A Generous Dozen, part 1 [Generosity]

This is the Life! Volume 1

Nine things that God's Word says about generous people and the way they live life. And an exhortation to consider the life of THE generous One.

Todd WagnerNov 4, 2006Proverbs 19:6

In This Series (10)
Be Thirsty: Where the Sherpas Drink
Todd WagnerJan 7, 2007
Kindness: Never Random and Far Too Rare
Todd WagnerDec 17, 2006
How to be a Prude and Like It: Living a Life of Discernment
Todd WagnerDec 10, 2006
The Tamed Tongue: Controlling the Uncontrollable [Wise Speech]
Todd WagnerDec 3, 2006
Purity and the King of Candy Selection
Todd WagnerNov 19, 2006
A Generous Dozen, part 2 [Generosity]
Todd WagnerNov 12, 2006
A Generous Dozen, part 1 [Generosity]
Todd WagnerNov 4, 2006
Integrity: Sleeping Well, Living Better
Todd WagnerOct 29, 2006
If You Don't Get the 'God' Question Right, It Doesn't Matter What You Get [The Fear of God]
Todd WagnerOct 22, 2006
Who Needs a Dragon When You Have a Father Like This? (Introduction to 'This is the Life!')
Todd WagnerOct 15, 2006

Well, good morning. We are having a great time making our way through a series that deals with the things that really set us free. We were recently challenged as a staff by one of our teammates, the guy who we're really all accountable to, to up our commitment to love those who don't really get that living in relationship with God is the life.

What he challenged us to do is to find a 25-word statement that could summarize why it is we believe the life we have in relationship with Jesus is the greatest life there is. That was easy for me because of what I have been thinking about with this series. Also because it's been true and something I've said for a while. I shot it off to him, and to impress all of you, I did it in 24 words, not even 25, which I think should encourage many of you. Yes, that's right.

I said, "I used to think that God was trying to rip me off until I discovered that he was trying to give me life." That's a phrase I love to share with people when I'm out there talking to folks. I know how many people think God is some cosmic killjoy trying to rip them off instead of set them free.

This week I was with a group of dad and boys who I'm in a little study with. My son, my fourth grader, and a bunch of other dads and their fourth-grade sons in our community were hanging out. What the lesson was this week was on the problem with man and how man thinks he knows better than God.

The time we had drove us back to the story of the first man and his rebellion against God, and the story of being in this great garden with everything that was there. Yet, there was this one tree in the middle of the garden that was apparently awesome. The guy who in charge to lead that morning had one of the boys read the Scripture. It was funny. Hearing this little fourth-grade boy read it, it struck me anew for the very first time.

He said, "When the woman saw the tree was good for food, that it was a delight for the eyes and the tree was desirable to make one wise, she did what I would've done." I'm telling you, if I was a fourth-grade boy and I'm hearing God put, in the middle of Paradise, the one tree that looked good to eat from… It was good to the eyes, it was good for food, and it was desirable to make one wise. Who wouldn't want some of that?

The answer is because what we think looks good isn't always good for us. What we think tastes good going down doesn't always make our body stronger. What we think we need to find life, doesn't always give us life. If I had a moment here, I could pass the mic around and give you guys a chance to testify that there have been some times that you've bitten into something that you thought was life-giving that a little bit later on stung your heinie. But you were really sure it was going to be good for you. That's my story.

So I stopped them right there and said, "We have to talk about this because how many of you guys want to follow a God who tells you you can't have… No matter how much paradise you live in, he sets something aside and says, 'You think that looks good over there? You see that thing that tastes good? See that things that promised you something that you want? You can't have it.'"

All these boys were afraid to raise their hand because they're like, "Hey, I'm at Bible study. I can't admit that I want nothing to do with God." I go, "Let's let the dads chime in. How many of you guys think it's fun to follow somebody who's going to keep you from something that looks good, tastes good, and promises you something you want." We all went, "I don't want to follow that God." I go, "Great. So there has to be something going on in the story."

What I basically shared with those boys is this, and by the grace of God, the place where we were sitting, they had one of those harvest baskets in front of us with fake fruit. That apple in that basket was the finest looking apple I've ever seen. It wasn't like some of the apples I eat that always have some blemish on them and, usually, you can find some little bruised spot.

I said, "Take a look at this apple. Does that not look like the best apple you've ever seen? What if I told you you could never have that apple? Some of you guys go, 'What a rip-off. Wagner wants to give me that apple with a little bruise on it, a little wormhole on it.' Here's the deal. This apple looks good, but you bite into this thing, it's going to crack your teeth.

It will not bring nutrition to your body. It will not give you what you're looking for. It looks better than this apple, but what if I told you this apple was fake? It's a lie. I want to give you an apple that's going to taste really good and give your body strength. That's the deal. Don't get focused on what Eve thought that apple represented. God was telling her what it represented."

Let me throw this out for you real quick because some folks get confused by this all the time. From the very beginning, men were saved, if you will, preserved by faith. Adam and Eve were given life because they believed in who God was. So they had faith that they didn't need the one thing that looked good to them.

