Now is the Time: The Principles of Generosity

Good Morning Journey.  My name is Phil Human and it’s a pleasure to be with you today.  I want to start today with an unusual illustration.  I have these two green tubs in front of you.  And to be honest neither Jody or I have an exact idea what’s inside of them.  They’ve been sitting on a shelf in my garage for a long time.  And so I plan on opening this Tupperware time capsule right now and awarding one lucky person with correctly guessing what’s inside it.  Let’s do this!

Now of course is the question, why?  I think I want to highlight the absurdity that is in all of us, to store, hoard, keep, collect, grasp stuff.  Jody and I are willing to through ourselves under the bus to show that we’re no different.  At one point in our lives these things were worth buying.  Then when we didn’t need them any more we felt they were worth buying tubs to store them in.  Worth the space in my house to store.  And at some point we have to come to terms with the absurdity of it all.

I wonder what am I buying today that will eventually end up in a tub?  Of the things that I have spent my money on, how much of it will matter when I’m the one in the tub?

What is really worth it?  Only those things that have eternal value.  This is our last week talking about the idea of generosity and how we – as followers of Jesus – are to interact with our money.  Money might be amoral – but it sits in our wallet – or purse, or bank account, and has a way then of affecting us.  The things that are in our heart that compete with God – money makes worse.

And when we direct our money towards healing humanity, well those are the kinds of things that will last forever.

So let’s jump in – and today we will look at our final three aspects of generosity.  the Principles of generosity.  The Practicalities of generosity.  The promise of generosity.

First the principles.   Let’s take another look at 2 Corinthians 8,9.  It’s the longest section in the bible that talks about how believers should be interacting with their money.  And it’s too long to read this morning, so I’m going to go directly to the principles we find.  And I’d say we find three guiding principles for followers of Jesus.

The first principle – very important – Give willingly.

People often want to know – exactly what is the percentage I am commanded to give?  Well, the answer is that the NT does not tell you a percentage you must give.  Instead, it’s God’s desire that we become the kind of people who respond willingly to needs – without being commanded to give.  He wants us to be generous people, naturally and easily.

Now in the OT?  The OT commanded a tithe – which was ten percent.  And I personally think that’s a good benchmark to go for if you aren’t there.  But it’s not a command.  In essence, what the NT seems to teach is, that if you give only because you are commanded to give, then you are missing the point.

Here’s how the Apostle Paul put it… 2 Cor 9:

You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.”

Does this mean that God only loves – that he reserves his love for people who give cheerfully?  Of course not.  He’s proud to see that we’re becoming the kind of person who trusts Him – not our bank account!  The goal is to become the kind of person who can give happily to heal humanity.

And don’t miss the important note here about giving under pressure.  Don’t give under pressure.  And I can’t tell you how many people I’ve spoken with over the past three weeks who told me church horror stories about once belonging to a church that would send out letters to their people saying, We think you probably earn this much and we think you should be giving x amount.  Show me the money!

How religious can you get.  That’s not biblical.  Oh but Phil – aren’t you the one asking us to be generous as possible over the next 24 months in order to begin this building project.  Yes – I’m asking.  Paul asked his churches to be generous.  I’m asking.  But we’re not tracking.  And I’ll come back to that at the end.

Suffice it to say – Our goal is to challenge you to think biblically about your money and it’s role in healing the world.  How you respond is between you and God.

Principle 2: Give in proportion to what you have. 

12 Whatever you give is acceptable if you give it eagerly. And give according to what you have, not what you don’t have. 2 Cor 8:11,12

Why doesn’t Jesus just tell us to give X percent and all will be fine?  Because – that’s the kind of thing a Mob boss would do.  Tony Soprano would tell you that – just give us our cut and we won’t burn your house down.

God doesn’t want us to treat him like a mob boss or a tax man.  The fact is that ten percent might be far beyond your means for some who are barely keeping your nose above water.  And for others ten percent would barely register on your radar.  It would be a blip.

The goal isn’t to behave religiously.  The goal is to become the kind of person who is generous.  And so instead of a rule requiring percentages – God paints for us a picture of generosity and says – be that kind of person who gives – which leads us to the third principle.  the kind of person who

#3.  Give sacrificially. 

