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Crazy Like Us Part 3 | "First Things First"

Generosity requires a plan. In this episode, Andy explains two questions that will help you decide where and how much to give.

NOTE: The following content is a raw transcript and has not been edited for grammar, punctuation, or word usage.

Now the series that we’re in right now and that we’re wrapping up today Crazy Like Us is really a series where we have contrasted the idea of giving, which all of you do, and the idea of being generous. The idea of giving and the idea of being generous. All of you give, everybody gives, everybody in America, everybody in the west understands the importance of giving. What sometimes we don’t understand and what we miss is the idea of generosity. And giving and being generous are two very different things. So this entire series is really about how to be generous, which is a little bit insulting because just saying I’m gonna teach you how to be generous assumes that you don’t know how to be generous, and I don’t know if that’s the case or not. But here’s what we do know, we do know that most Americans do not know how to be generous. They know how to give, they know how to respond to and ask or even sometimes a need, but they don’t understand a life built around generosity. So instead of assuming that all of you know how to do that, I decided we take a few weeks and talk about how to be generous. This is not a ‘do’ thing, this isn’t to learn how to give, this is a ‘be’ thing. This is learn how to be generous.

Because again, everybody gives something to someone somewhere. And oftentimes, that actually mask the reality that even though we know how to give, we don’t know how to be generous. Because as we’ve said throughout this series, generosity, generosity is more than just random acts of giving. Generosity is more than just random acts of giving. The truth is, and you know this, and because we have a relationship, those of us who, if you attend our church on a regular basis. People who are persuasive, or people with one of these strapped to their face or people that hold one of these right in front of you, they’re persuasive people that can talk us into giving, sell us on giving. And you, you get invited to fund raisers or you show up at your school, or they’re out there collecting money for something. And enough sad pictures and persuasive people, enough guilt, enough inspiration, enough motivation. Everybody gives. But generous people, here’s the difference, generous people never have to be sold, generous people don’t have to be inspired, generous people don’t have to be convinced, and generous people don’t give according to guilt.

Generous people have a plan. Generous people have a plan. Now, at the very beginning of this series I made you a promise and I wanna give you the promise one more time. And today is gonna be very, very, very practical as we talk about how to develop a generous lifestyle. And the promise of generosity is this: That when you become generous, you will give more, you will save more, and you will consume less. And we talked about the consumption thing last week. But Jesus even makes a better promise. This is what Jesus promised: Jesus said that people who orient their lives around generosity, not just people who give randomly, people who build and organize and re-orient their lives around generosity which is what we’re gonna talk about today, are actually happier. They’re actually happier. So, you can do this, or you can do this. And last week we talked about this that most people in the United States and Canada and most westerners, we worry, worry, worry about money. “Am I gonna have enough to retire on when my kids go to college? Am I gonna be able to get… Own a home or am I gonna afford to get married?” We worry, worry, worry and then, we do the craziest thing imaginable, we spend everything we make or we spend more than we make. And then we have debt, and then we don’t have any margin, and then we have something to worry about.

And we get so worried. The only way to relieve our stress is to go to the mall. And so we go to the mall to relieve our worry and we spend everything than more than we make, we carry debt and we don’t have any margin and then we worry and round and round and round we go. And then we go to the car dealership to kind of get… Work it off, and then the boat dealership and the boat show and, and we go on and on and on. Everybody kinda has their thing. So consequently, consequently, we worry, we worry about future consumption, we consume more than we can afford, we carry consumer debt and we don’t have any margin for future consumption. Then we worry about future consumption and round and round we go. And we convince ourselves, we talked about this last week. We convince ourselves that we have a money problem. And 95% of us who worry about money do not have a money problem. What we have are three different problems. We have a self-control problem, we have a contentment problem, we have a discipline problem. And if you’re a Jesus follower, and if you’re not a Jesus follower you don’t have to take this seriously. This is just for people who take Jesus seriously. Jesus would say, “You have a spiritual problem.” Because if you are worried, worried, worried it’s because you have placed your trust in riches rather than in Him who richly provides.

So this is absolutely crazy. It’s crazy the way we view money, it’s crazy that we become really people who just see ourselves as owners and consumers. Jesus says, “There is a very different way to live.” And it’s the way of generosity where you wrap your entire financial life and you begin to view the world through a different lens, the lens of generosity. 

