Let me tell you about how a certain pastor went to Heaven.
A church lady’s husband had heart surgery, and she received a letter saying her husband inherited one million dollars. She was worried about her husband’s health and didn’t want to startle him, so she called their pastor and asked him to share the good news with her husband. The pastor carefully asked, “Joe, if you were to have one million dollars, what would you do?”
Joe was doing better than they thought. He convincingly said, “Why, Pastor, I’d give it to you!” That’s when the pastor died of a heart attack and went to Heaven.
I’m certain that would never happen to me. My church members would keep it because they enjoy worshipping God by giving tithes and offerings. But if they blessed me, I’d enjoy giving too.
Giving is the key to generous living! Some people think generosity has to do with how much you make and how much you have. It doesn’t! You can lead a joyful and generous life with more or with less. If you’re struggling with finances, it can feel like you’re trapped inside a pressure cooker. I’ve been there. But pressure relief is available when you adopt a mindset of generosity. God’s best blessings have a habit of hunting down His givers.
Generosity, as a Christian mindset, is proved through the Bible. But one of my favorite Bible verses inspires me. In His parting words with the Ephesian elders, the Apostle Paul said, “Remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’” (Acts 20:35). Followers of Christ are called to generous Christian living.
Christian, if you’re not there yet, I encourage you to start the generous Christian living journey. If you feel like you’re well on your way, then I want to inspire you to live with even greater generosity on your journey.
Start where you are.
I recently read about an older woman who had finished shopping and returned to her car. She found four men inside. She dropped her bags, pulled her handgun, and screamed, “I have a gun, and I know how to use it! Get out of the car!”
They got out and ran like crazy. The old gal was somewhat shaken, but she loaded her shopping bags and got into the car. Oddly, no matter how she tried, she could not get her key into the ignition. Then it dawned on her. “This is not my car.” Her car was parked four or five spaces away!
She loaded her grocery bags into her car and drove to the police station to turn herself in. The desk officer she spoke with laughed so hard it was impolite. He pointed to the other end of the counter. Four men had just reported a carjacking by a short older woman with thick glasses, blue hair, and a large handgun. In the end, no charges were filed, and all was forgiven.
What’s the point?
First, this lady started where she was and began to make things right. That’s what you’ll have to do too.
Secondly, she thought it was her car, but it really belonged to someone else. We think our lives and our finances are ours too, but they really belong to God.
“The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein” (Psalm 24:1, ESV). Whether it’s a little or a lot, it’s all God’s. If you were born with a silver spoon in your mouth, thank God. You can’t take the credit. If you were born in poverty, thank God for your humble beginnings.
You don’t get to choose your birth circumstances, but what you do after you grow up is up to you. “Lazy hands make for poverty, but diligent hands bring wealth” (Proverbs 10:4, NIV).
Please don’t wait until you’ve arrived at some vague location described as where I can afford it. If you’ve postponed generous living because you’re waiting until you get to the place where you can afford it, you’ll never arrive. You can’t get here from there. Start where you are, and give God the glory!
Use what you have.
Materialism is our problem. We’re drowning in stuff. If we combined all the self-storage facilities in our country (83.3 sq. mi.), the size would be greater than twice the size of the city of Pensacola, FL (40.76 sq. mi.).
Not only do we feel compelled to buy new things, but we also have a hard time letting go of old stuff. We find ourselves spending money we don’t have to buy things we don’t need to impress people we don’t like. All of this distracts us from becoming who God called us to be.
I don’t want my heart to be so distracted by stuff that I can’t be who God called me to be. God has called us to be generous people. Jesus says, “where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:21).
Every good thing you have in life is a gift from God that He has called you to manage well. That includes your perspective on money and work.
The wisest and wealthiest man of the OT said, “All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty” (Proverbs 14:23, NIV). Sitting around and complaining about what you don’t have will not bring God’s increase.
Nearly 25% of Jesus’ NT words deal with biblical stewardship. Ignoring them leads to a life with little to no margin. You can learn how to use what you have and move towards a generous lifestyle.
Give God what’s right.
The path to increase includes freely giving. “Let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7). The happiest people on earth are those who have discovered the joy of giving.
Grace raises the OT standard and empowers NT Christians for blessings. But the practice of giving tithes and offerings began long before the Law in the Genesis of humanity. Abel gave God the first and best that he had. Abraham gave God a tenth. They pleased God because of how they worshipped through giving.
Refusing to worship through giving is missing out on the “more blessed” life Jesus wants for you. Matthew 6:1-21 and Matthew 23:23 helps us understand Jesus’ expectation. It’s not a matter of “if” for Him, but it is a matter of “when” our heart will cooperate with His heart.
The NT giving model is not providing services or doing chores in place of currency. Helping with on-campus projects is excellent, and we all can do our part. But please understand from my office that our church bills require US legal tender and church checks representing it.
Trusting God with our income and expenses says we will live out the mandate to “Seek first the Kingdom of God…” (Matthew 6:33).
The founder of Kraft Cheese, J.L. Kraft (deceased 1953), had a faltering business until he decided to “make God his partner” in 1907. He became a known supporter of the church. He once said, “The only investment I ever made which has paid consistently increasing dividends is the money I have given to the Lord.”
Live on what’s left.
After you’ve committed to the giving-God-what’s-right plan, then you’re empowered to see God “supply all your need” (Philippians 4:19). Many faith-filled believers have found freedom in living off 80-90% of their gross income. You can learn to live beneath your means, create margin, and have less stress.
So, this means you need a plan with some details and firm guidelines. Proverbs 21:5 says, “The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty” (ESV). Planning is a big part of God’s wisdom for you.
This plan is called a budget. Don’t let it scare you. Every household does it differently. Yet, it’s basically how you tell your money where to go. If you don’t have one, your money or lack thereof will tell you where to go (and how long to stay).
I’m not trying to get something from you. I want to get this message into you. Generous Christian living transcends both testaments as a way of life for God’s people of all ages and cultures.
When we give God what’s right, He helps us learn how to live on what’s left. Here are a few tips: 1) Sit on major purchases and think about how you will feel 5-10 years down the road. 2) Study the difference between your household’s needs and wants. 3) Don’t spend what you don’t have on things you don’t need.
I’m not asking you for an offering.
I’ve given you four steps. Think of them as a starter kit for the “more blessed” life Jesus wants you to have. Start where you are. Use what you have. Give God what’s right. And live on what’s left. It’s all about cultivating a grateful heart and lining up with God’s generous Spirit.
How will you participate in Heaven’s plan for your earthly welfare? Have you designed a life that’s all about your comfort, or are you ready to invest for the sake of evangelism, discipleship, and worship?
Now is the time to repent before God in prayer. Ask for and receive His forgiveness for your financial mistakes, errors, and sins. Commit to learning and following all His Word teaches about generous Christian living.
If you’re not a Christian, your soul’s salvation is the greatest investment Heaven has ever made. The dividends depend on your active faith in Christ.