Remember: It’s not what you have. It’s what you do with what you have.
Last week, Pastor Cory spoke about the three side effects of being rich.
This week, we will focus on how do we keep your hope from migrating toward our wealth and provisions and some practical steps to keep our hope rooted in God Himself as our provider.
Edward Jenner – the guy who came up with the idea for immunizing people from acquiring small box through the use of vaccine.
In North America, we have Affluenza. It’s rampant. It causes bouts of arrogance and chronic dislocated hope, as Pastor Cory spoke about last week. The symptoms aren’t always obvious. They sneak up on us like an invisible growth that goes undetected while it eats away your insides. But Apostle Paul taught us that there is a way to immunize against affluence. No matter how rich you get, you can protect yourself from the negative side effects of wealth.
17 “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 18 Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 19 In this way, they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.” 1 Timothy 4:17-19 (NIV)
The antidote Apostle Paul gives to Affluenza…..is another word: GENEROSITY.
Rarely do we see ourselves as rich. But we usually see ourselves as generous. In fact, many of us think we are less rich than we really are and more generous than we actually are.
PRACTICAL HELP FOR GROWING YOUR GENEROSITY
1. Priority Giving
The key to Jenner’s vaccination was to apply the technique BEFORE an outbreak occurred.
The same is true with generosity.
It won’t happen unless you make it a priority.
GENEROSITY ISN’T DEPENDENT ON YOUR FINANCES AT ALL.
As counterintuitive as it seems… GENEROSITY BEGINS WHEREVER YOU ARE.
That’s what it means to make it a PRIORITY.
Priorities are funny things. We know they’re important, but something always rises up to challenge them in all areas of our lives…family relationships, diet, exercise, spiritual disciplines and our finances. Because it’s scary. It takes courage to pull it off. It’s hard to stay on course. Because everything inside of you is screaming to go in the other direction.
That must have also been true with the vaccinations Jenner gave. There was something unnatural about exposing yourself to a deadly disease…on purpose. Avoidance was easier when they were perfectly healthy. It took foresight and courage to sign up for that.
And the same is true of generosity. The time to start doing it is when it seems to make the least sense.
There’s a tendency to think that generosity is for when you have extra money….when you’re rich.
And like we’ve been saying, you probably don’t think you are rich. And since you’re not rich, why would you give away what little you have? Isn’t that a little like exposing yourself to a deadly disease when you’re already sick?
But I can tell you from experience, when you make giving a priority, something happens inside of you.
You reject the value system that says “money is the key to life and happiness” and you say “My hope is not in riches, but in HIM who richly provides.”
I don’t wait to give to see if I have anything left over, and then decide. It’s a priority. And it’s a symbolic way to remind me where my hope lies….not in the PROVISION, but in the PROVIDER.
2. Percentage Giving
All the research and statistics show that the richer we get, the less we give away. It’s incredible, isn’t it? The more EXTRA money we get, the less we view it as extra. Of course, we tell ourselves that we’re giving more because the dollar amount goes up. But in terms of percentages, giving actually goes down.
If you want to guard against the side effects of wealth, you can’t evaluate your giving in terms of dollars. Percentages give you a much better reflection of whether you have control of your money OR your money has control of you.
Everybody’s entrusted with a portion of resources in this life. We all get the same number of minutes in an hour and hours in a week. We don’t all get the same amount of money. So it doesn’t make sense to measure generosity based on the ability to give a certain dollar amount. If Warren Buffet or Bill Gates gives $1,000 to charity, will they be protected from the side effects of wealth? Not likely.
JESUS TAUGHT THIS VERY PRINCIPLE TO HIS FOLLOWERS.
Back in those days, offering buckets were not passed through the rows and online giving wasn’t too popular yet. They had a box in the front of the room. People walked up and dropped in their money where everyone could see. Jesus was watching as person after person came up to give their offering. And there was a real cross-section…Rich, Poor, Well-dressed fancy clothes and Thrift Store hand-me-downs. THEN….AN ELDERLY WIDOW HOBBLED UP TO THE OFFERING BOX…. AND PRODUCED TWO SMALL COINS.
