The Radically Normal Christian
Part IV: Radical Generosity
October 2, 2011
* 172, Driscoll notes
SCRIPTURE READING: Deut. 15:6-11
RECIPIENT OF GENEROSITY
Like each of you, I have be the RECIPIENT of a lot of GENEROSITY, people giving to me and pouring into my life, from TEACHERS, to my PARENTS, even strangers and ANONYMOUS GIVERS.
I had to pay my way through COLLEGE and didn’t take out any LOANS, because being a pastor didn’t hold great income promise! So I worked as much as I could while being a full-time student.
Each month was a STRUGGLE as it came time to pay my school BILL. I didn’t go home for my 1ST CHRISTMAS because I didn’t have the money for the flight and needed to work at my RETAIL JOB.
* Between my FRESHMAN and SOPHOMORE year of college, I came home to work and earn money to pay for the next year.
A couple of weeks before school started, I called the FINANCE OFFICE to ask how much I owed for my first payment. They told me nothing, that someone had PAID my ACCOUNT and left enough to cover the entire year of classes and the dorms.
I was so SHOCKED that I mumbled something, hung up, and COLLAPSED on the bed that was conveniently there. I actually called back the next day to make sure I wasn’t DREAMING!
Q How do you think I RESPONDED to that GENEROSITY? Stopped WORKING and PARTIED the rest of the year?
No, I saw their generosity as an INVESTMENT. Someone unknown person invested almost $10,000 into my future. I worked harder, took more classes, and figured out how STRETCH their GIFT.
LIFE IN HIGH SCHOOL
Q What does this have to do with our SERIES on being Radically Normal? We’ll get there soon enough.
To catch everyone up, the PREMISE of this series is there is the NORMAL way most Americans live – pursuing EARTHLY HAPPINESS as their only goal, THINKING very LITTLE about ETERNITY.
Then some CHRISTIANS are RADICALS, who think we should put as LITTLE ENERGY as possible on EARTHLY HAPPINESS and temporal things, putting all of our FOCUS on GOD and SPIRITUAL THINGS.
As we understand the Bible better, we see neither is Biblical. God wants us to be RADICALLY NORMAL, enjoying THIS LIFE and being FULLY PRESENT even as we PREPARE for the NEXT LIFE.
I have used the example of HIGH SCHOOL before: Some acted as if there was no life after high school. They PARTIED and PLAYED, SKIPPED CLASSES and were totally UNPREPARED for real life.
Others thought high school was STUPID and a WASTE of time and ended up DROPPING OUT so they could work their minimum wage job. But the SUCCESSFUL ONES ENJOYED high school even as they studied hard and left PREPARED for the REAL WORLD.
* I’m not really sure where homeschoolers work into that analogy, or “Running Start.”
In this series I have a SECRET AGENDA. It sounds like I am just trying to BASH the RADICAL Christians who put all of their focus on heaven and miss the joys of this life.
* In reality, I am trying to move all of us “NORMAL” folks to being MORE RADICAL.
I was talking to a friend about BOOKS like “Radical” and “Crazy Love” that champion a RADICAL and STOIC FAITH. He observed that most CHRISTIANS are TOO MATERIALISTIC and “earthly-minded” and these books are just trying to BALANCE it.
I AGREE, most of us are too materialistic; we are too focused on this life. ETERNITY is a REALLY LONG TIME and we spend too much of our effort on things that WON’T TRANSFER to Heaven.
* Old joke about SUITCASE full of GOLD.
I agree with all that, but I don’t think replacing ONE EXTREME with an ANOTHER extreme is a good idea:
1. It DOESN’T WORK. Very few people read those books and hear those sermons and then radically re-orientate their life.
* Instead, they keep doing the SAME THINGS, but now they FEEL GUILTY about it.
2. More importantly, it ISN’T BIBLICAL. When we see the entire scope of God intends for us to enjoy this life as we prepare for the next.
* Story of MAN on a CRUISE – the PURPOSE of the JOURNEY is the DESTINATION, but it is also the JOURNEY ITSELF.
This is kind of the 2nd half of last week’s sermon, where we talked about POSSESSIONS. I said:
1. It is NORMAL to spend all of your energy to ACCUMULATE more and MORE STUFF.
2. It is RADICAL to live a life of COMPLETE SIMPLICITY, to live on as little as possible to pour all of your resources into PREACHING the GOSPEL and CARING for the POOR.
Now I want to ADD a very IMPORTANT PIECE to what it means to be Radically Normal:
3. It is radically normal to ENJOY earthly possessions without letting them POSSESS you or DISTRACT from ETERNITY while being RADICALLY GENEROUS.
I believe, and the Bible clearly teaches, that the BEST WAY to ENJOY our POSSESSIONS here on EARTH and to ensure that they have ETERNAL VALUE is to be GENEROUS with them.
