The first week we talked about the principle that less is more. If you were here, remember better is one hand full with tranquility than two hands full with toil and chasing after the wind. Less is more. Last week we talked about that stress is bad. Financial stress is bad, to be in bondage. The borrower is servant to the lender. Today we’re going to talk about the idea that giving is good. Then next week that tomorrow matters.
Help me finish this sentence… Everybody, give me a hand with this… It is better to give than it is to _______________? Receive! That’s right. We have all heard this before. But, let’s be honest… It is fun to receive isn’t it? I mean who doesn’t like getting a gift from time to time. Especially when it’s out of the blue, and it’s just a I’ve been thinking of you. Or maybe there was a time when you received something that really bailed you out of a tough situation. Something that was outside of your control, and someone stepped in and picked up the bill, covered the tab, or paid it off when there was no way you could. That is fun, isn’t it?
And yet, we can all finish a sentence that says, “It is better to give than it is to receive.”
For as fun as it is to receive, I cannot think of a single emotional story of consumption. Or sometime when I was moved by something I got myself. I never walked out of the Apple Store with tears in my eyes because I finally had the new Apple Watch. Yeah, I saved for it, and enjoyed it… But when I left the store, it was not an emotional experience. It was a transaction.
I’ve never said, “I remember when I bought my first spear gun, I felt closer to the Lord. It was the most spiritual moment in my life.”
I don’t know about you, but I doubt many of you in here would say, “When I got my first Coach purse, the angels in heaven where rejoicing when I got that very purse.” I don’t have a single emotional consuming story, but I bet I’m like you all, I’ve got a lot of emotional giving stories.
There have been moments in my life where I have bought something to give someone else that I couldn’t wait to give them. I couldn’t wait to give Tiffany her engagement ring… I scrimped, saved, and worked extra jobs to be able to afford the best ring I could find for her.
I have had the privilege of representing you and saying to people in our community that, we wanted to take care of a bill, help with a project, or care for a need. Those are the moments that leave me filled with emotion. Those are the moments that matter most.
We all live in a consumer culture… Status is celebrated and defined based upon how much you accumulate, and acquire. And yet, there is something in our culture that is begging for more. Not more stuff, but more meaning. There is a problem. The more we buy, the more we feel disappointed.
So the phrase, It’s better to give than receive… is not just a good idea, but in fact, it is a statement made by Jesus. Paul reminds us in Acts 20:35 when he says,
Remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said:
‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ Acts 20:35
He reminds us that getting is not as good as giving. Getting will not fill your heart the way that giving will.
If you’ve ever prayed about giving something and it was a big gift to you and then you gave on faith and it really impacted some ministry or some person, what does that make you feel? A deep sense of satisfaction. Maybe some of you, the first time that you ever tithed, that was a big step of faith and you felt the joy of being obedient to God and you saw the provision and blessings of God in your life or you prayed about making a sacrificial gift and it was really emotional to you or there was something you could have sold but you thought, “You know what? No. I think we’re supposed to give this to someone,” and they were so blown away by your generosity. And you were blessed because of your decision.
Turn with me this morning to 2 Corinthians 9:6. That on page 807 in the Bibles around you. Paul has this whole generosity thing figured out, and there are a few key ideas we can learn from Paul about how giving is good, and how good it is to give. Let’s look together at this passage.
6Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 7Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.
Why Don’t We Give?
If we know that giving is good, if we know it’s more blessed to give than to receive, that raises the question: Why don’t we do it more often?
I’ll tell you what I think are probably the top three reasons. Number one is we don’t feel like we have enough. We’d love to do more but we’re kind of struggling right now. Our heart’s in the right place but we just don’t feel like we have the ability.
Another reason I think is because we’ve actually seen this message abused. I don’t want to take a shot at anybody, but you know what I’m talking about. Slick hair, “If you sow your seed today, you put $100, you get $1000 back,” and the whole thing that goes with that. There’s some skepticism about it like, “Oh, here we go again.” because we’ve seen this abused.
I think the third reason, and this was my reason growing up, is because we often live with a scarcity mindset instead of an abundance mindset. In other words, if I give, I’m going to have less and there’s really not enough to go around. If you have something, that means I don’t have access to it.