It was almost embarrassing how insignificant her donation was….especially compared to all of the successful, prosperous people who came before her. The woman was obviously dirt poor.
The scene is described in Mark 12:41-44
“Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, ‘Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasurer than the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.’”
You’ve likely heard this story before but we can sometimes miss what Jesus is saying about percentage giving. We get caught up in the emotional part….. Jesus is rooting for the underdog.
But this story is illustrating a powerful principal….THE PERCENTAGE MATTERS MORE THAN THE SUM.
The widow is faithfully practicing generosity and the others are ARROGANT, acting like EVERYTHING THEY POSSESS is for their own consumption.
SO WHAT PRECENTAGE SHOULD I GIVE?
I’m grateful that my parents taught me to start with 10% because from the beginning of the Old Testament in the book of Genesis, Bible writers have a lot to say about the tithe, which means tenth. In the New Testament, the teaching is more about a principle than it is a law. Jesus teaches the tithe as a starting point.
Remember, this is not just a way to be good and to do good deeds, it’s a preventative or an immunization against affluenza.
THE MOST IMPORTANT THING…start somewhere, even if it is at 5% or 1%. Make sharing your money a priority.
3. Progressive Giving
If you really want to inoculate yourself against the side effects of wealth…don’t overlook this one.
To be progressive, you simply raise the percentage over time. If you’ve been giving the same 10% even as your income grows, bump it up to 11 or 12%.
Here’s why, it’s like when bacteria becomes tolerant of antibiotics, rendering them ineffective. You can vaccinate yourself against the side effects of wealth over the years and it no longer has the same impact.
IF YOU FIRST JOB PAYS $20,000 A YEAR…as a Priority, Percentage giver, you give away $2,000 or 10%…and that’s a lot of money when you are making $20K. Think of the impact on your heart and how that will curb the drift toward arrogancy and self-sufficiency.
BUT FAST FORWARD A DECADE OR TWO LATER…and maybenow you are making $200,000 a year. The kids are grown, the house is almost paid off, and your retirement funds are doing good.
If you are still giving 10%.... that’s a whopping $20,000 a year. But if you only need $80,000 a year to live on, you still have $100,000 a year EXTRA.
Now, if that’s you, CONGRATULATIONS! You’ve been a faithful giver and you’ve maintained a lifestyle that give you financial margin as Pastor Cory spoke about last week. But you might be experiencing the side effects of wealth.
THE SOLUTION…. IS TO CHANGE YOUR GIVING PERCENTAGE AS YOUR FINANCIAL SITUATION CHANGES. Financial comfort can be a good thing, but it also makes us vulnerable to the side effects of wealth….so we can regularly bump up our vaccination a bit to fight off affluenza.
Generosity isn’t just something you ought to do, it’s the vaccination against allowing hope to migrate, becoming arrogant…And basically BEING BAD AT BEING RICH.
Generosity isn’t just something you do when you have more. It’s something you practice constantly so you’ll know what to do when you have more. It’s a part of a plan, not just an overflow of emotion from the heart. It’s a preventative against the side effects that Apostle Paul described of being rich.
WITHOUT A PLAN we tend to be Spontaneous, Sporadic and Sparing givers.
GENEROSITY IS JUST FOLLOWING A PLAN TO KEEP YOUR GIVING IN PROPORTION TO YOUR INCOME AND ASSETS.
Apostle Paul commanded us to be generous, not because God wanted our money or God is running short and desperately needs our money but because…He didn’t want our money to have us.
Generosity is the antidote for the dizzying effects of wealth in our culture.
QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF TODAY
Where is your heart and your hope?
What steps will you take to fight the migration of your hope toward your own provision rather than putting your hope in your Provider?
Pastor Cory reminded us last week that Jesus says we can’t serve two masters at the same time. He said we will either serve our stuff and our money, or we will serve God.
One of our Codes at Cape Christian is, “We are passionate givers of our time, money, and energy. We are blessed so we can be a blessing.”
How is God calling you to be a blessing?