Think about these 3 words – Excelling in Generosity. I wish I had an easy way to research how rare that combination of those 3 words is! I stand here before God and am very certain that I never – EVER put those 3 words together in my mind in that order – until the last 2 weeks.
Of course, I have heard and even studied giving and generosity, but never the idea of Excelling in Generosity. I need to study my Bible more, don’t I!?!
Okay, you can relax, because this ISN’T a message about tithing or raising money. Because Excelling in Generosity is about TIME, TALENT, and TREASURE. It is about all of your life. You can rest your beating hearts because I am not trying to get to your checkbook.
This was written and presented as a sermon. The video below is the sermon. The blog below includes more than was presented in the sermon. And, for your learning or for helping people assess their thinking about generosity, click here to download a survey document that uses the 12 questions. It isn't a link to a survey, just a document to use.
A Romans 12 Church
Why are we talking about Excelling in Generosity?
Because it is part of the change, the new vision, the great challenge, the magnificent journey we are on - becoming a Romans 12 church. Excelling in Generosity is one of the signs or characteristics, a critical characteristic of a Romans 12 church.
Changes, like becoming a Romans 12 church typically face two initial obstacles…
- Each person’s attitude about the change
- Each person’s clarity about the change – what the change is or looks like
But since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you—see that you also excel in this grace of giving. – 2 Corinthians 8:7
What’s Your Attitude About Becoming a Romans 12 Church?
If you are willing to trust research about groups of people…
- 30% of you are Resisters, you’re not interested in the Romans 12 church vision
- 50% of you are Undecided– you’re uncertain about it, but not resisting
- And, 20% of you are Early Adopters – you are ready to be a Romans 12 church
This message is mostly for Early Adopters, the 20%! While everyone else can benefit from what God’s Word has to offer today, I hope that you Early Adopters listen diligently.
Why am I so interested in you Early Adopters, the 20%? Because each of you Early Adopters have opportunities to talk one on one with the 30% Resisters and the 50% Undecided that aren’t yet on board. That means you have an opportunity to encourage others to go on this magnificent journey with us.
The only way a church will become a Romans 12 church is by the GRACE of God compelling each person in this body to give their time, talent, and treasure! Obviously, churches are the people, not the building. So, a Romans 12 church has each person using their gifts to serve the body not themselves.
For that reason, Early Adopters, you are key to implementing this Romans 12 vision, please tune in.
And, I want you to be a VIRUS, not a Grizzly Bear with the people around you. What’s the difference? Grizzly Bears scare you and you run from them. On the other hand, you don’t see a virus coming! As a result, you can impact those around you without you trying to convince them. That allows you to live the example of a Romans 12 person and, therefore, you help MBC become a Romans 12 church by infecting those around you!
AND, any change requires constant communication about what the change is.
What is a Romans 12 Church?
- …spends time with and serves the sick and sinners – as Jesus did
- …stands up to the governing rulers and shares the truth – as Jesus did
- …forgives the woman caught in adultery instead of condemning her – as Jesus did
- …weeps for a city that won’t hear the truth – as Jesus did
- …shares truth with the outcasts like the woman at the well – as Jesus did
- …disciples people, teaching them how life really works – as Jesus did
- …serves others, washing the disciples’ feet – as Jesus did
Delivery Service Not a Destination
And, for a different picture, a Romans 12 church is like a Truth and Love delivery service – the R12 Delivery Service. It’s like UPS, the United Parcel Service. UPS has a local depot that has packages that need to be delivered. UPS deliverers go to the depot, load up packages, and deliver them to the people in the city.
The R12 Delivery Service has a depot; it is God’s Word. The depot has God’s Truth and Love packages waiting to be delivered. Each person in the church is an R12 Deliverer. When R12 Deliverers are together at services, programs, and small groups, we use our gifts to help other Deliverers learn about Truth and Love packages and how to deliver them better. Then we leave each gathering to deliver more Truth and Love packages to the lost and dying world around us.
The big difference between UPS and the R12 Delivery Service is … the R12 deliveries impact eternity.
That’s a Romans 12 church!
A Body of Believers
- …see serving God as a high calling
- …are willing to be used by God
- …do not conform to the world
- …renew their mind to God’s Word and are transformed
- …test and approve what God’s will is
- …think clearly about the strengths and talents they have been given
- …declare the will of the Lord
- …minister to one another
- …teach one another
- … encourage one another to good and Godly action
- …give generously with all liberality
That’s a Romans 12 church!
