Generous - The Beauty in Giving: Abundance and Abounding
Today we're going to conclude our sermon series for the month of September---a series entitled: Generous--The Beauty in Giving.
There’s a good reason why so many people are jaded and suspicious when preachers talk about money. But did you know that Jesus talked about money more than any other subject other than the kingdom of God? Jesus knew that if his followers didn’t learn to live generously, materialism could very well choke the life out of their faith. Generosity in its purest, simplest, most loving form is a beautiful thing.
This sermon series has explored how the beauty of Generosity can change your life, and maybe even your world. Now let's get to the last installment...
Today we're going to be talking about how Generosity can lead you to a life worth living, and we're going to see what the Apostle Paul had to say about this in a 2,000-year-old letter to 1st century Christians that still has relevance for us...
But first, let's talk a little bit about the search for fulfillment. When it comes to searching for fulfillment in our lives--the struggle is real, and especially now, am I right?
One of the many things about our culture that stands out is that there are so many people who seem to have everything, but they are still not happy. We are taught by the attention merchants in our culture that if we can just find security, safety, a certain level of income, that next promotion, the right investment... we'll be happy and whole.
The influencers and celebrities drive the train on this--hawking success, excess, happiness through material gain, the right job, clothes, car, house, the best schools for our kids... that we'll find fulfillment.
And yet, we see in front of us every single day the evidence that having everything so to speak does not make us happy or fulfilled. In fact, it leads to a "Disconnection from the Soul." We lose our true selves in the process.
We are not generous with ourselves in this. We search for fulfillment from a place of scarcity. True generosity is hard to find, which is why we are so surprised by it when we see it. Our news cycles are dominated by the exact opposite.
And so we find that we live in a culture full of people who are in isolation, who spend more and more time othering those with whom they have differences, or who threaten our preferred path to fulfillment. This leads to tight-fisted ways of living and moving in the world that creates divisions and disparity between those who have, and those who have not.
And all of it comes from a place of scarcity and lack.
So how do we go about living a life that is worth living? If you've been following along for the past month, you can probably guess that it has something to do with generosity...
But before we get to that... we need to start with a very important question: "What is the basis of my generosity?"
Because as we've learned, if the basis of my generosity is a place of scarcity, it isn't generosity. If it is reluctant, it isn't generosity. If it is self-serving, it isn't generosity.
But when our generosity is a natural response to the great and amazing grace and generosity that we ourselves have been given by God---that's when things can change. When we decide that a life worth living is one that is outward-focused and open-handed... that's the kind of basis that we are looking for.
I LIKE BEING 98
No matter where we are in our life's journey, we can live a life worth living when we learn what it means to embody God's generosity to others and to the world.
This is why I want us to focus on this one very important idea today:
GENEROSITY LEADS TO A LIFE WORTH LIVING
2 Corinthians 9:6-8:
6 Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 7 Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.
The verse we are going to focus on today is verse 8, which I will translate here from the original Greek:
And now, God is able to make all grace abound to you so that in every way having all sufficiency, you may abound in every good work.
What was Paul trying to tell the Corinthians here? First, he wanted them to understand that when they act out of true generosity that they open themselves up to an experience of God that is nothing short of incredible.
God, according to Paul, is able to multiply/increase in abundance every grace that we both give and receive. It's like when we are being truly open-handed in our generosity, we are tuned in to the frequencies of God's grace like never before. The sound of it comes in loud and clear without interference.
Then he employs the word "all" in a fantastic way. "So that in all things... at all times... having all that you need." All of these instances of "all" have their root in the Greek word "pan," which Paul employs here on purpose so that when it's heard by the Corinthians... ALL they are hearing is ALL.
And Paul is careful to phrase this in such a way that he's focused on needs rather than wants, and that God's blessings as he outlines are not the reward for generosity, but the basis for it.
For Paul, living open-handed and generous is an act of trust---and a response to grace.
This is transformational rather than transactional grace, mind you. That is an important point. This isn't a quid pro quo thing by God. This isn't the prosperity Gospel.
I was watching a video the other day where a popular televangelist told a story about how he had a combative interview with a television reporter who took umbrage with the fact that he was so wealthy.
When asked if he was a millionaire or not, the preacher shot back that he wasn't. He was a multi-millionaire, he told the reporter, and if the reporter kept up his antagonism, the preacher would buy the television station and fire him.
This is one of the charlatans who twist Paul's words and make this transactional in nature. If you give God this, then God will give you that.
What Paul is teaching here is not a transactional kind of generosity in response to a transactional kind of God... it's this:
A life lived as a generous response to God’s own generosity and grace is a life that matters—a transformational life that can change the world.
Usually, I take this time in the sermon to talk about all of the things that you could do in order to apply what we've just learned about the Scripture passage, but I want to take a different approach.
After everything we've learned over the past several weeks, I want to tell you something about yourself, and why you can live the kind of generous life that you were meant to live:
Here’s What You Need To Know About Yourself
You are loved to love---One of the very best ways to demonstrate God's love for us is to love one another as we have been loved. And how have you been loved? You have been loved so much that the Creator of the Universe went to the furthest lengths possible in order to rescue you.
You are created to live generously--God created you out of an act of incredible generosity. You were created from God's abundance, and not at all out of scarcity. This Divine DNA is in you, so it's your nature to live generously.
You are connected---You are not alone in this. Every act of generosity that you choose to share has a ripple effect. And further, when you live generously, you begin to see more clearly how connected you are to others.
You are here—now—for a reason---You are filled with glorious purpose, because the purpose you were created to fulfill is one that was ordained by God, specific to you because of your uniqueness, your particular gifts to give.
You are part of God’s unfolding story of Redemption--If the world seems like it's messed up and hopeless, it isn't... because of you. You have the chance to bring God's kingdom, heaven, here to earth. When you live generously, you show the world around you what it looks like when God gets what God wants.
You can do this. We can do this. And when we learn what it means to live into a simple, beautiful and loving generosity, we have the chance to change the world. Shall we get to it?
Because GENEROSITY LEADS TO A LIFE WORTH LIVING.