My wife and I watched History Channel’s “Men Who Built America”. The show discusses several titans of industry during Reconstruction after the Civil War up to the early 1900’s. It was incredible to see what these men did and how they operated. It was also eye opening how they would do anything to make money. Because of them, we have a lot of the labor and antitrust laws. They were often ruthless in their pursuit, but two men changed their tune as they got older and began trying to make a difference by give away their fortune to philanthropic causes and charities. J.P. Morgan gave away around $900 million in today’s money and John D. Rockefeller gave away around $540 million. To this day their philanthropic causes live on.
In Luke 16, Jesus told the story of a rich man who had a manager of his affairs. It turned out the manager was wasting the money so the rich man called him to account. The guy was afraid of being unemployed and didn’t want to beg so he cut what each person owed with all of his boss’s debtors. He figured he would make friends before he left so that he would have a place to land. The boss was impressed with how shrewd he was. Then in verse 9, Jesus said, “Here’s the lesson: Use your worldly resources to benefit others and make friends. Then, when your possessions are gone, they will welcome you to an eternal home” (NLT). While Jesus doesn’t discourage us from being rich or making money, He does encourage us to give and make a difference with what we have.
In the next two verses Jesus continued, “If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities. And if you are untrustworthy about worldly wealth, who will trust you with the true riches of heaven?” Sometimes we think we need to be rich to make a difference or to give, but this verse clearly tells us to be faithful with what we have, even if it’s a little. Many of us pursue more money and better jobs, but how can we handle that if we’re not making a difference with what we have. The same is true with our spiritual gifts. Many people look for ministries that are in the spotlight or get lots of attention, but God is looking to see if we can be faithful when no one sees. When we are faithful with a little, He trusts us with a lot.
“You scratch my back, I’ll scratch your back.” “You fly, I’ll buy.” “Quid pro quo.” “You buy this time, I’ll buy next time.” Ever used any of these expressions? Of course you have. We all do favors for favors. It’s an offer to help in exchange for help. You’ll give them what they want if they’ll give you what you want. Everybody wins. We all play the game, but what we forget is that Jesus changed the rules on it. He expects us to do for others who have no ability to pay us back.
You see, there’s no reward in doing something for others who can pay you back. It’s not really a blessing if you get a favor in return. Part of our Christian DNA should be to do for others who are unable to pay us back. It should be a part of who we are and be a regular thing we do. When Jesus was describing who got into Heaven, this is what He said in Matthew 25-35-36, “For I was hungry and you gave Me food, I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink, I was a stranger and you brought Me together with yourselves and welcomed and entertained and lodged Me, I was naked and you clothed Me, I was sick and you visited Me with help and ministering care, I was in prison and you came to see Me” (AMPC).
In all of these examples, it was about helping someone out who couldn’t return the favor. He mentioned several times in the Gospels that we were to give without expecting anything in return. When you think about it, Jesus did that for us. He set the example of giving at a high cost for those who couldn’t pay Him back. If you’ve accepted Him as your savior, then He paid your debt for sin in full. There’s no way to repay Him for that. The best thing we can do is to follow His example. Give to those who can’t repay you, and don’t hold it over their head.
Throwback Thursday is a feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.
I’ve been reading a lot of news on the stock market lately. There was the rise and fall of Game Stop stock where a group of people decided to invest in it to drive the price up in order to stick it to some Wall Street people. Bitcoin has surged after taking a nose dive a couple of years ago. Investors have been on a wild ride lately. Some keep predicting that this is a bubble and it will pop at some point. Others who have never invested are jumping in trying to get rich quick by taking advantage of buying a low stock in hopes that it will have explosive growth. Others are in it for the long haul knowing their investments will increase slowly and steadily over time. The one constant is that if you don’t invest, you won’t have the opportunity to grow your money in that system.
Sometimes we get wrapped up in this world’s economy trying to make our lives better that we forget God has an economy too. We all have the opportunity to invest in it as well. In Matthew 6:19-21, Jesus said, “Don’t keep hoarding for yourselves earthly treasures that can be stolen by thieves. Material wealth eventually rusts, decays, and loses its value. Instead, stockpile heavenly treasures for yourselves that cannot be stolen and will never rust, decay, or lose their value. For your heart will always pursue what you esteem as your treasure” (TPT). It doesn’t say don’t seek or make money. It says don’t hoard it or store it up. You can invest those treasures in the heavenly economy by putting them to use for Kingdom purposes.
