November 12, 2017
2 Corinthians 9:11 ; Revelation 3:17; Exodus 4:10; Luke 10:33-35; Isaiah 32:8; 2 Corinthians 8:3-4;
In December of 2014, a man named Larry Clark stopped at Chicken Express drive thru after a very busy day of holiday shopping. He ordered his delicious chicken tenders with white cream gravy, biscuits, and mashed potatoes. He pulled around to the window and handed the cashier his credit card. Unfortunately, his credit card was denied. Apparently he spent so much on gifts earlier in the day that the credit card company became suspicious and put his card on hold. The problem was the Larry had no cash with him and this was his only credit card. He wasn’t going to be able to have his meal.
But just then, a cook in the back heard what was going on, got out his own credit card, and paid for the man’s meal. Pretty generous of the young cook. Two months later, Larry got the young cook and his parents together and took them out to an expensive meal and he gave the cook a $50 gift card. That cook wasn’t expecting those things when he paid for the man’s meal that day. He was just being generous. When asked why Larry returned the favor at a higher price, he said that he just wanted to encourage the young cook to continue to be a good guy. So now the question was, how is this cook going to respond?
We are in week three of the good life. We have seen that the good life is a generous life. And God makes a pretty incredible promise when we live generously…
11 You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.
2 Corinthians 9:11
The truth: God will continue to bless us, and he promises that when we use those blessings to generously bless others, he will continue to bless us. Why? Not so that we can be rich, but so that we can be generous in every occasion. Again, that doesn’t mean that he’s going to make us financially rich. Maybe he blesses us with joy, peace, patience, and self-control. Maybe he blesses us with more time. Maybe he refines an ability or a talent. However God chooses to bless us is up to him. But the question is the same as the question for the cook, isn’t it? When we are generous and God blesses us, how are we going to respond? Let’s begin by looking at two wrong ways to respond to God’s blessings. To do so, we are going to look at the opposite ends of the Bible. We are going to look at a church found in Revelation, and Moses in the book of Exodus.
Two Wrong Responses
Revelation is known for its imagery and picture language. Generally, people are pretty scared or confused. But in the beginning of Revelation, Jesus addresses 7 churches. One of them is Laodicea which was a city in modern day Turkey. God was extremely generous to the people in the church at Laodicea. Here’s what Jesus had to say to them.
17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.
The first wrong response to God’s blessings? Pride.
They were rich. Extremely wealthy. They didn’t need anything because they had everything they could possibly want. Their money could buy them anything. And instead of recognizing it all came from God, instead of continuing to be generous, they became prideful. They worked hard. Therefore, it was their money. “Look at what my hands have done type of attitude.” They had money and lots of it.
It’s actually recorded that in 60 AD a bank burned down in Laodicea, and the town rebuilt the bank without receiving any money from Rome, who was the world power at that time. That was unheard of. Normally in that situation, they’d go to the governors and ask for help. Not Laodicea. They built it themselves. They didn’t need Rome because they had it all under control. Their pride led to spiritual apathy. They thought that because God was blessing them so abundantly he was happy with them. As long as they came to church it didn’t matter how they lived.
People wonder why America is less and less a Christian nation. I wonder if there isn’t a little bit of Laodicea in America. We look at the overflowing generosity of God, all the blessings he has showered us with, and we take the credit for the blessings. We believe it’s our smarts, our hard earned paychecks that provide us with everything. Instead of using God’s blessings to be blessings, America has taken God’s blessings and have said, “How can I get more? How can I save more? How can I make my little empire?”
Do you know what’s at the middle of pride? I. Look at what I’ve done. Look at what I have. Look at what I’ve accomplished. We start to say things like, “Our time is valuable. Money is valuable. That’s my money. I earned it.” We forget that it is God who blesses us with time management. We forget its God who blessed us with the skills that we have. And start to look to our stuff as ours and how can we get more instead of being generous with what God has given us.
And if we aren’t careful, that type of pride can lead to spiritual apathy just like the Laodiceans. God is the one who blesses us so that we can be a blessing to others. Not to puff out our chests and be prideful.
The second wrong response is a false humility. We see this in Moses. If you remember, God had blessed Moses tremendously in life. He was born into a world where the King of Egypt said all the Jews needed to kill all the boys under two years old. His mother hid him. Then made a basket and sent him down the river. Pharaoh’s daughter found him and had compassion for him. Adopted him. Raised him in the King’s palace. He got the best food, best education, best living in the world.
But then he blew it all. He killed an Egyptian who was harassing a Jew. Pharaoh wanted to kill him so he fled to the wilderness where he was a shepherd for 40 years. Think of how God blessed him and prepared him to be the leader of the Israelites. 40 years observing the king of the greatest country of the time and receiving the best education. 40 years of learning to lead sheep in the wilderness and how to navigate through the area. Finally, God came to him and said, “I want you to go lead my people out of Egypt.” Instead of looking at it as a privilege, instead of being ready to go save his people, Moses had all of these excuses. Finally, he said…
10 Moses said to the Lord, “Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.”
False sense of humility. “Lord, I shouldn’t lead your people. I’ve never been a great speaker. Someone else should do it.” If you continue to read that story, it finally comes out. Moses just doesn’t want to do it. He finally says, “Lord, just send someone else.”