Excels in Generosity
That last item in the list, "gives generously," is what I want you Early Adopters to focus on today. So, Early Adopters, please turn with me in your Bible to Romans 12:8b. There are very few words here…
NKJV says, “…he who gives, with liberality….”
NLT says, “…if it is giving, give generously….”
NIV says, “…if it is giving, then give generously….”
Would you agree that stingy is more natural to us than generous? Agree?
From my perspective, generosity is undoubtedly NOT part of my human nature - but stinginess is. Okay, what about giving versus getting – which of those is part of our human nature? Easy test right – Getting!
A small boy was given two apples and told to share one with his sister. She told him that he would be generous in giving if he gave her the larger apple. He thought about it and said, “Mom, give her the apples and ask her to be generous.”
Not Our Human Nature
That’s my basic nature. I want YOU to be generous, but don’t ask that of me. My sin nature is all about ME, MY, MINE, MYSELF, and I.
It’s called the disease of the “I” – capital letter I, not “e-y-e,” which is part of your face.
The “I” disease transcends gender, age, ethnicity, religion, and politics. It touches all parts of your life.
Is Part of Your New Nature
But God provides you with His nature when you become His child. His nature is about GIVING – giving with liberality – generous, not stingy. Here is the most extreme example of giving that you will ever see…
John 3:16 (NKJV) – For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
God excels at giving. He gave us His Son, the ultimate gift, FREELY, no strings attached. So, when you give, that is a clear way you imitate God.
And REMEMBER, when you excel at generosity, you aren’t focused on money. It’s about the 3 T’s – your time, talent, and treasure.
But, again, the biggest problem with giving is it goes entirely against your human nature. The only thing your sin nature is interested in is – "What’s in it for ME? Why should I give? That sounds like the opposite of what makes sense! Now, if you talk about what I can GET, then I might be interested."
Today, I will not try to convince, prod, shame, or force you to be generous. But I will be a Truth and Love Deliverer to you about Excelling in Generosity.
Twelve questions will help you excel at generosity. The 12 questions are in 4 categories.
- Before You Give
- When You Give
- What You Give, and
- Why You Give
So, let’s first look at…
Before You Give (What’s Your Plan?)
2 Corinthians 8:1-6 gives you the context; you will get the first question from verse 7. I am using the NIV for these verses.
2 Corinthians 8:1-7 (NIV) – And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. 2 In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. 3 For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, 4 they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. 5 And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us. 6 So we urged Titus, just as he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part. 7 But since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you—see that you also excel in this grace of giving.
The appropriate question to ask you from verse 7 is…
1. Will you choose to excel in the Grace of Giving?
Paul saw these Corinthians as high performers. That is hard to understand since the Corinthian church had some big problems. But that’s for another time.
I want you to notice two specific items – “excel” and “grace of giving.”
Since Paul says, “see that you also excel…” what does that imply? That you may not! And, excelling is always the better choice unless it is excelling in a sin. So, there is generosity, and then there is excelling in generosity. There is giving and excelling in giving. You can be giving but doing it poorly or giving and doing it with excellence.
What might giving poorly look like? Maybe it's...
- …just throwing your time, talent, or treasure at something without praying about it
- …not asking the Lord if this is something, He wants you to give to
- …giving with the thought that others will notice how much you gave
- …having the conviction to give, but not giving
- …having a bad attitude when you do give
- …giving to appease someone that continually bugs you for something
Excelling at giving requires effort. That is why there are 11 more questions. But this first question is critical. Also, please remember that Paul refers to giving as a grace. That is not something I considered until I studied this passage. It is totally obvious that giving is a grace because the right attitude for giving is no expectation of getting anything in return.
Now, if you choose to excel in the grace of giving, you have a perfect example. Look at verse 9.
2 Corinthians 8:9 (NKJV) – For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.
Jesus gave up the privilege of being God to be like us; then He lowered Himself below us to die on the cross to serve us. That is truly excelling in the grace of giving.
Will you choose to excel in the grace of giving? Or are you excelling in generosity now?
The second question takes us into chapter 9, where we get the remaining 11 questions.
2. Will you give now or wait until your situation is better?
Look at the first part of verse 5 in chapter 9.
2 Corinthians 9:5a (NKJV) – Therefore I thought it necessary to exhort the brethren to go to you ahead of time, and prepare your generous gift beforehand…
Paul asks that the Corinthians give now before the men show up.
That is one of Satan’s great tactics. He says, “Yes, it is a good thing to give, but you need to ensure that you do not hurt your ability to pay bills and take care of your needs. So, be careful. Do you really have enough to live and give?”
