Summary: Open your heart and grow greater generosity.

Giving the gift of “me:” Growing Generosity, Open Before Christmas series, Message #1, December 2, 2007.

Did you shop on black Friday? Over 130 million of us hit the stores on the day after thanksgiving (dubbed “Black Friday”). Would you rate your experience a “thumbs up” or a “thumbs down?” Exit polls reveal that most Americans gave it a “thumbs down” –rated the experience less than anticipated, disappointing. It seems as if we’re being consumed by consumption in America: 2/3rds of our economy is consumer-driven; we’re the greatest debtor nation in the world; and we work more/vacation less than the rest of the world. Are we happier than the rest of the world? Not according to social surveys! It seems as if the Rolling Stones hit “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction” captures the pulse of American culture, and human nature, perfectly. Mick Jagger merely echoes what Solomon wisely observed: “Death and the grave are never satisfied, and neither are we.” (Proverbs 27:20) and also that “Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income.(Ecclesiastes 5:10). The bible indicates that our chronic dissatisfaction has to do with our human condition, and our affections –the condition of our hearts. We need to honestly evaluate whether our philosophy: “stuff satisfies” and our ethic that “getting is better than giving” are accurate. They are diametrically opposed to Jesus’ philosophy of life and the ethic he lived by. The bible says “Some people are always greedy for more, but the godly love to give!” (Proverbs 21:26 NLT). Many love to get & live to get. But the godly love to give & live to give. Jesus did. And Paul, whom He appeared to, writes that “we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ’It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ (Acts 20:35, NLT)” Those are radical words, folks, and they fly in the face of conventional wisdom. Is giving better than getting? Could giving be the key to developing a lasting sense of satisfaction? That’s what Jesus said; that’s how he lived his life. God’s gift of his son at Christmas reminds us that giving releases great benefits to both the recipient and the giver. Consider this: how has giving to others enriched you? What benefits does generosity bring? Now look at three reasons why it’s in your best interest to become more generous; more consistent in giving to others.

The first reason is that (A) Generosity brings satisfaction. I read that Allan Lucks (Executive director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of New York City) in his book “The Healing Power of Doing Good” conducted research on the effects of generous service, polling over 3,000 volunteers from 20 organizations. Lucks discovered “the uplift of giving,” a physiological phenomenon produced in our body when we give and serve disinterestedly –a “giver’s high.” Lucks found that after people have helped others, they experience a feeling of well-being and tranquility that counteract stress and tension. Among the benefits Luks found you get from volunteering are:

• A more optimistic outlook

• Increased energy

• Better perceived health

• Decreased feelings of loneliness and depression

• Better weight control

• Less pain

• A greater sense of relaxation and improvement in sleep

• A stronger immune system

Service helps people to stay healthier, both physically and mentally. A study carried out in Tecumseh, Michigan with 2,700 persons found that those who constantly did volunteer work had a mortality rate 2.5 times lower than those who didn’t. Generosity is good for you, and good to you! Becoming a greater giver will make you better/healthier, your marriage and family better/healthier, your church & neighborhood better, your world better. The verdict’s in, Jesus’ Words are true, ultimately ’You’re far happier giving than getting.” (Acts 20:35, MSG),

The second reason that it’s in your best interest to become generous is that (B) Generosity frees you Jesus said that his teachings were words to build your life on, that if you obey His teachings, you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free." Jesus taught that getting more doesn’t free you, it weighs you down with worry and fear of loss; Jesus says that possessions inevitably posess you. And he teaches that the best way to get is to give. Barbara Bush articulates this truth in these words: “Giving frees us from the familiar territory of our own needs by opening our mind to the unexplained worlds occupied by the needs of others.”

Take a look at Luke 6:38, where Jesus says “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." (NIV) Jesus is saying that “what goes around, comes around.” Giving blesses you because Giving releases God’s blessing, and inspires others to bless you in return. Ultimately, giving frees you. It frees you to enjoy the grateful generosity of others, and the spiritual principle of sowing and reaping. More importantly, it it frees your heart. Author Maya Angelou wrote: I have found that among its other benefits, giving liberates the soul of the giver. How does giving liberate your soul/ heart? Giving frees you from fear, greed, selfishness, materialism. Giving frees you to exercise your faith in God, your love for others, your talents, abilities, and resources, and your courage. That’s the motive of Paul to pen these words to a wealthy man, Philemon: "I am praying that you will put into action the generosity that comes from your faith as you understand and experience all the good things we have in Christ." (Philemon 1:6) Real faith generates generosity and releases God’s blessings into your life. In this way it IS more blessed to give than to receive.

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