13 Of course, I don’t mean your giving should make life easy for others and hard for yourselves. I only mean that there should be some equality. 14 Right now you have plenty and can help those who are in need. Later, they will have plenty and can share with you when you need it. In this way, things will be equal. 

 In Luke 21 Jesus tells a story that is probably familiar to many – the story of the widow who put two small coins in the offering.  Jesus commends her for her sacrificial giving – that mite have added up to a couple of nickels.  She has given more than the rest of them…

What does this mean?  According to Jesus, It’s possible that someone in this room will write down the smallest number on a card and yet, be the biggest giver in the room.  Someone might say – I’m giving – and the number itself is small.  And yet the gift is the biggest gift in the room.

When Paul talks about there being some equality – he’s talking about the idea of sharing the burden.

So the principles of generosity?  Give willingly, not under compulsion.  2.  Give in proportion to what you have.  And 3.  Make it a goal to give sacrificially.

Now let’s get practical about how we can make it happen.  The practicalities of generosity. 

First.  Make a decision to be generous.

I’ve met with quite a few of you who wanted to meet to talk about this project.  And I mentioned to a few that I would be preaching on the topic of generosity these three weeks – and I was shocked by how many times people said, good.  We remember the time we decided to give our money away.  And we’re thankful to have been challenged.

One friend told me, “I decided to give a certain percentage of my money away.  And I didn’t think I could do it.  So – every time I got paid I wrote a check for ten percent to the church and kept it on my dresser and prayed, Lord, I want to do this…  can you help me out?  And I deducted it from my check register – and lo and behold – I discovered after a few months that he COULD do it!  And so he dropped all the checks he was writing into the church plate one Sunday and has never looked back.

I spoke with another friend who volunteered to me, “We used to give only when we attended church.  We’d put a check in the box.  If we didn’t make it, we didn’t give.”  At some point we made a decision to support the church whether we attended or not.  We regularly gave every month.  And then we made a decision o give away a certain percent.”

In both of these stories, and others I didn’t share – the common thread was – we made a decision to become generous.

 Secondly – After you make a decision, you have to plan it.  Meaning, you have to budget it.

A budget has been one of those “duh” moments in our marriage that made it stronger.  I talked just yesterday with a couple who said that before they learned how to set up a budget – he “Bought whatever I wanted.” and she checked the back account online twice a day wondering why he was spending so much money.  A budget changed their marriage for the better.

A budget is simply a plan – that determines where you will agree to spend your money, before you get your money.

This is a snapshot example of what our budget buckets might look like.

Now in the old days, we’d look at that and I’d say to Jody – babe – we have $4,000 in the bank – let’s go out to eat and buy you something purty and while I’m out I’ll buy myself a new putter or driver or both.  We’re filthy rich!

But then we learned from Dave Ramsey that – that’s a dumb way to live.  We need to learn how to allocate that money to certain tings we know we will have to pay for.

So now… Every time one of us gets paid we determine ahead of time where the money is going.  Look at all these areas we need to allocate money towards.  Wow – who would have known?

So now – for instance – I get paid every two weeks.  Some of these buckets gets money put in it every two weeks.  Others – bills for instance – gets filled up when Jody gets paid on the 15th of the month.

And we figure it all out and fill the buckets with the money that comes in.  And Jody and I aren’t the best teachers.  We cheat.  I’ve mentioned in the past that we used to have a pet named Scruffy, and that from time to time Scruffy liked to buy us pizza.  That was nice of him.  But Scruffy is gone now.  We have a new dog named Kirby – and thankfully, Kirby also likes to be generous to his owners from time to time.

Here’s the point.  We determine ahead of time where we’re putting the money we make.  And we make sure that we are allocating resources to our giving envelope.

A side note: If you don’t have a budget or want help – mark it on your card and we have three different couples in our church that teach Dave Ramsey Financial Peace and they can help.  Or – if you’d like this excel sheet that Jody and I create – we’ll happily email it to you.  Maybe you can improve it or adjust it to your own needs.