Because generous people, and this is where we left off last week. Generous people do not assume it’s theirs to consume. This is the shift in thinking that makes all the difference in the world. Generous people do not assume it’s theirs to consume. They have rejected the assumption consumption. Most people think, “If it comes to me, it must be for me.”

Jesus taught, “No, if it comes to you, it may not be for you. And if you assume it is for you, you will live your entire life like an owner and a consumer.” And Jesus would say, “You are better than that. And I did not design you for that.” Because ownership is a myth, and living as a consumer, living as a consumer always leads to the same place. You were always discontent. No matter how new and shiny it is today, there’s a newer and a shinier one waiting for you tomorrow. Living like a consumer, living with the assumption it’s all for your consumption, no matter how much money you make, no matter how much you have, you will always be on the brink of discontentment which drives the cycle round and round and round.

Now, you break the insanity cycle. You break this insanity cycle by reordering and re-prioritizing your finances. You break this cycle and you break out of this cycle, not by making more money. Because as we said last week, if you got a 10% raise, you would just do this with more money. 20%, 30%, no matter how much money you make unless you suddenly had a windfall which would wreck you. We know that, from everybody who wins lots and lots of money or suddenly comes into lots and lots of money. But the only way off of this for the mere mortal for most of us is to rethink your finances and generosity, I’m just telling you, generosity is the off ramp. You re-prioritize and you reorder around generosity rather than consumption. And it’s this very simple thing. It’s really taking the thing that is usually last on our list, and moving it to the top of the list.

So, let me show you how that works, and to do that, we’re gonna go back to our definition that we gave you the first week and last week. So, here’s our working definition of ‘generous’. I made this up. You can come up with your own. It’s clunky. No one will ever remember this, but I did it on purpose because these are some really, really important words that I wanna talk through to tell you a story and then we’ll wrap this series up. Here’s our definition for generosity or generous. The premeditated, calculated, designated emancipation of personal financial assets. I kinda like it. The premeditated, we talked about that one, calculated, we’re gonna talk about that one, designated, we’re gonna talk about that one, emancipation, you’re gonna set it free. Because generous people understand just because it comes to me doesn’t mean it’s for me. That’s how generous people live.

So, let’s start with this word right here, premeditated. In order to be generous, you have to have a plan. Generosity requires a plan. 

So, let me just say to all the non-planners, okay? Look up here, this is very important. You have a plan. You just don’t know it. So, I know this, you have financial habits. If you have financial habits, you have a plan. You’ve just never written it down. You don’t know it. In other words, somebody could follow you around, look at all your financial habits, put them in order and say, “Did you know this is your plan?” and you’re like, “Well, that is what I do.” That’s right, everybody has a plan. Most of you, I love you, have a bad plan.


If you do not know what your plan is, it is probably a bad plan because when have you ever drifted in a good direction? You plan toward what’s good, you drift toward what’s bad. If you do not have a plan, things probably aren’t as good as you may think they are financially. You have financial habits, those financial habits are your plan. You are working a plan. You just haven’t written it down. 

You need to work to plan. So, that’s the premeditated part. Premeditated, calculated, calculated. Calculated means you need to decide ahead of time how much generosity requires a specific amount or generosity requires a percentage. You need to know ahead of time, “How much am I gonna give and what percentage?” And percentage is better. Percentage is better because as you make more, you give more. Percentage is better because as you make more, you give more. It’s a percentage. Generous people give percentages. That’s how generous people think because generous people want to give more and as their income goes up, they decide to give more. And the best way to do that is by picking a percentage. Not spontaneous. Not sporadic. Not sparing. Percentage is best.

