The Generosity Principle

April 26, 2015

This is our last week of money
month and for the past four weeks we have been parked in the generosity spot.  Each year we take the month of April to
explore the theology of money, giving and generosity.  Not only within the church but in our lives
in general.  This idea is that if we have
a particular time to address these concepts they won’t get missed and they
won’t come across scolding or begging as so often happens when money is
addressed in church during crisis times.   
And while some folks feel that the topic of money should be
avoided in church the bible doesn’t shy away from the topic and neither did
Jesus.  As a matter of fact Jesus tells
us in Matthew 6:21  Wherever your treasure is, there
the desires of your heart will also be.

And while most of us know the words we often get them mixed up and quote
it as where your heart is there your treasure will be.  But Jesus knew how people function and while
our money will often follow our hearts, you only need to look at where a person
is investing today to know where there priorities are today. 
And there are reasons why money needs to be addressed at the
local level.  We don’t like to admit it
but the church needs the giving of someone to exist.  Some churches exist because of denominational
subsidies, but somebody somewhere is giving so that can happen.  Other churches depend on their endowment
funds, but that means that someone gave in the past so they could exist
today.  And while Cornerstone was
dependent on outside giving early in our life as a church today we exist
because of the generosity of people who make Cornerstone their church home. There
is no outside source of income for Cornerstone, no magic pot that we can dip
into.   The practical side is that in order for
Cornerstone to exist there are bills that need to be paid.  Mortgage payments, utilities, salaries etc.
And as the church changes those change and often expand.  So while we were meeting in the Lion’s Den in
Bedford we didn’t have to pay a mortgage but many of you wouldn’t have been
reached from that venue.  And while Denn
was the only pastor on staff the salary line in the budget was less, but pastoring
a church of 50 and pastoring a church of 300 requires more time and effort than
one person can provide.  This is the last
Sunday in April which means that today we will end with an opportunity for each
person who makes Cornerstone their church home the opportunity to fill in the
estimate of giving card at the end of the service and we use those figures to
go ahead with our budget for the new church year.  In a very real way each person who responds,
or doesn’t respond is telling us what type of church they want Cornerstone to
be.   
But it’s not just about the practical side, it is about the
discipleship side as well. Throughout the bible money is used as a spiritual
barometer, because ultimately it says something about our relationship with God
because it pulls back the curtains to reveal what it is that is the most important
thing in our lives. 
And in that case giving isn’t about the church’s need to
receive as much as it is about the believer’s need to give, because our
treatment of money is often a reflection of the importance we place on our
relationship with God.  What sacrifices
are made to support his work?  And what
in life do we value higher than Him?  And
maybe you don’t think that’s a fair question but each of us will spend what we
have somewhere. 
And here is the truth of the matter, told by the master of
the truth himself, Luke 16:13  Jesus said “No one can
serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be
devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”
Last week we looked very
briefly at portion of the scripture that was read for us this morning 2 Corinthians 9:10 For God
is the one who provides seed for the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same
way, he will provide and increase your resources and then produce a great harvest
of generosity in you.
We just kind of mentioned it as
a part of my last point and I mentioned at the time that we would be coming
back this week to unpack that chapter. 
And here we are.
 On Easter Sunday I spoke about the generosity
of Easter and we looked at what God gave and what we received as a result of
the resurrection.  The next Sunday was
our 20th Anniversary and I spoke about the birth of a Generous
Church, how Cornerstone was birthed out of the Generosity of others, our
district, our denomination, local churches and individuals who believed in our
vision.  It was in that message that we
first visited the generosity of the Corinthian Church and how they set an
example for the church in Macedonia.  And
I spoke about your generosity that has allowed CWC to exist and reach people
and impact lives not only in our community but around the world.
Last week I spoke about Generosity in the Book and flitted a
bit between the Old and New Testaments as we learned that Generosity Isn’t Just Giving, you can give and not be generous.  Generosity isn’t
an Amount it is a Principle,
If generosity was simply an amount then generosity
would look the same for me as it does for Bill Gates.  And then finally we discovered that Generosity Always Comes with a
Blessing. 
And some people bristle at
the thought that there might be a reward connected to our generosity, but the
bible speaks of it over and over again.
So let’s go back to the
scripture that was read for us earlier and Paul begins with these words, 2 Corinthians 9:6  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. 
So the first thing we learn here is that Nobody Loses by Being Generous.  The
challenge for most of us when it comes to giving is the question; “If I give
that amount how will I  __________?”  And you can fill in the blank.  If I give the panhandler on the corner my
change, who will I afford my coffee later? 
If I sponsor a child through compassion how will I afford to upgrade my
internet?  If I tithe my income how will
I survive on what I have left?  And while
the blanks would have been filled in differently 2000 years ago the questions
were the same. 
When we were in the midst of
the capital campaign to build our building we had a family leave, actually had
a couple of families leave but that is story for a different time.  When I asked this one particular family what
the problem was I was told that we were being irresponsible and that there
might be people who would lose their homes or wouldn’t be able to feed their
children if they were that generous. 
But that was never the intent
and I truly believe that if we are simply obedient to what God is asking us to
give that we can never out give God.  The
secret is not in the amount the secret is in the obedience.   
To answer the objections that
were probably on the hearts if not the lips of those early Christians Paul uses
the analogy of the farmer and the seed. 
In that culture most people would know how things were grown and so Paul
compares our giving to seeds.  Plant a
few seeds get a small crop, plant generously and reap a generous crop.
But you have to believe.  If you don’t believe that the crop is in the
seed you will never plant it. 
If you don’t believe that God
will reward your generosity then you will never be generous.
But trust me when I tell you  nobody is a loser by being generous It was Anne Frank who wrote in her diaries while hiding
from the Nazis “No one has ever become poor by
giving.”  And Christian Bovée wrote “Examples
are few of men ruined by giving.”
The next thing we discover is
found in 2 Corinthians 9:7  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.”

