As we discuss the principle of generosity today, it is important for us to understand what we are and aren’t talking about. Generosity is NOT making a large one time gift, although that might be generous, and we aren’t talking about occasional gifts to support the work of the church or various causes that help others. What we ARE talking about is a lifestyle where every use of our time, talents, position and possessions helps others. Let me say that again, the principle of generosity is a lifestyle were every use of our time, talents, position and possessions helps others or adds value to the lives of others.
One of the most generous people I have ever known was by Grandmother. While she never worked at a job, she spent much of her time helping care for those around her. With her time and talents and money she supported many causes in her church and community and she consistently gave to those around her. Later in life she gave many of her possessions away to the family and she didn’t give them grudgingly but with great joy. She opened her home graciously to all her family and friends and while she was always helping others, she never spent much on herself. She drove old cars, seldom bought new clothes and was always looking to use up left-overs before she would cook something new.
When it finally dawned on me that my Grandmother had “considerable resources” I asked her one day why she worked so hard to cut coupons (she had this shoe box full of them) and she told me, I have money today because I use coupons. To me, my grandmother was an example of generosity because she never thought of herself but was always thinking of others. She seldom spent money on herself but gave consistently and generously to others. Her comment when it came time to give a tip in the restaurant was I have often felt bad for leaving too little but I have never felt bad for leaving too much. To me, she embodied a lifestyle of giving – she was generous.
A great biblical example of generosity is Jonathan. Jonathan was the son of King Saul and as the heir to throne of Israel – Jonathan had it all. He had position and status and power and with all of that came the wealth needed to provide for himself and his family, but in his heart Jonathan always seemed to put others first. Jonathan was also a very successful leader. I 1 Samuel 14 there is a wonderful story of Jonathan and his aide sneaking into the enemy camp and all alone defeating their enemy. Together they killed over 20 of their enemies which put the entire enemy camp into so much chaos that they are easily defeated. After this victory – Jonathan could very easily have emerged as the new king of Israel. He could have used this success as a leader to promote himself – but he didn’t – he thought of others.
In time Saul, Jonathan’s father, was removed as king and God made it clear that David was going to be the new king. This not only meant Jonathan was no longer in line to be king, but that he would also lose any power, position and wealth he may have had. When this became clear to Jonathan, he didn’t think of himself and try to hold on to his place, he thought of David and pledged his loyalty and commitment to him. In 1 Samuel 20:4 Jonathan says to David, Whatever you want me to do, I’ll do for you. This is generosity. Whatever you want me to do – I’ll do for you. Whatever I can do with my time, my money, my talents and abilities, my possessions, my energy and my prayers – I’ll do for you. Generosity is a lifestyle where every use of our time talents, position and possessions helps other and adds value to their lives.
I am so glad that Lee Weaver was here today to talk about how our giving at this time last year time helped the people of Sierra Leone because it reminds us that we are already a generous congregation. We have a commitment to giving to those in need whether it is here in Bellefonte through the Faith Centre, or people in need in places like Mississippi, Oklahoma and Ohio or the people of Sierra Leone. We are already embracing a lifestyle of giving so the questions isn’t how to become generous but how to deepen our generosity. Like I said last week, God already sees us as leaders and God sees us generous leaders so today he wants us to intentionally develop this principles so we can have more influence in our world.
Generosity is an important leadership principle today because having all the right information isn’t as important to people as being genuinely involved and engaged in helping make things right. Vital leaders are those who show they care by investing themselves sacrificially in a cause that brings about positive – life giving change. People want to follow these kind of leaders. People want to follow someone who shows they care by their generosity, so let’s look at 5 things we can do to deepen our generosity and learn how to give more.
1. Be grateful for what we have. Generosity begins with gratitude for what we have and seeing all that we have as a gift from God. It is also important for us to be grateful for what we have no matter how much it is. If we aren’t grateful for what little we have then we won’t be grateful if we suddenly receive more. Gratitude is NOT a matter of quantity – it IS a matter of quality – the quality of our heart. Jonathan had this kind of heart. When he had a lot he used it to help others and when it was all taken away his heart didn’t change – he was still grateful and helped others. So generosity begins with gratitude.
2. Put other people first. Jonathan put his people first, he put the men who fought with him first and he put David, the king who would take his place, first. We will never learn to be generous until we learn how to put the lives of others before our own. When we really see the value in others it will move us give more of what we have and more of who we are to help them. If you remember the movie Schindler’s List, there is a powerful moment when Oscar Schindler finally sees the value in the Jewish people he was been working to save. While he gave much of what he had to help the Jewish people through the war, there is this moment where he realized he could have given more and that each gift could have saved one more life. When we put others first – really put them first – we learn to give more of who we are and what we have to help them and save them.
3. Don’t allow possessions to possess us. Richard Foster, the author of Celebration of Disciple, says owning things is an obsession in our culture. If we own it, we feel we can control it; and when we control it, we feel it will give us more pleasure. This idea is an illusion. Too many times we let our possessions possess us and the more they get a hold on us, the more we hold on to them and the more we hold on to them the harder it is to let go and give. To embrace a lifestyle of giving we have to be able to let go.
4. Think of money as a resource to use not a commodity to keep. What we are talking about here is stewardship vs. ownership. A steward is someone who understands that all they have has been given to them as a trust to use for others where an owner is someone who understand that all they have is theirs. The truth is that all of us are stewards because what we have is a gift from God to use for His purpose and His kingdom. From our time, to our talents, to our money, all that we have is from God and God doesn’t give things for us to store up and keep – he gives so that we can share and give life to others and the more we see ourselves as stewards the more we will give and the more generous we become.
5. Give. Develop a habit of giving my giving. Give your time. Give your money. Give you energy. Give your prayers. Give your relationships. Give your talents and abilities. Give your service. Just give. The more we give, the more we learn how to give and the more we give, the more we want to give. We develop a habit of giving by giving – there is no other way. The Indian poet, Rabindaranath Tagore said, All that is not given is lost. And Jesus said those who lose their lives in this world save it, but those who save their lives will lose it. The same is true with our wealth.
This week we have many opportunities to give. We can give to children and families through our time and prayers for VBS. We can give to Sierra Leone through our gifts and prayers. We can give ourselves to deepening leadership skills by signing up to be part of the Leadership Summit. I invite you to take another step on the road to generosity and vital leadership and give.
Leadership Principles ~ GENEROSITY
1. Give Thanks: Take 5 minutes every morning and evening to give thanks for what God has given you. Be specific and creative. Remember to give thanks for people and opportunities not just possessions.
2. Give Away: Give away something of value this week. It can be your money, your possessions or your time.
3. Give Intentionally: Financially support someone who is trying to do something positive in and for others. This can be a local business, an individual in mission, the work of the new food bank or our Vacation Bible School’s offering to support the work in Pa Loko, Sierra Leon.
4. Give to the Future: Mentor a child, youth, adult or family. Sharing our faith, wisdom, experience and leadership can be the most generous gift we can offer and can make the biggest impact in the world both today and tomorrow.
All that is not given is lost.
When we give freely, we grow all the richer.
Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.