Last month we looked at 3 relationships that were at the heart of Jesus’ life and how our following Jesus means living dynamically in these 3 Relationships. We also identified 5 rhythms in each relationship that can help us grow stronger in our faith. If you were not able to be with us for that series, we want to invite you to pick up a study guide that you can use to learn about these relationships, they are available at the connection table. This month we want to look at 2 of the 15 rhythms in more detail because it is these two rhythms that will do more to help us live and experience a blessed life than any other: they are Generosity and Blessing.
- Generosity – I use my time and treasure to further the kingdom of God.
- Blessing – I find ways to make the world around me better.
You will notice that both of these rhythms involve giving, so the truth that we are going to explore for the next few weeks is that we are blessed when we give. Jesus said, it is more blessed to GIVE than to RECEIVE, but we often think in the exact opposite terms. We often think that we are blessed when we receive more in life. We picture a blessed life as one where we have everything we need financially and physically, and then some, but the truth is we are blessed in more ways, and in more lasting ways, when we give. Proverbs 11:24 - one person gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty.
It might seem counterintuitive that when we give more we will receive more, but that is exactly what God says. 2 Corinthians 9:6, remember whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. From a purely agricultural standpoint, this makes sense. If we only plant a few seeds, we only get a few plants and a small harvest, but if we scatter a lot of seeds, we will get a larger harvest. We are more blessed when we give and give generously.
But let’s be clear that we are not talking about a financial blessing, we are talking about so much more. If we read on in 2 Corinthians we get a great picture of what a blessed life looks like.
2 Corinthians 9:8, God is able to bless you abundantly so that in ALL THINGS at ALL TIMES, having ALL YOU NEED, you will ABOUND in EVERY good work.
The blessing we want, and the blessing we receive when we give, is the abundance of God’s gifts and grace that comes at all times and in all places and provides us with all the things we need. At times this blessing might be financial, but at other times the abundance and blessing will be experienced in relationships, or with an emotional and physical well-being, or a spiritual health which can lead to peace and contentment. In all things and in all ways, God says, we will be blessed.
So we experience a blessed life when we give and give generously of our time and treasure. This kind of giving flows from a heart of generosity and so it is that heart which is the key to a blessed life. So why is it that our hearts are not more generous? What is it that holds us back from giving freely and generously? To answer that, we are going to look at three different mindsets that shape our hearts.
The first is a Bag Mindset - all we have to live on is what is in the bag. When we think this way we tend to see the bag as being too small and full of holes. We hear this from the prophet Haggai 1:6, You have planted much, but harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink but never have your fill. You put on clothes but are not warm. You earn wages only to put them in a bag with holes in it.
Isn’t this often how we feel in life? We don’t have enough money to give because there is not enough to get us through the week. The money I put in the bag is never enough, and just when I think there might be enough, the car breaks down, someone in the family gets sick, there is an unexpected bill, and the money quickly drains away. With a bag mindset, we trust what is in the bag instead of the one who provides what we put in the bag. With a bag mindset we never think about giving more – we only think about needing more and trying to get more.
One of Jesus’ disciples had this kind of mindset – Judas. Judas was the one who literally held the money bag and he trusted what was in the bag more than in Jesus, so when a woman came and broke open an expensive jar of perfume to anoint Jesus, Judas complained because the perfume could have been sold for a lot of money and put into the bag.
It wasn’t too much longer after that when Judas actually betrayed Jesus for a literal bag of money – 30 silver coins he probably received in a small bag. He trusted what was in the bag more than he did in Jesus, and too often this is how we live our lives. We trust what is in the bag, or in the bank, more than we trust in Jesus. We don’t give to God because we don’t think we will have enough to make ends meet. This mindset keeps us from giving, which in turn keeps us from being blessed by God and living a blessed life.
We need to turn the Bag Mindset into the Basket Mindset. A basket mindset understands – we have more than enough so we can begin to give. Deuteronomy 28:4-6.