And here’s what generous people do. Here’s what I’m gonna challenge you to do. Generous people give it before they consume it. See, the key to generosity isn’t just giving more. The key to generosity isn’t just having a plan. The key to generosity is re-ordering or re-prioritizing your finances so that what was left… “If I have any, I’ll give it” goes first. You give first and you save second and then you live on the rest. You flip the whole thing upside down. And that makes you a three P. Instead of a three S giver, you become the three P giver. You’re giving a percentage. It’s a priority. That means you give it first. We’re gonna talk about that in just a minute, how to do that. You give it first. I’m gonna pick a percentage beforehand. And when I get paid or when I get my bonus, when I get my tips, when I get my whatever, I’m gonna give it first as a priority. And then progressive. And here’s what I mean by that. That even if you have to take a baby step, you decide, “You know what? I wanna be generous but, ahh, it scares me, so I’m gonna start with two percent or I’m gonna start with five percent or I’m gonna start with seven percent.” I think seven is a… Three and five are Bible numbers. So, we’ll go… 40 is too but, okay, we’ll go with three or seven.


Over time, you bump up your percentage. So, you become generous by choosing a percentage, giving it first. You put it at the top of the list rather than the bottom. And then over time, you increase it. So, that’s the next step. You got yourself a plan. And then, you’re gonna decide how much and how often. And then, this is the fun part. You’ve been waiting for the fun part, right? Here’s… This is what… This is what make… This is what puts the fun in funding. Generous people. It’s calculated. It’s premeditated or it’s calculated, and it’s designated. That means you choose ahead of time where it’s going. This is… The reason some of you don’t like to give is because people are always asking you for money, asking you for money, asking you for money. Generous people don’t feel guilty saying, “No” because generous people have already decided. Now here’s what Jesus said.

So this is… I’m gonna tell you where to give your money. Okay? This is what Jesus said. I love this. He said, “Where your treasure is… ” You’ve heard of this before. “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Now, this is a fascinating thing. Jesus… You should read again. If you don’t believe the whole Bible, fine. If you’re not sure about who Jesus was, you should at least read what Jesus said. Okay. If you read the paper, you should at least read what Jesus said. Okay. If you read anything, you should at least consider. So, here’s one of those brilliant insights Jesus had. That where your treasure is, your heart is, which means, wherever you’re sending your money, part of your heart is there. It also means that if you would like to change where your heart is, change the direction of your money. It works both ways.

So, this is how you put the fun in funding. This is how you bring a sense of feeling to your finances. And this is how to connect your money and your heart, you pre-decide, you pre-decide, you pre-decide where you’re going to give. And then when everybody comes after you for money for the rest of your life, you can feel good about saying “No”, because you’re generous. You can do random acts of generosity. You can do random acts of giving. You should. I do all the time. But what makes you generous is that you have pre-decided. You have a plan. You picked a percentage. You’re giving it first. And you’ve decided ahead of time where you’re going to give it.

One way of thinking about it is this. Saving is how you say yes to you and your future, but generosity is how you say yes to what is important to you. And you know what? You’ve all been in this situation. We all have, where you become aware of something that really captures your heart. And you think, “Oh, I wish I could do more.” And the reason you can’t do more is because you did not plan to do more. It’s your fault. It’s not a money problem. It’s a self-control problem. A discipline problem. And a debt problem. But you’re about to become a generous person. You’re gonna solve all of that.

So, here’s how to choose where to give. Here’s how to choose your designation. Okay? Two things. You give from a grateful heart and you give from a broken heart. This is how you choose. You give from a grateful heart and you give from a broken heart. Jesus says, “Your heart and your money. Your heart and your money.” So, you give from a grateful heart and you give from a broken heart. In other words, what are you grateful for? What are you broken over? What are you grateful for? What are you broken over? What are you grateful for? You should decide ahead of time. “I’m going to fund the thing or the things that I’m grateful for.” And you should decide ahead of time, “I’m going to fund that organization or that thing that addresses an issue or a need that breaks my heart.”

So, you gotta plan. You’re gonna pick a percentage. You’re gonna give it first, not last. And you’re gonna decide ahead of time where it’s going. This is why, this is why anybody who loves their local church should give to their local church. And if you don’t love your local church, go find one that you love so much because you’re so grateful for it. When you get in the car with your kids and your kids wake you up, wanna go to church. If you love your local church, you should give to your local church because you’re grateful for your local church. But, let me take it a step further. If you have kids in college? Now this is miraculous. If you have kids in college, and they leave home, and they move to a different city, and they get plugged into a local church, okay, that’s miraculous. You should give to that local church.