Generosity is a Journey Not a Destination



When the staff was at the Gathering back in January there
were dozens of breakout sessions, far too many for everyone to get to all of
them or even to all of the ones that we wanted to get to.  One I did get to, and not just because they
were offering a free breakfast, was the Generous Church seminar.  And one of the concepts they introduced me to
was what they called the “Ladder of Generosity”.  Which I though was incredibly original until
I got home and googled the term and found all kinds of Ladders of Generosity
online.  The ladder we are using today
was created by Jason but the concept originated with The Generous Church.  But all of the models begin with the same
premise and that is that Generosity is a ladder not an elevator. 
A few weeks ago I preached on Zacchaeus the tax collector
who as soon as he made the commitment to follow Jesus gave half of what he had
away to the poor.  And we like to think
that we automatically become generous givers with our conversion.  But if you are anything like me, one of the
last things to get converted is your wallet.
So most of us start here on the ladder, on the bottom
rung.  We begin as Non-Givers because that is really our natural state.  In most cases even as children we need to be
taught to share.  Or as one wit said “When
it comes to giving, most people will stop at nothing.”  But that isn’t the way it should be.  If nobody gave what a dreary and selfish
world it would be.  Sometimes somebody
will tell me “Well you know Pastor, charity begins at home”, and I think “wow,
it doesn’t get out much does it.”
But nobody should stay there it’s not healthy to the soul to
never give.   We are told that the reason
the Dead Sea is the Dead Sea because it continually receives and never gives.
And so the next rung is here and we’ve entitled it “Selfish Giving” this is when you give
to be recognized.  You gotta put
something in the plate.  Jesus told a
story about two men, one was a tax collector who called out to God in
repentance seeking grace, the other man was a Pharisee, that was like a Jewish
priest of sorts and he stood on the street corner and prayed out loud, for all
to hear, Luke 18:12  I fast twice a week, and I give you
a tenth of my income. Seriously? 
But you know when the plate was passed when I was a new believer, and
confession time, when the plate is passed and I’m visiting in another church,
there’s a little voice inside that’s saying “what will people think if I don’t
put something in the plate?”  That is
selfish giving.  But it is a start. 
The next rung is Emotional Giving, or guilt induced
giving.  This is when you benefit
emotionally from the gift, you feel good because you give or it eases your
guilt to give, you know when you are walking down the mall having spent a
bundle on your families Christmas gifts and you see someone ringing a bell next
to a Salvation Army kettle and you dig in your pocket for change.  Or you are coming out of the store and the
hockey, cheer, ringette teams are there asking for donations. 
Sometime it even
happens in church, we have an artist here and receive an offering for them and
you either feel like you ought to, after all they sang for you or you really
enjoyed it so you give for that reason. 
The next type of
giving is what we have called Charity on
our ladder.  And this is when we give to do
good things.  There are all kinds of
organizations who benefit from this type of giving.  Christmas Daddies every year raises all kinds
of money from people who want to do good. 
And that’s awesome.  We can never
overestimate the amount of good that is done through charity.  And the giver benefits as well because they
feel good about what they did. 
Stephen King, the
author, was addressing University graduates at their commencement in 2001 and
he was speaking about generosity and he told them this:  “Giving isn’t
about the receiver or the gift but the giver. It’s for the giver. One doesn’t
open one’s wallet to improve the world, although it’s nice when that happens;
one does it to improve one’s self. I give because it’s the only concrete way I
have of saying that I’m glad to be alive and that I can earn my daily bread
doing what I love.”   Again,
this type of giving does a pile of good, but it’s still just part way up the
ladder.  At that commencement King told about a local homeless shelter in their town
and he committed that day to give $20,000.00 to the shelter and challenged
others to match it.  A gesture that was
surely appreciated by the shelter, but it was just charity to King who is worth
close to a half a billion dollars and made in excess of $17,000,000.00 last
year. 
Stephen King wasn’t
always a giver, he told the graduates that day, “I
got a painful but extremely valuable look at life’s simple backstage truths, We
come in naked and broke. We may be dressed when we go out, but we’re just as broke.”  The day he was talking about was the
day he was run over while out for a walk and almost died in a ditch.   Hopefully that’s not what it takes for most
of us to become givers.
The next rung on the ladder is Safe Giving  Here you give
because you know that Christians ought to give and you are afraid of what will
happen if you don’t give. Sometimes you’ll even bargain with God.  God if you promise that this won’t hurt me
financially I’ll give.  Or we figure out
