In so many ways the summer just passed was the ‘Best of British’ with many incredible things happening throughout the summer months. Lord Coe in his speech at the closing ceremony of the Olympics hailed the ‘Spirit of Generosity’ among the British people. He was of course referring to not only their hospitality but the very generous support they gave to their athletes throughout the games.
The Spirit of Generosity was something that existed not only in Britain this summer but was a hallmark of the early church. We read such verses as Acts 42:45 “They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need” which highlights the spirit of generosity that existed among them. This level of generosity is not something we regularly see in our culture today. There are glimpses of generosity not just in church communities but also throughout our culture but this level of generosity demonstrated by the early church is a whole other level.
It is fair to say that over the years money and possessions have become a little bit of a taboo subject from church pulpits. Preachers either feel awkward or listeners feel awkward to someone speaking about such subjects. However, when we look through the words in red (Jesus’ words) we see many parables and references to money and through the bible there are roughly 2500 references to money and possessions. To place that into a little context there are roughly 500 verses about faith and the same again regarding prayer and we love to give time and attention to those subjects don’t we?
In a book written ‘The Day America told the Truth’ some interesting statistics are revealed regarding American attitudes to money. You could argue it is a fairly western perspective. The question put to them was ‘What would you be willing to do for $10 million?’ Here is what they discovered:
25% would abandon their entire family
23% would become prostitutes for a week or more
16% would give up their American citizenship
16% would leave their spouses
10% would withhold testimony and let a murderer go free
7% would kill a stranger
3% would put their children up for adoption
All this shows is that when it comes to money and possessions our value systems go out the window. There is a default mindset that exists which says money will make me happy. I can sacrifice everything for the right price. At the core of humanity we are selfish, people find it very easy to be selfish. I know I don’t need to sit my kids down and teach them how to be selfish – they know!
Jesus tells a parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10) and in this parable we see three existing viewpoints that are very prevalent in our society today. The first is the robber (vs. 30) who beats and strips an innocent man, his viewpoint in life is what’s yours is mine. It doesn’t matter to me that you have worked hard for what you have; I have a divine right to take from you and make it mine. The second viewpoint is that of the Priest and the Levite who choose to walk by the beaten, stripped man and leave him alone, their viewpoint in life is what’s mine is mine. It doesn’t matter to me how desperate you are or how in need you are, this is mine and I am going to keep it for me. Then we have the third viewpoint, the Good Samaritan who as we know helps the beaten, stripped man and he lives with the viewpoint what’s mine is yours. It matters to me that you are in distress that you are suffering in some way and I am going to help. I have been blessed and therefore I am going to bless.
I am sure we can identify with all three of these viewpoints and the indicators of the early church are that they operated with the viewpoint of the Samaritan. What’s mine, what belongs to me, my property, possessions also belongs to you. We see the writer of Acts, Luke emphasises their generosity further in Acts 4:32 – 35 and we see further how much they valued generosity.
So the million-dollar question how do we become a generous people? A generous community of believers and value it at our core? Well I want to look at three things, which I believe will help you in your pursuit to be a generous believer.
Develop and maintain a Relationship with the Holy Spirit
We believe the Holy Spirit leads, guides, instructs and at times convicts and if we want to be a community that’s generous we need to allow the Holy Spirit to do those things, but he can only do them if we have relationship with Him. Philemon 1:6 say’s “You are generous because of your faith” and I believe as we grow in faith we should grow in our generosity.
Luke 12:33-34 (Message) “Be generous. Give to the poor. Get yourselves a bank that can’t go bankrupt, a bank in heaven far from bank robbers, safe from embezzlers, a bank you can bank on. It’s obvious, isn’t it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being.”
We all invest somewhere and have treasure located in some place, it could be time, energy and money in family, friends, homes, cars and so many other areas. We all invest somewhere and the bible teaches us that where we invest is where our heart will be. It is the place you long to be around, you feel right at that place, everything makes sense to you there because you have invested something into it – those things aren’t wrong, in fact on the whole they are good. We just need to make sure we are investing in treasure that will last, that builds an account in heaven.
Model your Maker
Our starting point should always be we have a generous God and there is no greater verse throughout the whole bible than John 3:16 “For God so loved the world he gave”. If we are looking at generosity we have to look ultimately to the greatest ever sacrifice made and that was God who gave his very son for us.
We can’t out give God but he calls us to model Him with our generosity. To live with the same view as the Good Samaritan: what is mine, what I have worked hard for I am going to share with and that was the DNA of the early and it should be our DNA today. Unfortunately, too many live with a closed fist that says this is mine and it’s going to stay mine. What do you need to do to make the shift?
See yourself as a River and not a Reservoir
One reason the Dead Sea is such a big tourist attraction is the high mineral concentration that means even non-swimmers can float. However there is a foul smell, nothing flows out and any fresh water that comes in turns salty and stays there.
Proverbs 11:24-25 “The world of the generous gets larger and larger; the world of the stingy gets smaller and smaller” As people we are not supposed to be reservoirs that just take in and hold water; we are called to be rivers that flow out and bless others. I believe incredible things happen when we move from what’s mine is mine to what’s mine is yours and that transition opens us to the possibility of great things. As people we need to be obedient to what God is asking of us, if we are obedient in the small things then much greater will be asked of us!
The early church valued Generosity; valued one another enough that it meant they lived constantly with an attitude that said what’s mine is yours. Let us be a community that lives with our hands open taking every opportunity to be generous and trusting the lead of the Holy Spirit at work within us.
Here are some things to take away:
1. What’s mine is yours
2. We can’t out give God; but we can model Him
3. Tithing is scriptural
4. Be a blessing
As part of this sermon series I have produced some notes on tithing. To download the pdf please click here