God was trying to establish from the very beginning that the righteous will live by faith, so he put something in the middle of this great paradise and said, "Believe me. You don't need it. I'm going to make it look good but believe me." The day we don't believe God and go a different place, that we don't live by faith but by sight, and we don't trust God, but we lean on our own understanding, is when we are separated from life, and we are expelled from the presence of God and have to live a life that isn't good. Do you get that?

All through the Scriptures, from the very beginning, the righteous live by faith. Now because you have faith, there are certain things you do and somethings you don't do. Let me just say all this. I start that way today because I want to tell you that I am in the middle of sharing with you that God is desperate for you to understand some things. The things he wants you to understand is he's not trying to rip you off. He is trying to set you free.

I'm going to talk today about a characteristic that will shock you that God says, "This is the way to live." It's so counter-intuitive because we have begun to think like the world thinks. "This looks good. That tastes good. This will be a good way to go. It makes sense to me." God's saying, "I know it makes sense to me, but I'm telling you it is not the way of life. In the end, it is the way of death."

Do you know what I'm going to tell you today, in week four of This Is the Life, is the characteristic, the life skill, that if you live this way, others will look at you and go, "That is the life, man. I wish I was more like that." Are you ready?

Generosity. I'm talking about being somebody that the rest of the world looks at and goes, "That brother is hilarious in the way that they're always giving to other people who are not putting themselves in the epicenter of their universe. That is the life. I'm going to prove it to you today. I'm going to tell you what you get when you do it, what it costs when you don't, and I'm going to tell you about the guy who is the greatest example of it who ever lived, and I'm going to do it quick (I hope).

I sat down yesterday after thinking about this all week, and I decided, "I have to put this down succinctly for these folks to get a grip on." After 36 things I wrote down that generous people are, I go, "This is an eight-week series in and of itself." I'm not kidding you. So I boiled it down 13. I'm going to call it the generous dozen. Here we go.

1 . Generous people are our favorite people to be around. This is a great life. If you are this kind of person and you live this kind of life, people are going to go, "That is a great life. It's a skilled life. I'm going to tell you, it's a fact. Generous people are our favorite people to be around.

When I was just out of college, I was raking in $9,000 a year. I would not go to a restaurant that did not give me free refills on Coke. I love Chili's. I made Brinker himself independently wealthy because I would go, and for $1.95, I would get a never-ending basket of chips and all the Coke I could drink for another $1.35. I would love to go to Chili's because I never ran out of Coke, and I never ran out of chips. I wasn't eating real well. But folks would say, "Where do you want to eat?" I'd go, "Let's go to Chili's," because for $3 I could eat and drink for a long time.

I would go to a restaurant sometimes that had the greatest hamburger in the world. I'd drink my Coke and go back and up, and I'd say, "How much for a refill?" They'd go, "It's $0.85." I'm going, "Come on, man. It's Coke." So I changed my question. I used to walk up and go, "How much for a free refill?" It would just confuse them. They would get very confused. I literally would pick restaurants based on the generosity they would have after I purchased a Coke and get another one of generous portions.

Some of you guys know I grew up in St. Louis. Back in '67 (we had just moved to St. Louis) I got to go to the '67 World Series with my dad (I remember that), the '68 World Series. So when the Cardinals were back in in '82, I went, and found my way in '85, went in '87, and so in 2004 when they got back in, I grabbed my boys and said, "Let's go." This year, I got to go up there and grab a game. We've made a little tradition that we're going to find a way to get up there and make a memory.

I have some friends who are really Cardinals fans. They love Cardinals baseball. I got an email from a guy after a Cardinals game this year, after they had won the World Series. He was at game five when the Cardinals clenched it. This is a long email he wrote me, but I want to read to you a little excerpt from it. I want to prove to you this very first statement that generous people are our favorite people to be around.

In fact, if I asked you who some of your favorite people are, and then you started to think about who your favorite people, are in your life and you went back, you would probably find out they were some of the generous people you knew. Some of you might go, "My granddad. Every time I was with my granddad he took me for ice cream. He sat and read me a book. He was generous with his time. He was generous with his affection. He was generous with his gifts. Every time I'd get a card for my birthday, I'd always want to open his card first because things would fall out of it."

I guarantee you some of your favorite people are generous people if you'll go back and look at them. This, by the way, was my Young Life leader. He was the guy who led me to Christ. He was an English teacher when I was in high school. I had a teacher who did not like me, which you may or may not have a hard time with, but she really didn't like me.

I can remember I was consistently having problems with her, and I was having to write a paper on The Scarlet Letter. So I went over to this guy's house (he's an English teacher), and we wrote the paper. I mean, he wrote the paper, and we got a C. She didn't like me. She was going to find a way. So that's become our long-time joke. "I got a C in Sophomore English, and I have a doctorate." You can see when you read this that this guy is an English teacher. Watch this.

"By the top of the ninth the stadium was a seething mass of joyful expectation, a party ready to explode. And when Wainwright struck out Inge, the feeling of relief and release was beautiful. Strangers hugged strangers, friends for nine innings traded high fives, and the entire city turned giddy. My son, my nephews, my brothers, my sister-in-law, my niece, former students, a neighbor, an old KHS friend, all shared the moment from our seats behind the Tigers' dugout. Ninety minutes after the game the team came back to the field after their champagne bath and circled the stadium, high-fiving those who were left."

