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A Generous Dozen, part 2 [Generosity]

Todd concludes last week's message with four further thoughts on living generously.

Todd WagnerNov 12, 2006
Proverbs 19:6

Messages 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

Let's talk to God together, shall we? I'm going to ask you guys to do this. This is different. There are so many things we do. We ask ourselves why we do it. Why do we pray in Jesus' name? It's not a little abracadabra we stick on the end of prayers. We're saying, "Lord, we have no right to come to you to ask for anything, unless we're asking consistent with the one who has fully pleased you.

When we say "in Jesus' name," we're saying as best we're able to figure out, everything we're asking is consistent with what your Son, Christ, has wanted. So we're just saying, "We agree with him. Get us in line with his will. That's what it means to pray in Jesus' name. The other thing is we often bow our heads and close our eyes when we pray. Do you know why we do that? We do that just because we don't want to be distracted when we're talking to our Father. But keep your eyes open and do your best to not be distracted. Let's just talk to the Lord.

Father, I want to tell you we are very grateful that we have taken new ground in our heart. You're teaching us about ways we hurt other people. We're thankful, Lord, that when we're obedient to Scripture, when we're humble, that you take some good ground in our life and in the life of others. It's our collective desire this morning, and really just as we hang out together, that we would be consistently in line with your will because we know when we're in line with your will, it's better for us.

Use the time we're going to journey through your Word this morning to teach us and to get our minds consistent with yours so we can be like a tree, like you said, firmly planted by streams of water. Take this time. It's your time. Just as a father lovingly wants to speak truth in the life of his kids, speak into our hearts. We'd ask that you'd do that this morning, and we ask this because your Son, who we're trying to be like, has told us these are good things and consistent with his will. Amen.?

All right. We're doing this little series called This Is the Life. The tagline this week is Discovering the Keys to a Full Life. When you live life this way with these characteristics and attributes, it's going to make life better; it's going to be more full.

When I started this thing, I told you we're doing it because when we first started Watermark, and I got with the folks who are going to be leading our children, I said, "Let's teach kids what a wise, skilled life looks like and how Jesus is the greatest skilled, wise life that ever lived. Let's talk about things that God says because he loves us as a Father, and what he wants us, as his children, to have. So what it means to have a life that has this attribute, what it costs us if we don't, and how Jesus is the fulfillment of a life that is lived with those wise wisdom attributes."

So I grabbed 36 of them out of Proverbs, which is a collection of wisdom sayings that tell you how to live a life that others would look at and go, "That is a full life. If there's a God, that's what a God-informed life would look like." So that's what we're doing. When I started this thing, I was pretty committed to doing one week on each of these different attributes, and I've already failed on the second attribute. I'm going to spend another week talking about this attribute called generosity because it's so counterintuitive.

We struggle with a lot of different wisdom attributes in our life, but this is one we especially struggle with. I'm going to tell you some stunning facts. The average believer… I should say a person who professes to know God, and this may be different… The average person who calls themselves a Christian (which is a much better noun than adjective) is somebody in our country, according to people who track these things, who gives on average 2.6 percent of what they have materially in terms of money to kingdom work.

They went back, and they looked, and they saw that if that is true, and they have reason to believe that it is based on what we report, that the average Christian in a church today (church-going professed believers) gives 30 percent less than the average American. Let me track this with you. People who are going today to places where they say, "This is a place for me to worship God," those folks living today in a way that we have been materially blessed like never before in the world's history, give on average 30 percent less as churchgoers than Americans…not American believers…did during the Great Depression.

That is amazing. It is stunning. What that will tell you is that Madison Avenue has gotten to work. Over the last 70 years, they have taken some real ground in our hearts. They have convinced us that there are things out there that we need, and if we don't have them, we're not going to have the life. So the more we get, the more we have to keep because the more we need to have the life.

What I'm going to try and tell you is that Americans, not believers, living during the Great Depression were more cued into life than we were. I'm going to take another week and talk about this very counterintuitive attribute that if you will get it going in your life, it's going to set you free. Whether you know God or not, this is a better way to live.

I made a case last week. I'm going to talk about the generous dozen, which is 13 different things that are true of generous people. I covered nine of them with you last week, or 10 if you count the one where I said that generous people are only sad at the end of the day when they realize they could've been more generous.

In effect, I want to just add on three more today, just to wrap this thing up. There's a real compelling reason to do because this is a characteristic that we as a country, we as believers in the country, just frankly don't get. We miss it. Because of that, the rest of the world is not very impressed by us when we say we know where life is. Generous people are people who other folks go, "I want to be around you. I want to be around that. You're not going to find generous people, based on those statistics, in places like we are this morning.