what we can give without it really affecting our quality of life and that’s
what we give. 
We see an example of this in an Old Testament story found
involving Abraham’s Grand-Son Jacob, it’s found in Genesis
28:20-22
 Then Jacob made this vow: “If
God will indeed be with me and protect me on this journey, and if he will
provide me with food and clothing,  and if I return safely to my father’s
home, then the LORD will certainly
be my God.  And this memorial pillar I have set up will become a place for
worshiping God, and I will present to God a tenth of everything he gives me.”  God if you will keep me healthy so I
can work, and if I can still keep my standard of living, and not have to drive
a smaller car or downsize my house.  And
if at the end of the year I don’t have to pay too many taxes, I will give to
you.
But if you are a Christ follower you don’t have to bargain
with him, he’s already told us in Matthew 6:31-33  “So don’t worry about these
things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’
 These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers,
but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs.  Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously,
and he will give you everything you need.
The next rung on the ladder is Percentage Giving.   Sometimes in the church you will hear people
speak of the “Tithe” and tithe simply means 10% .  For some that is the pinnacle of giving.  And they see it as a level that the super
spiritual give at.  Or the level of
giving for people who are really well off. 
And I’ve heard people tell me, “Well Pastor when I make X amount that’s
when I’ll tithe.”  But that is always a
moving target and it’s always slightly more than they are making now. 
Others tell us that tithing is an Old Testament concept and
that as Christians we aren’t under law but under grace so Christians aren’t
required to tithe.  My response to that
is what about stealing?  That’s an Old
Testament requirement as well, so are we exempt from that?  Would it be alright if I stole your car? And
they assure me that Thou Shalt not steal still applies today.  While the question is asked in Malachi 3:8  “Should people cheat God? Yet you
have cheated me! “But you ask, ‘What do you mean? When did we ever cheat you?’
“You have cheated me of the tithes and offerings due to me.”   And it would be awesome if everyone
who considers themselves a Christian tithed.
  I read recently that the
combined income of everyone in the US who considered themselves a committed
Christian and attended church at least twice a month is approximately 2.5
Trillion dollars.  That means that on
their own that group could be admitted to the G-7.  And you think of the impact those believers
could have on the world if they tithed.
And the temptation would be to say “well then every
Christian should tithe and things would be cool.”  But it’s not about the percentage, you can
give God 10% of your money and none of your heart. 
Which leads us to Romans
12:1
 And so, dear brothers and sisters,
I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you.
Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This
is truly the way to worship him.
This rung is Sacrificial
Giving
This is where you ask God, “From all that you have given me
and entrusted me with, how much will you allow me to give back?”  Being at this rung on the ladder doesn’t make
you a super Christian, from this position you don’t have a higher view of
yourself but instead you have a higher view of God. It’s when you get to this
position that you understand that what you have was given to you for a purpose
and you use it for that purpose.  And
that is why Jesus promised in  Matthew 25:29 To those who
use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an
abundance.
And that brings us to the top rung that is simply called Kingdom Giving.  This is when our mind set is very simply
a kingdom mindset.  Everything we earn
and everything we are is God’s.  John
Wesley grew up in abject poverty, his father was an Anglican preacher in an
extremely poor parish, at one point Wesley watched as his father was taken to
debtor’s prison. But it wasn’t like that for Wesley, because of his prolific
writing and speaking he became very wealthy.  
History tells us that in a time when a single man could live comfortably
on 30 pounds a year Wesley was earning 1400 pounds a year.   But he had made a commitment to live on 28
pounds a year and he gave the rest away, he wasn’t afraid to make money but he
didn’t want to keep money.  Wesley became known for his saying, “What should rise is not the Christian’s standard of
living, but his standard of giving.” And
in his later years he wrote, “[When I die] if
I leave behind me ten pounds…you and all mankind [may] bear witness against
me, that I have lived and died a thief and a robber.”
So am I saying that we should all give like Wesley?  I most certainly am, and that is that you
will be obedient to what God is asking you to give, because anything less is
being disobedient. 
Let’s go back to our scripture 2
Corinthians 9:8
 And God will generously provide all you need. Then
you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with
others.
But take heart because the last thing we need to understand
is Generous Giving isn’t Giving It’s
Giving Back. 
You will only become
generous when you realize that all you have comes from God.   Let me pray for you.