Before I read on, I just want to tell you… You read that, and you go, "What a party. They're there an hour and a half after the game is over. The stadium is still full of them celebrating. Then he mentions this guy, David Eckstein, who there's no reason he should be in the Major Leagues except for his work ethic. He wrote a book called Have Heart, and you're going to find out a lot about David Eckstein right here if you didn't already know him.

"David Eckstein took off his game jersey and gave it to a little boy in a wheelchair and then beckoned the boy onto the field where he wheeled the boy from home plate to first base. That Eckstein gets it. " How about that story? In the middle of hearing all this different stuff about the World Series and Wainright, this rookie who shut down the Mets and shut down the Tigers in the World Series, I'm thinking about all the great accomplishments. I was reading though this thing, and it stopped me cold when I read that.

I forgot about everything except one guy. Ninety minutes after the World Series was over, he saw a little kid who's never going to be able to play baseball anywhere. He gave him his World Series jersey. He put it on that kid, he took him out of the stands, he took him to home plate with 46,000 people and he ran him to first base. How many fans do you think David Eckstein got that night?

Who do you think got the most out of that? Think about all of the players who kept their World Series jerseys to frame them and put them under glass for the rest of their life. Is that cool? How about that kid who's wearing Eckstein's jersey? I don't know if he's taken it off yet. He's riding around in a wheelchair. How about the parents of that kid? How about the people who saw that generosity?

Who got the most out of all of that? I want to tell you who got the most. David Eckstein. There is no other way to make a jersey valuable than to give it to somebody in a way that makes you go, "I can't believe that because of some crazy fate and maybe some hard work, I get to be this guy. I can take what I have and give it to them." Generous people are our favorite people in the world to be around.

2 . Generous people are God's favorite people to bless. Let me ask you a question. If you had a bunch of World Series jerseys, who do you want to give them to? I want to give them to the David Ecksteins of the world who aren't going to put them in different TGI Fridays around the world, who are going to find kids who are never going to able to play baseball, put it on them, and run them to first base. I want to them all the jerseys I can, and I'm an idiot.

Could you imagine if you were good what you would do with World Series jerseys? You wouldn't sell them on eBay. You would give them to people who would literally bring a defining moment and life to others who have no ability to bring life to themselves. I want to tell you who God loves to bless. God loves to bless generous people. I want to read you a few verses that establish that.

Proverbs 11:25 is the definitive verse for a skilled life. "The generous man will be prosperous, and he who waters will himself be watered." Proverbs 19:17: "One who is gracious to a poor man lends to the LORD, and He will repay him for his good deed." Proverbs 22:9: "He who is generous will be blessed, for he gives some of his food to the poor."

Do you know who God wants to bless? He wants to bless generous people. I want to give you a corollary to this. This is really why I'm going to give you a generous dozen because I'm going to give you 13, but there are some other donut holes attached to these donuts. So here are some donut holes to go with this second one.

Generous people are God's favorite people to bless, but here's the deal. Generous people will prosper, but not necessarily today. This is so huge. Health, wealth, and property teaching is a lie from the pit of hell in the way that it is understood primarily and taught on satellite TV primarily today. Maybe you didn't hear me.

I'm don't want to be too dogmatic about this, but I'm going to say that anybody who doesn't agree with me on this is wrong. That's just the deal. Health, wealth, and prosperity doctrine as it's taught today by the church is a lie by the pit of hell. It's a very dangerous lie because there is in it a half-truth.

Is it true that generous people, people who give generously, will prosper? I just read to you the beginning of dozens of verses in Scripture that scream that truth. Yes,he who is generous will be blessed. Now the question becomes, "When will they be blessed? When is that blessing going to come?" Liars will tell you it will come immediately. They make God out to be some no-lose slot machine that I guarantee you put that quarter in, and you're going to get triple sevens, and it's going to come pouring back out and fill your bucket up to overflowing today.

No, listen. Sometimes giving requires sacrifice. Generosity, by the way, always requires sacrifice. But to be generous, I'm going to tell you today, is no sacrifice. Let me say that again. Giving requires sacrifice sometimes. Sometimes God lets us experience the sacrifice of giving. He doesn't always cash us right in. He's not some employee that works for us that we can give something and he guarantees to run out and return it in a more multiplied way than we had to begin with.

Generosity demands sacrifice. You can't be generous and not be sacrificial, but if you are generous, you are going to find out it is not sacrificial to be generous. It's going to be the life. It will set you free like nothing else. If you don't have this characteristic in your life, then your life may be a lot of good things, it's just not the kind of life, ultimately, that will others will look at and go, "That's the life. That right there… That's the life."

The truth is that any doctrine that is more true for some people than is true for others is not God's truth. Is it true that certain people today, when they give, are going to be quickly blessed in return? Yes. That happens sometimes, but it doesn't happen all the time, and God doesn't guarantee it's going to happen all the time on this earth. He guarantees it will happen. Look at Luke 14:12-14. This is what he said in this little passage.

