They were all sitting around the living room watching TV when the evening anchor cut to the reporter on location. The reporter said, “We are here with Mr. Filthy Rich and the kids who are benefiting from his generous gift – a gift that has changed these kid’s neighborhood. Mr. Rich heard about the plight of the kids who live in the drug-infested, run down neighborhood and decided to get involved. He heard that there were no playgrounds for the kids and no community center to give kids opportunities to do something other than commit crimes or wilt away in front of the television. Mr. Rich was so moved that he got involved. Others joined his passion and today we are here for the dedication of the new community center with its indoor swimming pool, educational facilities, and sports leagues for boys and girls. Money has been provided to pay three staff members who will run the community center, oversee the volunteers, and help the kids. This is a great day for these kids and their community. Thank you Mr. Rich!”
The family watching the reporter at the dedication of the community center commented on the smiling faces of the children and the beauty of the new building. Suddenly mom spoke up and said, “Wouldn’t it be nice to have as much money as Mr. Rich and be able to help people who are really in need!” Wouldn’t it though?! I have heard that statement spoken many times through the years as though having an ample supply of money leads to generosity. As if one leads directly to the other. Money. Generosity. Wealth. Giving. Resources. Gifts. I don’t think it quite works like that in the real world.
Now, for those of us who don’t have “much,” whatever that means, it is easy for us to say that if we had it we would be the most generous of all people. The facts do not bear out the theory that abundant resources lead to abundant generosity. As a matter of fact, at the end of every year, when students of church trends get out their pencils and take a look at the numbers, their findings consistently show us that the wealthiest of all Americans give less of a percentage of their income than those with less resources. Having money doesn’t necessarily mean that you are a good steward or generous. On the other hand, not having much money doesn’t mean that you are necessarily a good steward or generous either.
A couple of weeks ago I was reading an article called, “Jack’s Toughest Deal,” which appeared in the November 11, 2002 edition of Newsweek magazine. The article was about Jack Welch, the former CEO of General Electric. Jack Welch was hugely successful in his years at the helm of the giant corporation. He has written a best selling book, has spoken to hundreds of other CEO’s about his leadership style, and is credited with making GE a much stronger company than it was before he took over the reins.
Back some time ago, the Editor of The Harvard Business Review interviewed Mr. Welch and later it was learned that Mr. Welch had an affair with the lady. Jack and his wife, Jane, are now in divorce court fighting over his $500 million worth of assets. In the article that I read I learned that Mr. Welch pockets about $17 million a year in retirement from GE perks and his own consulting business. Jane Welch asked the court to provide Mr. Welch’s monthly expenses and some of them were listed in the Newsweek article. Let me give you a glimpse of what Mr. Welch spends every month.
$51,531.00 — Payments on five homes.
$5,480.00 — Country club memberships.
$1,903.00 — Clothing expenses.
$8,982.00 — Food and beverages, including wine.
$1,482.00 — Vacations and rental cars.
$1,895.00 — Medical and dental expenses.
$614.00 — Charitable giving.
Now, I know $614.00 a month towards charitable giving is quite a bit to some people, but to a man who is worth $500 million and makes $17 million in retirement that is a drop in the bucket. Let me break it down so that it is a little more understandable for us: $614.00 is a tithe on $6,140.00 a month. If Mr. Welch tithed on his yearly retirement income of $17 million that would be $1.7 million over the course of a year, or about $140,000.00 a month. For those of us who came here today believing that wealth is the prerequisite of generosity, then maybe we should think again.
I have been so blessed through the years to know several wealthy people who were very generous with the blessings that God has poured into their laps. I have known other wealthy people who held onto every dime they ever made and were trying to get every other dime that everyone else had ever made. I have known people who didn’t have hardly anything and yet what they had was understood to be a gift from the hand of God to be used in whatever way He determined. I have also known people who didn’t have hardly anything and they were some of the greediest folks I have ever known. The amount of money and possessions that we have has absolutely nothing to do with godly stewardship and generosity. The key to becoming a good steward and experiencing an attitude of generosity towards all that God has entrusted to us begins when we gain a proper perspective on God’s rich gifts given to us – no matter where we are on the economic ladder of life. God calls us to give where we live. You may live in the hood or you may live on the hill – it really doesn’t matter – God calls us to give for His glory and the blessing of those around us.
