Where Giving Ends or Begins

Are you a giver? Let me share two thoughts that review the last two weeks of our The Giver series – then I will jump into the challenge from this week.

Giving begins with stewardship.
    Meaning you must make the decision to be generous before the opportunity exists. You must live in a way that allows you to give.
Giving requires us to give our stuff.
    Generosity requires sacrifice. You have to give up some stuff. I am not just talk about tithing. I am talking about day in and day out. I will challenge with this idea about tithing though. Your church will never be more generous than its members…it will never give more than you do. The generosity of the church is often lost in the disobedience of its members. Are you obeying?

This week I talked about the issue that makes giving truly difficult. I call it the crux of giving. It is the breaking or making point. This is the issue that will either begin your life of generosity or it will end it. The passage is Luke 14:25-35. You might want to read it real quick to get some context. Click on the Scripture for a link to it.

Giving costs us…us. Giving costs you…you. Giving costs me…me.

That is the crux of giving. This passage is not heresy it is hyperbole. We are not literally to hate our wives and kids, yet we are to love God so completely and passionately that it seems as if we hate those that we love in comparison. I do find it interesting that in this passage Jesus says that the things we say define being a Christ follower never define what it means to be a Christ follower. Being a good husband is not Christ following. People who do not believe in Jesus at all do it every day. The pinnacle of your Christ following is not at your house…that is where it begins.

So the world tells us to live every day to fullest but in this passage we are told to hate our own life. The Bible says Die every day to the fullest.

Die to the fullest. Die as much as you can. Carry as big a cross as you can. Don’t decorate your life with the cross, dedicate your life to the cross.

So the passage tells us we need to count up the cost and follow. We must understand what we must do as Christ followers and do them and that if we don’t we mess up manure.

So if you don’t want to mess up manure with your life, understand what Christ-following does look like.

Take the responsibility of carrying your cross and following Jesus.
Have the priority of Christ. The priority of our life.
Give the totality of yourself.
Experience the vitality of sacrifice.
    There is no life where there is no sacrifice. I challenge you to consider the times in life you have been the most generous..have you ever felt more alive?

So are you the giver? Or are you the givee?

It begins and ends with you. You have to give all of yourself to give any of yourself. So if you are not the giver, the real problem is not stuff or service…it is self.

What God Gets

What does God get? Honestly, what does he get from us? Does God get FIRST? Does he get BEST? Does he get MOST? (I challenge you…I dare you…I double dog dare you to read the book Crazy Love by Francis Chan for a great perspective on this thought.)

What is God getting in your life? And do you believe he is accepting what you are giving? Does God glory in your seconds and leftovers? Does God enjoy your worst? Is God praised in your minimum?

In Leviticus 22 God gives strict instructions about what types of sacrifices are acceptable and what sacrifices are not acceptable before the Lord. (He does this in much of the book of Leviticus.) This particular chapter deals with vow offerings, fellowship offerings, and thanksgiving offerings. Earlier in Leviticus he has already dealt with the rules about sin and atonement offerings.

Let me break down the offerings and the rules real quick. The atonement offering is an offering in which one animal is slain and the other is released to the wilderness for the atonement of sin. One animal has hands laid on it to put upon it our sin and the other is released to cover the atonement of sin from the moment of sacrifice to the next one. (I sure am glad Jesus died ONCE FOR ALL!) These animals had to be the best and finest of the herd without blemish.

The sin offering was to be offered for forgiveness of sin. You could offer this at any point you realized you sinned. They had to be perfect and without blemish.

The vow offering was an offering you made making a vow not just between you and man but between you and God. They had to be perfect and without blemish.

The fellowship offering, however, was allowed to have certain deformities and the thank offering came with less instruction, except not to sacrifice it on the day of its birth but to wait a period of time.

The rules were to never give the blind, lame, and diseased. Nor could a male animal that was sterile be given.