1 Timothy 6:18-19 says, “Remind the wealthy to be rich in remarkable works of extravagant generosity, willing to share with others. These spiritual investments will provide a beautiful foundation for their lives and secure for them a great future, as they lay their hands upon the meaning of true life.” Giving is a spiritual investment in the heavenly economy. I realize this verse is talking to the rich, but each of us have the opportunity to invest in heavenly treasures. God’s principle of giving works whether you invest a little or a lot. When you give, it will be given unto you. Giving is simply showing God that you don’t value the earthly economy over the heavenly one. It’s a way to show Him you can be faithful over a little so He can trust you with a lot. There are lots of ways to give and invest in His economy. This life is a vapor, but heaven will be for eternity. Invest wisely.
Over twenty years ago, I started paying attention to the people around me that had the most money. I was looking for similarities to see if there was anything I could replicate. They all worked in different fields with different positions. Some were very educated and some were not. One of the things I noticed that was similar between all of them was that they were generous. They didn’t hoard their money. They gave, they sponsored and they helped others. I thought, “Could it be that the secret to having more was giving more?” When you look at Scripture, it fits. Give and it shall be given. When you’re faithful over a little, God will make you faithful over a lot. You reap what you sow. I began to pray them, “God, if you can get it to me, you can get it through me.” I wanted to be generous with God’s blessings.
One of the antonyms of generous is selfish. We seem to be bent toward selfishness. I’ve also observed that a lot of the problems in the world and in our lives are the result of selfishness. As believers, we’re to be known for our love for others, not self. God asks us to break away from selfishness and even offers blessings if we’ll be generous. It doesn’t matter if you have a little or a lot, we have the ability to be generous. Generosity is a matter of the heart. When we look at the things and money we have as God’s, then it’s easier to give them away. If I look at myself as the provider and the things I have as a result of my own work, it’s harder to give away. If we get that perspective right, giving comes naturally. Look around you today for opportunities to be generous. Pray for wisdom and ask God to show you where He wants you to be generous with His love and blessings, then you will know where to make a difference.
Here are some Bible verses on being generous.
1. Generous hands are blessed hands because they give bread to the poor.
Proverbs 22:9 MSG
2. Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop.
2 Corinthians 9:6 NLT
3. Life is good for the one who is generous and charitable, conducting affairs with honesty and truth.
Psalms 112:5 TPT
4. You will be enriched in every way so that you may be generous, and this [generosity, administered] through us is producing thanksgiving to God [from those who benefit].
2 Corinthians 9:11 AMP
5. Be generous, and you will be prosperous. Help others, and you will be helped.
I have the privilege of talking with pastors from different denominations and church sizes. One of the consistent things that come up in my conversations with them is how to grow their church in a healthy way. In order to grow in a healthy way, we do a health check of their current congregation. We look at the spiritual disciplines of the people who attend. Are they self sufficient Christians or are they solely dependent on the church? Are people being taught how to grow in Christ and given the tools they need to accomplish that? Giving of tithes comes up too, and I’m always shocked at how few Christians give their tithe (10% of their income). It’s a spiritual discipline that speaks to where our heart truly is.
There’s very few things in life as important to us as money. I often explain to sales reps that money represents freedom. It’s the freedom for people to live where they want, go where they want, do what they want and buy what they want. When you, as a sales rep, ask for someone’s money, you’re asking them to give up some of their freedom in exchange for what you have to offer. That same freedom mentality goes with people into the church and they’re not willing to give up what they think is freedom. What we forget is that freedom and income come from God. It’s a way of appreciating God for the blessings and freedom He has given us. If our mentality is that it’s ours, then we have a harder time giving it to Him. When we don’t give it to Him, Malachi quotes God as saying we are robbing Him and ourselves.
Giving our tithe results in more freedom for us. In Malachi 3:10 God says, “Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do, I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test!” (NLT) Giving of our tithe opens the windows of heaven over our lives and provides more blessings and freedom than we can contain. It also recognizes that God is our source and that everything we have is His. By not giving it, we are telling Him what we have is ours and we only need Him for moral guidance. Jesus said you can’t serve God and money. The best way to find out who you’re serving is if you’re tithing or not. Don’t rob God or yourself by not giving it. Tithing is as much an act of faith as anything else and shows God where our heart is. When we give it, we open ourselves to the blessings God has in store for us.