And Jesus said Luke 6:38. Give and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, will be poured into your lap (your basket). For the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
In Jesus’ day, people would take their baskets out to receive an allotment of grain. To get as much into the basket as they could, they would press it down, shake it to get the air out, and fill it so full that it would literally run over the sides as they carried it home. When we picture our lives like this, with so much that it literally runs over the side, we will be able to give and give generously.
When we see God filling our baskets this way, our faith and trust begins to shift from the bag, or the basket, to the God who fills it. When we know we have more than enough because God gives generously, we will be more generous with our giving and when we are more generous with our giving, we will experience more of God’s blessing because Jesus said, it is more blessed to give than to receive.
There was a boy who was willing to give his 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish to Jesus when Jesus wanted to feed the crowd who was with him. When Jesus took the food it says he blessed it, and then he gave it to the people, and after everyone ate, what did the disciples do? They went out and picked up 12 baskets full of bread. This is a picture of the blessed life. When we give what we have to God, God not only uses it but blesses us with leftovers. A basket mindset comes when we look to the one who gives instead of what we have been given.
As we make this shift, and experience the blessing that comes with it, something begins to happen in our heart and life, we grow more confident and courageous in our giving and begin to give more, and when we give more we see that God doesn’t just provide us with a basket full but a barn full. We develop a Barn Mindset – God gives us abundantly more than what we need.
Deuteronomy 28:8 The Lord will send a blessing on your barns and on everything you put your hand to. When we see that God will give us abundantly more than what we can imagine, it inspires us to give in ways we never thought possible. With a barn mindset we don’t just give a tithe to the church, 10%,, we start thinking about doubling that amount.
As I’ve been thinking about this barn mindset, I’ve thought about how in many ways our barns are already full but we still have a bag mindset. Many of us have garages, basements, attics, and storage containers that are full and overflowing, and yet we still don’t have a mindset that allows us to give as generously as we might like. We still hold back because we don’t think that all we have will be enough. We are still trusting what is in the bag and basket and barn instead of the One who fills all three.
A blessed life comes when we give, and giving comes from a heart of generosity, and a heart of generosity comes from the right vision and mindset. What we need to see clearly is that all we have comes from God and God has told us that the more we give – the more we will receive. Jesus said it is more blessed to give than to receive, so it is when we give that we will experience the blessed life.
During the next several weeks at Faith Church we will be given many opportunities to give. We can fill and give a shoe box, or maybe give financially to help send the boxes world-wide, or provide an additional $6 per box so that children can learn more about Jesus. We can give to the food bank by providing crackers and peanut butter, or making an additional donation to help provide food for those in need. What will you spend on our family for Thanksgiving? Can we give that much away to those in need in our community or world? We will soon start signing up for the Christmas Dinner where gifts of money, pies, and most of all our time will be needed to help bless our community on Christmas Day. The more we give the more we will receive. The more we give the more we will experience the blessed life.
What kind of mindset do we have? Bag – Basket – Barn. What one thing can we do this week to change our mindset and enlarge the capacity of heart to give? If we want to experience a blessed life, it’s easy, find one more way and one more thing to give.
The Blessed Life
Jesus said it is more blessed to _______ than to _________.
How have you experienced this in your own life?
What mindset do you have when it comes to giving?
Bag Mindset – I don’t have enough to give.
Read Haggai 1:6
- How does this reflect your own thoughts about giving?
- When have you not given because you didn’t think God would provide?
Basket Mindset - I have more than enough to give
Read Deuteronomy 28:4-6 and Luke 6:38
- How does this reflect my thoughts about giving?
- In what ways has God “pressed down and shaken together” the gifts he has given?
Barn Mindset – God has more than I could ever need and God freely and generously gives.
Read Deuteronomy 28:8, Luke 12:16, Proverbs 3:9-10
- How does this reflect my thoughts about giving?
- In what ways are my barns already overflowing? Has this shaped my capacity to give?
We grow in a generous heart by expanding our mindset. What is one way you can give this month that will help you and your family move from a bag to a barn mindset?
Review the 3 Relationships material on Generosity and Blessing and ways to grow in these two rhythms. Study Guides are available at the Connection Table