"And He also went on to say to the one who had invited Him, 'When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, otherwise they may also invite you in return and that will be your repayment. But when you give a reception, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, since they do not have the means to repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.'"

The reason most of us aren't generous…I'm going to cut right to it right here…is because we say we believe in this book, we say we believe there is God who is worthy to be trusted, we say we believe there's a resurrection to be hopeful for, but the reasons we are not more generous people is because the reality of our life screams that we don't believe there is going to be a resurrection of the righteous. If we believed that we can't take our riches with us but we can send them on ahead, we would be sending them ahead.

The reason we don't is because we have been defiled by this world. We have been convinced that this world is our home even though this book says we are aliens and strangers, and we're passing through. Because we look like people of this world, we don't look like people who have a supernatural ability to live. We don't have a life that can only be defined as the most skilled wise life that ever lived, because we're living like the world.

The world knows this life isn't a real good way to live, but we all enjoy the fact we're living that way, so nobody feels guilty we're living that way, and we get in this pool together and swim around. But when we see somebody who lives as if they have insight, we go, "That is the life, man. How do you do that?" Answer. I do it because I have skills that are not natural to man. Do you see this? It's genius.

Galatians 6:9 tells us when we're going to get this stuff. "Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary." When will we reap? The answer is in due time. For many of us, for most of us, frankly, we're going to experience probably several more World Series jerseys when we give away the one we have. But I'm telling you, give it away if you only have one. You'll never regret it. You will never regret it.

I have been able to give more generously than I've ever been able to give in the last four or five years in a way that shocks me. I'll tell you what shocks me even more. I have a fixed income. In ways I can't even understand, I have been resupplied. Sometimes I go speak, sometimes I do something, and people say thank you when I speak and sometimes they do stuff that is incredibly generous. God has resupplied my ability to give in ways that I can't explain.

I will tell you this. I guarantee you I get paid more when they can't give me anything then when I get a lot. When I get paid here, I get my reward then. There are other pieces of that I'm sure are stored up for me in advance, but what I'm trying to tell you is that God loves to bless generous people.

Look at this. Do you know who I love to let dish up the ice cream at my house? The most generous one. Not the one who will make sure the biggest one comes to them. I love to let the one who's going to be most generous to their brother and sisters. I always love to hold some back and go back over to them and say, "I saw that. Here you go."

This year at the fair, each of my kids were allowed to play two games, which is to say lose two games, on the midway. While we were there, one of them really was trying to get something because they were convinced that stuffed animal was life to them. One of the others had just played one game, and they said, "Why don't you take my other games?" What do you think I did with that one? I said, "Come over here with me. You get two more." I love to bless generous people because I know they're going to do well with it, not hoard it.

Do you know what I wanted to do today? I ran this by Gary. This is why, by the way, community is good. I thought there's an illustration, an old saying that is in the back of my mind, that money is like manure. You stack it up, and it stinks. You spread it out, and things grow.

Because I like to be creative in the way that I teach, I was going to have an olfactory lesson for you today. We were going to get some fresh manure and stack it over here on a tarp, so when you walked in you go, "My goodness, what is that?" and you would be reminded throughout the service.

When you stack that stuff up, it stinks. But when you spread it out, it's really good. Things grow. We felt like between allergies and sneezes, and the fact that we are renting this facility and need to keep renting it for the near future, that might not be a great idea. There's 2.1 of my baker's generous dozen. Here we go.

3 . Generous people are the world's favorite people to follow. They don't just love to be around them; they go, "Will you be our leader?" This is why this life is so good. We are really trying to figure out what we can do to become the generous community that God wants us to be because we're not even close yet. We have been very amazingly resourced in a way that humbles me, but I'm not convinced we've been generous. I'm just not.

The world will follow us and get in line behind us as we follow Jesus when they see us being this kind of person. Proverbs 29:2. Look at this. "When the righteous increase, the people rejoice, but when a wicked man rules, people groan." Proverbs 11:10: "When it goes well with the righteous, the city rejoices…" You go, "Wait a minute, Todd. You're talking about the righteous, not the generous here." Just follow with me. "…and when the wicked perish, there is joyful shouting."

James 1:27: "Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father [in sight of the world] is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress…" And here it is. "…and to keep oneself unstained by the world." What that means is the world today is all that matters. So live for comfort. Live for today. Accumulate comfort today. That's the way of the world.

"If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world." You are stained by the world when you don't care about the needs of others, but you only are concerned with how comfortable you can make it for yourself on this short loop through life. Who wants to follow a "me first" pleasure-seeker?

Look at Proverbs 11:16-18. "A gracious woman attains honor…" In other words, a woman who is gracious, people are going to go, "I wish more women were like you." In contrast to that, "…and ruthless men…" Meaning not a righteous man, not a gracious person. He shoots for one thing.

