Is money the source of your joy, peace, and security? In this message, Watermark Elder Kyle Thompson shares four questions about money and generosity, and the answers to those questions in Scripture. He reminds us that generous living is not a one-time decision but a lifetime of daily discovery of what faithfulness looks like.
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Generosity is not about being rich. Scripture tells us in 1 Timothy 6:6-8 that all we need is food and clothing; in God’s perspective, anything beyond that is rich. If you have more than that, you have enough to become a generous giver. Your journey in life is discerning how God wants you to deploy the resources He entrusts you with. We can all take a step and live a life of generosity regardless of how much or how little we have.
Good morning. My name is Kyle Thompson, and I serve here on the elder team. I want you to meet my family. My wife Lucina and I have been married for 41 years. We've been part of Watermark since it started in 1999. We had the joy of our kids growing up here. Our son Jordan, on your far right, is on staff here.
Our daughter and son-in-law, Audrey and John Burks, are members serving here, so we also have the gift of our grandkids growing up here and getting the benefit of the kids' ministry. I started serving as an elder 22 years ago. It has been a joy. The last time I was up here on a Sunday morning was 15 years ago. From what I understand, they have me slotted again sometime in May of 2038, so if you want to make note of that, you'll see me again.
We're in a series right now called Right on the Money. The reason I'm really thankful for this series is because, as long as I can remember, money has been really important to me. When I was in eighth grade, we were moving from Pampa, Texas, up in the Panhandle. Our house was for sale for $16,500. I just remember thinking, "Man! If I can ever make a salary of $16,500, I will have it made."
Whether it was leaving football practice to go work in a restaurant when I was in high school or Lucina and me trying to pay off our first house as fast as we could because of the 16 percent mortgage rate back in 1982 (yeah, 16 percent), money and the management of it have always been a big deal for me. It's one of the reasons I majored in accounting and became a CPA.
Then came 1994, and it's a year I will never forget. I was 35 years old, and I had a position of responsibility with an energy company here in Dallas. I made a series of very poor decisions over the course of three weeks that resulted in the company losing significant resources. I had also made those decisions for Lucina and me personally, and we lost everything. Our kids were 3 and 4 years old at the time.
I remember, in the middle of the day, as reality sank in, I left the office, and I started driving home just sobbing. The reality set in that I had probably lost my job. I lost all of our money. We had an unpaid tax liability from the prior year that I couldn't pay now. I was unsure if we were going to have to sell our house. As I turned down our street, at the end of the driveway it hit me even more, and I became hysterical. I was devastated.
I opened the door to my car. What happened every day is our little 3- and 4-year-olds, Jordan and Audrey, would come running down the driveway. So, I got out and walked around, and Jordan looked up at me and said, "Daddy, why are you crying?" I said, "Oh, Jordan, I've lost all of our money." All of a sudden, this big smile came on his face, and he looked up at me and said, "That's okay, Daddy. I'll help you find it." God used that moment just to yank me.
I went into a period of depression after that where I just had no energy. I would come home, and I'd just get in bed and get up at 7:00 the next morning so I could get ready. On the weekends, I was totally disengaged. I felt like I couldn't do anything. Lucina ultimately took me aside one Sunday afternoon and spoke clarity to me. She said, "You have to move forward. You have totally lost perspective. It's going to be okay. We have our health, our kids, and so what if we have to sell our house?"
I'm so thankful she helped me. God used that period of time to wake me up and to see that money wasn't just important to me; money, in some ways, had become a god to me because it was the source of all my security. I was living this equation that income plus savings equals joy, peace, and security in life. I'm a formula guy, and it so clearly represented where I was.
Matthew 6:24, which Mickey read last week, became very clear to me. It's where Jesus says, "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth." As I look back, 1994 was an incredible gift, because it started me on a journey of the biblical theology of money. I learned that handling money and releasing it, or generosity, are natural responses to our generous God.
So, that's what I'm going to talk about today. There are four questions I've really had to wrestle with over the years regarding money and generosity. I want to share the answers of those questions with you. I would imagine that many of you have asked or are asking the same questions: Why should I give? Why am I reluctant to give? How much should I give? Where should I give?
Before I jump into that first question, I want to acknowledge that some of you might be sitting there thinking, "Well, I'm not rich. I really don't have any discretionary income anyway. It's all I can do to just pay my bills each month." I want you to know that Scripture gives us a perspective of what it means to be rich and what God is talking about.
We see that in 1 Timothy 6 where Paul says, "But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment. For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content." Again, what Paul is saying is that's all we really need and anything beyond that is rich.
When you see Paul use the term rich, that's the perspective he's speaking to. If you have more than enough for food and clothing, then you have enough to become a generous giver. Your journey in life is discerning just how God wants us to deploy the resources he entrusts us with. I will tell you, whether you have 10 extra dollars or 10 million, we can all take a step in generosity.
I should give because this world is not my home. I want to live with an eternity mindset. There's a fundamental connection you see all through Scripture between our spiritual lives and how we think about and handle money. Nowhere in Scripture is the connection between faith in action and rewards more clearly shown and described than in giving.