Hopefully, the statistics here are different, and they will be if we just pay attention to what God says will set us free. God isn't trying to rip you off. God doesn't need your cash. God wants you to have his life, and it's a good life. That's what I'm trying to tell you. I read a great writing by a guy this week that I'm going to share with you to set up where I'm going today. This is what he says. This really good stuff.

"When we choose God's vision of who we are…" In other words, when we begin to say we want what God wants for us, "…we are living as God made us to live." It's a skilled life. "We are living in the flow of how we are going to live forever. This is the life of heaven, here and now. And as we live this life, in harmony with God's intention for us, the life of heaven becomes more and more present in our lives. This is why Jesus taught His disciples to pray, 'may your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.'"

And then he says this. "There is this place, this realm, heaven, where things are as God desires them to be. As we live this way, heaven comes here." Hold on to that for a second. This is what Jesus was begging his disciples to get. He was saying, "You want life? You pray that folks would live the way that people live in God's presence. It is the good life. There is no conflict in heaven. There is no want in heaven. There is no selfishness in heaven. There is no character flaw in heaven, and everywhere where God is is good. So if we would do things here the way God does things there, this would be heaven on earth."

Jesus is begging folks to live the way God wants them to live because that would be a little bit of heaven here. Do you get it? Now watch this. "Now if there is a life of heaven, and we can choose it, then there's also another way. A way of living out of sync with how God created us to live. The word for this is hell: a way, a place, a realm absent of how God desires things to be. We can bring heaven to earth; we can bring hell to earth."

Jesus' gig, Jesus' plan was this. "Come here. I'm going to tell you what God has always wanted for you. Not to rip you off but to set you free. Not how to be obedient people but how to be life‑giving, full, abundant people that other folks are going to say, 'I want some of that.'" Have you ever been someplace where folks go, "This is a little bit of heaven right here"?

It's really sweet. I worked at a place called Kanakuk for 10 years. It's one of those places that whenever folks are around it, they go, "This is a little bit of heaven. Whenever I was there, I would meet people from all around the world that would come, and about 18,000 kids a summer would pour through there. All their parents and family would come up when we'd be doing closing ceremonies. They would always say the same thing. "Oh man, I wish I could take a little bit of this back with me."

I'd go, "Don't take Kanakuk back with you. Let me tell you what makes Kanakuk like a little bit of heaven. After working here for 10 years, let me tell you something. It's not the food, and if you want to see where I sleep, it isn't the accommodations. It is the way people treat each other here. It is the love that we have for one another here. It is the way that we seek to honor Christ and do what he would have us do as if he was right here that makes this place a place that you can't get enough of."

Have you ever been a place like that where you're like, "This is like a little bit of heaven"? Frankly, let me tell you why I get to do what I'm doing right now. A group of us, we got so sick of hearing people say, "I'd love some more of that." I thought, "This is way too good to give to kids 26 days out of the year.

Let's go be a group of people who hang out together in Dallas and let's just start this deal where we live 365 days a year together in such a way that when folks bump up against us, they go, 'This is really different. This is like a little piece of heaven the way you guys love each other, care for each, follow up with each other, work through conflict with each other, are generous towards each other, and have a life that is consistent in front of you and behind you,' and on and on and on we're going to go in the weeks ahead."

People will go out of their way to get a little bit of heaven. That's why I have to tell you there's something we're clearly not doing that represents what God wants us to do, or I wouldn't be able to see any red seats here. I wouldn't be able to see the ones I've seen in the first hour, because folks will get up early to get a little bit of heaven.

There's a reason that your neighbors are not pounding down your door, opening your car when you're getting ready to drive to be someplace on Sunday morning as we come together or just to be in your presence or your home. It's because there's not as much happening in our home on earth as is in heaven as should be because if it was, Jesus is saying, "Folks are going to come running at you." That was his program.

We ought to be a community that when people bump up against it, they go, "Man, I'm telling you. There's something different about that crew." When we begin to live on earth as God wants us in heaven, we're going to have a hard time keeping the world out as the world longs for heaven; the world hates hell.

Watch this. This is what he goes on to say. "For Jesus, heaven and hell were present realities. Ways of living we can enter into here and now. He talked very little of the life beyond this one because he understood that the life beyond this one is a continuation of the kinds of choices we make here and now."

If you want nothing to do God now, if you want to go your own way, cut him in when it's convenient but, frankly, enthrone yourself and be who you want to be and say, "God, you're not my god. I'm god," then one day, he's going to let you continue that for eternity, but there won't be any opportunity after that time when you move from this life into the eternal life to change your choice. It's going to be a continuation of what you've indicated right now that you want. That's what eternity is.