You're 20-years-old. You want to know what your life wants to be about? You want to be ruthless? Go for riches baby. Make it your life's goal to be a millionaire before you're 30. Verse 17: "The merciful man[like the gracious woman]does himself good, but the cruel[see also, synonym, parallelism for ruthless]man does himself harm." In other words, if you make it your life's goal to just want a lot for yourself…

"The wicked earns deceptive wages…" Those wages they think are going to make them happy and give them life. They think, "I'm loaded, I have a life that other people are going to want." No, if you are loaded, you often have a life that other people go, "You are a selfish, 'me first' pleasure-seeker and all you want is more. So you manage yourself now and live in fear that somebody is going to take what you and your hard work have earned for yourself." They look at you and say, "Hmm. I'm not sure I want to follow you."

"…but he who sows righteousness [the one who is generous in their love, who is generous in their provision and care for others] gets a true reward [both now and in the age to come] ." That's why Isaiah 1:17 says this. Do you want to get elected? "Learn to do good; Seek justice, reprove the ruthless, defend the orphan, plead for the widow." Who wouldn't want that for a king? But if you get a king who is a "me first" pleasure-seeker who wants his palaces built and his yards and grounds are nice, he'll see what else he might have to make sure you have something to eat.

In fact, the word ostracize, the word ostracism comes from the Greek word ostraca, and ostracon is a potsherd or a flake of earthenware. Ostracize in the English comes from an ancient Greek practice where the community would get together, and, on an ostracon, write down a person's name.

Every year, the community would come together and write down somebody's name on a potsherd. Whoever had the most votes on the ostraca was exiled for 10 years. They voted based on the person whose wealth and power became a threat to the good of the community. So you were ostracized, put away, separated because your wealth that you had accumulated for yourself made you a danger to the rest of society. How about that?

That's exactly what Proverbs 11:16-18 says. It is saying there is a way which seems right to man, but in the end, it's the way of death. You think it's going to give you life and it's going to make other people go, "Nuh-uh. You're not safe because, in your power and your wealth, you continue to seek yourself at the cost and expense of others. Not only do we not want to follow you. We need to protect ourselves from you." That's not a wise life.

4 . Generous people are the happiest people alive. I'm talking about a series called This Is the Life, and I'm just saying this is the life. The generous life. I love this series because I'm learning again. I go, "Lord, I can be more generous. More generous with my time, with my kids, more generous with grace toward others, more generous with my possessions to help those who don't have those who I have, more generous with my life goals and not make them about me. I want to be more generous."

When you walked in, I think I gave you a Blow Pop. Let me tell you why I gave you a Blow Pop. I was thinking about this. I was thinking about a conversation I had when I was making $9,000 a year. I was working with a group of kids, and one of these kids was probably clinically depressed, if not depressed.

He said, "I just don't have any friends." I go, "You know why you don't have any friends? It's because all you ever do is think about how miserable you are. I'll tell you what I challenge you to do this Friday night. How much money do you have?" He goes, "I have $5."

I go, "That'll buy you a bunch of Blow Pops. Go buy as many Blow Pops as you can with your $5. I challenge you that instead of going to the game and thinking about how lonely you are, why don't you look for people who you think need some cheering up. Walk up to them (people you don't know but who are having a tough night) and say, 'I want to give you a Blow Pop.'"

He went, and by the end of the first quarter had given away all his Blow Pops. Everybody went, "Hey man, where's Brent? He's been giving everybody Blow Pops, and he became the center of the student section. He had to leave and go get more Blow Pops to come back. Other people wanted to be around him, and sit next to him, and ask for him.

"Where'd you get that?"

"I got it from Brent."


I'm telling you. You wouldn't believe what he said to me. He goes, "That's was one of the greatest nights of my life. I didn't focus on what I didn't have. I focused on what I had that others could have. Really, it was a friendship, a sense of being aware of where they were." Because he stopped focusing on himself and focusing on what he could do for others, it changed his Friday night, and frankly, for the rest of that season, that's what he kept doing. He didn't just invest $5. He got ridiculous, but he invested in Blow Pops.

He wasn't buying friendships. What he was doing was he was learning. "When I get the focus off of me and look to serve others, it brings into my life what I think I'm missing: a sense of meaning and purpose, an opportunity to care for other people." You don't need a Blow Pop to do that. You just need a heart that isn't worrying about what other people think about you and start thinking about other people.

Stop and talk to them, listen to them, and they're going to go, "I've never seen anybody so generous with their feelings, that you care about me. You don't talk about you all the time. You listen to me." You talk about giving somebody something valuable. While you hold that little Blow Pop, here's my challenge to you.

Go out and find somebody today who needs something that you have. That could just be the Blow Pop, or it could be the relationship and the love that you can give them. Just give it to them, listen to them, look them in the eye. Say, "It looks like you're having a tough day. Take this." May that be first of many times that you give stuff like that away.

Who do you think said this? "Generous people are the happiest people alive." It's a quote. We have the power to help this needy world. Why should we refuse? Because we're going to take it with us? Please. A life of giving repays. So I ask you to begin giving and to continue giving. I think you will find, in the end, that you have far more than you ever had and did more good than you ever dreamed. I could let us guess until dark, and we wouldn't figure out who said that. Do you know who said that? It's not a believer as far as I can tell. Stephen King.

