Summary: A faithful life is a generous life. The more generous we become with all of life's gifts, the more full lives we will live.
It seems strange to be talking about “Making Change” by using the Old Testament. We’re New Testament people, right, and Jesus and the power of His Holy Spirit are the change agents in our lives. So? What’s with this message series rooted in the writings of Solomon? Well, think about it. In his day, Solomon was not only considered the wisest man in the world, but he was also the richest man in the world. I’ve always believed if we want to be successful in life, we should watch successful people. If you want to be good at basketball, watch what Michael Jordon does (well, maybe Stephan Curry these days). We’ll probably never be Stephan Curry, but we can learn from the best to make ourselves better. If it works that way in other areas of life, why not with our money. Solomon used his wisdom and increased his wealth. We ought to learn from him, and Solomon, in his collected wisdom says:
Give freely and become more wealthy;
be stingy and lose everything.
25 The generous will prosper;
those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed.
Proverbs 11: 24 – 25 (NLT)
I suppose that’s Solomon’s way of saying what Jesus would later say. In Acts 20:35, the Apostle Paul, when he was meeting with the elders of the Ephesian church, was making the case for the way in which he supported his own ministry and the ministry of others. Paul reminded the elders of the words of Jesus that “It is more blessed to give than receive.” I try to live into that truth! Last week, Rev. Taylor and I went to lunch. We were at Subway and I was all prepared to buy lunch. We ordered and he said, “Why don’t you let me buy you lunch for your birthday?” Well, it wasn’t my birthday yet, but I just said, “Sure, I’ll let you bless me today.” Well, a lot of people would say, “Yeah, you’re just a tightwad,” but I didn’t want to rob him of his blessing. Here’s the thing, though. We were both blessed. That’s why Solomon could write that principle of life, and remember, the proverbs are principles to live by, not promises to hold God to.
So, the principle of biblical living is that good giving is good living, why aren’t we more generous? There are a couple of reasons that come to mind. First, many of us live with a scarcity mentality. What do I mean? A scarcity mentality says life only has so much…so much time, so much money, so much intelligence, so much of whatever resource you can name, and if you have more that means I will necessarily have less. So, if I give, I will have less, and there really isn’t enough to go around anyway. Because I believe there isn’t enough, I hold on to what I have…and even want more. You see, a scarcity mindset isn’t dependent upon how much we have. We’ll never see it as enough.
The contrasting mentality is obviously an abundance mentality. That’s God’s mindset. And, it’s the mentality Solomon is sharing in this proverb. We serve an abundant God, who gives abundantly of life and love and resources. God blesses us, and out of those blessings, God desires that we bless others. Because our God has enough, we have enough and we live generous lives out of that abundance. We are, literally, blessed to be a blessing.
A second reason we don’t live generously is because we’ve seen generosity abused. No, not by the give, but by the receiver. You know what I mean. We see it in some so-called non-profit agencies who solicit donations during and in the immediate aftermath of disasters. They rake in untold millions of dollars in aid, yet only a small portion ever makes it to victims. It’s taken up in “overhead” and “administrative fees.” There aren’t a lot of those, but we’ve all seen them. Most non-profits are legitimate and do great work in assisting victims of tragedy and disaster. I’ll be happy to let you know that 100% of the resources we raise as United Methodists for the United Methodist Committee on Relief goes directly to aid victims in their time of need. I’m proud of that, and I’m also blessed to say that every penny of the over $11,000 you gave for Harvey relief is being spent to directly aid those affected by the storm.
We also remember the abuses of the television evangelists of the past. You know the ones I mean. “Plant a seed gift today of $1,000 and watch God bless you ten-fold. We’ll be happy to send you this prayer cloth as a seed gift to you.” All the while they’re driving their luxury cars and jet setting it all over the world in their private jet. We also can’t forget the time we gave the guy on the street $5 only to see him in the liquor store later in the day. I remind us that their abuses don’t negate our blessing! God honors our generosity regardless of who we feel compelled to bless. That’s because generous living is a test of our faith, not a test of theirs!