Those of us who've made a choice to have a little bit of his will on earth now, as it is in heaven, he's going to say one day, "Thy will be done," and he's going to take us into his presence. But it's not going to be tainted. We're not going to look through a mirror dimly. It's going to be complete and full, and he's going to eradicate the rebellion that's in our heart and the rebellion that's in this world. He's going to bring us into his presence, and it's going to be awesome.

Others who have kind of cut God in as a way of convenience right now, who really are not choosing to do his will now, who don't really want to him to be King, he's going to let them continue that for all of eternity, and it's going to be miserable. Just like it's miserable in my house when I bring hell into my house.

I want to tell you, there are some things I have done that I've brought heaven into my relationship with my wife, where she's going, "This is good. This is the guy I've always wanted to be married to. This is the kind of leadership we want in our home." There have been times, I guarantee you my kids have said, "I have the greatest daddy in the world. He loves me. He cares for me. He prioritizes his life for me. He shares himself for me. He models servant humility for me. He's compassionate. He's tender. This is like heaven."

And I can tell you I've brought hell into my home. I've brought hell into my relationship with my wife. I've brought hell into my kids when I've acted in anger and stupidity. It's just miserable and like, "Oh man. Now, the clear intention of my heart is to say, "I want to run toward heaven. I want to confess when I've brought hell. I want to clean it up. I want to make all the amends that I can. I want to claim the cross of Jesus Christ that we've sung about for the last 40 minutes," and say, "Thank you, Jesus, that you've paid it all, because I have some pain."

I want to be a heaven person that other people will run to and say, "I want to be a part of that family." Look what it says right here. "For Jesus, the question wasn't, how do I get into heaven? but how do I bring heaven here? The question wasn't, how do I get in there? but how do I get there, here?" Jesus wants His followers to bring heaven, not hell, to earth. This was God's intention from the beginning. Do you get it? That's what he wants us to do.

Let me make it very clear. Jesus believed that heaven was a very real place. It's not just a way to live that will be better. It is a very real place. In fact, we're in it. Do you know that? We're in it in a way that it's not clear because God is not fully with us now in the sense that he is not ruling with a rod of iron. He's letting sin and the world have its way.

But there's going to be a day when he's going to judge the wicked, he's going to judge the Enemy, he's going to judge this world, he's going to destroy the heavens and the earth and create a new heavens and a new earth, and he will be here with us, and sin will be done away with, and it will be heaven. Why? Because God is here.

This is life to know Jesus Christ. Do you see it? We're not going to go to heaven. We're going to be with God, and where God is, it is rocking. It is heaven. He's going to deal with the sin that separates us from him. Heaven is a real place, but it's not on the other side of the Milky Way. It's going to be when God comes here.

Just like if you were walking around with Jesus 2,000 years ago, you'd go, "When I'm with this dude, this is exciting. He is waylaying the hypocrites and the powerful. He is fearless. This is the most exciting time in my entire life." If you're Peter, and you're a fisherman, and you love to brawl, hanging out with Jesus is heaven on earth because the guy was always stirring it up.

If you're with Jesus during the time he's walking around, you're seeing tenderness, healing, pain being eradicated, death being overcome, hope presented, and you're seeing all that is wrong with this earth dealt with. You go, "This is great." Jesus says, "Live as I have lived. Walked as I have walked. Bring heaven wherever you go, and people will not be able to resist it. Salt and light."

Do you get it? That's what I'm trying to share with you guys. What I want you to know is the generous life is a little bit of heaven. There's a great little story about a guy… It's a story, so don't worry about the theology of it. After he died, the guy was taken to hell first. He goes to hell, and they take him right to the dining room.

He's in the dining room, and he walks in, and this is the finest dining room he's ever seen. The aroma in that dining room makes (plug in your favorite restaurant here)…I used to be able to say Mrs. Baird's at its height of production if we lived around here…just wafting around the room, and the food on it looked good, and it was good. It wasn't fake. It wasn't artificial. This is the finest food ever.

The guy is going, "What's this? This is hell. All of sudden, the dinner bell rings, the door is kicked open, and people come rushing in, but they're emaciated, they're jaundiced, and worse, they have these big utensils strapped to their hands. So big that when they stick their utensil into the food that's there, they can't feed themselves, they can't get it to themselves.

Everybody goes in, and they are fighting over this food. There's so much food that they can fight as long as they want, and still, everybody has more food than they can eat if they could eat it. But no one is eating it. They're still sick, and they're trying to do all they can. They're throwing it up. They're seeing if they can get a little to come in their mouth, but it's so big they can't get any. Food is all over them. It's a mess.