Here's what I'm going to tell you. It is a fact that people who don't know Christ, who don't know God, who have no idea that this book is the book of life, who can learn the truth of God's principles in a way that will allow them the short-term benefit of being generous. You can give all day long, and if you don't understand the need you have for somebody to give to you salvation, it won't matter in the long run. But at least in this purview of his ray of life, on this side of the grave, he's going, "I thought I had life when I was wealthy. No, I have found life now that I'm giving it away."

How amazing that some people who aren't God's children, as best as we can understand (Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, Stephen King), have discovered one of the truths that God's been screaming to his children in such a way that they go, "I love this so much. I'm going to leave one of the most attractive jobs in the world, being the center of Microsoft, one of the most powerful, wealthy companies of the world, so I can give better."

Why do you think he did that? It's not because of altruism. He goes, "This is the greatest thing I've ever done. If I thought making $80 billion was fun, I have found that giving away $40, $50, $60, $70 billion is more fun." He's right. You want to be happy? You become a generous person.

One of my favorite stories is a story of a Ranger game. I wasn't there, but a buddy was. He said he watched Ruben Sierra when Ruben Sierra was one of the hottest young prospects in the major leagues. He was up to bat. He's the Albert Pujols of his day. When Ruben Sierra fouled one off, this foul ball came flying right over in their direction. This guy reached up and caught it. There was a little kid in front of him with a glove that went up.

He caught that ball, and as soon as he caught it, he put the ball in that kid's glove. Everyone around him saw it. Everybody cheered, and the guy behind the guy who caught the ball to put into the kid's glove said, "What are you doing? You just gave away the opportunity of a lifetime." The guy turned around and looked at him and said, "No, I just took advantage of the opportunity of a lifetime." What a statement.

What you have, your person, your possessions, your time, it's your foul ball. What are you doing with it? Do you want life? You walk out of a stadium with a foul ball, it's a cool deal, but a little bit later, it looks like every other dirty ball in your garage. You have to tell people, "No, this really did come off the bat of Ruben Sierra. I swear. I caught it." They're like, "Great. What else?"

But that night, I guarantee that guy put that ball in that glove, and when he walked out of that stadium he was thinking, "What a joy to give that kid what he could have never gotten on his own." They're the happiest people alive. I wish I could show you a picture of Ebenezer Scrooge. You can see him. See him before, and then see him after.

5 . Generous people are not just ready to die. They are happiest when they die. That's a good deal. Generous people aren't just ready to die. They're happiest when they die, because here's the deal. When you store up yourself treasures on earth, you spend your entire life backing away from your possessions. When you give them away, you spend all of your life moving towards your riches. It's just a fact.

When you come to that point where you're going to die, you're not leaving everything that you hold dear, and you're moving towards the one person who made your life full and who informed you how you could be truly rich. In fact, you're only rich in direct proportion to what you're going to have in eternity. That's also a fact.

There are some people who are rich in this world who are very, very poor. When you put 80 years in light of eternity, and you go, "Wait a minute, Todd. That's the deal. You have a bet that you're right about eternity." I go, "That's exactly why we're not generous. We can say all day long we're Bible-believing people who believed in God and believe in a righteous eternal God, but do we?" How you're living, how you're stacking really tells you who you are.

Colonel Sanders, you guys know him, didn't die very wealthy. In fact, he died not wealthy at all. But he had a great little quote. He said this, "There's no reason to be the richest man in the cemetery." A story is told of a guy who's extremely wealthy, could be 100,000 different men. He's lying on his deathbed, and a guy walks in and sees the wealth of his home and the glory of possessions all around them, and he says, "What is all this?" The guy on deathbed coughed out, "These are the things which make a deathbed terrible because I'm backing away from my riches."

The happiest people in the world are generous people. They are happiest when they die because they are going home to the riches they have built up. First John 3:16-19: "We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has the worlds goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?" How can that be? "Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth. We will know by this that we are of the truth, and will assure our heart before Him."

Meaning we will not shrink back at his coming. We can't wait to meet the one who loves generous people and who hates wicked, self-seeking, me-first seeking people because we have been what he loves. I want to tell you. I believe in grace at the foot of the cross. I believe in grace when we meet Jesus.

I don't believe there's going to be judgment for those who truly know him, but I do believe there is going to be a moment when we take some of what we were about in our life, and he just says, "Loss." First Corinthians 3 says, "…but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire," because he will have invested in that which is fleeting and gone.

6 . Generous people are a blessing to their children. Who doesn't want to be that? This is one of the things that folks say all the time. Like, "I have to set my kids up for success." No, you don't. In fact, Andrew Carnegie has it right when he says, "The almighty dollar bequeathed to a child is an almighty curse.

The Scripture that talks about a wise man leaving an inheritance to his children was very, very true in that particular day and age where land and possessions were important to survival and being able to provide for you as you got older. The point today is it's appropriate to give your kids a modest start, but to set your kids up with a trust fund and to tell them they'll never have to work a day in their life is not a blessing. In fact, what they will be known for is a silver-spoon child of a cursed, ruthless, cruel dad. Do you want that, or would you rather be a blessing to your children?