Farther down in Matthew 6, Jesus says, "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." As I get older, the futility of storing up treasures on earth is becoming increasingly clear to me.
I should give because it stretches my faith. Again, farther down in Matthew 6, Jesus says, "For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?" When I give, it allows me to walk in faith that God has got me, that he truly cares about me, and it frees me from worry and anxiety as I recognize that.
I should give because I want to experience joy. A verse most of you know, Acts 20:35: "It is more blessed to give than to receive." There is joy, true joy, in giving. Between 2006 and 2018, Lucina and I made 25 trips to the continent of Africa, specifically the country of Burundi. We were also in the country of Uganda, in northern Uganda just south of Sudan. These, during those years, were both war-torn regions.
Watermark was partnering with churches that were there locally, trying to help rebuild those communities and also help the people heal from the trauma they had lived through. In northern Uganda, 80 percent of the men had been killed, so that region was made up primarily of widows and children. So, we would take small teams with us, and we were working with local churches to help those widows develop a source of income along with, obviously, the healing from the trauma they lived through.
We came back to visit one particular group we had spent a lot of time with six months earlier. If you've ever been to Africa, then you know that when you come back, there is a lot of singing and dancing and rejoicing, because it's a visual picture for them that God has not forgotten them, that there are people who know what's happening in their lives and God is stirring people to come and be a visible representation of his love and comfort.
As we sat down with this group, the first thing their spokesman said to me was, "We are asking you not to fund the next group of women. We have more than we need to feed our community, and we would like to fund and provide the resources for the next group." I was just stunned. My first thought was to counsel them. "No. No. You've got to save. You don't know what's going to happen. There may be something unexpected that happens. The rains may not come." Before I could go down that line, she continued and said, "We want the joy of giving just like you have experienced with us."
The reality was they lived trusting God daily. It's what they had. It was just normative for them to see him as the provision for life and joy and peace and everything they needed. That's when I first realized God was using these trips to allow the Africans to disciple me. My tendency was just to give out of my abundance, and I had a huge blind spot that God loved me enough to start showing me. Out of their poverty, they gave generously. They got it. That leads to the second question.
Second Corinthians 8: "Now, brethren, we wish to make known to you the grace of God which has been given in the churches of Macedonia, that in a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality. 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…" Sound familiar?
"…and this, not as we had expected, but they first gave themselves to the Lord and to us by the will of God."
Giving comes from a joy-filled heart. That's the true source of the response. Giving is a responsibility of the rich, and it's a privilege of the poor. Again, it's a reflexive response to the grace of God that's in our lives. It's just an outflow of that. When I'm not fully surrendered, I don't believe God has my best interests in mind. I will tell you that I still struggle here.
You know, when I get up in the morning, I sometimes think my flesh wakes up before the Spirit in me wakes up. I'll get up in the morning, and I can immediately think about what's going on in my world, and I can get anxious and start to worry. I've found that it is so critical for me to get up and spend extended time calibrating my heart to who God is, his sovereignty in everything that's happening (he either causes or allows everything that's happening in my life), and to be still and know that he's God and allow his peace to guide me.
For me, what I've found is that's not a one-time deal in the morning, because things get going and I can drift again. So, having moments all during the day to remind myself that he is my refuge and strength, a very present help in time of trouble, so I'm not going to fear. I'm not going to get anxious. I know there's no security in this world apart from Christ. I know that intellectually, and I just have to continue to remind my heart of that.
Secondly, I can be reluctant to give because my treasures are here in this world, and I don't want to depart without them. John D. Rockefeller, one of the wealthiest men who ever lived… After he died, someone asked his accountant, "Man! So, how much money did he leave?" His accountant looked at him and said, "He left all of it." When I hit periods like what many of us went through in 2020, when all business comes to a halt, I can drift quickly to fear and anxiety that expose me and remind me, "Hey, I've drifted again to security in this world. God has got it. He knows. That was not a surprise to him."
Thirdly, I can be reluctant to give because of my pride and my desire for control. Control is just one of the many things I wrestle with. In 2006, Watermark had significant needs here as we were building out our campus and finishing this building. We had decided not to use debt, that we weren't going to do fundraising, and we weren't going to have pledges. Rather, we were just going to continue to build as God provided resources for us to finish.
Lucina and I were stirred to give in a way that we never had been stirred before. I can remember, as I wrote that check, for a moment I had this flash of anxiety, like, "Man! What if I have another 1994?" It was a great test for me. God reminded me during that, "Hey, I just have to be faithful today." You see that at the end of Matthew 6. Again, the same passage we were looking at earlier.
"But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." Giving does relinquish control, or it can, and we can ask the question, "What if, after I give this, something happens?" I will tell you that it will, and it's okay. God has got me. He knows.
Then, lastly, I can be reluctant to give because I buy into this myth that money on earth equals happiness. It's another formula that pops in my mind and is helpful for me. When I feel anxious, I can be drawn to go back and look at my account balances, as if that's where my security and peace come from. I don't know if any of you all do that. Again, it's a good tell for me. It's an indicator. "Hey, why are you going over there? Your security is drifting back to the things of this world."