An abundant mindset, which is I’m blessed to be a blessing. We serve an abundant God who provides for the needs of his people, often through his people. For me, the thing that held me back was that I really lived under a scarcity mindset. In other words, I will never, ever have enough. I always need more before I can give generously and that’s why I often didn’t. And now, I’m retraining my mind. I’m telling myself It’s more blessed to give than to receive.
What I’ve discovered is this and you know this to be true. Whenever you give, you are always a blessing, number one. Whenever you give, you are always blessed. That doesn’t mean that you give $100 and you get $1000 back. You might. What it means is you have the fulfillment, the joy, the sense of destiny that God used you to make a difference in someone else’s life. You will be a blessing and you will be blessed. In fact, that’s why I love the way the message, which is kind of a devotional version of the Bible translates Proverbs 11:24 & 25,
“the world of the generous gets larger and larger. The world of the stingy gets smaller and smaller. The one who blesses others is abundantly blessed.”
What happens? When you give, you’re a blessing to others and you are always blessed. That’s why I say without any hesitation that giving is good, because it is always more blessed to give than it is to receive.
Paul goes on to say in verse 10,
10Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. 11You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. 12This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.
Imagine people thanking God. Why? Because you were generous and a blessing in their lives. God will supply the source of the generosity. Why are you enriched? So that you can be generous on every occasion. Not just at Christmas time when the Salvation Army’s red bucket is out… but on every occasion.
13Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else.
Giving is good! Giving impacts the lives of others and points others to God who has given us so much. What I want to do today is I want to just show you three truths from scripture that will help us all grow in generosity. The first one, if you’re taking notes, this is the foundation and this is where we start.
How Do We Grow Our Generosity?
- Trust God with the Tithe
Thought number one is this. We learn to trust God with the tithe. This is where we start. It’s the beginning point. We’re going to trust God with the tithe. The tithe comes from a Hebrew word which means one-tenth. It’s a tenth of whatever we receive.
In fact, Leviticus 27 verse 30 says one-tenth. The Bible says, “One-tenth of the produce of the land, whether grain from the fields or fruit from the trees, belongs to the Lord. It must be set apart to him as holy.” In other words, if I get $100, the first $10 isn’t technically mine. It belongs to God. I return that to him as an act of worship. Now, that sounds crazy. But what is even crazier is what we hear God saying in, Malachi chapter 3 verse 10 brings strength to this teaching when Malachi says,
“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the flood gates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.” Malachi 3:10
Test me in this. This is the only place where God says, “You can test me.” Now, why did God give us permission to test him in this area? I don’t know for sure, I’m guessing because God knew it would freak us out. 10%? Are you serious? That’s like, “How in the world am I going to do this?” Some of you right now are saying, “So I’m supposed to be getting out of debt and I’m supposed to give 10%. Whoa, whoa, whoa. Slow the horse down there, big boy. This is crazy.”
Here’s what many of you would think. You’re like, “In order to do that, I would have to totally and completely, 100%, rearrange my life around God.” It’s kind of exactly what I’m saying. You’d have to change some things to actually put God first with the tithe, kind of like we do maybe in other areas of our life. We’re going to seek God first in the day. We’re going to seek God first in the week with an act of worship. We’re going to seek and worship God with the first part of what he trusts to us as an act of worship back to him. “Well, I’d have to rearrange life.” Yes. “That would take great faith.” Yes. What that does then is it moves out of a comfort zone, into a point of worship. God, I need to depend on you. Test me in this He says.
When you test God, he will prove himself faithful in some way. You will see the goodness of God. The way I say it now is, here’s what I’ll do, “I will worship and trust God with my first and my best and trust him to bless the rest”. I really believe that God can do more with 90% that’s blessed than I can do with 100% on my own. The first 10% goes to God. If I want to grow in generosity, I’m going to worship God with the tithe.
- Plan to Be Generous
The second thing is this. We’re going to learn to plan our generosity. I don’t know about you, but I plan to acquire. Anybody ever plan to get something?
Recently, we have been preparing to move into Hope City’s first official office space. And we have been doing this on a shoe string budget. You better believe that we’ve been shopping the open box, as is sections of IKEA in order to save the most money. We shopped to make the kill. We searched. A lot of us will do this. We find the best deal, the best blah, blah, blah.
What if we sat around and said, “How can we plan not just to get more, but how can we plan to give more? How can we plan to be more generous? How can we rearrange our lives, since it’s more blessed to give than receive, and so we can be a blessing to even more people?” Generous people plan to do what is generous. They stand firm in their generosity. It’s not accidental or incidental. It’s intentional. We plan to be generous.