After a couple of hours of being in there, they walk out starving, they walk out unnourished and a mess…soiled, burnt from hot drinks, and junk all over them and none that they can eat. And then he's whisked away, and he's brought to heaven. He walks in, and it's an identical dining room: same food, same smell, same dinner bell. Folks come pouring in, and this time, they're not jaundiced, and they're not sick. They're full. Their bodies are strong, and they speak of strength and health.

But on there on their arms are the exact same utensils. He goes, "What?" He watches, and they sit down. After they celebrate the goodness of the God who provides all things for them, they all dig in with the utensils. They start poking the food with their utensils and putting it in the mouth of the person across from them and taking care of one another and filling each other up and celebrating what they have as they serve one another, and they're generous with all the food that they could scrape in front of them with everybody that's around them. You go, "Man. How great is that?"

When we talk about luxury and greatness, we always have a picture of a guy lying in a woman's lap with…what? The woman is dropping grapes into his mouth, right? That's what's going on at that banquet table. You're just sitting there, and somebody goes, "Filet? Lobster? Melted butter with bodies that won't be corrupted by it? Here." Gulp, gulp, gulp, gulp. I'm in. I am in.

But this is so counterintuitive. "I want to get for me. I want to bring it all right here, and I can't get it all in my mouth. I can't enjoy it, and others are starving. I'm starving." So what are those things? Are you ready? I'm going to give you the last three in generosity.

11 . Generous people get more generous with practice. People ask me sometimes, "Todd, is it easier? You've been walking with Christ now for 20 years. Is it easier today than it was 20 years ago?" The answer is an absolute, resounding yes. It is so much easier today than it was 20 years ago. Not just because I've passed through the time of raging hormones, because I haven't.

I want to tell you, sin is no less appealing to me today. It really isn't. In terms of its tantalizing presentation, it is no less appealing to me today than it was then. The difference is that I've tasted intimacy and obedience with Jesus. It's now something that I don't just attain to understanding that it might be true that his way is a better way. I have experienced it in spades.

I love to say this. I love to tell folks. There has never been one time, not one time, that I have walked according to his will and Word and way for my life that I've regretted it. There hasn't been one. I have 20 years of history where I can now say the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Todd, where I'm going to go, "You're calling me?" Why? "Because your name is on his resume." I'm going to say, "Oh, him? God?"

I'll tell you. I've done a lot of business with him, and every time I've done business with him, it has been out of the park. He's cut me out of a few deals that I would've gotten into that would've really been fun. I mean it would've tasted good. It would've given me immense pleasure in a moment. I've watched people invest in those deals that I wanted in on, but he said, "Don't go there," and it has saved me incredible pain.

I've watched those people riotously celebrate when they got in when I got out because God said it wasn't a good deal, and they've paid an incredible price. I didn't see it at first, but almost every time, all the time. There are still a few that are riding pretty high on a wave, and God said, "Don't go on that deal." I've seen enough of those deals that I know that eventually that wave's going to crash and they're going to get swept up into it and drown.

So I'm just going to tell you this about God. Every time I've been smart enough to go where he wants me to go and do what he wants me to do, he has knocked it out of the park. To my great shame, there are still times I think he doesn't know my best interests, so I still go my own way. That's the hell that I bring into my relationships.

It gets easier for me for two reasons. First, because I get to be around folks all the time who have just come off the wave. They've just come off the wave. No matter how intense the pleasure is, the pain never matches; the benefit was never worth the cost. I get to see it every week. The devastation of people who are thinking that they have a better way. Secondly, I have the history of my own personal time.

I have to tell you, it gets easier, because I have tasted heaven, and I've tasted that God's way is a good way. Just a very small example. This last Friday night, I was at the Texas Stampede with some friends. After the rodeo was over, they have a little concert. This year on Friday night it was Dierks Bentley and Miranda Lambert. There were folks who are big Dierks Bentley and Miranda Lambert fans. There are some good songs that they have.

When the concert starts, they open up the gates to the little rodeo area, and they let folks go down. They rush up into the chutes, and they get to be right there on stage. Where we were sitting, they had given everybody green bands that allow you, basically, floor access. So for free, you get to be one of the guys grabbing and giving Dierks a high-five during the concert.

We're sitting there, and there are a bunch of folks who come storming down. A bunch of folks don't know who gets to go down there. So they get down there, and there's this one little pre-teen girl (I don't know how old she was), but I watched her. Her dad was behind her. They get down there, and the dad goes, "We're going to go." The guy goes, "Wristband." He goes, "Oh, we didn't know you needed a wristband." You could just see that little girl go, "Oh." Obviously, she was a big fan.