Now let me point out something I think is important.  You will notice we have some money still in our giving line item.  Why are we hold some back?  That’s because we don’t give all of the money we allocate toward giving to Journey.  We give the majority of it to Journey, but there are tons of organizations that are doing great things around the world that Journey couldn’t ever do as well as they are doing them.  So we like to be able to have some money to respond to charities we think are worth investing in.

So we’re asking you to be as generous as you can be to Journey, but please don’t give all of your generosity fund money to Journey Church.  The Kingdom of Heaven is bigger than we are…  so keep some so you can respond to the host of requests you get.  You never know when there might be a flood and you want to send a check to a charity you know will put the money to good use.

Now one last thing in regard to planning to be generous.  Here’s how to set up a recurring gift…   If this is helpful to you – we do have a page online where you can set up recurring online giving.  In other words, if you get paid on the 15th and you want to take a certain amount on the 15th, it will do it automatically.

And you can check it out on your phone if you want to right now…  if you text anything – I wrote ‘test’ to 402.807.0111 you will receive a link to set up a gift to Journey right from your phone.

Lastly, let’s talk about the promises of generosity.

2 Cor 9:Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop. 

Is Paul preaching some version of a prosperity gospel?  That the way to get rich quick is to send your money to Paul?  No – of course not.  He is saying that generosity reaps rewards though.  What is the generous crop you get in return for your generosity?

  • Maybe the blessing that God has for you is putting a budget together and learning how to live within it…
  • Maybe the blessing is the joy that comes from from seeing our money go toward healing the world.
  • The joy that comes from helping carry the burden of another.
  • The joy that comes from seeing God provide for us firsthand – instead of hearing others talk about it.
  • The Peace that comes from being released from the grip of money….
  • The thrill of experiencing God provide for us, and learning that he can be trusted.
  • We might reap a more loving heart – you know Jesus says that our heart follows our money. He says – where your treasure is, there your heart will be….   When you start giving money to take care of orphans, you are suddenly invested and you want to know how those orphans are doing.  You begin caring for them and becoming more loving toward them…
  • What is it that you might reap from cultivating a generous heart?

You might reap the life changing knowledge that God is our Good Shepherd – and that  And God will generously provide all you need.

Ultimately, God wants us to become the kind of people who trust him enough to believe him when he tells us that He will look out for us.  He will provide for our needs.

What is God looking for from us?   He wants us to trust him enough to believe him when he tells us that He will look out for us.  He will provide for our needs.

This is why, we aren’t fretting over what the number will be after we add them up.  Whatever the number that comes from our pledges is, it will be the right number and we’ll adjust one way or another.  No worrying.

However I can’t help but believe that part of what God is doing through this building project is helping us in this room to understand that God will provide for your needs.  That you can trust him enough to give a portion of what you earn away, knowing he will generously provide for your needs as well.

In the Old Testament book of Malachi, there is a moment when God rebukes his people for not trusting him enough to provide for them.  They were clutching their money and not being generous toward God’s work.  And the prophet Malachi rebukes them – but then says this interesting phrase…

“Try it! Put me to the test!”  Malachi 3:10

Here is an invitation from God to put him to the test – see if he isn’t going to be the kind of God who provides for your needs.  Maybe over the next three months you begin to give in ways that stretch you – and put God to the test.  See what he will do for you through the process.

Now let’s talk about what we’re asking you all to do – we included this for you today to see – and maybe you want to fill it out today – you can.  Between now and April 7th – pray about numbers you can write down.

Note:  The format – tear off.  Why tear off?  To separate the number from the name.  You don’t have to tear it off – but you can.  You can fold it and leave it connected.  But the deal is – we aren’t going to come after you for whatever you pledge.  We didn’t four years ago.  We will not this time.  And we want you to believe us so we are making it so the name and number cannot be connected.

The name is important to us.  We want to know that every family – every person is behind this.  For the single people – we used we language – you might be single – please forgive us for not including an “I” feel free to edit it –

For this to happen it will take a lot of people making modest and sacrificial gifts.  But the goal is to be able to build the future home of Journey Church.  And we appreciate your love and care for our church.

It will be a place where – not books or whatever was in the tub get stored – but people who are precious to God, gather to learn about our Good Shepherd who tends to our every need.