A little bit later, I'm going to show you a clip from Schindler's List. In the end, you'll see how the Jewish people love Schindler. In fact, in Jerusalem there is an area where they honored the righteous Gentiles. Schindler's name is in there along with some others. If there was a reversal in the world right after World War II when all of a sudden Jews were killing Gentiles, what do you think would've happened if Schindler was dead and the Jews who were sweeping across the face of the earth came across a Gentile whose name was Schindler? I'm going to tell you what would've happened.

They would've said, "Not this one, because even if he's wicked, he comes from a father who we love and we owe everything to, because he took what he had and did everything he could for others with it." The only regret that Schindler had is because he didn't do more for more who he could've done more for. If you're a generous man, I'm going to tell you what. Your children are going to have a name that other people are going to, "We knew your daddy." Just like David when Jonathan died. He said, "Who is there of the household of Jonathan that I can show kindness towards them?"

You're a blessing to your children not just because other people are going to love that name and not want to ostracize the entire family but because your children are going to learn to walk in the way of the righteous and be generous themselves, so they will experience the blessing of being generous. They learn it from you. You want to be a blessing to your children? Then you be a generous person. You model for them life, a life that is skilled.

Psalm 37:25-26. This is the verse when I was 20 years old that I read that freed me up to go into full-time ministry. This is the one. It's my favorite verse in the Bible because I can remember telling God, "I don't want to be a person who leans on others my entire life. I want to not just be able to provide for my children. I want to be able to be generous towards others." I can remember exactly where I was sitting in the Ozarks when I read Psalm 37:25-26.

"I have been young and now I am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his descendants begging bread. All day long he is gracious and lends, and his descendants are a blessing." I said, "I told you it wasn't about me, and now you're telling me that not only can I live the way that I believe in my heart that you're unleashing me to live…"

I think I've told you before, but I want the guy who had the home unveil I could give to the Young Life leader, who had the beach house that I could share with the pastor for his time off because I wanted to be able to give and be generous to people who had changed my life. The truth is, I wanted that stuff so I could use it 50 weeks out of the year and share it for 2. That was just me.

God says, "What you really want is you want to be effective in the way I designed you to be effective. It doesn't make you more loved by me. It's just what I want for you. I understand that you don't want to be a burden on people. If you do what I want you to do, you will not be a burden on people, you'll be a blessing on people, and you'll be able to be gracious to others, and those kids who you have will be a blessing to others.

Why? Because you'll have lived that they'll want to live, that I want them to live, so they can be a blessing to others as well. Your kids will people who other folks want to bless because you've served them." Coming through in spades.

7 . Generous people don't grow on trees. It takes work to be a generous person. They're trained by grace. A buddy of mine says it this way. Our generosity has nothing really to do with the action. It is a reaction. Generosity is the thunder which follows the lightening of what God has done for us. That's why we follow him.

Here's the New Testament standard for giving. What should I give? No more than Jesus, who though he was rich became poor for your sake. Don't give any more than that. What did Jesus give? He gave it all. Don't give any more than him. What I'm doing is learning to be like him. They are trained by great parents.

How are you doing, parents, at training your kids to be generous? Not just with what you send them to at Sunday school, not just with what you say. What are you modeling? Kids may fail to do what you say, but they rarely fail to do what you do. Are you generous people? They don't just fall off trees.

Second Corinthians 8:7 says this. "But just as you abound [excel] in everything, in faith and utterance and knowledge and in all earnestness and in the love we inspired in you, see that you abound [or excel still more] in this gracious work also." You have to grow. You have to practice generosity, and you'll find out this is life-giving stuff, and you'll be like Stephen King, you'll be like Bill Gates, or you'll be like Warren Buffett. I can't do enough of it. I've never had so much fun in my life.

8 . Generous people are a blessing to God, they are a blessing to others, and they are a blessing to themselves. This is what you call in life a win-win-win. I can't see a problem with it. Second Corinthians 9:6-15. Watch this. This is so great. "Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully." Paul is wrapping up this entire discussion about giving. "Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver."

You can read that two ways. God doesn't want you to give because you have to. It's not some tax, but I want to tell you that God loves to bring cheer to people who give. He really does. Don't wait until you're cheerful to give. Give, and you will be cheerful. It's a fact. It is a fact. But he wants folks to be able to give because they know he is good.

"And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed; as it is written, 'HE SCATTERED ABROAD, HE GAVE TO THE POOR, HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS ENDURES FOREVER.' Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness…" It's going to be good for them and good for you, and it's going to be glorifying to God. "you will be enriched in everything for all liberality, which through us is producing thanksgiving to God."

If I could take you back to 2 Corinthians 8, it says they have a need and you have provision, so what they lack you can give and so what you lack the opportunity to give so you can be blessed can meet, and in the midst of that God is glorified. Nobody is ostracized or forgotten. Do you get that? It's a win-win-win.

"For the ministry of this service is not only fully supplying the needs of the saints, but is also overflowing through many thanksgivings to God. Because of the proof given by this ministry, they will glorify God for your obedience to your confession of the gospel of Christ and for the liberality of your contribution to them and to all, while they also, by prayer on your behalf, yearn for you because of the surpassing grace of God in you."

