“Healthy Spirituality – Living Generously”

At Gateway Church in Austin we concluded our series called “Healthy Spirituality”

Everyone needs/wants more money, time, and energy. What if the ways the world teaches us to “gain more” are not actually going to help us “experience more?” God’s ways and all God says about living generously shows that “more” is a matter of the heart. God gives us resources to teach our hearts how to love Him and love people.

MESSAGE DISCUSSION:

Work through the following questions and scriptures on your own, and get together with your running partner,  life group, or friends and family to talk through what you are learning.

Digging Deeper

MESSAGE VIDEO:

MESSAGE NOTES:

Today we are talking about living generously. Some of us grew up with an abundance mentality, but most of us grew up with a scarcity mentality. That actually hurts us more than it protects us or helps us. We can actually become people who are no longer scrounging for more money or more time or more energy, we can become generous with all we have.

Today we are going to do something special. Last year, John Burke shared one of the best messages I have ever heard on living generously, so with the magic of modern technology I am going to have him help me with this message.

JOHN BURKE

What if all it took was a choice to become a generous person or a stingy person? Which would you choose? 

I know a couple in Houston who are extremely wealthy—large house, all the toys. 

  • They got that way by hoarding and being stingy (or so they think). 
  • They have not been generous most of their lives, and now they are in their latter years. 
  • And most of their friends, though they like them, they joke about them and poke fun of them with a pretty sharp edge. 
  • There’s an underlying jealousy or lack of respect I hear come out in subtle ways. 
  • And ironically, the jealousy over their money has torn their family apart—they have terrible relationships.
  • When people ask this couple if they’ll give to help those in need, they get angry and resentful.

I compare them to another couple in California I’ve known for 30 years.  

  • A couple who are very wealthy too, by anyone’s standards, and since becoming Christ-followers years ago, they’ve progressively grown in the Virtue of Generosity. 
  • The admiration and respect and love people of all socio-economic backgrounds have for them is amazing. 
  • Everyone speaks highly of them. 
  • People are not jealous of them because they are so generous—they’ve housed people in financial challenges for months, they’ve used their money and possessions to help people. 
  • They’ve honored God by investing generously in their church and youth organizations and providing for the poor. 
  • They’ve given of their time to serve in their church and other charitable organizations.
  • They helped fund Gateway’s start.
  • And they are truly wealthy.
  • Whenever I talk to them, they talk about how blessed they feel, how good God has been to them, how much they have and how good it feels to see others blessed through their blessings. 

So let me ask the question again:

What Kind of Person do you want to be? Generous or Stingy?

Before you answer you’re going to think it’s not a choice—you’re going to think it’s a matter of more. “Well, If I just had more money, more freedom from debt, more financial security—then I will be a generous person. But first I have to get there [point].”  

But what if with a choice, you could decide what kind of person you want to actually become – Either become a Financially fearful, anxious, always feeling short on money, never content, never enough for you and definitely never enough to be generous OR a simple choice and you become a person who feels so rich, you can be generous, grateful, at peace financially, debt free, content, with more than enough to enjoy and generously bless others freely.

I want to show that God says it’s simply a choice. But a choice that opens the door to what you really desire with More Money.

It’s not bad to want more money, but more money does not help us become truly wealthy, blessed, generous, grateful people.  You can have much More Money yet still feel financially anxious, fearful, stingy, unsatisfied, wanting more but never having enough—that’s not what you desire—is it?

And that’s The Problem of More Money without More Heart.

What we desire from More Money comes from growing our hearts first.

God’s principles include giving, saving, and debt free living but in relation first to the heart. I want to show you God’s Heart principles on this—which may feel backwards at first, but it’s how God gives us More of what we really desire with More money.

PRINCIPLE #1: GOD IS A GIVER, NOT A TAKER.

And that’s important to understand when we talk about money in church, God isn’t trying to take your money. I find many people fear God wants to take more from me (or at least the church wants to take more from me). That’s the opposite of who God is.   