Pay close attention to that: GENEROSITY is the BEST of BOTH WORLDS – it focuses our attention more on heaven and allows us to enjoy earth even more.
BLESSED TO BE A BLESSING
A FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLE of life is that we are blessed to be a blessing.
NIV Genesis 12:2-3 I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.
Whenever GOD GIVES something to us, he expects us to in turn GIVE it to OTHERS. He gives us LIFE, we share it with others. He gives us GRACE and SALVATION, we share it. He gives us MONEY and POSSESSION, we share it.
MARILYN GIVES away STUFF we are given that we don’t need, even when I want to sell it, because she understands that God bless us so we can bless others.
God has richly blessed us. You may not FEEL BLESSED, but you are. As I said last week, if we have the BASICS, then we can be CONTENT and view the rest as ICING on the CAKE.
* One study showed most American Christian don’t think they’re well off, but we are – together we have 2 trillion dollars.
GOD’S DELIVERY SERVICE
Here is how Paul puts it:
2 Corinthians 9:11-12 11 You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. 12 This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.
What a GREAT DEAL! God GIVES us STUFF and we get to KEEP SOME of it and we get to BLESS OTHERS with some of it.
Marilyn likes to have the OTTER POP type things during the summer. They are so cheap you FREELY GIVE them to neighbor kids without decimating the food budget. Frequently we give several to Grace or Sarah and ask them to GIVE them to the OTHER KIDS.
Q What if we found GRACE hiding in a corner with SIX EMPTY OTTER POPS by her and covered in multi-colored stains.
That is what we are like when we STINGY with what we have; we are HORDING what God intended for us to SHARE.
TRUSTED WITH MUCH
And the DEAL gets BETTER: Scripture says when we are generous with what God has given you, it DEMONSTRATES that we can be TRUSTED with MORE, that we will SHARE MORE and still ENJOY MORE.
* This is not an IRONCLAD PROMISE that if we give we will get.
God may have ANOTHER LESSON that takes PRECEDENCE, maybe the need to TRUST HIM on LESS, or to WORK HARD. Or maybe there is some REASON that we CAN’T UNDERSTAND.
But how you HANDLE WHATEVER amount you currently HAVE is clear INDICATOR of how you will handle MORE:
Luke 16:10-11 10 Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. 11 So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?
Notice something else: This MONEY, our POSSESSIONS, WORLDLY WEALTH, are NOT REAL WEALTH. They are practice money, like MONOPOLY MONEY.
Q WHAT are the TRUE RICHES?
* Jesus doesn’t say; the context indicates he is talking about ETERNAL THINGS.
Of course, “ETERNAL WEALTH” is one of those things we all PRETEND to GET EXCITED about because we are supposed to, but we really are UNIMPRESSED.
* We are like kids DISAPPOINTED with the $100 SAVINGS BOND.
The Bible is not clear about heaven, but it gives hints about it that make it sound far MORE INTERESTING and LESS STATIC than we imagine, “The GREAT ADVENTURE” as C. S. Lewis called it.
The point is not SPECULATION, but that right now God is GIVING you your “PLACEMENT EXAM,” not to determine WHERE you will spend eternity, but what RESPONSIBILITIES you are capable of.
IS MORE BLESSED...
And that is just the ETERNAL side of GENEROSITY and how it INCREASES our HAPPINESS. It also increases EARTHLY HAPPINESS. We are literally happier giving than getting. Studies have shown this to be true:
Money may not buy you love but it might buy you happiness if you spend it in the right way, US researchers say. In studies they found that the old adage “it’s better to give than to receive” is correct [Acts 20:35 – I don’t think Jesus was simply meaning eternal blessedness]: spending money on others or giving to charity puts a bigger smile on your face than buying things for yourself.
“Most people would think that if you make more money you are going to be a lot happier,” said Michael Norton, a professor at Harvard Business School. “Our results, and a lot of other people’s results, show that making more money makes you a little bit happier, but doesn’t really have a huge impact on you. Our studies suggest maybe that little changes in how you spend it make a difference.”
The researchers’ work is published today in the journal Science. Norton and his colleagues questioned 632 Americans about how much they earned and how they spent their cash. They also asked them to rate their own happiness.
Regardless of income level, those people who spent money on others reported greater happiness, while those who spent more on themselves did not. 1
The article goes on to cite two other studies that showed the same thing.
Q WHY are we happier giving? That doesn’t make sense!
Because our GOD is a GIVER, he pours out of himself, and when we give, we ACT like HIM. We’re operating ACCORDING to our DESIGN.
* SIN is that which HURTS US...even if sins of OMISSION.
JUST DO IT (RIGHT)
So the COMMAND to GENEROSITY is a call to HAPPINESS not MISERY, both ETERNALLY and on EARTH. But how do we actually do it?
