We tend to measure generosity by random acts of giving. In this episode, Andy makes a case for generosity as a lifestyle.
NOTE: The following content is a raw transcript and has not been edited for grammar, punctuation, or word usage.
So as I was moving into this series and preparing for this series, it dawned on me this week, “This may be my John 6 moment where all of you say, “You know what, Andy? It’s been fun, but that is just too offensive”. Because in John 6, it said, “The crowd was actually so offended by what Jesus said, they just walked away”. So I decided we’re just gonna plunge ahead anyway and at the risk of the most offensive series I’ve ever done, we’re just gonna do this. And so… And here’s why this is gonna be offensive for some of you, but I hope you’ll come back anyway. The reason it’s offensive is because I want to teach you how to do something that you think you already know how to do. And I’m not trying to get you to do something, I’m trying to teach you how to do something. So, it’s gonna be a little confusing maybe upfront.
And the reason I decided to do this is because I know… We know, statistically, that most Americans are not this and do not know how to do this. So at the risk of offending most of you, if not all of you, I’ve decided to teach you how to do something you probably think you already know how to do. But if no one has ever taught you how to do it, you probably think you know how, but you don’t.
So what I’m gonna do for the next three weeks is I wanna teach you how to be generous. Not how to give, all of you know how to give, everybody knows how to give, everybody in America knows how to give. This is… This is a be versus a do. I’m not trying to get you to do something, I wanna teach you for the next three weeks how to be generous. Now, as soon as I say that I know what you think, ’cause I’m the same way. As soon as somebody says you don’t do something, you immediately think of that one time you did it. Or as soon as somebody says that you’re not a certain way, you immediately think of the time you were that way.
When I talk about generosity, when I talk about generosity we’re not talking about random acts of giving, okay? Most American… Most of us are good at random acts of giving. And random acts of giving generally come as results of somebody persuading us to do something, asking us to do something, inspiring us to do something, guilting us to do something. What we’re talking about in this series are not random acts of giving, and I’m all for random acts of giving. The more random acts of giving the better.
But for the next few weeks I wanna talk specifically about generosity and how to be generous. Generosity, genuine generosity actually transcends inspiration and guilt. That genuinely, generous people are not moved near as much by the big inspirational pitch about a need somewhere in the world or in our community, nor are they ever moved by guilt. Because generous people have moved beyond that. But I wanna make you a promise about this series as we go forward, and here’s the promise.
When you actually become a generous person… And to kind of give you a little heads up, when you learn how… And again, you have to be taught, and this isn’t natural, as we’re gonna see. When you learn how to order your life around generosity, when you learn how to order your life around generosity, when you become actually a generous person, not someone who just gives randomly to things and when you see people in need or somebody says there’s a need. You will be… When you become generous you will actually give more. And here’s the surprise part, this is why you gotta come back… You will actually save more and you will actually consume less. That generous people, by nature, when you become generous you will give more. You will give more, you will save more money, and you will actually consume less. Now, there is a small group of you, there’s an exception to this. Some of you have already saved so much, you’re borderline hoarding your money, okay? It’s just a small percentage of you, you will not save more, you will actually just give more and consume less but you won’t save more because some of you have already saved enough. And you have… So you have more money than anybody on the four rows in front of you and behind you, okay? All saved up. And you are still nervous about money and I’m telling you why.
It’s not because you don’t have enough money, it’s because you have never learned to be generous. And I don’t mean you never give, you do random acts of giving. In fact, the zeroes on the end of your check are so big people think you’re generous. In fact, you think you’re generous. But if you’ve never learned to be… If no one’s ever taught you to be generous, you may have a lot of wealth and still not be generous. But for most of us, if you learn to be generous, you will give more, you will save more and you will actually consume less. And then here’s the promise Jesus makes if you don’t like my promise. Jesus promises, you will actually be happier. Because you’ve never met an unhappy generous person. This is Jesus’ promise. You’ll actually be happy.