He just turned your mind from giving to getting – "I need to get more before I give." Well, God provided an answer to that back in chapter 8, verse 3
And add to that, verse 12…
2 Corinthians 8:12 (NKJV) – For if there is first a willing mind, it is accepted according to what one has, and not according to what he does not have.
So, the better plan is to start now with what you have. So that means pre-decide NOW that giving will be part of your life. Pre-decide to give at the next opportunity that God brings to you. And, start now to create a plan to give – do not wait because you can always rationalize away any giving.
Then when you do start giving, the next question applies.
3. Will you give what you promise without complaint?
Will you follow through and give what you promised? And, will you do it without grudging? More about that attitude later, but for now – you decided to give or even promised to give, will you still do it?
2 Corinthians 9:5b (NKJV) – …which you had previously promised, that it may be ready as a matter of generosity and not as a grudging obligation.
Will you trust the Lord to provide for you and be a person of your word?
Those first three questions will help you get started. Now that you have begun, Paul wants you to look at your attitude.
When You Give (What’s Your Attitude?)
How will you think about giving? If you do not proceed with good thinking, your attitude and feelings will not be good, and it will be easier to stop being generous. The first change in thinking - GENEROSITY is an investment not, a cost.
The next question, question #4, is…
4. Will you give bountifully, believing you will reap bountifully?
The question comes from verse 6.
2 Corinthians 9:6 (NKJV) – But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.
The agricultural metaphor is an excellent picture because you invest the seed you could eat. But, by investing that seed, you get more seed in return.
Bountiful sowing leads to bountiful reaping.
John Lawrence wrote a classic book that outlines the 7 Laws of the Harvest. While it isn’t in print, you can get some used copies at reasonable prices. Without providing any details about the 7 Laws, they are that we reap...
- …what has been sown
- …the same in kind as we sow
- …in a different season than we sow
- …more than we sow
- …in proportion to what we sow,
- …the full harvest of the good only if we persevere; Evil comes to harvest on its own
- …but can not do anything about last year’s harvest, only this year’s
Please keep this most crucial thought in mind – GENEROSITY is an investment not a cost!
God clearly states that bountiful generosity will result in a bountiful harvest, but you may not see that harvest now; you may not see it next month, next year, ten years from now, or not until eternity. God is JUST and honors His Word, so the bountiful harvest will happen if you are generous with your time, talent, and treasure.
Each of you Early Adopters is the type of person who will take God at His Word and sow bountifully. God will honor that bountiful gift of your time when you care for and disciple others. God will multiply the impact of the gift of your talents to the body. And God will expand and multiply each $1 you give, each item of clothing you give, and each pair of shoes you give because He is a God of abundance. After all, He took five loaves and three fishes and fed more than 5,000 people; there were 12 baskets left over.
The next question becomes more critical if you are willing to invest in generosity.
5. Will you listen to what God puts in your heart to give?
This is about God’s leading, not what others require or want.
Why did I put God into this question when the verse does not say that? Point taken. It is speculation on my part. But here’s my theory. Giving is not part of your sin nature; it is from your new nature, the life of Christ in you. So, when you purpose to give, it is most likely a prompting from God.
Notice there is nothing about the amount, just what you purpose in your heart. Refer back to chapter 8, verse 3, which was mentioned earlier.
It isn’t the AMOUNT; it is the INTENT OF THE HEART!
And, next question, whatever you give…
6. Will you give freely, without obligation or response to pressure?
In one of our radio shows or podcasts about freedom, Paul Moore, my fabulous co-host, stated, “You don't gots to – You gets to!” That is true with all your life – all your time, talent, and treasure. “You don’t gots to be generous, you gets to be generous.”
The minute Satan gets you to think that you HAVE TO be generous, you HAVE TO give, what happens inside of you? Do you say, “YES! I will so gladly do that!” If you do, I need some of your DNA because I do not, and most people do not. My experience with someone telling me I HAVE TO results in me fighting the urge to rebel against what they say.
- You HAVE TO be kind – "Sure thing, bozo!"
- You HAVE TO drive the speed limit – "Not unless I see a policeman!"
- You HAVE to give without complaining – "Okay, I’ll write the stinkin’ check!"
- You HAVE TO spend time with them – "You have got to be kidding me, now, while this great football game is on!"
The minute you think you’re obligated to do something, it demands a structure of rebellion from your sin nature. Obligation and “have to” de-energize good goals, purposes, and commitments.