God so loved the world that he GAVE…[What? Everything we value. Not just money, everything. Why? God loves you] [new slide]…he GAVE his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16.Then it says, He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Romans 8:32

What’s included in “all things?” ALL things, even More Money.

But God’s deeper desire is to grow your heart–for More Heart.  God wants your love, your trust, your security, worth, peace—all rooted in Him.  Because it’s a lie and a trap that More Money will bring more security, love, worth, peace—it doesn’t—but it promises these things and makes us not trust God. God is a Giver. That’s why God doesn’t force generosity, in fact generosity is something that can’t be forced, it has to come from the heart. That’s why we’ve never pressured or guilted people to give—it’s not God’s way. Principle 1 God is a Giver.

PRINCIPLE #2 GOD DESIRES MORE FOR YOU

…but more in a way that makes you feel truly rich in every way. But that’s a matter of the heart more than amount.

Scripture teaches: 

Each person should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.  And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work…You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion….”  2 Corinthians 9:7-11

God wants you rich in every way.

Where you so open your heart to God and His grace—you experience a growing sense of security in every area of life—not just monetarily, but in every way- MORE than Enough! 

  • More than enough money so that giving is not under compulsion. 
  • More than enough time, so that giving your attention or assistance doesn’t come with reluctance. 
  • More than enough love, so that showing love and concern comes from an overflow of your heart.
  • Who doesn’t want to be like that?

An overflowing and generous person is an attractive person.” STOP at 11:11

ERIC BRYANT:

God changes the world through rich hearts like that.

God wants you to feel truly rich! Overflowing all the time generous. But what we need first is not more money, it’s more heart in the right place—so that God can entrust us with more without it corrupting our hearts.

PRINCIPLE #3 MONEY HAS SPIRITUAL POWER.

JRR Tolkien wrote the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, was a Christ-follower writing about the power of good and evil.  And this ring that the Bilbo the hobbit found had a seductive power about it. It could make you invisible—which was powerful.  It was alluring to want to use that power.  There was a temptation that all good people faced to use that power, but there was also a corrupting force about it.  The more you used it to make yourself powerful, the more the ring possessed your soul. And Gollum, the hideous creature who possessed the ring for years, called it his “precious.”  He loved it, he obsessed about it, his life was wrapped around thinking about it.  It possessed him.  And though he once was a happy, content little hobbit himself, it had turned him into an isolated, lonely creature that lived in the dark.

How many of you have heard that the Bible says “Money is the root of all evil?” It doesn’t say that—it says money is a gift from God to enjoy and use for good.

It says… “For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil…Teach those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which is so unreliable. Their trust should be in God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment.  Tell them to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and generous….” 1 Timothy 6:10, 17-18 

God blesses with wealth so we can enjoy it—God says it’s for your enjoyment. But also to be richly generous. But we must come to realize that there is power, a spiritual force that seduces our hearts and wants to possess us.

Evil lies to you saying:

  • More Money will make you happy – really—are all wealthy people happy?
  • More money will give you peace – then why are anti-anxiety meds #1 drug for the wealthiest nation?
  • More money will make you secure then why did J.D. Rockefeller, one of wealthiest in world while on his death bed was obsessing on more and was asked, “How much is enough J.D.?” He said, “Just one dollar more.”

Evil wants us, in a strange sort of way, to live for money. To count it, dream about it, trust in it, love it above all else. It is the rival god that enslaves us.  That’s why God gives us warnings and principles—trusting in Money over God won’t get you truly rich.

Solomon, who was the wealthiest man in the world writes in the Bible from first-hand experience: 

“Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income.  This too is meaningless.”  Ecclesiastes 5:10

The U.S. Bureau of Labor says:

  • The poorest Americans gave 4.3% of their 10,000/yr income.
  • So you’d think those making $50,000-$150,000 would be more generous—they gave less than 3%.
  • And the wealthiest—$150,000 to millions/yr gave even less 2%.

More Money will not make you a financially secure, content, generous person. If you won’t trust God to grow your heart in generosity with a little, you’ll become less generous with More. It’s a simple choice.