1. Start now
Don’t fall into the TRAP that says when I have MORE I will GIVE. It’s a lot like what I said about being CONTENT – if you are not CONTENT NOW, then you NEVER will.
* If you are not GIVING NOW, in some manner, you NEVER WILL.
I am NOT by nature a GENEROUS, but I have ASKED for PRAYER to become generous. How does GOD ANSWER that? By cutting my SALARY almost in half! Our finances are TIGHTER than they have ever been, but we are MORE GENEROUS than ever.
2. Who do I give to?
Generosity involves both PLANNED and SPONTANEOUS acts of generosity:
PLAN GIFTS to groups that care for the POOR, such as Love Inc, Compassion International or World Concern. Give to MISSIONS. Give to the CHURCH, your OFFERINGS keep the doors open.
But also look for OPPORTUNITIES to be SPONTANEOUSLY generous, when you can share what you have. Not just to those in need, but to those around you.
* All of this flows from a HEART of CONTENTMENT and GRATITUDE for what God has given.
But give WISELY – you have LIMITED RESOURCE, so give where you do LASTING GOOD, not just BAND AIDS
3. How much should I give?
There is no SET ANSWER. I can’t give you a PERCENTAGE at which point you can say, “I gave this, now the REST is MINE, all mine.” It is all God’s.
Instead, I can give TWO PRINCIPLES that form the GOAL POSTS and you will probably end up moving UP and DOWN the FIELD:
a. Be sacrificial, but not suicidal:
When he was encouraging generosity from the Corinthians, Paul shared what other Christians had done:
2 Corinthians 8:1-4 And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. 2 Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. 3 For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, 4 they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints.
2 Corinthians 8:13-15 13 Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. 14 At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. Then there will be equality, 15 as it is written: “He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little.”
Paul praises the SACRIFICIAL GENEROSITY of the Macedonians yet makes it clear that his END GOAL is not for the Corinthians to give to their HARM, but that as a family, we HELP EACH OTHER.
b. On the other side of the field: Enjoy and share
Here is a passage I read LAST WEEK, speaking of the virtuous woman, who is a great example of being RADICALLY NORMAL:
Proverbs 31:20-22 20 She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy. 21 When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet. 22 She makes coverings for her bed; she is clothed in fine linen and purple.
Because of her INDUSTRIOUSNESS, she has LUXURIES (linen and purple were luxurious in that day – like designer clothes) and that is applauded. Yet she is also GENEROUS to the POOR.
From what I see in Scripture, I THINK God will have you move up and DOWN this field: There are times he will call you to be MORE SACRIFICIAL than others. There are times that he will allow you to ENJOY the FRUITS of your LABOR.
* I am inclined to think that it will be driven by HOW ATTACHED you are getting to your STUFF.
OUT OF BOUNDS
Notice what is NOT on the FIELD: HAVE and DON’T SHARE. Not being GENEROUS ISN’T an OPTION. Reading the entire scope of Scripture, all of it agrees that STINGINESS is a SIN. It is as unacceptable as LYING or STEALING.
* Indeed it is STEALING FROM GOD.
4. Where do I get the means to be generous?
I read a story about JOHN WESLEY, co-founder of Methodism. He had just bought some pictures for his room, then noticed that the cleaning lady only had a thin linen coat in the cold.
He went to give her money for a proper coat, but didn’t have any left, and he felt very convicted. The PROBLEM wasn’t that he bought PICTURES, it was that he didn’t leave any EXTRA to GIVE.
Q Is there MARGIN in your life to be generous?
* One of the points of the VIRTUOUS WOMAN’S generosity is that she had the MARGIN to give.
Do you LEAVE ROOM in BUDGET to give? If you felt God asking you to HELP SOMEONE in the church or on the street, could you?
* CHURCHES are RELUCTANT to promote MISSIONS or helping the POOR because people tend to take from their OFFERINGS.
To SUM it all up:
It is NORMAL to live BEYOND your MEANS, to spend everything you make on YOURSELF, and occasionally give some SPARE CHANGE to a PANHANDLER to FEEL BETTER about yourself.
It is RADICAL to try to live on as LITTLE as ABSOLUTELY POSSIBLE and feel GUILTY for spending ANYTHING on yourself.
It is RADICALLY NORMAL to ENJOY your POSSESSION even as you OVERFLOW in GENEROSITY, to INTENTIONALLY live BELOW your MEANS so that you can give both INTENTIONALLY and SPONTANEOUSLY.
* Evaluate yourself: Are you a generous person?
* PRAY that God make you a generous person.
* Find “MARGINS” in your budget.
I hope to see this church to become a church KNOWN for GENEROSITY, and I am trying to lead the way. I want us to be known for giving DISPROPORTIONALLY to our SIZE and INCOME.
* Not JUST our MONEY, but money it the HARDEST thing.
* PPT: Please text Janna; service is almost over: 333-4505
Q & A