Freedom and grace are God’s ways for His children. Here is a little hack that may help you see when you are not operating in freedom for yourself or others. Just listen to how often you use the words “should, ought, and must” or the negatives “shouldn’t, ought not, or must not.”
From my experience, those words typically imply a structure of obligation and control, not freedom and grace.
And, if giving freely, without obligation, is hard, then the next one may be more difficult.
7. Will you give cheerfully?
Freedom encourages cheerfulness, and obligation encourages complaining.
Cheerful giving pleases God. Cheerful giving believes God pursues my best when I am generous. And cheerful giving accepts the PERFECTION of God to simply do what He asks.
Of course, since God created freedom, you are still free to complain. But complaining is not for your BEST, which is why God loves a cheerful giver.
On a broader note about complaining. I have tried and recommended to others a “Complaint Fast.” The instructions for a Complaint Fast are for you to go for seven consecutive days without complaining – in your thoughts and words. If you complain, you start back at minute 1 of day 1.
I always stayed in the FIRST DAY! I hope that you are better at it than I am!
Early Adopters, are you still with me?
Okay, back to the questions. We have looked at, Before You Give and When You Give. Time to look at…
What You Give (What’s Given?)
8. Will you give of all things (time, talent, treasure) believing in God’s sufficiency, not yours?
Too much of the time, generosity, and especially giving, is only associated with money. But generosity and giving are about the 3 T’s – TIME, TALENT, and TREASURE.
2 Corinthians 9:8 (NKJV) – And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.
God makes all grace abound toward you, and He provides sufficiency in all things for every good work. Your generosity can abound in your time, talent, and treasure. God has provided abundant sufficiency for every good work, for every good intention of the heart.
Think beyond your bank account!
- Will you be available when others want or need your time?
- Will you share your energy, insights, experiences, and wisdom as needed?
- Will you share your gifts, talents, and strengths to benefit the body?
Typically, giving money is the easiest, even when you don’t have much. It tends to help promote the myth that you are generous.
Being generous with your time can be more difficult because it tends to be for things that are often quite mundane. Like…
- …listening to kids recite their verses at Awana
- …taking a meal to a family
- …listening to a friend’s struggles
- …visiting someone at the hospital
- …helping someone get out of their car
And generous with your talents can be very difficult because that may be how you earn your living. Professionals, especially people-helping professionals, are often expected to give their time.
I know of professionals who only bill their business clients but don’t bill individuals that come to them for any other help. I also know of a professional who helped someone, and at the end of the session, the person remarked, “This has been life-changing, even priceless.” They then asked if they could donate some money since the professional said the session was free. The professional responded, “That is between you and the Lord.”
About a week later, the professional received a check for $50. I guess “life-changing” and “priceless” are far more common and affordable than we think! Priceless will soon be available at the Dollar General Store!
That brings us to the next question…
9. Will you give for eternity as well as for now?
This question comes from verse 9.
2 Corinthians 9:9 (NKJV) – As it is written: “He has dispersed abroad, He has given to the poor; His righteousness endures forever.”
- …delights in God’s commands (Ps 112:1)
- …spreads his giving broadly (2 Cor. 9:9 and Ps 112:9)
- …gives to the poor
- …and his righteousness, righteous actions, endure forever
Notice that this is specifically related to giving to the poor. I like what some of the commentators stated about that. Giving to the poor implies that the giver expects nothing from them.
So, that may imply that any time you expect nothing in return for your generosity, it may be a righteous act that endures forever.
Check the intent of your heart. Are you giving with an expectation of a return? If so, give to something that will put your name on a building, a brick of the building, or something like that, because it will likely be temporal.
Let’s go for the best and make our giving eternal.
And now, we come to a tricky question.
10. Will you let God’s blessings on you flow onto others?
This question aims directly at how we are often deceived.
2 Corinthians 9:10-11a (NKJV) – Now may He who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food, supply and multiply the seed you have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness, 11 while you are enriched in everything for all liberality…
In our book “Servants Leading Servants – 15 Signs of a Real Servant Leader”, the first chapter is about how a Servant Leader has the right thinking about Authority. That means they know that there is only one Authority – God – and anyone else is only a Channel of Authority who uses or abuses God’s authority.
The same is true of all that you have – all of your time, talent, and treasure is given by God. All of what you claim to possess is God’s. You are only a steward of what God entrusted to you.
So, it is like being a garden hose. You can unhook the hose from the faucet and lay it beside a plant; the plant will die. But, connect the hose to the faucet, let the water run through the channel of the hose to the plant, and the plant benefits from the water passing through the garden hose.