So Jesus warned us:

“No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.”  Matthew 6:24

Here’s the choice. Do you trust God and God’s Principles first, or Money’s Promises?

It’s a simple choice. Jesus says it’s a rival god—not money—the love and trust of money over God. 

And the reason it’s a horrible god is that it distorts reality and enslaves us to fear, discontentment, anxiety, worry, debt—it promises freedom but delivers spiritual bondage.

Don’t believe Jesus’—let’s take a step back and do an honest assessment.

You are already wealthy—do you feel rich, grateful, content, generous?

Wealth is relative.

  • How many of you own cars or have the means to own a car? 
  • If you do, then you are among the world’s upper class of 7 billion people.
  • Do you make more than $1,800/yr, you’re wealthier than 90% of humanity.
  • If you own a home or have the means to, you are the top 5% richest on the planet.
  • Do you make more than $47,000/yr -you’re wealthier than 99% of all people– you’re among the 1% elite rich of the world.  

Most all of us listening are the world’s wealthiest—so how many of us feel Rich in every way like God desires to make us? Why instead are we often enslaved to worry and fear about money? Why do we never have enough, can’t get out of debt, can’t grow in generosity? Do you see what a spiritual heart issue this is?

Now, it’s not wrong to have wealth like most of us do.

In fact, King Solomon also said:

“When God gives any person wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work–this is a gift of God.”  Ecclesiastes 5:19.  

It’s a gift from God–not just the stuff, but the ability to enjoy and be content–but with the gift comes responsibility, Jesus said:

From everyone who has been given much, much will be expected; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.– Luke 12:48.

More is Good—if More Heart for God comes first.

Because God is a Giver, He wants More For Us, But there’s a Spiritual Power we must overcome…How?

Starting with Gratitude—

PRINCIPLE #4 IT ALL BELONGS TO GOD – SO BE GRATEFUL

We break the spiritual power of trusting money first, by Recognizing all we have is a gift, so thank God for what you have. See all this money and stuff is like Monopoly—it all goes back in the box at the end of the game of life. 

For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 1 Timothy 6:7.

That’s why you never see a Hearse towing a U-haul—do you? 

It’s all Monopoly money and stuff.  And God gives it to us as a gift, to provide, to enjoy, to bless others–but it’s not really ours—everything belongs to God, He entrusts us with it for a while.

Some of you may be thinking—it does NOT belong to God—I worked hard for everything I’ve earned.  Yes—you did, and God knew you might believe the lie that this was somehow apart from Him. So when He started blessing the people of Israel He warned them and us:

God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart…10 When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you [be grateful]. 11 Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God…when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, 13 and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, 14 then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God…8:17 You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” 18 But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth…. Deuteronomy 8:2-17.

Have you considered that?

God created you, and even gave you the ability to produce what you have earned? 

And He doesn’t want to take from you, but to give you more, but you must choose to acknowledge God’s gifts with gratitude, and trust God’s principles. Gratitude reorients our hearts, but these next 2 Principles break the heart-robbing power of trusting money or own power to control our time and our energy.

JOHN BURKE

PRINCIPLE #5 GIVE FIRST, NOT LAST  

“Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops.”  Proverbs 3:9

God says, if you say you Love me and follow me first, then honor me first–don’t honor your mortgage company, cable company, starbucks, the gym, Mastercard, your savings account—and then, if there are any leftovers, give something to honor God. That’s putting self and that insatiable need for MORE first, God last. That’s the heart problem. 

He says, here’s the test—Every paycheck—will you choose, God is first in my life, so I’m going to honor God first—then Save—then Live on the rest.

Give-Save-Live in that order. We’ll talk more about this and getting out of debt next week. Already this is very upside down to the world’s wisdom, but truth is, we could still love and trust money more than God and give “a few bucks” first. But God wants our hearts devoted first to Him—because only then He can bless us to feel truly rich without it damaging our hearts. So He tests our hearts by setting a standard that makes us choose—God’s ways, or the World’s ways.