You know why? Because you’re grateful. “Oh my gosh, my kids actually are going to church in college. I’ve never been to that church, whatever they’ve got going on, I am so grateful.” If you have, if you are a parent of a college student or graduate student who found a local church and your kids are living off you still, they’re making minimum wage somewhere while they’re working through college, every once in a while, you should put in your plan to support that local church. Why? Because you are grateful. You have a grateful heart for what they’re doing. But in addition to your local church, you should pick something that’s a cause that you’re all about, a charity that creates emotion in you, a group that’s doing something in the world. It may be something that’s focused on a specific country, a specific neighborhood, a specific need, you need to find an organization outside of your local church that addresses something that breaks your heart.

Again, generous people never feel guilty about saying “No” because they’ve already said “Yes.” Generous people never feel guilty about saying, “No. No I’m not gonna come to that. No, I’m not gonna come to your fundraiser, no I’m not gonna do the… ” “Oh are you not generous?” No, I am generous. I’ve already said yes. I’ve already picked a percentage. I give it first and I know where it’s going and I’m all for random acts of generosity and I may come and see your deal, and yeah, I’ll read your brochure, I’m open, but don’t accuse me of not being generous. I can say no because I’ve already said yes.” Any questions? No. 

Okay so you got a plan, how much, how often and then you decide where. And where do you give it? You give it to what you’re grateful for and what breaks your heart. You’re grateful for in your heart and what breaks your heart. It’s that simple, so let me go over it again. You got to have a plan, you’ve already got one. Might as well come up with one that’s a good one, right? You’re gonna take what’s normally at the bottom, you’re gonna put it at the top. You’re gonna pick a percentage. You’re gonna decide when to give it and then you get the fun part and say, “Hey, what am I grateful for and what breaks my heart?” So that’s what generosity is. It’s the premeditated, calculated, designated emancipation of personal financial assets. The easy way to remember this is what you have heard me say 1000 times. It’s give, save, live. Give, save, live. You give first, you save second, and you consume the rest.

You give first, you save second, and you consume all the rest. And when you do… When you do, everything changes because here’s the thing, this thing. And many of you would… In fact, since I started this series, I’ve gotten so many cool emails, so many cool direct messages, texts of people saying, “Preach it, preach it, preach it, I learned this five years ago.” “I learned this 10 years ago.” “I learned this a year ago. It has made such a big difference.” And here’s what happens. You see, generous people, not people who… Random acts of giving. Generous people, people who have ordered their finances around generosity. Generous people have an easier time saying ‘No’ to the things that undermine their own financial future. Generous people have a much easier time saying ‘No’ to the things that undermine their financial future because they don’t think and live like consumers.

They live this way. It’s the new crazy. It’s the crazy where you give, and you save, and you live, and you have peace, and you give, and you save, and you live, and you have peace. And people look at this and say, “You’re crazy. You mean, you give before you consume? You give before you save? You give first? That’s crazy.” Of course, it’s crazy. But it’s a better version of crazy than this. This is when you’re living like an owner, and you’re living like a consumer. This is as if you’re living, as if, you know what? It isn’t really yours anyway because it’s all gonna be left behind. And just because it comes to you doesn’t mean it belongs to you. Generosity I’m telling you, generosity is your off ramp. Generosity is your off ramp from that kind of crazy.

Now first… The first part of the series, I told you the story about me giving away cars when I was young. So now I wanna tell you another story. And if you think I’m bragging, I don’t care. I just want you to go, “Wow, wow.” I just want you to try and hate me. Don’t give any money here. I don’t care. I just dare you, okay? So 2008… At the end of 2008, a friend of mine called me and asked me if I’d like to participate in the inaugural activities of our president. I said, “Yes, of course. You can pay my way to Washington, DC?” They said, “No.” I said, “Okay, we’ll come anyway.”

And so I was invited to be in what’s called “The National Prayer Service.” I’ve told some of you the story before. National Prayer Service, which is an event that takes place the day after the inauguration. It’s a big church service. And I was asked if I would read a prayer. This is so cool. Read a prayer that has been at every inauguration since George Washington. “Okay, read this prayer.” And I’m like, “Yes.” I’m like, “Sandra, we’re going to Washington DC. We’re gonna be in the National Cathedral. I’m gonna be on the stage. We’re gonna be around the Supreme Court, the president, and old presidents. And, you know, it’s gonna be great,” I said. “But I got to buy a suit”, ’cause my suits were old. We’re not dress up people. “I got to buy a suit.” And she said, “Well, I got to buy a dress.” And like, “Yeah.” She said, “What do you wear to something like this?” I’m like, “I don’t know.” But probably we both better step it up.