So, what does all this mean? The sacrifice of God – Jesus Christ – was perfect and without blemish. In his death and resurrection our sins are atoned for and are forgiven once for all.

But I believe the other 3 sacrifices – the vow, fellowship, and thank offering – are applicable to spiritual life today. We make vows before the Lord and fellowship with him and give thanks to him.

My question is do we only give the blind, lame and diseased? Does he only get the sterile in our life – that which has become worthless for the future of the flock?

Is God getting the first of your time, your money, your passion, and your service? Is God getting the best of your abilities, talents, and resources? Is God getting the most of your life, your goals, and your energy?

Or is he being served sacrifices that are unacceptable? God asks a question in the Old Testament about his people when they were doing this…would you serve this to the governor?

The hard part of realizing this truth is you cannot give God your first, best, and most if you give it anyone or anything else…including your family, your job, and your life.

So give God your first, best, and most and allow him to distribute it as he sees fit. Because God does not take seconds, leftovers, and meaningless praise…to accept it would be to profane Himself.

The Giver

The Giver is a new series I started preaching this last Sunday. The service was fun and challenging. The set is awesome and The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein is our creative hub. This book is such an amazing contrast between selfishness and generosity. I love it. It is amazing the lessons you can learn from children’s books if you would just read them to yourself as you read them to your children. (So be careful what books you buy them because our world is teaching some crazy stuff in the children literature of today.)

So I plan on hitting on a few of the high points from each sermon in my blog each week this month. I hope you find it helpful and encouraging.

The text this week was Matthew 20:1-16. The Parable of the Landowner. In this parable a landowner hires workers at 5 different times through the day and pays them all the same at the end. It is a picture of the Kingdom of Heaven and the grace of God. God’s grace is the same for all of us – no matter when and how we experience it. But as grace is a gift, I believe this passage is a beautiful picture of how we are called to be generous.

Here are some points to consider about generosity…

  • Generosity begins with stewardship. This landowner was prepared to be generous because of the way he managed what he had.
  • Generosity requires labor as well as love. You are going to have to put some effort in.
  • Generosity requires planning as well as participation. You have to plan for it. The man went out 4 more times looking for people to be generous to.
  • Generosity and greed CANNOT coexist. The mad worker was greedy about generosity. They do not mix. You CANNOT serve 2 masters. It is either God or money, but not both.
  • Generosity is always an act of grace.

The challenge to walk away with about generosity should be…

  • Generosity is a choice but it is a choice that must be made before the opportunity exists.
    You must choose to live in such a way that you can give. There is no sacrificial giving without sacrificial living.

Now I will share my embarrassing story from Sunday to make the point. Last Saturday, after having studied all week on this Generosity sermon, I went to a Mardi Gras parade. My family and I bought some Cane’s chicken before the parade and were halfway through eating it when the parade started. A homeless man came up to us right as we set the food down for the parade and asked us for it. Truth was we were not done. My kids had not finished their meal and neither had I. So, I said no.

Later that afternoon, as I reviewed my sermon notes, God tore a hole in me over this issue. Here I was with plenty of money in my bank account to stop at the next restaurant and buy some more food and with supper thawing in the sink at the house. And I told this man “no”? So that night he probably had a hard time sleeping because of hunger pains while I had a hard time sleeping because of indigestion.

God gave me the opportunity to give and I missed it. We all miss them all the time. I believe the reason we miss them is we don’t live our lives stewarding for the purpose of generosity. If we did live that way we would be looking for them instead of looking to not see them. (Example – next time you drive up to homeless person ask yourself if the building to right you are staring out is really that intriguing.)

The other point I made comes from the last verse in this passage, “The first will be last and the last will be first.” Generosity requires us to go last.

I hate going last. I hate losing. But I wish I could go back to last Saturday and have lunch last. I wish I could give him even more, but I cannot. I can simply go last the next time and the next time and the next time.

Going last is not a temporary position because generosity is a lifestyle not just a random opportunity.