Then it doesn't end by saying, "Way to go. I want to congratulate you on your generosity." Look how it ends. "Thanks be to God for His incredible gift!" The ability for us to be generous to bless others in a way that glorifies God and serves them and stores up for our self-treasure. It's a win-win-win.

9 . Generous people are the freest people alive. This is so great. I'm not an expert in physics but somebody who made this observation, I'll steal it. The greater the mass, the greater the hole that that mass exerts. We all know that. The more we own, the more and the greater the total mass of what we own is, and the more it grips us, and the more it sets us in orbit around it until finally, if you will, like a black hole, it sucks us in, and we're not free. We become a slave to this mass that we've built up, and we have to protect it. We have to guard it.

Randy Alcorn I think has done the best of work of this of any guy I've ever met. Listen to what he says. He says, "Every item we buy is one more thing to think about, talk about, clean, repair, rearrange, fret over, and replace when it goes bad. Let's say I get a television for free. Now what? I hook up the antenna or subscribe to a cable service. I buy a new VCR or DVD player. I rent movies. I get surround-sound speakers. I buy a recliner so I can watch my programs in comfort. This all costs money, but it also takes large amounts of time, energy, and attention."

How many of you have spent more time than you think you should've on hold because of your TV? Good Lord, have I not been free. "The time I devote to my TV and its accessories means less time for communicating with my family, reading the Word, praying, opening our home, or ministering to the needy. So what's the true cost of my 'free' television?"

Generosity is what frees us from the orbit of masses of things. Give it away. I know so many people who are so rich (I mean this) who spend so much time… I've had friends tell me, "I have a place in Tahoe. I can't go there because I'm too busy doing the things I need to do to keep my place in Tahoe. I'm not free to go Tahoe because of all my things. Not to mention my home in Palm Springs. Not to mention my home in Florida. I'm not exaggerating. They go, "I can't use them." It's almost like he knows what he's talking about. I have to close, but I'm going to tell you one more thing.

10 . Generous people are sad when they find out that they could've been more generous still and they didn't do all they could. Watch this.


Schindler: The unconditional surrender of Germany has just been announced. At midnight tonight, the war is over. […] I am a member of the Nazi Party. I'm a munitions manufacturer. I'm a profiteer of slave labor. I am…a criminal. At midnight, you'll be free and I'll be hunted.

I could have got more out. I could have got more. I don't know. If I just… I could have got more.

Stern: Oskar, there are 1,100 people are alive because of you. Look at them.

Schindler: If I'd made more money. I threw away so much money. You have no idea. If I just…

Stern: There will be generations because of what you did.

Schindler: I didn't do enough!

Stern: You did so much.

Schindler: This car. Goeth would have bought this car? Why did I keep the car? Ten people right there. Ten people. Ten people. Ten more people. This pin… Two people. This is gold. Two more people. He would've given me two more for it. At least one. He would've given me one. One more. One more person. A person, Stern. For this. I could've gotten one more person, and I didn't…and I didn't.

[End of video]

I'll tell you, the only time generous people are sad is when they realize they could've been more generous. One more person, one more opportunity to bless others, bless myself, and glorify God. Hey, the war is not over for you yet, and you have an opportunity to respond. It's the life. I'm growing. I want to get more generous. This has a great week for me. I've done somethings differently this week because I've thought about this all week. I'm going to do some things differently this week, and hopefully, for a long time to come.

The greatest example of generosity is Jesus Christ, "…who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a bond-servant [a slave] , and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross." As the Scripture says, "…for your sake [though he was rich] He became poor…"

You talk about generosity. That's why we follow him. That's why his life is the greatest skilled life that ever lived. If you're here today and you don't know that man and you don't know that life, I want to introduce him to you so you can begin to live with secrets of life like we're talking about right here.

I will stand here until no one else wants to talk about Jesus, because he is the life. To know him is to know life. He is the most generous man, full of integrity, who gets God because he is God, of anybody who will ever live. He is the one. He calls you to be like him so you can have a full life like he has. If you don't know Jesus, will you come? If you do know Jesus, will you, in all worship and surrender, live a generous life this week? Have a great week of generously worshiping our Lord and King.

About 'This is the Life! Volume 1'

It's the ultimate self-help book. Centuries before Drs. Laura, Phil and Benjamin came on the scene to tell us how to live, love and parent wisely, God weighed in on these matters in the Book of Proverbs. Today's "life coaches" have simply repackaged God's wisdom but the concepts are timeless and truly life-changing. In this multi-volume series, Todd Wagner combs through the book's 31 chapters and identifies principles for approaching life with wisdom and skill. Each of the attributes is perfectly embodied in the person of Jesus Christ and guaranteed to bring abundant life to those who apply them - regardless of whether they've chosen to acknowledge Christ as Lord or not. Discover the blessed life God has in store for you in Volume 1 of this practical and applicable series on Proverbs. This is The Life, Volume 1, offers advice on: the fear of God, integrity, generosity, purity, wise words, discernment, kindness, and the thirst for knowledge.