So they start to turn around. I mean, it was loud. The music had started. I watch this little gal start to go back up behind her dad. I go, "Oh, wait a minute." So I dig into my pocket. There are four people between me and the aisle. As loud as I can, I go, "Hey! Hey!" The people next to me go, "What is wrong with that guy," but for some reason, this dad turned and looked at me. I go, "Here man," and I gave him those little green bands. "Use these. We have eight of them here, and we're not using any of them."

He took these things. He chased up the stairs. He got his little girl. He goes, "Look." I watched that dude go down the steps. I saw his little girl had a broken leg. At the time, I didn't see it. He picked his little girl up and threw her on his back so she wouldn't get dirt in the cast and got down there. He turned around and looked at me and said, "You just made me the hero."

I'll never see that guy again. But, you know what? Dierks could've asked me to sing "What Was I Thinkin'"with him, and I wouldn't have had the same joy that I got in that moment. I guarantee you I got more from those green bands than anybody in the American Airlines Center. I thought, "Oh man, how tragic would that have been that I would've missed out on that opportunity just because I thought it was cool to go up there."

You could do that with hundreds of millions of dollars, some of you. You could do that with $5, some of you. You could do that with your time. Every time you do it and somebody gives you that, "Unbelievable"… Have you ever been two people wanting to get into a parking spot? To go, "I'm going to put mine in reverse, back up, and let them go," just to watch them just be shocked. Is that not worth that parking spot?

It almost makes you want to go get the best parking spot around Christmas and keep giving it up so you can get it. Back up and go, "Here." It's more life-giving than anything you'll buy in the mall, and that's what Jesus is trying to tell you. The more you do it, the more you get better at doing it.

That's why I've told you before. I never thought this would be true. I get more of a rise, more joy, out of coaching people towards success than experiencing success myself. I never would've believed that but I've seen it to be true again and again and again. It gets easier to follow Christ when you've tasted heaven. So generous people do get more generous with practice.

12 . Generous people aren't generous because the doctor or their accountant says it makes sense. They're generous because their God says it makes sense. They're generous because they're wise. They get it. I'll start with the accountant first. I just want to tell you this. Real generosity doesn't care if it's tax-deductible or not.

I can't tell you how many people have said, "I can't give anymore until next January because I've maxed out my tax benefit from giving." I go, "Are you kidding me?" If that's the code that you're reading to determine how much you should share, you are reading the wrong code, and you don't have a clue what it means to be generous.

Let me show you in 2 Corinthians 8:1-4. "Now, brethren, we wish to make known to you the grace of God which has been given in the churches of Macedonia…" I want to tell you a gift that God has given people who get it. There are about to be four little phrases here that just don't go together. It makes no stinking sense. See if you can pick them out. Watch this.

"…that in a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy…" Now, wait a minute. That's pretty oxymoronic…in a great ordeal of affliction, their abundance of joy. "…and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality." That doesn't make any sense unless you know what I'm talking about these last two weeks. These people get it. God's grace has let them figure something out. Now watch.

It goes on to say, "For I testify that according to their ability, and beyond their ability, they gave of their own accord, begging us with much urging for the favor of participation in the support of the saints…" These people have figured out that there is life in generosity. Their accountant has said, "There's no more reason to give this year because you've maxed out your tax benefit." They go, "We could really care less about the tax benefit."

Their family planner has said, "You have given beyond your ability to give." In other words, you've given beyond the point where the numbers add up for you to be able to do just what you did last year which, frankly, wasn't that exuberant in the way that you and your family enjoyed the comforts of the salary that you make. You're giving beyond that.

That's what it means when it says, in 2 Corinthians 8:4 where they gave beyond their ability. They gave beyond the point where numbers added up. They didn't care what other people thought because they had discovered something. Let me just go back. I want to ask you. This last week, did somebody say to you, "Your life is so amazing in the way that you flesh it out."

Remember how last week I talked about David Eckstein, the shortstop for the Cardinals where that friend of mine wrote, "That Eckstein… He gets it." I read a Sports Illustrated article this week about the Cardinals, and there's a picture in there of the Cardinals team in the clubhouse. They had all the media go out, all the family members go out, and it was just the team.

All these guys were in their champagne soaked clothes. It is the epitome of camaraderie and bonding. It is the picture that everybody who has ever played sports wants to be in the middle of. It's only the team and the coaching staff. The World Championship trophy is sitting there, and they are all over each other, jerseys untucked, hats on sideways, full of just exuberant joy.