God has equipped you and blessed with all kinds of talents and abilities. He has showered down his blessings on your so that you can be a blessing for someone else. But when the opportunity arises for us to be generous with our time, talents, or treasures, do we have a false sense of humility? Have you served at church before and now you’re saying, “Well, I’ve served before, so I want to give someone else the opportunity to serve.” But behind that is really, “I just don’t want to serve. I don’t want to use the blessings God has given me to do that.” Or maybe it’s the other way around. We haven’t served and we say it is because, “We’re not qualified.” But again, behind that is, “I don’t want to do that.” I don’t want to be generous with my time, talents, treasures. Again, my time is valuable. Don’t get me wrong. There are times when we should step away from serving and times when we shouldn’t serve in a certain area because we don’t have the gifts. But we really need to search our hearts and be honest what the real motivation is for not.
Remember why God has blessed us. Not so that we can sit on all the blessings and eat, drink, and be merry. No. He’s given us the blessings so that we can continue to bless others. So that we can continue to be generous. So, instead of responding with pride or with false humility, let’s respond by giving. In other words, by continuing to be generous. Let’s look at how we grow in giving.
When you hear the word giver a lot of times we think money. And that is part of it. But giving includes all areas of life. Time, talents, and treasures. But let’s be clear about something, in order to grow in our generosity, we have to grow in the truth. If our devotional life isn’t good, it will affect multiple areas of our life and one of them is our generosity. It takes faith to trust that God will take care of us when we are generous. If we aren’t in his truth, our faith isn’t being fed. Which will have an effect on our generosity. But as we grow in the truth, we will grow into 3 types of givers.
1 The spontaneous giver –
33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
This is the story of the Good Samaritan. Jesus told this story of a Samaritan who was traveling when all of a sudden he came upon a Jew beaten and left for dead. He didn’t plan for this to happen. He didn’t plan to come upon this situation. It was a spontaneous opportunity to be generous, and he was.
Now as we talk about spontaneously giving, we aren’t talking about the Holy Spirit coming on you and you sit down and start writing check after check. No. Spontaneous giving is when God presents you with an opportunity to be generous when you weren’t expecting it. You’re going about your day when all of a sudden a situation comes up and you have the opportunity to be generous. Your neighbor asks you for help. Someone asks you for money at the streetlight. You might not give them money, but you give them a package of food or something. That’s spontaneously giving.
2 The strategic giver –
8 But the noble make noble plans,
and by noble deeds they stand.
How many of you are planners? How many of you plan to be generous? Actually sit down and plan the how, when, and what of how you are going to be generous? If we want to be intentional about being generous, we plan to be. Maybe you plan how you are going to give some of your time that God gives you daily back to him as you do devotions. Maybe you plan to give to our school fund. Maybe you plan to serve in some way. We can plan to be strategic givers.
3 The sacrificial givers –
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 Lord’s people.
2 Corinthians 8:3-4
The Macedonians were poor. But they were eager to be generous with what they had. They even urgently pleaded with Paul to allow them to help the suffering believers in Jerusalem. You get the picture Paul said no at first. Why? Because he knew they would be sacrificing a lot. They may even have to go without food for a day. And yet they generously wanted to participate in the spread of the gospel ministry. And part of that is providing for other people’s needs. So they gave sacrificially.
Does that remind you of someone else? Our Father in heaven is so generous to us. Sure he gives us food and clothing. He gives us a house to live in. He gives us family and friends. But you might say, “God creates everything. Is that really sacrificial giving?” Fair enough. But he demonstrated the most sacrificial gift anyone has ever seen. He gave his one and only Son to save you.
Think about that. Would you ever give up a loved one to save someone else? Would you give up your son, daughter, husband, wife, mom, dad to save someone on death row? To take their place? I don’t think anyone would. Yet that’s exactly what God did for you and me. He gave Jesus to die for us; to take our place. We couldn’t overturn our verdict. We had sinned. Our sin was punishable by death. But God said, “I will give my Son that you might live.” And that’s what happened. God sent Jesus to pay for each and every one of your sins. God sent Jesus to live perfectly for you. Never committing one crime or one sin. Why? So that you can have his clean record. God didn’t do this grudgingly or because he had too. He sacrificially gave his Son, Jesus, for you because he loves you that much. Think of the love he must have for you that he was willing to give up his own Son for you.
When we stop and think about it, God didn’t do this on a whim. He strategically planned this for years didn’t he? Thousands and thousands of years went into planning this great sacrificial giving. He planned on how he would be generous and guided all history so that he could generously give his one and only Son for you.
Yet God is a spontaneous giver isn’t he? When our hearts are feeling guilty, God sends comfort reminding us that Jesus took away all our sins. When we are feeling unloved, God sends his love to us through his word and Christian friends. When you’re feeling anxious and fearful of the future, God calms your heart as he reminds you that he has all control over the grave. When we stop and think about it, God is all three of these givers isn’t he? Spontaneous, strategic, sacrificial. And he continues to generously bless us every single day.
I don’t know what that cook did with the gift card. I have no idea if he is still a generous person or not. But what I do know is that God shows generosity to us every single day. Let his generosity motivate our generosity not just this week, but forever.