It becomes a keystone habit that trickles down into everything.
Now, the reason this has to be taught even though you all think you’re generous, we all think we’re generous because we would think of all that money that we gave away. The reason that this has to be taught is because generosity is not natural. It’s just not natural. If you have children, you know this. If you remember being the children, you know this, right? We have to teach our kids to share. We have to teach our kids to share. Why? Because there are a lot of things that come naturally, generosity does not come naturally. let’s be honest, there’s still something in us that when it comes to giving away what’s ours and giving away what we’ve worked for, there’s still resistance. And the reason is because, it’s not your fault. Generosity is like, we’re talking about is not… It’s not, it’s not, it’s not natural.
Now in the United States and in some western countries, generosity even though it’s not natural, it is cultural. And the reason generosity or the idea of giving or being generous is popular in the United States of America, is because in any nation in the world, in any nation in the world where there has been a history of strong Christian influence, you find in that nation a shadow of Christian values and one of those Christian values is generosity. The generosity is part of our American ought. You ought to give. You ought to be generous. It’s not natural but it is cultural. It’s part of our culture. But it’s something that needs to be taught. And if you don’t believe me, you just need to visit some nations or pay attention to the news about nations that this is not a natural… This is not a natural inclination. The best example is what’s happening now, right now with immigration in the Middle East and Europe. You know this.
The countries that have a history and a tradition of Christianity even though they would not consider themselves Christian nations, even though most of the people in those nations may not consider themselves Christian nations, there is still a shadow, there is still a vestige of, there is still the value of Christianity. And those European nations that have a strong history of Christianity are the nations that are saying, “We know we ought to invite and include these immigrants.” The nations that do not have especially the past 100 years or further back. Those nations that do not have as part of their culture a strong Christian influence are the nations that are saying, “Why should we take these people? Why should we take the… It’s not our problem.” So generosity is not natural, but generosity can be cultural and it’s part of our national culture. And that’s why there’s a little bit of attention around generosity in our country. Because you know you ought to but it doesn’t come naturally.
But we live in a nation fortunately where it’s still part of the American ought, but we don’t wanna lose that. Now, if you wanna know what’s natural when it comes to money, what’s natural when it comes to money is crazy. Crazy is natural when it comes to money, especially in our country. This is amazing to me okay? I wasn’t raised this way so this is still crazy to me.
Most Americans spend more than they make. How do you even do that okay? I don’t know I don’t understand this, but most Americans spend more money than they make. Now, that is crazy. Not only that, most Americans pay interest. I wasn’t raised this way either. Most Americans pay interest on things that decrease in value the moment they take possession of them. Most Americans pay interest on items that as soon as they take possession, the value of that item immediately decreases, and because they’re gonna pay interest on it, the price immediately increases. I know I’m sorry I… This is so confusing, I had to sit down and do a visual. So I’m gonna show you my visual, I have a chart to explain this because this is crazy. Here’s what it looks like.
Okay, this is time right okay, and then this is the point of purchase, so this moment of purchase… And the moment you purchase something that is gonna decrease in value over time and you’re gonna pay interest on it, whether credit card interest or you finance or whatever, here’s what happens. Immediately, immediately the cost increases and the value decreases. Now, this is crazy, and we live in a culture where this is so normal that we think it’s normal. This is not normal. This is crazy. And… But here’s something that’s just as crazy,
Here’s what’s really crazy. We don’t feel rich but we are. We don’t feel rich but we are, but we feel generous and we aren’t. We don’t really feel rich. Again, there is somebody that can drop into your life from a third world country and they would look at your life and say, “Are you kidding? You’re rich.” And you would try to explain the financial pressure you feel. And someone from a third world country would listen to your complaints about your financial pressure and they would think you’re crazy. We don’t feel rich but we are. But we think we’re generous and as you’re about to discover, we really aren’t.