So it took me about a minute to buy a suit. “I need a dark blue suit with a tie and a white shirt.” Tadaa! How long does that take? For Sandra, this became a safari.


Which you understand. I mean, this is a big deal. I mean, we’re gonna be… Meet the president, and the old president, the old president’s wife, the new president. And it’s just like a big deal. Supreme court is gonna be there. This is a once in a lifetime thing, so she goes under safari. And said, “This is not working. It’s not working.” So one day, I’m at the office. And she told me, she said, “Today I have to get a dress… I mean, there’s a deadline, we’re getting close to this.”

So about two o’clock in the afternoon, I called her just to see how it’s going. And she said… She immediately answered. She said, “Hey, I found it.” And I could hear noise in the background. She goes, “I’m at the department store right now. I found it.” She was telling me how beautiful it is. And she was kind of giddy, and she’s not normally giddy about that kind of stuff. I said, “Really?” I said… I said, “How much is it?” because she was really giddy. “This is really awesome, yeah.” She said, “It’s $3,000.”

I heard the women in the room. The guys were like, “Ah.”


Yeah. I said, “Where are you?” And she told me. And we don’t shop there. I’ve never even been in there. It’s like, people go there. And if you go there, and I know I’m glad you do. I’m really am. As long as you’re generous. Give, save, live. Okay. If you got enough… Okay. So here’s the first thing that went through my mind, eBay, okay?


So we get home, because where are you gonna wear this again? And you know, “Worn at inaug… ” Certainly, we can sell this thing. Then I had a really quick thought, “Just take it back. I’m not gonna do that. It didn’t really fit. We’re not gonna do that,” okay. And we don’t… We don’t do stuff like that. And then I heard her laughing on the other end of the phone. She said, “Don’t worry.” I said, “Why?” Here’s what she said. She said, “When I saw the price, all I could think were about all those precious faces in New Hope Homes.” And New Hope Homes is a group of little tiny houses in Kigali, Rwanda where we had been the year before. And Sandra and Allie had been sending money to this organization that builds these little tiny houses for children. And they have group moms and dads. And we’ve been to Rwanda and seen that. She said, she says, “All I could see were those precious faces in Kigali, Rwanda and I thought to myself, what could we do with $3,000 there? There’s no way I’ll spend that much on a dress.” So she went to Dillard’s. Thank you, Dillard’s.


She spent $280 on a dress and $75 on a pair of shoes. She looked great. And here’s why I’m telling you that story. When you order your life around generosity, it affects everything. Now, here’s the thing. I could afford to buy her a $3,000 dress. I’d never thought I’d be able to say that in my life. We could have spent $3,000 on a dress. Could it justify, this is an inauguration, it’s my wife, she’s raised our three kids. She’s fabulous, fantastic. She deserves it, on and on, and I could go… But she immediately… She immediately saw this dress and that occasion within a broader context, because just because it comes to us doesn’t mean it is for us. I want you to live that way, I want you to at least try to live that way… Look up here when I’m done… You are gonna give money away the rest of your life. I want you to learn to live a generous life and if it sounds crazy, I know it sounds crazy. I know this sounds crazy, but here’s what Jesus said. Jesus said, “This is crazier.” This is crazier because in this way of living you assume two things that just will devastate you ultimately financially. You’re living like an owner and you’re living like a consumer.

You live like an owner and you live like a consumer, and one is a myth. Ownership is a myth and consumption and living with the consumption assumption always brings you back to the same place: Empty and wanting more. So you have to choose your crazy and you can do this the rest of your life if you want, but this is better. This is much, much, much better. And Jesus said… This is what Jesus said. “Remember, happy, happy, happy is the person whose life is ordered around giving rather than receiving.” Happy… I mean if you wanna… Even if it’s just all about you, you will be happier if you order your life around giving rather than receiving. Happy, happy is the person whose life is ordered around giving rather than receiving. Happy is the person that learns to live a generous life.