I would suggest to you that the reason why the annual studies show that wealthy people give a smaller percentage of their income towards the Lord’s work is because they never learned to be generous when they didn’t have anything. I want to share a story with you this morning of a very generous man, a godly giver, but before I do that I want you to think about something for a minute. Answer this question for me if you will: Would it be easier for you to give a dime out of a dollar you had received or to write a check for $100,000.00 out of a one million dollar credit to your account? I don’t know too many folks who would balk at giving a dime, but I know many folks who would think that $100,000.00 would be too much to give. Yet, they are the same gift when you break it down to percentages.
Let me tell you a story. Many years ago it had been announced that David would be king. That announcement evidently hadn’t reached the central office of King Saul because David wasn’t living the life of a King; he was a man on the run. He was a fugitive from the law of the land. The King was out to do him in and yet God had said that the fugitive would be king some day. David didn’t have anything. He lived in caves and slept out in the open air with none of the comforts of home. He was constantly running for his life from King Saul who was determined to kill David. David remained on the run with a band of renegades who had found a place to call home with their fugitive leader.
The day came when the fugitive found shelter, but it was in the company of the enemies of Israel, the Philistines. Achish was the King of Gath, a Philistine city. David found favor in the eyes of the King, who gave David and his men a home for their families in Ziklag.
The day came when the Philistine leaders who served under King Achish rebelled against David being in their midst and once again David was rejected. David and his men went back to Ziklag, the city where King Achish told David he could live with his men. When David and his men reached Ziklag they couldn’t believe their eyes. Take a look at 1 Samuel 30:1-6 and let’s see what David found when he returned home.
1 David and his men reached Ziklag on the third day. Now the Amalekites had raided the Negev and Ziklag. They had attacked Ziklag and burned it, 2 and had taken captive the women and all who were in it, both young and old. They killed none of them, but carried them off as they went on their way. 3 When David and his men came to Ziklag, they found it destroyed by fire and their wives and sons and daughters taken captive. 4 So David and his men wept aloud until they had no strength left to weep. 5 David’s two wives had been captured-Ahinoam of Jezreel and Abigail, the widow of Nabal of Carmel. 6 David was greatly distressed because the men were talking of stoning him; each one was bitter in spirit because of his sons and daughters. But David found strength in the LORD his God. (1 Samuel 30:1-6 NIV)
David had reached a new low. He was rejected by his own people, the Israelites. He was rejected by the Philistines. Now he was being threatened by his own band of renegades who wanted to stone him. He had lost his two wives, all of his belongings, and he was on the brink of losing hope until we get to the last sentence of verse 6. Look closely. Where did David turn? The Word of God tells us, “But David found strength in the Lord his God.”
As David found strength in the Lord he sought the Lord with all of his heart as to what he was supposed to do. Was he to pursue those who had ravaged Ziklag and David’s people or was he to let it go? God instructed David to pursue them. God blessed David and he recovered everything that had been stolen as well as all of the belongings of the Amalekites. Read along me in 1 Samuel 30:18-20.
18 David recovered everything the Amalekites had taken, including his two wives. 19 Nothing was missing: young or old, boy or girl, plunder or anything else they had taken. David brought everything back. 20 He took all the flocks and herds, and his men drove them ahead of the other livestock, saying, “This is David’s plunder.” (1 Samuel 30:18-20 NIV)
Isn’t it interesting? These men who were ready to stone David to death, now declare – “This is David’s plunder!” David could have made out like a bandit if he had only wanted to, but David knew who had given him the victory over his enemies.
When David and his men made their way back to Ziklag they ran into 200 of David’s men who had been too exhausted to go on the mission. Some of David’s renegades began to make it clear that those good for nothing men shouldn’t receive anything that they had brought back. David spoke up and reminded the men that the Lord had given them the victory and that all were to share in the victory. Look with me at 1 Samuel 30:23-24.