So having said all that and having stirred the pot, you may be offended but you’re not bored, okay? It’s better to be offended than bored in church. Okay? So here’s what… What do I mean when I say generous? If generosity isn’t just random acts of giving, if generosity isn’t just the moment where I take something that belongs to me and give it to somebody else, what do we mean by generosity? So real quick, I’m gonna give you four myths… I’ve already given you one… Four myths, then I’m gonna give you a definition, then we’re gonna look at something Jesus said, and then I’m gonna ask you to use your imagination. All right? So here’s four myths about generosity.
Number one, we’ve kind of covered this. Generosity is spontaneous. I go somewhere and they’re raising money for something, I’m like, “Oh yeah, here’s some money.” Lady down the street has a tough time, family down the street has a tough time, the neighborhood collects some money, “Oh yeah, here’s some money.” You find out one of your children at school, somebody in their school is having a tough time or that you go to a fund raiser and somebody talks about something they’re doing globally, like, “Here’s some money”. So that’s spontaneous giving, that’s random giving. But that’s not what we’re talking about. Because generous people, generous people are actually less spontaneous. Generous people are actually less emotional in their giving, and generous people… And this is why I want you to be generous, I wanna teach you how… Generous people are far more strategic in their giving. It’s not hit-and-miss.
Second one. Generosity, the other myth, is that generosity is determined by cash flow. I can be generous today but I can’t be generous tomorrow. “I just got paid so I can be generous, we’re at the end of the month, I can’t be generous”. That somehow generosity or a person’s ability to be a generous person is determined by cash flow. Generous people, generous people are consistently generous. Generous people, their generosity is not determined by cash flow. So if you’re one of those people who generally, “I give when I can afford it. I don’t give when I can’t afford it,” chances are, you’re a giver but you’ve not learned to be generous.
The other myth, the third myth about generosity is this: it’s the amount that counts. This one drives me crazy but I always smile and I don’t wanna be rude. You’ve heard this a thousand times, “That was such a generous gift. He made a generous gift. She made such a generous gift.” And I’m thinking, “No one knows that that was a generous gift except the person that gave it”. The only person that knows if a gift was generous is the person that made it. Adding zeros to an amount is not… Does not necessarily determine whether or not a gift was generous. It may be a lot of money compared to what I make, it may be a lot of money compared to what you make, but one of the ways that we fool ourselves into thinking that we’re generous is by looking at the amount of money. That, “Boy, that was a generous donation,” The amount… Here’s what we’re gonna learn about generosity.
When it comes to generosity, the amount does not count because giving, giving is only one part of an overall… Of a person’s overall finances. The only way to know whether or not a gift was generous is to know everything about that person’s finances, and nobody knows everything about your finances or anybody else’s finances except perhaps your accountant. So here’s the great news. Everyone, everyone can be generous, and everyone can make a generous donation when you understand generosity.
And then here, the last myth, it’s simply this, that rich people are generous, rich people are generous. “Andy, I get this. I’m all for it. I know some generous people. But Andy, when I become rich, when I become rich, then I’ll be generous.” So, let me clear this up, okay? Pay attention. Rich people are rich, generous people are generous. And there is no natural correlation. And let me just predict something for all of you in your 20’s, okay, this is so important. If you are not generous now, when you get rich, you will just be a rich person who’s not generous, because there is no correlation between how much money you have, how much money you make, and whether or not you are generous. They are two completely different things, and I want you to learn to be generous. But you have to learn it. It has to be taught because it is not, it is not, it is not natural. Everybody, regardless of your income level, can be a generous person.
So, real quickly, I wanna give you the definition of generosity that we’re gonna use throughout this series, ’cause I know you’re gonna… You can’t wait to come back, okay. You’re hoping this… I’ll just keep going and you can’t wait to come back. So, I’m gonna give you the definition and I just need to let you know upfront, this is a clunky, is the best word I can come up with, this is a clunky definition. In other words, this isn’t piffy, this isn’t it takes one to know one. This is… This is like clunky. And in fact, and I made it clunky and difficult on purpose because I want each one of these words to make a difference in your thinking about generosity. I’m just gonna give you the definition, then the next couple of weeks, we’re gonna come back, and take it apart, and par some of these words. But here’s what I mean when I talk about learning to be generous. Here’s what generosity is.
