Saturday, February 27, 2016

Generosity Part 3

When your money goes in to something, a piece of your heart will go in to it as well.  Your heart has a tendency to follow your money.  So, it’s essential to protect our heart from what money can do to it.  In Generosity Part 1 and Part 2, I talked about how money can impact our heart.  Money is something that pretends to be an everything (Tripp) and if we’re not careful, we can easily fall into its grip.  To close out this series of posts, I simply want to talk about how we can protect our heart and see ourselves move toward a lifestyle of generosity. 

The Apostle Paul wrote to his young friend Timothy and said, “As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy.  They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.” (1 Timothy 6:17 – 19ESV) 

How can we protect our heart?  Paul tells us that the first way is through “hope” but not hope in riches because riches are uncertain rather hope in God.  Hope is not a situation.  Hope is a Person and His name is Jesus.  (Tripp) When I put my hope in anyone or anything other than God I am trusting in a risky hope because it will always be uncertain. Hope in material things, hope in a house, hope in a lifestyle, hope in a bank account that’s all risky hope because those things were never designed to be the source of life and hope. (Tripp) They will never hold up under that weight.  When the weight of life is placed on anyone or anything other than God, it will always cave under the pressure and I’ll discover that I can never spend enough to have all I want in life and I can never save enough to stop all the bad things that can happen in life. (Stanley) A full, meaningful, productive, purposeful life starts with Jesus at the center because He’s the only one capable of being our hope.

The second way to protect our heart is to remember that God “provides us with everything to enjoy.”  When is the last time you just paused and took time to enjoy what you have and reflect on how blessed you are?  When I focus on what I want more than what I have, well that leads to this wonderful trait called being discontent.  The love of money is fundamentally not an overspending problem it’s a contentment problem.  (Tripp) Money will never do anything to address contentment because contentment is a heart issue.

The dictionary defines contentment as the state of being satisfied with what you have.  And, this so much better than the alternative not being satisfied with what you have.  Not being satisfied can lead to crazy amounts of debt.  Not being satisfied can lead to obesity.  Not being satisfied can lead to affairs.  Not being satisfied can lead to feeling entitled.  Not being satisfied can lead to addictions.  Not being satisfied can lead to greed.  Not being satisfied can lead to stealing.  Not being satisfied can lead to putting your work first and your family last.  Not being satisfied can lead to me putting my wants at the center of the Universe and so everything now becomes about me and what I want.  So, do you see what’s at stake here?  This is why a lack of contentment in our life is such a big deal.  And, this is the tension that we all feel because as long as we’re human, we will struggle with this to one degree or another because it’s human nature to want more.  It doesn’t take any work on my part to want more.  It is what will always come natural to me.  And, as long as I’m wanting more, I will never be content. 

True contentment is the result of taking time to enjoy what you have instead of thinking about what you don’t have. Let me try to illustrate:  We have this tradition at our house over Christmas.  We do an Advent Calendar starting December 1st.  Each day leading up to Christmas the kids get a tiny gift a piece of candy, a coloring book, a date with mom or dad, a night out looking at Christmas lights stuff like that.  On Christmas Eve, we try to make the Advent Calendar gift a little more substantial, so we typically get a pair of pajamas for them that they can wear on Christmas Eve and then we’ll get them a small gift.  Two years ago we got little TY Beanie Boos for the kids. 

Our 3-year-old gets hers and it’s this little pink unicorn.  She thinks its super cute and is like “Oh, I love it!”  Then our 4-year-old gets hers.  She looks at it with this look of disappointment and is like, “But I wanted a pink unicorn too!”  A huge fit ensued.  Seriously, I think I saw her head spin completely around a couple of times!  Instead of receiving this gift and being thankful for it, she made her discontentment very clear!  And, that mindset totally stole her joy.  It totally took the joy of receiving that gift away from her because instead of feeling thankful, she clearly was not thankful and lack of thankfulness stole her joy.  But, here’s the thing her lack of thankfulness didn’t just affect her.  It affected us as well.  Carol and I thought she was going to love this little guy!  We were so excited to give it to her.  And, then, when she reacted the way she did like my first initial response was “You little ingrate!”  I know it’s not a very pastoral of me to think that. So, I kept it on the inside but the thought certainly crossed my mind.   But, a part of our joy was stolen as well because her lack of thankfulness.  Being discontent doesn’t just impact you.  It impacts those around you as well. (Gordon)

“Comparisons kill contentment.” And, this is why we are in desperate need for the grace of God.  Money will never do anything to address contentment because contentment is a heart issue. God has provided everything for our enjoyment.  Joy flows into your life when thankfulness explodes from your heart. (Gordon)  If we take time to enjoy what we have, we’ll be more content.  And, I guarantee that the more content you are the less you will spend and the more you’ll have to give.

A third way to protect our heart is to be generous. Generosity flows from a heart overwhelmed by the grace of God. “Only Jesus can turn an entitled person into a thankful one. Only Jesus can transform an envious heart into one that is truly content. Only Jesus can enable you to see and care about the needs of others instead of being so dominated by your own.” (Tripp) I can easily be ruled by my selfishness and this is why I am so desperate for the grace of Jesus in my life.  Every day I need to remind myself of who Jesus is and all He has done and the grace He has shown and allow Him to continue His work in me.  What Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 6 reveals that the overflow of a heart transformed by Jesus is “to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share.”

Imagine if everyone lived by that statement.  If you’re a follower of Jesus, this is the life we’re called to live because our generosity helps people and, in the process, points them to Jesus. And, when this happens, the Apostle Paul says we store up treasure for ourselves as a good foundation for the future and we take hold of that which is truly life.

The happiest people you know are the most generous people you know.  (Stanley) Show me a generous person and I’ll show you a happy person.  Show me a stingy person and I’ll show you a grumpy person.  When you live a generous life, you’re truly experiencing life.  Jesus said it Himself It’s more blessed to give than to receive.”  (Acts 20:35)  I’ve never been accused of being some great scholar or theologian.  Quite frankly, I’m not even the smartest person in my family!  But, I do know this given the option of choosing to be more blessed or less blessed I’m probably going to choose to be more blessed.  And, the way I choose to be more blessed the way I can truly experience life is simply by choosing to be more generous to intentionally give to daily sacrifice to really feel generosity in my budget to say “no” to some of my wants so I can say “yes” to another’s need to look to Jesus and trust Him at His word.  A greater paycheck won’t help me be generous, but a greater view of grace certainly will. A heart overwhelmed by grace is a heart willing to overwhelm others with generosity.

The “most blessed” lives are generous lives.  A bigger bank account will not make us more generous.  We do not need “more” in order to be generous.  We need grace.  Generosity flows from a heart overwhelmed by grace of God. So please don’t let anyone guilt you in to generosity.  Let God grace you in to generosity.  Guilt may cause you to be generous for a moment.  Grace will motivate you to be generous for a lifetime. 

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