In one of the sales psychology courses I took and later trained, there was an assessment you had to take beforehand. In the class, we read through 12 types of individuals and their accompanying behaviors, then we got our results. Mine said I was a Hyper Pro. I took it as a badge of honor when I saw the title. Who wouldn’t want to be hyper professional? Then I started reading the description, the behaviors and how it was holding me back. One of the things it said was that I project success in order to attain success, meaning I care more about my outward appearance hoping it would influence the buyer. In my mind, it was questioning my motives and I took offense to the assessment. That night I was discussing the results with my wife and how upset it made me. She listened to me vent, then simply asked, “But is it true?”
No one likes to have their motives questioned, but it’s something good to examine constantly. The answer to her question changed my life and how I live it. I realized I needed other people’s approval and it was driving so many areas of my life. My motives for how I dressed, what I drove, where I lived were for others. God challenged me that night to get to the root of my need in doing things. While man looks at outward appearances, God looks at our heart and motives. Are we doing things so that we look good and get the accolades? Are we trying to impress others, influence them, get “likes” or shares so that our name is magnified? Those are tough questions to sit down and answer as you look in the mirror.
Matthew 6:1 says, “Examine your motives to make sure you’re not showing off when you do your good deeds, only to be admired by others; otherwise, you will lose the reward of your Heavenly Father” (TPT). Each of us are to examine our motives in all areas of our lives, but especially those where we are representing God. If we’re doing it so people will think better of us, we’ve got our reward. Verse 3 tells us how to keep things in check. “But when you demonstrate generosity, do it with pure motives and without drawing attention to yourself.” Can you give, help or represent God without trying to show the world to garner “likes” or accolades? I’m not saying we shouldn’t record, post or promote what we’re doing. I’m saying, we need to check our motives first. Motives matter to God.
Thanks to @styleanthropy for making this photo available freely on @unsplash
Recently my wife and I were walking and a Lamborghini drove by. She asked, “If you had the money, would you ever buy one of those?” I told her I didn’t think so, but I do think they’re pretty awesome. I like to think I’d be like J.J. Watt of the Houston Texans. He makes over $15 million a year, but doesn’t drive a car like that. He said that whenever he gets the itch to drive one, he just rents one for a weekend and takes it back. The truth is, if you don’t make that kind of money, it’s hard to know what you would do with it. Would you buy a mansion? Would you drive expensive cars? Would you throw parties all the time? Would you try to eradicate poverty? Would you fund housing for the homeless? Would you support missionaries with your excess? It’s easy to give these answers when you don’t have it.
Jesus told the story of a guy who was in charge of his wealthy boss’ affairs. When it came out that he was skimming and squandering the boss’ money, he got called on the carpet to give account of how he had been managing his money. Knowing the gig was up, he decided to make friends with the boss’ debtors. He started cutting what they owed down in order to recoup the things he lent out. The boss commended him for doing that, not because he had cheated him, but because he was thinking of his future and was doing things to make sure he would be taken care of in unemployment. Then in Luke 16:10, Jesus said, “And I tell you [learn from this], make friends for yourselves [for eternity] by means of the wealth of unrighteousness [that is, use material resources as a way to further the work of God], so that when it runs out, they will welcome you into the eternal dwellings” (AMP).
The very next verse is our challenge no matter how much we make right now. Jesus said, ““He who is faithful in a very little thing is also faithful in much; and he who is dishonest in a very little thing is also dishonest in much.” No matter what you make right now, are you being faithful with it? Saying, “If I had the money, I would… (fill in the blank,)” means nothing. If you aren’t making a difference now with what you have, how can God trust you with more money? Each of us will give account to God one day just like the man in the parable. Did we do things with our resources to further the Kingdom? Or did we do things to make our lives exceptionally comfortable here? We are simply managers of the money God has entrusted to us. No matter how you’re managing it now, ask God for wisdom in how to be more faithful with what you have today.
One of the things I like to do with my nieces and nephews is when they turn 16, I take them to dinner. We talk about using money versus making money. We then talk about what they love to do and how they can turn that into income. We also discuss college and the importance of education. The conversation then shifts to giving tithes and offerings. I explain how our offerings are holy to God, and that you and I have a greater need to give than God does to receive it. I believe that if God is the source of my income, my job is just a tool that He uses to provide for us. That also means that everything I own and all my income are His. My tithe and offerings are a holy thank you to Him in return for blessing me.
After that, I ask them if they know the Parable of The Talents. Either way, we turn to Matthew 25:14-30 and read it again. I ask them for their interpretation of it. Of course, like all of us, they focus on the servant who buried his talent and then gave back what was given to him. In the story this man gave back everything that was given to him, yet he got in trouble. What God gives us is able to be multiplied by us. That’s when I pull out a crisp $100 bill and set it on the table as we talk. I explain that this money is holy because it’s my offering to God. I then slide it across and tell them that I’m going to trust them with it to multiply it and we can give a joint offering. The catch is they don’t know when I’m going to return and they’re going to have to spend some of that money to make some.
