Pastor J.D. shares about the generosity matrix and how that can help us view finances biblically.

A glimpse inside this episode:

Short answer: Yes

  • People like Abraham; Job at the beginning and end of his life; David; not to mention Solomon
  • Randy Alcorn points out in his book Money, Possessions, and Eternity that it is clear that some of Jesus’ early disciples were people of substantial means. 
  • Luke goes out of his way to point out three wealthy women who funded him: Mary, Joanna (who was Herod’s household manager), and Susanna.
  • Some of Jesus’ followers in Acts evidently had large houses, as we know they hosted early church gatherings. 
  • Paul often addressed rich people in his letters. He didn’t tell them to get rid of everything immediately; he told them to be generous and to their hope in heaven and not on their wealth. 

Two extremes:

  • The first one is that God wants 10 percent (that’s called the tithe–based on OT principle that the first 10% goes back to God); so, you give that, and after that, you’ve mostly fulfilled your duty and you can do whatever you want with the rest. It’s like a God-tax. After you pay it, you’re free. 
  • At the other end are those who assume that whatever we are giving, we could and should be giving more. They assume that God’s only real purpose with our money is spreading the gospel and relieving world poverty, and in light of so much poverty and the lostness of the world, if there’s something we could give away and still survive, we probably should. 
  • Illus. John Wesley famously took down all the pictures on his wall because he felt like they were the “blood of the poor.” Each picture on the wall was another orphan he might have brought in from the cold.
  • Or, do you remember that really stirring scene in the movie Schindler’s List where Liam Neeson, who is playing Schindler, looks at his watch and remorsefully says, “This watch … this watch could have freed two Jews.” Basically that. You see everything you have through the lens of what it could have done and feel guilty for not having given it.

I think Scripture teaches us to view our possessions through a matrix—a set of principles we must hold in tension. We like rules, formulas, and black and white prescriptions. Instead, the Bible gives complementary values we should prize in our hearts. Individual decisions arise out of processing them through that matrix.

  1. Jesus’ generosity to us is a model for our own (2 Corinthians 8)
  2. God gives us richly all things to enjoy (1 Timothy 6)
  3. God gives excess to some to share with others (2 Corinthians 8)
  4. It can be wise to build wealth.
    • “The crown of the wise is their wealth.” (Proverbs 14:24)
    • “The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance.” (21:5)
    • “Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the first fruits of all your produce; then your barns will be filled with plenty and your vats will be bursting with wine” (3:9–10)
    • “Go to the ant, O sluggard, and consider her ways … she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest.” (and saves it) (6:6–8)
    • “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children.” (13:22)  
  5. Treasures in heaven are better than treasures on earth
  6. Look to God, not money, as your source of security and significance
    • Two personality types: Money and birds
    • Put God first
  7. Follow the Holy Spirit

Any one of these principles, taken alone, will lead you out of balance. But holding all of these principles in reverent tension can provide you with a balanced and biblical approach to your money.

  • God gives excess to some so that they can share with those who have less.
      1. Those of us who have been given more have the responsibility to share with those given less. 
      2. The Bible teaches this all over the place, but one key place is Paul’s instruction in 2 Corinthians 8:13–15, where Paul uses the story of the manna to tell the Corinthians that those with excess should give to those with want. We should not hoard our materials or gorge ourselves with God’s provisions today, for, at the end of each day, it will all go bad, just as it did with the manna.
  • Jesus’ generosity is the model and motivation for our generosity.
      1. Jesus did not merely tithe his blood, he gave all of it. Our responsibility is not to give up our 10 percent and go on our self-serving ways but to pour out our entire lives, recklessly, for him and for others, just as he did for us.
      2. God doesn’t give us more to increase our standard of living, but our standard of giving.
  • The Holy Spirit must guide us as to which sacrifices we are to make.
      1. Not everything in heaven has your name on it … but something does.
      2. This is why the Pentecostals mobilize so well for missions. (And what is true for missions motivation is true for giving motivation, too.)
      3. In giving, I depend on the guidance of the Spirit.
        • Otherwise, every time I hear someone speaking about some mission, I feel like, “Why shouldn’t I be a part of that?” 
  • God delights in our enjoyment of his material gifts and gives us richly all things to enjoy.
      1. Proverbs says he gives food and wine (fruit juices for us Baptists) to gladden our hearts, not just to nourish our bodies. Food is a gift of God that is about more than just life; it is about enjoyment.
      2. Psalm 35:27 says, “The Lord… delights in the well-being of his servant”(NIV). Like a good father, God loves to watch us enjoy the gifts He has given to us.
      3. 1 Timothy 6:17-19 says that God gives us richly all things to enjoy. 
        • In other words, God loves it when I bite into the succulent richness of a horseradish-crusted prime rib and every taste bud screams out in thanksgiving to God, etc.
      4. This can be taken out of balance, but it is a biblical principle.
  • We are not to trust in riches and not to define our lives by the abundance of our possessions.
      1. Money is the top competitor with God for two things in our lives: security and meaning
        • Savers v. Spenders (and a third category … stewards)
  • Wealth building is wise.
    1. Consider these clear instructions in Proverbs.
      • “The crown of the wise is their wealth.” (14:24 ESV)
      • “The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance.” (21:5)
      • “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children.” (13:22)
      • Proverbs 13:22 goes so far as to say that a wise man can leave an inheritance that blesses even his grandchildren! That’s a pretty significant wad of cash.
    2. Now again, if you held this principle alone and not in tension with the others, you’ll hoard money and not be generous—which is opposed to the other principles here. 
    3. But we should also note that saving money and building wealth can actually increase your ability to be generous later.

If you take all of those 6 principles into account, I believe the life that most glorifies God is one in which you live sufficiently and give extravagantly

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