23David replied, “No, my brothers, you must not do that with what the LORD has given us. He has protected us and handed over to us the forces that came against us. 24Who will listen to what you say? The share of the man who stayed with the supplies is to be the same as that of him who went down to the battle. All will share alike.” (1 Samuel 30:23-24 NIV)
This is a man who has nothing and yet he knew that all that had suddenly come to him was a gift from God – a gift to be shared and not hoarded. David is like the woman Jesus used an example of a godly giver in Mark’s Gospel. Turn with me to Mark 12:41 and let’s read together.
41Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. 42 But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny. 43 Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. 44 They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything-all she had to live on.” (Mark 12:41-44 NIV)
Like David, many years earlier, the impoverished widow knew that everything she had was a gift from God. She knew that He would take care of her needs and that she needed to be as liberal in her giving to God as He had been towards her. Now you may be saying, “I don’t see how the Lord had been so generous to the woman? After all, she was poor and a widow.” Really? I would say that your suspicion reveals much about how we view God’s generosity. Today we believe that if someone is flush with cash that God has been gracious to them, but if all they have is their “daily bread” then somehow they have been forgotten by God. I would say that we are way off base. God’s richest gifts have nothing to do with money. Salvation is a free gift from God, not to be earned, but only to be received. I didn’t buy the family that I enjoy so much – they are gifts to me from the hand of God. I didn’t buy my spot at this church – I had never even heard of Britton Christian Church when Harry Myers called me for the first time. The friends I treasure are gifts that I have not earned and that I don’t deserve. I didn’t purchase a ticket to come to America – I was born here in the midst of the freest nation on the planet. What glorious gifts I have received and not one of them cost me a dime!
When we understand the rich generosity of God then we can possess the same kind of attitude that David and the poor widow woman exhibited in their generosity. When David returned to Ziklag he didn’t stop his gift giving with the 200 men who had stayed behind because they too exhausted to fight – his giving continued. Read with me from verses 26-31.
26 When David arrived in Ziklag, he sent some of the plunder to the elders of Judah, who were his friends, saying, “Here is a present for you from the plunder of the LORD’S enemies.” 27 He sent it to those who were in Bethel, Ramoth Negev and Jattir; 28 to those in Aroer, Siphmoth, Eshtemoa 29 and Racal; to those in the towns of the Jerahmeelites and the Kenites; 30 to those in Hormah, Bor Ashan, Athach 31 and Hebron; and to those in all the other places where David and his men had roamed. (1 Samuel 30:26-31 NIV)
To sum up David’s giving in a nutshell: He gave it all away. And this is a man who didn’t have anything to begin with, but who was grateful to God and to those who had helped him while he was on the run.
The day came when David did ascend the throne. His reign as King was the greatest in the history of Israel. Today, if you go to Israel and ask, “Who was the greatest King in Israel’s history?” They will tell you, “King David!” When David became King his days of poverty ended, but his attitude of generosity continued.
David was not allowed by God to build the Temple for the Lord because he had shed blood, but David’s son, Solomon was given the blessing. David was still alive at the time, the Lord had given him the plan many years earlier and David shared the plan with Solomon and all of his people. After the plan had been shared, David did something that stirred the hearts of the people of Israel – he gave first, he gave generously, and he gave with great joy! Read along with me in 1 Chronicles 29.
1Then King David said to the whole assembly: “My son Solomon, the one whom God has chosen, is young and inexperienced. The task is great, because this palatial structure is not for man but for the LORD God. 2With all my resources I have provided for the temple of my God-gold for the gold work, silver for the silver, bronze for the bronze, iron for the iron and wood for the wood, as well as onyx for the settings, turquoise, stones of various colors, and all kinds of fine stone and marble-all of these in large quantities. 3Besides, in my devotion to the temple of my God I now give my personal treasures of gold and silver for the temple of my God, over and above everything I have provided for this holy temple: 4three thousand talents of gold (gold of Ophir) and seven thousand talents of refined silver, for the overlaying of the walls of the buildings, 5for the gold work and the silver work, and for all the work to be done by the craftsmen. Now, who is willing to consecrate himself today to the LORD?” 6Then the leaders of families, the officers of the tribes of Israel, the commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds, and the officials in charge of the king’s work gave willingly. 7They gave toward the work on the temple of God five thousand talents and ten thousand darics of gold, ten thousand talents of silver, eighteen thousand talents of bronze and a hundred thousand talents of iron. 8Any who had precious stones gave them to the treasury of the temple of the LORD in the custody of Jehiel the Gershonite. 9The people rejoiced at the willing response of their leaders, for they had given freely and wholeheartedly to the LORD. David the king also rejoiced greatly. (1 Chronicles 29:1-9 NIV)
As you work your way through these verses you read words like, “rejoiced greatly” and “willingly” in describing the atmosphere while the offering was being collected. What a blessing it is to give to the work of the Lord!