PRINCIPLE #6 THE FIRST 10% IS GOD’S. 

God tells Moses:

“One-tenth of the produce of the land, whether grain from the fields or fruit from the trees, belongs to the Lord and must be set apart to him as holy.” Leviticus 27:30 

So he says—it all belongs to God ultimately, but as a test of your heart’s first love, trust in me more than money by choosing to take the first 10% and give it back to God. It’s a choice, but also a test of our hearts. We can give nothing that God has not given us. But we can choose to honor God first by doing this as an act of love and trust. He says, “This part’s mine—it belongs to the Lord—give it toward my work in the world.”

Now, here’s what some “seasoned” Christians sometimes say: “That’s the old testament law, we’re under grace—so we don’t have live under law.” That’s true—God sets you free to be like Jesus, who motivated by Grace gave it all. Jesus said to self-righteous Religious people:

“You are careful to tithe [1/10th] even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore the more important aspects of the law—justice, mercy, and faith. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things.” Matthew 23:23

You should tithe (give 10%), Jesus says, but out of a heart that’s growing to love and trust God more-the more important things.

When my son was around 4, we were in the mall and I treated him to my favorite candy—Jelly Bellies—bought him a big one-pound sack. And as we’re walking along, he’s shoving them in his mouth and drooling those delicious fruity flavors, and I asked him if I could have a few. He said, “no”. I was like “excuse me.” He held them to the other side out of my reach and said “No thanks.” Trying to be polite in his greed. I realized, my son needs a perspective check. He doesn’t realize, those Jelly Bellys are mine. A 4 year old doesn’t have any money. I bought them, and I could take them away if I wanted. But the more important lesson, he needed to realize I love him—that’s why I give good things. And I could buy more Jelly Bellies than he could stand! I could bury the kid in Jelly Bellies and let him eat his way out. But what I wanted most was that he not be self-centered or greedy, but trust my goodness and be generous—share!

That’s why God says, “Not only am I testing you, but I invite you to test me.” God wants you to Test His goodness toward you when you put Him first.  To those who knew God asks for the first 10%, but just said “No thanks.” God says:

“’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. You are under a curse, for your whole nation has been cheating me. Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,” says the Lord, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test!’” Malachi 3:8-10

God invites you to test him.

  • So test him, try it for 3 months—give the first 10% and see if God isn’t real, and He doesn’t make a way where you saw no way.
  • Test Him and see if you don’t feel more blessed—truly rich.
  • You’ll have to fight lies that say, “I can’t afford that. There’s no way I could do that.”
  • But maybe you can’t because you won’t.
  • Test Him.
  • Have you ever considered that your 90% with God’s blessing is going to go way farther than your 100% without God’s involvement?
  • It’s a spiritual heart issue first—a choice that leads to More of the right things in the right ways.

He wants to bless you with more.” STOP at 34:37

ERIC BRYANT:

So challenging and so convicting and yet so liberating!

John goes on to explain that this is NOT “give so that God will give you more.” 
This is “trust God first, and see if God isn’t faithful and you’re not feeling truly rich all along the journey.”

God does often trusts us with more the more faithful we are. It’s like we become God’s investment bankers able to do more and more good in the world even as we feel more and more blessed personally. 

Learning to give to God and His work with the first 10% and then save for the future with the next 10% will require living on less. It will mean cutting back on what you spend. Maybe it’s eating out less. Maybe it’s one less vacation. 

I have found, the sacrifice is always worth it. Trusting God is worth the sacrifice.

We cannot outgive God. He’s first a Giver. He also gives us time and talent.

We all have a next step today. As we head into the summer, how does God want you to trust Him more?

Maybe it’s to start tithing.

Maybe it’s to start living on less so you can be more generous.

Maybe it’s jumping back into community or jumping in for the first time. You have gotten used to watching more TV nowadays than you did before the pandemic. Maybe cut out one or two of the shows you are watching to join a group. We have groups designed for serving, for healing, for belonging, and for growing. Just start with one.

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