They took that picture once, and they realized Eckstein wasn't there. "Hey, where is Eckstein?" They had to go back out and get him. They had to make him come in for that picture because he was still out there yukking it up with the fans, walking around being generous with his time and the fact that he was the MVP and could bless somebody by talking to them. He goes, "You guys think that picture is what you want to be a part of? No, man. You're missing it out here."

It didn't make any sense to anybody who's ever played sports. He gets it. That dude does get it. How many people can say, "Watermark gets it. That follower of Jesus Christ gets it. Frankly, we don't get them because they give beyond their ability, and they give beyond what makes sense, they give beyond what's a tax benefit"?

How about the other one? They don't just give to the point where their doctor says, "I have to tell you, that is definitely cancer, and it is chronic cancer, and you have two weeks max." I want to tell you if you wait until that moment to give or to get your house in order so when you die, you give, you're missing out.

Randy Alcorn, who I will tell you is a friend who has done more good thinking on this than I will ever do… He's really given himself to this topic. Listen to this statement. He says doesn't the fact that God entrusted money to you, not others, not your kids, indicate that he wants you during your lifetime to invest in eternity rather than passing it on, passing the responsibility on to your children?

This is very counterintuitive because we all think we ought to pass on a lot to our kids. The Scripture will tell you that isn't a blessing to give your kids a great inheritance. It does talk about allowing them to have land and a place to live and provide for themselves and for you as you get older and can't provide for yourself. But you have to understand it's a different culture than we have today in the culture of let's pass on as much as you can so they can live in as much comfort, ease, and judgment as you.

In fact, Proverbs 20:21 says this. "An inheritance gained hurriedly at the beginning will not be blessed in the end." In other words, it becomes a curse because it takes away from you a life of industry and hard work. It sets you up to be all about you and not ever get to see God provide for you and use your gifts to create wealth that you can use to give others. It makes you a fat cat. Often the kids we leave our money to are kids who have not shown themselves worthy of good stewardship. We're passing it on to them?

I can remember a time when I was sitting with a guy who has more money than any of us will ever experience, and I said, "What do you say to people who ask you the question, "Why don't you just give away five of your multiple billions? You'll still be one of the richest guys the world has ever known. Just give away billions of your dollars." He said, "I tell them that if God wanted them to know what to do with that money, he would've given it to them." I say, "Bingo. He gave it to you, so what are you doing with it?"

Please leave the billionaire out of this for a second, unless you're him. What I want you to think about is you. He gave it to you. You'd better not compare yourself to the billionaire because he isn't going to be around. He's not par. Jesus is. Hold yourself up against him (Christ), and did you do with what God gave you all that he wanted you to do? Or did you just use it for your own? Did you say, "I'm going to pass as much as I can onto the next person so it can sink its talons in them the way it sunk its talons in me"?

Let me say this about giving at the grave. A lot of good has come from that, but not the kind of good that God wanted. I really believe that. When you wait to give until you're dead, it involves no sacrifice, it involves no trust, and that's not the kind of giving that God exalts, and that's not giving at all.

In fact, when you wait to give, you rob yourself of the joy of giving. You rob yourself of the reward of giving. You rob others of the provision that God wanted them to have through you today. You rob God of his glory because you show people that he has informed your life, that you don't need to continue just to well up more and more to be happy. You've discovered that life is in giving it away.

It is so countercultural and counterintuitive to say, "This isn't about the next 14 generations of children. This about me saying, 'God bless me,' because he wanted me to do something with it. It wasn't to die, so others could have it." There's only one story in Scripture that Jesus, in fact, talked about a person who was so stupid that God himself in the person of Jesus Christ called him a fool. It was a guy who kept getting and kept stacking up.

In Luke 12 you find that story. We're not going to read it for the sake of time, but basically, at the end of that story, he said, "You fool. You who were so sure you were going to have this money and now you can do what you want for many years, you have no idea how many days you have. Tonight, your soul is required of you. I don't care how well you planned with your estate planner what would happen after you died. You have lost every opportunity to be faithful with what I gave you."

So many guys go, "Isn't there a danger in giving too much too soon? No, I think you need to realize this. There is a greater danger. The realdanger is giving too little too late, and you need to deal with that. Look at this.

Psalm 39:4-7: "LORD, make me to know my end…" It is fleeting. It is unpredictable. It could happen today. "…and what is the extent of my days; Let me know how transient I am. Behold, You have made my days as handbreadths, and my lifetime as nothing in Your sight; surely every man at his best is a mere breath. Selah." Meditate on that for a second. There's the answer to your prayer in line 1, verse 4.