Generous is the premeditated, that means you gotta have a plan, generous people have a plan; calculated, generous people already know how much they’re gonna give; designated, generous people have pre-decided where it’s gonna go; emancipation, this is my favorite word, emancipation, that is you gotta set it free. Generous people understand that they will, in order not to be possessed by their possessions, they have to realize they’re not a possessor to begin with, and generous people understand that when they order their lives around generosity, they are setting free personal, financial assets.
So, this series is not about being generous with your time or generous with your relationships, or generous of whatever. This is specifically about being generous with your money. It’s the premeditated, calculated, designated emancipation of personal financial assets. Now, if you’re saying, “Andy, where did you get this?” I made it up, okay? You’re not gonna find this anywhere. I totally made it up because I want us to understand and I want us to slow down and understand what it means, not simply to give, you’re all good givers, what it means to live a generous life. Because here’s the thing and here’s what I really, really want for you, and if you’ve been here at any of our churches for a while, if you’ve watched for a while, hopefully you’ve heard this and you know this.
Listen, when you free your money, emancipation, when you free your money, you free yourself from your money. When you free your money and when you begin to view your life through the lens of generosity, when you become a generous person, when you understand that you order your financial life around freeing your money, it frees you from your money and you will actually be free, and it doesn’t matter how much money you make. You’ve met some very, very wealthy people that worry about money all the time, you’ve met some middle income people that seem to just not be stressed out about it, and you met people on the lower end of the spectrum that are stressed out about it and some that are most… Some of the most generous people you will ever, ever meet. The generosity is not about income, but it’s something you have to learn to do.
But I just wanna look at one verse of scripture, and it is the most popular, well known verse in the Bible, I think, about money, and here’s the surprise. All of you have heard this before. Most of you have said this before. But I’m betting, a big percentage of you didn’t know it was in the New Testament, and you didn’t know that Jesus said it, and you don’t know why it’s in the Bible to begin with. Because this is so popular, it’s almost like a saying that has lost all of it’s meaning. In fact, I’m gonna argue that this is something Jesus said that has been so redefined, we completely miss what he meant when he said it.
So, let me give you a little bit of context, that we find this little… Though it’s really, we think of it as a saying, but this incredible truth from Jesus. All right, we discover this actually in the book of Acts. There’s Matthew, Mark, Luke, John in the story of Jesus and the book of Acts tells us what happened after Jesus rose from the dead and the Apostle Paul went all over the Mediterranean rim, planning all these churches in Gentile areas, and this particular case, he’s in the… In the city of Ephesus.
He’s leaving Ephesus and he’s going to Jerusalem, and he knows he’s gonna be arrested, and he knows that the people in Ephesus will probably never see him again. It’s one of the most emotional pieces of narrative in the entire New Testament. The Apostle Paul is saying goodbye to friends, he’s saying goodbye to supporters, he’s saying goodbye to church leaders, and he’s saying to them, “I’m leaving. You’ll never see me again.” They’re begging him not to go. And in this little narrative in Acts 20, he begins to rehearse for them how… What he did for them, and he talks about his generous life, and it’s… There’s not bragging. He’s just saying, “I lived in front of you a generous life, and when I’m gone I want you to continue to live a generous life, and he gives some details. And then, this is so cool to me, then he throws out this statement that was so familiar to them. He didn’t have to say, “Jesus one day taught.” He throws out a statement that is so familiar to the first entry audience just like it’s familiar to us, that when he said it they were like, “Oh yeah we’ve heard that before, oh yeah we’ve heard that before, oh yeah we’ve heard that before.”