After the great collection was gathered-in David’s heart was so full. The collection wasn’t being collected for a community center or palace for David – it was a collection for the construction of the house of worship – the Lord’s house. David rejoiced and we get a glimpse of what was going on his heart when we read 1 Chronicles 29:10-18.
10 David praised the LORD in the presence of the whole assembly, saying, “Praise be to you, O LORD, God of our father Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. 11 Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, O LORD, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all. 12 Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all. 13 Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name. 14 “But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand. 15 We are aliens and strangers in your sight, as were all our forefathers. Our days on earth are like a shadow, without hope. 16 O LORD our God, as for all this abundance that we have provided for building you a temple for your Holy Name, it comes from your hand, and all of it belongs to you. 17 I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity. All these things have I given willingly and with honest intent. And now I have seen with joy how willingly your people who are here have given to you. 18 O LORD, God of our fathers Abraham, Isaac and Israel, keep this desire in the hearts of your people forever, and keep their hearts loyal to you. (1 Chronicles 29:10-18 NIV)
“Everything, all of this has come from Your hand O God!” David, his pockets overflowing with wealth like none of us has ever or will ever know, gave in the same way that he did when his pockets were empty and he was a fugitive. You don’t learn to give when you become wealthy; you learn to be generous when you come to understand that our gracious God has lavished us with every gift we enjoy in life!
This is not only true of our financial means, but it is true of our time and our abilities as well. How many folks have you heard say, “When I get the kids raised and have a little more free time I want to get involved in serving others.” No they won’t. There will always be things throughout our lives that will vie for our time. You and I will make the time to serve the Lord by serving others when we recognize that every second is a gift from God to be used to bless His holy name.
I’ve heard people say, “I work so hard right now that I don’t have time to get involved, but when I get in a better financial situation then I want to use my ability as an electrician, tile layer, financial consultant, nurse, teacher, or whatever to help others.” I doubt it. We will always be tempted to make more money, just a little more money. We will use the abilities God has given us to help others when we recognize that those abilities have come so that we might be a blessing, not just at work for a check, but to help others who can’t pay us anything.
Last week I was called by a friend in this church who knows a couple that are going through a tough time in their marriage. I was asked if I might be willing to talk with them and I said, “Have them give me a call.” Then my friend told me that this couple, who doesn’t have a church home, called one of the big churches in town to see if they could get some counseling. The person on the phone asked, “Are you a member of our church?” “No.” “Well, I’m sorry we can only counsel folks who are members of our church.” What is that? We only help those who are members? We only help those who are putting in the plate on Sunday? We only help those who can help us? What is that?
We give our finances not because of what giving can do for us, but because we are grateful. We give our time not because we have time to spare, but because God calls us to meet the needs of those He leads into our lives. We offer our talents not because someone will reciprocate at some time in the future, but because God has given us a talent to be used for His glory as we help others. We give of everything we possess because God has lavished us, showered us, with blessings beyond our comprehension!
As we wind down our time of study regarding the importance of stewardship and generosity towards the work of the Lord I want to encourage you to continue to pray. Ask the Lord to open your eyes to all of His marvelous gifts given to you and then praise Him with all of your heart. Don’t stop with praising Him for what He has done, respond to God’s gifts by being as generous in giving to the Lord’s work as He has been in giving to you. Always remember that the first step and the key to being a godly steward and a generous person towards the Lord’s work is to maintain a proper perspective on the Lord’s generosity towards you. Not only has He given you the strength to be here this morning, but He has given His Son as the greatest gift of all – the gift of salvation for poor, impoverished beggars like you and me. Won’t you invite Him in this morning?