You may be like the garden hose trying to claim that you are providing the plant YOUR WATER. Or, worse yet, you put a valve on the end of the hose and turn it off, trying to use the water for your benefit.
- God owns everything
- God wants you to steward His things
- And God desires that you invest His time, talent, and treasure in the right things
With that in mind, look at the way Paul provides an enormous, overlooked promise at the beginning of verse 11 "…you are enriched in everything for all liberality…." The NIV states it better “You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion….”
WOW! On every occasion, God enriches you so that you can be generous. You have precisely ZERO reasons not to excel in the grace of giving! God enriches you to give generously and bountifully in His amazing grace and mercy.
And, finally, here are two great reasons for giving.
Why You Give (What’s Your Reasons?)
11. Will you give to help others praise God?
This question comes from verses 11b through 14.
2 Corinthians 9:11b-14 (NKJV) – which causes thanksgiving through us to God. 12 For the administration of this service not only supplies the needs of the saints, but also is abounding through many thanksgivings to God, 13 while, through the proof of this ministry, they glorify God for the obedience of your confession to the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal sharing with them and all men, 14 and by their prayer for you, who long for you because of the exceeding grace of God in you.
When I read this, I had an “Aha moment.” I had never thought about how giving not only encourages recipients to praise God but also for them to pray for you. After I read this, I was talking with Louie about it and realized that we have people on our prayer list that have given to our GR8 Relationships ministry, which is why they are on the list. Our prayer list confirms those verses to me without even knowing the truth of the verses.
These verses provide even more incredible truths. Your generosity...
- …supplies the needs of the saints (9:12a)
- …creates many thanksgivings to God (9:12b)
- …demonstrates obedience to God (9:13a)
- …confesses that the gospel of Christ is real (9:13a)
- …produces glory to God from them (9:13b)
- …encourages them to pray for you (9:14a)
- …encourages them to have joy for the exceeding grace of God in you (9:14b)
What an encouragement to be generous.
Finally, and most importantly…
12. Will you give because you have received so much from Jesus?
This is a proper response and a way of Blessing God.
Indescribable is precisely correct! There is no way that anyone has the words to describe the fantastic benefit of the gift of life that we have received from Jesus. I know that I do not grasp the...
- Sacrifice He made to leave heaven and come to earth
- Sacrifice He made to lower Himself to become a man
- Ridicule He experienced doing the right things
- Pressure He experienced to ignore what was right and choose the path of Satan
- Pain He experienced to cause Him to sweat great drops of blood
- Pain He experienced to take on my sin, all sin, upon Himself who had never sinned
- Patience, Mercy, and Grace He gives me daily
- Protection He provides me with daily
And, when I do not think about how much He has GIVEN me, it is easy to be stingy with the blessings He asks me to steward.
Hopefully, you Early Adopters will pursue excelling in generosity and help those around you do the same. When you excel in giving your Time, talent, and treasure, you excel in generosity. That means you help us get closer to the reality of a Romans 12 church.
Finally, here is a long but partial list about Excelling in Generosity. It...
- ...is the essence of the Grace of Jesus
- …knows that my time, talent, and treasure is not mine; it is God's
- ...is an investment, not a cost
- …invests in eternity - treasures in heaven
- …takes $1, 1 minute, or 1 talent and asks God to multiply it for His glory
- …provides grace to others
- …participates with God and His plan
- …creates a rich soul - Proverbs 11:25a
- …blesses you and others - Proverbs 11:25b
- …provides hope to others
- …expands your life and others' lives at the same time
- …gives you joy and contentment
- …goes on a journey to thank God and invest in God and others
- …uses what God has provided you for His glory
- …is being faithful in a little so that I can be faithful in a lot
- …provides hope to a lost and dying world
- …is not about playing church; it’s living the truth and generously delivering the truth to those around you
Will you excel in generosity? Will you pioneer into the frontier of giving?
If you said yes, WHEN WILL YOU START?
Please pray this prayer with me.
“Lord, how much of my time, talent, and treasure do You want me to invest in providing hope to a lost and dying world? Jesus, I just want to hear from you, what is the next step you want me to take to be a fully contributing, generous member of this body? What do you want me to do to provide hope to the people around me? What do you want me to do to help this body? What time do you want me to give? What talents do you want me to give? What treasure do you want me to give? Lord, You are always faithful to me, what do you want me to do to be faithful to You? Amen
PURSUING THEIR BEST - Freedom in Relationships