But they understood what Jesus meant when Jesus said this, whereas for us it’s become a pithy little saying that we often times say when we’re giving a gift, or we feel good about giving a gift. So here’s what the Apostle Paul says, then I want us to look at this… This is such a powerful, powerful idea. And it really sets the direction for this entire series. So he’s at the end of this farewell, he’s about to get on a boat, they’re never gonna see him again. And he’s talked about a generous life and then he says, remembering the words of the Lord Jesus, remembering that the words of Lord Jesus said.
In other words, remembering like you already knew this, you’ve been taught this before. This isn’t new information. Remembering the words the Lord Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive. It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Now, when you have said this or when you have heard this, I’m guessing 90% or a 100% of the time, it’s when you gave a thing in a moment of time and you felt good about it.
Or somebody said, “Hey, thanks for giving that,” And you’re like “Oh no no, I really… I like giving” And somebody says, “Well, it’s more blessed to give than to receive. It’s more blessed to give than receive.” But this… This saying of Jesus, this is so important, does not refer to a moment in time. This was a reference to a way of living.
This was not a reference to a moment in time, and that moment in time when I gave that boy… I felt so good about giving, and that’s not what Jesus is talking about. What Jesus was talking about, the little word blessed, it’s the same word that we find in the Beatitudes, remember we did the happy series?
This kind of blessed really means happy, and you sow and you reap your way into happy. That it is an outcome of a lifestyle and what Jesus was referring to, and when you read it in context what Paul was referring to is this. He’s saying, “If you live a generous life, if you live a generous life, not have moments of giving, but if you live a generous life, if you order your life around generosity, you will be happy. Happiness is an outcome of a lifestyle of generosity”.
Essentially he’s saying this, “Happy is the person whose life is ordered around giving rather than receiving.” Happy or happier is the person whose life, not a moment in time, not a transaction, not a “Okay, I’ll give,” or “Okay, I’ll give a little more.” That’s all good, not random acts of giving. Happy, blessed is the man or woman, the teenager, the kid, whose life… Whose entire life is ordered around giving rather than receiving.
Now at this point in the message, I know some of you are thinking, and I understand this, okay? “Andy, how many weeks is this? Okay” ‘Cause I think I have something to do for the next say, two more weeks. I think I’m pretty sure we have something to do and hopefully, you’ll do something a little more practical, something that will help my wife or my girlfriend or my boyfriend. But no more money thing, okay?”
I don’t know that for the rest of your life that anyone is gonna teach you how to be generous. For the rest of your life people are gonna try and inspire you to give, motivate you to give, guilt you to give. But this may be your one opportunity to teach you how not to give, how to be generous. So before you write me off I just want you to use your imagination real quick and we’re done okay? And this is kind of weird.
Imagine, that suddenly, magically, mystically, providentially, this can’t happen. But imagine that suddenly you had a checking account full of all the money you’ve wasted the last five years. If you’re 40 let’s go 10 years, okay? If you’re 40 or older 10 years. Then suddenly… And by wasting, you define wasted. I’m not gonna tell you what waste is, you decide.
I just want you to imagine, just use your imagination, you have a checking account full of all the money that you considered wasteful spending, dumb investments, whatever it might be, that boat. “Why didn’t I listen, I bought a boat. Oh, I regret the day.” Well, all the cash, it’s in a checking account. And you can’t spend it. You have to give it away. And you have to give it away in 12 months.
For most of you, it’s hundreds, for a lot you it’s hundreds of dollars. For most of us, it’s thousands of dollars, it might be tens of thousands, I’m just… Just imagine for a second. You have a checking account. And you… You can’t spend it. It’s yours, but it’s not yours. It’s yours to manage, but you don’t really possess it. You can’t do anything to benefit you, but you’ve got a checking account and all you can do with this money is give it away. You don’t have to give it away immediately, you have a year to give it away. Wouldn’t that be fun? Wouldn’t that be fun?
They’re down the street trying to raise $800, you’re like, “$900, done.” At school, they’re doing something and you’re writing checks and they’re like, “Whoa, are you rich?” And you’re like, “No I’m not rich. I just can’t spend this money on me and I got the… I woke up one day and there was an angel at the end of my bed. And he said, ‘Hey, you gotta spend this money on somebody else.’ And I’m so grateful. I’m so grateful.”