"Surely every man walks about as a phantom; surely they make an uproar for nothing; He amasses riches…" What do you think it's going to say? "And because he does nothing with it, it goes on to somebody else after he dies," is what is implied. "and does not know who will gather them." David says, "And now, Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in You." I have to get busy today.

A couple of things on this. God is just at work here amongst this community. There is a little bit of heaven happening here. There's life change happening, just like there was life change around Jesus. Some of you guys are not investing here. I have to tell you; we don't need your money. That's why we don't pass around stuff right here every week to…like Pavlov's bell…make your mouth salivate into our basket.

But some of you guys see God's work in here, and you are investing radically. Good for you. Some of you guys are giving in a way that is beyond what makes sense to people. Some of you people are giving in a way that completely makes the tax code worthless in terms of what the benefit is to it, and I'm telling you, "Good for you." God's work done God's way will always have God's supply.

I told you guys when we finished having enough money to get really churning to build that little facility we're going to have over there to serve more people, I go, "My heart grieves that there are hundreds of you who don't have any part in that investment. You just don't. You didn't give whatever it was you were supposed to give. You missed the opportunity."

The good news is there are lots of ways to give today. We have a whole other deal. It's going to be more than the first to get done. I'm just telling you what Paul said in Philippians 4:17, I want to say to you. We don't seek your gift, but I do seek the credit that it is to your account. God's going to do what he's going to do if he needs to do it. I'm convinced he wants to do it. I think he's becoming more famous as a result of the little bit of heaven that we're pursuing here radically together.

I wouldn't wait. I wouldn't. One of these days, that opportunity is going to be done. Just to support the general mission week to week and to provide for what we're going to do our mission in. So there will be other opportunities to honor God and the kingdom, but why wouldn't you want to get in on that one? I know we are as radically as we can.

That being said, in the midst of this, there is nothing wrong with being motivated by yourself in giving and being generous. This is going to shock you, I think. Do you think that Jesus ever encourages you to do anything for you? That seems so counterintuitive to what we think God is about. "It always has to be for somebody else." Wrong. He tells you to be generous.

Solomon, filled with the Holy Spirit, tells you to be generous because the generous man will be blessed, which really means we'll be happier than any other man who lives. So for your sake, be generous. This is exactly what Jesus said in Matthew 6:19-20. I'm going to read the first little bit.

"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth…" You go, "There we go. He doesn't want us to be comfortable. We have to lead a monastic life." The people (hermits) who live in the desert and free themselves from all material impression are so wrong. Maybe they freed themselves up from materialism, but do you know what else they freed themselves up from? The opportunity to give. You can't have life without giving.

So go ahead and live a pauper's life in the middle of the desert. That is not a life that is honoring to God. It just isn't. A life that's honoring to God is doing everything he can with what God has given him to serve and care for others, not just to have some aesthetic, self-deprecating, isolated life.

Jesus says, "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth…" We're like, "Oh, man. Figures." But why? Because it's not smart. Because, "…moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal." But watch what he says. "But store up for yourselves…" Did you catch that? He's motivated for you. This is for you. He doesn't need your cash.

"The cattle on a thousand hills are mine, all the gold is mine, all the silver is mine," Haggai 2:8 says. It's for your sake. "But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven…" That doesn't make any sense except to doctors who say, "You only have a couple weeks, so get busy," or accountants who say, "You only have a couple more weeks, and then you lose your benefit for 2006." Generous people give because they're wise.

13 . Generous people are rich people, but not necessarily rich with cash. First Timothy. "Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed."

Do you see that? What he's saying right here is this. First of all, all of us are insanely rich. Please don't look at different zip codes, different square footage to think that you're not rich just because they're more rich. We are all rich. If we know Jesus Christ, we are all rich in our familiarity with the life that God wants us to live so we can be rich in good deeds.

By the way, just to prove to you that this statement is true (generous people are rich, but not necessarily rich with cash), did you know that just like Jesus only called one person a fool, there was only one time in all of Scripture that he said, "That's the greatest act of giving I've ever seen," and guess who he was talking about? A widow with two mites. So even in the material sense, you don't have to have a lot.

That's what I experience. When I go places, the less people have, the more free they are to be generous because they've not had the talons of a lot of comfort built into them, so they're constantly free to give it away. Those of us who have built for ourselves soft beds and a lot of nice things, we have a hard time giving past the level that doesn't make sense, and we're losing the privilege of giving the way that God wants us to give.

There is a need to be generous with our materials things, but there's also a need for us to up our game in being generous with our time, our tongue, our talent, our patience, our kindness, our forgiveness, in the way we don't keep score of what we have done and others haven't. How many times do we get in conflicts in our marriage because we go, "Nuh-uh. No more for you until you come my way a little bit." Be generous.