All of us have a need to give our tithe (10% of our increased income) and offerings to. I believe God’s blessings are in direct proportion to our giving. Malachi 3:10 says, “Bring the full amount of your tithes to the Temple, so that there will be plenty of food there. Put me to the test and you will see that I will open the windows of heaven and pour out on you in abundance all kinds of good things” (GNT). I used to think I couldn’t afford to tithe, but since then I’ve learned I can’t afford not to. We don’t give in order to get. We are to give as appreciation for God supplying our needs. He loves a cheerful giver who isn’t giving begrudgingly. When people ask how much should they give and off of what amount, I ask back, “How much do you want God to bless you?” Giving isn’t just about the amount, it’s about your heart. When we recognize that everything we have it God’s, it’s easy to give Him back what He asks for.
A big part of the stress of Christmas is buying gifts. How much should you spend? What do they want? Will I find parking at the mall? Will it be sold out? Will they love it? What if they return it? All these questions create stress in purchasing gifts. Multiply that by how many people are on your list and there in lies the level of your stress. Some people try to avoid all that stress by purchasing everything online. There’s also a stress with that. Will it look like the picture? Will it get here in time? How do you return it if you have to? There are so many things to worry about.
There’s a story in Luke 21 about a widow giving a gift. She might have been stressed too. As she stood in the temple and waited to bring her gift to God, several others made a show about their gifts. Verse one says that Jesus watched as the rich people dropped their gifts in the collection box. I’m sure she was watching too. As others dropped off their bags of money, she stood there with two little coins. She could have been wondering, “Is this enough? It’s nothing compared to the gifts they’re bringing in.” When the time seemed right, she went and gave her small gift to God.
Jesus was still watching when she did. He turned to the others around him and said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has given more than all the rest of them.” Her tiny gift meant more to God than the extravagant gifts that others brought. Why? Because it was from her heart. She knew that it’s not the size of the gift or the amount of the gift that matters. She knew that even though she didn’t have much, what she had belonged to God. She gave Him what He had given her. Everything. She wasn’t content to give a fraction of what she had because God hadn’t given her a fraction of what He had. She gave everything she had.
When it comes to giving gifts, it’s not the price tag that matters. When it comes to giving to God, it’s not the amount that matters. What matters to God and others is if it comes from the heart. Anyone can give from their surplus. Anyone can give a gift in order to gain the praise of people. It takes a special person to give a gift that matters. It takes a person who isn’t intimidated by the show that others make of their giving to step out and give a gift that matters. Jesus is watching and sees it all. He sees beyond the external side of giving gifts and looks into the heart. He doesn’t measure gifts by the amount, He measures them by the attitude.
This Christmas season, don’t stress over the things that really don’t matter. You should live your life to please an audience of one. Giving gifts is meant to be a joyous occasion. Since the very beginning, God has been a giver. If you look at how God gives and what He looks for in givers, it’s not about excess. He’s never been impressed by that. He is always impressed with those who give from their hearts and who give their all. Don’t be ashamed that your gifts may not be as extravagant as what other people give. Give anyway. The smallest gift is often the biggest gift to God.
Have you ever noticed that some of the richest people around you also happen to be some of the most giving people? They may also be people who try their hand at multiple business ventures. I believe it goes back to a couple of scriptural principles on generosity. If you give, it will be given to you. The other is that you reap what you sow. Both of these principles work whether the giver is a Christian or not. Just like you don’t have to believe in gravity to fall down, you don’t have to believe the Bible for these to work.
My overarching prayer for my family this year is that we would scatter more seeds, but on fertile ground. If a farmer plants more seeds, they’re going to get a larger crop, especially if those seeds were planted in fertile soil. It only stands to reason that the more seeds of blessing that each of us scatter, gives God more ways to grow those seeds and give us more fruit. Life is about planting and replanting. Your first crop isn’t going to give you enough for the rest of your life.
Proverbs 11:24 says, “There is the one who [generously] scatters [abroad], and yet increases all the more; And there is the one who withholds what is justly due, but it results only in want and poverty” (AMP). Being generous today results in returned generosity in the future. Be careful not to compare your generosity or return with someone else’s. Give what and where God tells you to give. Our house rule when it comes to giving is simple: how much do you want God to bless you? Giving and being generous come in many forms. If you’re looking for God to trust you with more, be generous with what you have today.