One of the things that I have done in order to plan on being generous, is I carry a few Publix gift cards in my bag with me where ever I am. This is because I know that I will run into people who are hungry, or are in need. And since there is a Publix on every corner, it can help anyone. Just this week I pulled up to the light and there was a man holding a sign, “Homeless, anything can help.” I rolled down my window and got his attention, and gave him one of the gift cards. I wouldn’t have been able to do this, had I not planned ahead.
Giving is not something that we do. Generous is who we are as Jesus followers. We plan to be generous. This is why we have the ability to set up recurring giving. You can plan to give ahead of time. We have four different ways that you can give here at Hope City to help you with your plan. Giving is determining where your resources will grow. The investment of your resources will either grow yourself or on behalf of others. Giving decides that you’re investing in what God is doing in the lives of others! We are going to plan to be generous.
- Start Being Generous
The third thing, if you’re taking notes, is this, and this one is rocket science, I know. We’re simply going to start being generous right now. We’re going to start being generous now. Well, I thought we were getting out of debt. Oh, absolutely we are, but this is the supernatural part along the way. We’re not going to wait until we’re out of debt to be a blessing. We’re going to be a blessing along the way. We’re going to start now. In fact, Paul told Philemon in Philemon 1:6, “I’m praying that you will put it into action, the generosity that comes from your faith as you understand and experience all the good things we have in Christ.” Our only reasonable response to the one who gave his son for us is to give our lives back to him. God doesn’t just own the first 10%, he owns everything that we have and we want to use it to be a blessing. We’re going to start being generous now.
Here at Hope City we are a tithing Church. We give back 10% of everything that we receive. A few weeks ago, I shared with you how we are expanding our compassion to two groups, the Hungry, and the Thirsty.
We’ve had some people already head down to the tenth street boat ramp to serve meals, and because of your generosity, we are able to sponsor these 5,000 meals for our friends. We’re a young church, with bills of our own, and needs of our own. But we have decided early on that we want to be generous.
We are generous, and we want to pursue this to the ends of the earth, which is one of the reasons why we are headed to Guatemala to drill a clean water well and share the truth of the living water with this village that God so desperately loves. In fact, we just opened up the sign up for that trip, if you want to go on this trip, head over to the website, HopeCitySRQ.com and get yourself signed up! DON’T WAIT!
As a church, we now live with this driving thought and that is this: We will lead the way with irrational generosity because we truly believe it is more blessed to give than to receive. We will not wait until later. We will give now. Why? We truly believe it is more blessed to give than to receive. And we’ve said it this way, “This will lead us to have the best year ever.” When we obey God and follow His plan for our life, we will see amazing things happen.
So let me ask you this question… If it’s more blessed to give than to receive, why would we wait until later to be a blessing to other people and to be blessed in our own lives?
Why not take Jesus at His words, and trust Him with our finances. See what God will do as you obey Him. In fact, I want to invite you to take a step in your generosity. If you call Hope City Church Home, I want to encourage you to try tithing. See what happens. Test God. This is the one area where God invites you to test Him. Go online and make a plan to be generous. I know this may be scary. You may not be able to do 10%… But would you take a step forward in your generosity today?
Maybe for you, you haven’t been a generous person, or you haven’t been honoring God with your finances, and today you feel convicted to give. Or maybe it’s been a while and you need to catch up. God can honor that.
Jesus talked much about money. Almost half of Jesus’ parables were concerned with how to handle money and possessions. In the Gospels, an amazing one out of ten verses deal directly with the subject of money. Clearly, money is a spiritual issue.
Or maybe Hope City isn’t your home quite yet… figure out your plan to be generous. Hear me clearly, I don’t want anything from you. I want something for you. Imagine what you could do in the life of your church, your neighbors, and our city. Imagine how fulfilled you will be when you move your focus from being all about yourself to caring for the needs of others.
Imagine what we could do together, imagine what God could do through us as the church to meet the needs of people all over this world. And through our obedience and generosity, the world would look on and see how we love each other and, God, would be glorified as we use what He’s given us in the act of worship to meet needs of people.
Together, as a church, what could it look like if we trusted God, and honored Him first with our finances? Let’s pray.