Last month at Revolution Movement (youth and young adults of CLA) we were working through a series called High 5. Five weeks, every week consisting of five speakers with five minutes to speak on a given topic. Acts 2 was our main scripture, focusing on the five things the early church devoted themselves to. “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers… And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.”
The fifth and final week I shared on generosity in all of our Revolution campuses: Langley, Maple Ridge and Coquitlam. I truly enjoyed the hours (seriously, hours, for five minutes of talking–preachers amaze me) spent in prep leading up to services and thought it might be cool to translate my “notes” into writing. You know, using those neat things called complete sentences.
Having money in our culture is synonymous with living the good life. If you can buy anything you want, travel to the most exotic countries (first class, obviously) and eat at the latest hot spots–all while wearing designer clothing–you’re living GOOD. Or so people would tell you. The early church, however, knew what was up when it came to money. Acts 2:44-45 says, “And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.”
Before we can even discuss generosity, we have to align our perspective of money with the scriptures–the perspective the early church had. By walking through the book of Proverbs, we’re going to put money in it’s place. Proverbs 22:1 says “A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold” and Proverbs 16:16 instructs “How much better to get wisdom than gold, to get insight rather than silver!” Having a solid reputation and a mind of wisdom is more valuable than money.
Proverbs 18:10-11 tells us, “The name of the Lord is a fortified tower; the righteous run to it and are safe. The wealth of the rich is their fortified city; they imagine it a wall too high to scale.” In the first verse, we learn the name of the Lord is a strong tower. IS. There’s zero room for questions. However, the second verse says wealth is imagined to be a high wall. The Lord is solid and security in money is simply imagination. Above money, our hearts need to desire the Lord, wisdom and a good name.
Do you remember nine-year-old lazy summer afternoons? Days consisted of walking around the house murmuring to Mom, “I’m boooored,” being enrolled in yet another sports camp, or sitting on the couch watching Price is Right reruns. Occasionally, I’d have this thought: “I wonder what my family room looks like upside down.” I’d turn down Bob Barker’s voice, throw my feet onto the back of the couch, put my head on the carpet, roll my eyes backwards and stare. Thisssss isssss craaaaazy. Check out the coffee table. It isn’t falling. Look at the couch! It must be duct taped to the ceiling. The floor lamp is a new chandelier! Wowww. The longer you stare and the more you daydream about what it would be like to walk around in this upside-down world, the closer your brain comes to exploding.
I believe giving in God’s economy is a little bit like my upside-down childhood family room. Proverbs 11:24 says, “One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want.” What the what? Let me get this straight. I have ten dollars. I give YOU five dollars. Quick math calculation here – I have five dollars. I got “less” rich. You got “more” rich. But this verse says I will “grow all the richer!” God’s economy doesn’t make logical sense. Just like I could never figure out how my coffee table didn’t crash to the floor in this “alternate” world, I can’t figure out how God continues to out-give those who give. But HE DOES. (Brain explosion.)
Proverbs 19:17 says, “Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed.” When we give to those in need, the Bible says we are lending to the Lord. Doesn’t this reveal the ridiculous, extravagant love of Jesus Christ? On the cross, He gave us freedom from sin, condemnation and salvation forevermore. But he doesn’t stop there. He gives us life, air to breathe, the ability to work, the ability to make wealth and then says, “Hey, if you give to the poor, let me tell you a secret: you’re lending from me. I’ll repay you.” That’s crazy. To clarify – I don’t always think God gives back to us financially. Sometimes He chooses to bless us with a good reputation, with wisdom, with more faith and trust in His plan – but ultimately, we receive much more than we ever gave to Him.
Okay – where and how should we give? Biblically, I believe in the tithe. Ten perfect of our income or any gifts received, bringing our “best” to God as a thank you, recognizing that it is all from Him. Next, are offerings. These can be regular donations to church missions, organizations you believe in or spontaneous gifts to friends, family, strangers, anyone you meet, anywhere. Proverbs 3:27 says, “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it.”
Therefore, if you have any capacity to give, two dollars in your pocket when you see a two-dollar need, fulfill it. God doesn’t look at the dollar amount, he seeks out your heart. The most important thing is to start. There is no one more generous than our God. He is generosity. He gave Jesus on the cross and in order to become more like Him, we need to live in this “early church” perspective of our money and possessions.
Proverbs 22:9 says “Whoever has a bountiful eye will be blessed, for he shares his bread with the poor.” I love that promise. Bountiful means large in quantity, abundant, generous, liberal. Let’s not allow money to hold the #1 place in our hearts. But instead, let’s work on having bountiful eyes–eyes that every day are seeking new, creative ways to be generous.
P.S. If you’d like to listen to the audio version of this message, download “Part 5 – Generosity” here. (I start right around 16-17 minute mark.)