Overwhelm your spouse with love and service and kindness. Don't ask yourself the last time they responded the way you wanted. I'll tell you, it's going to change your marriage. If you journeyed with us, you saw that in 1 Peter 3 this week. Be rich. What did you do with your Blow Pop? What did you do with what that Blow Pop represented, which is your life, your time, your talent, your treasure?

Last week, do you know what I did in the midst of this? When I was doing this, I shut down last week. I always try, if I can, and get away on Saturday night and get some time alone to rethink what I was going to do. I had this ready to go last Sunday, and I just stopped around 8:30. I go, "You know what? I'm going to be generous with my time with my kids tonight, God. You'll take care of tomorrow." I slapped that laptop down, and I went home. I said, "You get Daddy tonight."

I was so excited to go home and give my kids more of my time, even though I could've gone, "I can go home because I think I'm ready enough. I'm not going to meditate on this anymore and not just be still and not let my heart be quiet for a little bit, and I get to watch more football." No. If you're UT fans, you'd be glad you didn't watch more football last night. That's to fulfill somebody's wish that I say something, so I did that. Great generosity does not require that you're rich with cash, but (this is very important) great wealth does require great generosity.Deuteronomy 8:11-14.

"Beware that you do not forget the LORD your God by not keeping His commandments and His ordinances and His statutes which I am commanding you today; otherwise, when you have eaten and are satisfied, and have built good houses and lived in them, and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and gold multiply, and all that you have multiplies, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the LORD your God who brought you out from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery."

Skip to verse 17. "Otherwise, you may say in your heart, 'My power and the strength of my hand made me this wealth.' But you shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth, that He may confirm His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day."

Here's the deal. If you're intelligent, if you have the insight to be disciplined to work hard, and you've prospered materially, and you think that you're deserving to live comfortably because you're just smarter than they are, you need to get a big ol' drink of Deuteronomy 8 where he says, "I gave you what you have, so you could not live in more luxury, but so others could live. Not so that you could raise your standard of living, but so that you could raise your standard of giving."

Is there an end to where you'll go, "I don't care how much more I'll make. I'll never need to live beyond this"? If you look at Neiman's Christmas catalog and the answer's no. You listen to our world, the answer's no. You look around Dallas, the answer's no. But you read right here, and Jesus is saying, "It has to be someplace." Have you discovered it yet? Please don't go, "Yeah, when I get the level of that guy." Get to the level that you want to get to as a servant of Jesus Christ, and say, "That's it." Great wealth requires great generosity.

Amy Carmichael, who is a gal who was generous with her life in ways that I aspire to, said this. "You can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving." I heard another guy say this. "Generosity requires sacrifice. Not just giving in the overflow and excess. Not the table scraps. That's not generosity."

Generosity requires sacrifice, but generosity is no sacrifice. It's the life. It'll make you look like Mr. Scrooge on the backside. People will go, "I want some of that." I would encourage you guys to trust God. In the beginning go, "How can I be increasingly more generous than I've ever been for his glory and for my good." Store up for yourself joy today and joy to come. That's the life.

We're about to move into a season where we celebrate the generosity of God when he gave himself. Immanuel, God with us. It is more blessed to give than receive because we will sing for eternity about a God who gave that much. He wants us to give, as well. First, he wants you to receive. Be blessed by that. Then he wants you to give out of the overflow of what you know personally has come in that relationship with God who is generous, who has the perfect life to others.

Father, I thank you for my friends. As we close this morning, we say thank you so much, Lord, for telling us so much about how we can have life, how we can experience heaven now in a very shadowy tainted way, because real heaven is coming. You're going to be here. We're going to know you fully as we're now fully known.

We're going to see you not through a mirror dimly into our shadow. We're going to see you clearly, and your will is going to be exhorted throughout the entire earth. You have to deal with evil on our heart and evil on this earth. You're going to vanquish it. There's going to be literal heaven right here.

But right now, I pray we could live as if we are citizens of that heaven right now in such a way that other people say, when you're around those folks, "It's heaven on earth. Being his friend is heaven on earth. Being in that community is heaven on earth." Knowing you is heaven on earth. Lord, make us more generous. Make us wise. Amen.

If you don't know Jesus Christ and why it's worth saying, "I want my life to be in direct connection and submission to yours," then let me come and make a case right here, if I haven't done it already. Would you let me and my friends share with you this morning? If you're not sure Jesus is worth following, I'm telling you it's the life. If you know that, would you go live that way, and let yourself be used by him in every facet of your being in a way that the world would go, "That's even beyond what makes sense to me"? Good. That's the beginning of worship. Have a great week of it.


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.