And you know what? You wouldn’t be possessive. You wouldn’t be regretful. I’m telling you, you would experience the joy of living a generous life. So, here’s my question. Why not just do that going forward? ‘Cause I’m gonna teach you how. I’m gonna teach you how. You can do this. You’ve already screwed up the last five years of dumb whatever you did with your money, and you would love to have it back. You would love to have it back. And you would love to have it back even if you couldn’t spend it on you. So, don’t do that again for another five years. Don’t do that again for another 10 years. I want you to learn to be generous because it’s a powerful, powerful, powerful thing, and you can learn. And you’ll save more. And you’ll spend less. And you’ll have more joy in your life. And Jesus said, you don’t have to believe me, Jesus said, “You’ll be happier.”
When… By the time I was 30… By the time I was 30 years old, I had given away two cars. Now I was in graduate school, I had this big, old clunker car, it was my family’s car, my parents’ car. They gave it to me to go to graduate school and in Dallas, and I mean, you can put everything you own in this car, it was so big. It was not cool. Nobody wanted this car. It was bad color. I don’t wanna say what color it was in case you have a car of those. It was all bad. It was a big family car. And it was just me, the single guy, going to graduate school.
And while I was in graduate school, there was a family that had a really, really difficult time. They had three kids, just tough time. And I decided, gosh, and they lost their car. And so, I decided to give them my car.
I’ll never forget driving over there, to their house, ’cause they’re one of the families that would kid me about it, “Hey, you got the car, where’s the family?” I said, “Hey, I’ve prayed about this and I know this is kind of crazy, but here’s the keys. You can have my car.” “What?” I said, “Yeah, you can have it.” Who gives away a car? What graduate student gives away a car? And let me tell you, okay? I was… It’s not because I was rich, it’s because I was generous. And if you dropped in on my life at that point, nobody in this room would say, “Dude, you were so rich.” No. I was generous, ’cause you learn to do this.
So, a few years later, I was 30 years old. Good friend is back in Atlanta. His wife wrecked the car, totaled the car. No insurance. It was kinda, not kinda, it was her fault. Big issue. Now they don’t have a car. They’ve got four kids. He is looking for a car and trying to figure this out. And I’ve been saving money ’cause I’m… When you’re generous, you save. You have… If you have a hard time saving, I know this doesn’t make any sense, you gotta come back. If you have a hard time saving, you need to learn to be generous.
It is a keystone habit. It will affect all of your finances. So, I’m a saver. It’s easy. And they’re trying to buy a car, not an expensive car, basically a replacement station wagon. Remember those? This is just some years ago. And I thought, “Well, I can just buy him a car.” So, I went to him, he’s a good friend, I said, “I know this is awkward, it’s kind of crazy, but look, let me just buy you a car.” He’d already found one, he’s trying to figure out how to finance it, it’s gonna be odd… I said, “No, no, no. Let’s just go down there, and I’ll just buy it for you.” And he’s looking at me, and I said, “No, no really. I wanna do this.” I bought him a car.
I’m telling you, there is more joy, and there is more emotion around those two car stories than all the other cars I’ve purchased combined. You say, “Well, Andy, you bragging?” No, I dare you to become generous. It’s awesome. And here’s the thing, giving away cars, that’s crazy. Let me just tell you, and then we’re done. Jesus says, “Not to be generous is crazy.” Don’t miss next week. Jesus says, “To live any other way, those are the crazy people.” Those are the people without a clue. Those are the people, the people that are living in lala land. It is the men and women, the man and woman, the child, the single, the college student, the rich, the poor, the in between. It’s the person that learns to live a generous life, those aren’t the crazy people, those are the people who live with their eyes wide open. So you have to choose your crazy, but before you do, you need to come back next week for part two of Crazy Like Us.