Ecclesiastes is one of my favorite books, and it's because it was written by Solomon. There are two distinctions we know about Solomon. First, he was the wisest man who ever lived, and the second is he was the wealthiest man who ever lived. Ecclesiastes was written at the end of his life when he was reflective. There have been scholars who looked biblically at everything Solomon had and put it in terms of today's dollars. It's estimated that his net worth was $2.2 trillion. That's trillion with a T. Here's what he says:
"He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves abundance with its income. This too is vanity. When good things increase, those who consume them increase. So what is the advantage to their owners except to look on? The sleep of the working man is pleasant, whether he eats little or much; but the full stomach of the rich man does not allow him to sleep." Again, it's such a good reminder of where the love of money can take me.
Many Christians think the standard of giving is 10 percent of your income, or the tithe. The only question is, "Are we talking about 10 percent of my gross or 10 percent of my net? Which is it?" The tithe is an Old Testament concept, but it's interesting. As you read your Old Testament, even then it was not limited to 10 percent. During the year, they had multiple times of tithe where they were tithing 10 percent of what they had.
They also had freewill offerings during the year. If you add these up, there are places where it looks like they were giving 60 or 70 percent. Every New Testament example of giving goes beyond the tithe or 10 percent. None fall short of it. But it is a good place to start. I've heard it referred to as the training wheels. It's a good place to get going, but when you're 30, you don't want to be riding a bike with training wheels.
I love what Jesus says in Luke 21 where it says, "And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury. And He saw a poor widow putting in two small copper coins. And He said, 'Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all of them; for they all out of their surplus put into the offering; but she out of her poverty put in all that she had to live on.'"
I love this because it reminds me that we can all live a life of generosity regardless of how much or how little we have. The early Christians gave not only out of their income; they gave their possessions. You see this early in Acts. I love this, because it kind of sets the perspective of what the early church looked like. You see it in Acts 2 and again in Acts 4.
In Acts 2:44-45 it says, "And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need." That's my daily journey. "God, how would you have us steward the resources you entrust us with?"
Rather than asking, "How much should I give?" the better question is, "How much should I keep?" I know that sounds radical, but just as we saw in Acts, I think, for many of us, that's really the question. "How much should I keep?" For Lucina and me, our kids are out of school, as you saw. They have jobs. Lucina and I are going to go on Medicare next year. We don't have any debt on our home or our cars.
As we look at what we have and the life stage we're in, we're like, "What do we need?" We have decided, for us, the value of what we have should decrease every year, because we're releasing it. Our focus is not trying to pass money on to our kids. Just to say this in a different way, our goal is not to accumulate money to pass it on to our kids. That's not the inheritance we're looking to pass on. Rather, we're trying to model for our kids the joy of generosity.
So, our financial net worth should be decreasing over the remaining years we have as a result of giving. Jim Elliot… He was a missionary, if you don't know who he is. I love this quote, and this really impacted me. He said, "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose." First Timothy 6 speaks to this also. It says, "Instruct those who are rich…" Again, remember, rich is having more than I need for food and clothing.
"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."
Again, giving allows us to store up treasures in heaven, and it also allows us, at the same time, to experience the joy, the abundant life, God intends for us.
First Corinthians 16 makes reference back to that passage in Galatians 6. It says, "Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I directed the churches of Galatia, so do you also. On the first day of every week each one of you is to put aside and save, as he may prosper, so that no collections be made when I come."
Really quickly, I want to explain to you the reason Watermark does not pass a plate each Sunday morning. This is a decision we made years ago when we first started. I don't want you to hear me say that it's wrong for a church to pass a plate. I just want you to know why we decided not to. We don't want there to be any element of compulsion or comparison as a plate goes across your path.
We want to allow you to give freely as you give yourselves to Christ. There are multiple ways to give here. We have slots in the back and slots in the Town Center. People mail their gifts in. People send their gifts electronically. If you don't know Christ, we don't want to confuse you about giving versus receiving the grace God offers us through Christ.
Another place to give is other Christ-centered ministries. There are many we partner with through our External Focus ministry, both here in Dallas and, as you saw, around the world. There are many great ministries that are Christ-centered that we don't necessarily partner with that I know many of you partner with.
Then there's any other opportunity God brings into our lives. Again, often, these are not of the nature that you get a tax deduction for. I think of the story of the good Samaritan that many of you know that's in Luke 10. There are people in need God brings across our path regularly, and I want to be ready and open to share as the Spirit leads us. I want to be wise in how I do that. I want to share my life as I do that, but I want to be open. "Hey, we may be God's provision for that need that's going on that he has brought across our path."
This book The Treasure Principle… You've heard us mention this the last couple of Sundays. The book is written by Randy Alcorn. This book was revolutionary for me. Both the experience that God loved me enough to allow me to walk through, along with the wisdom in the Scripture and this book, showed me in simple ways how the Spirit needed to grow me. As we've mentioned, the book is in the Town Center if you want to get it.
I would encourage you… The first thing I did after I read this book was I told Lucina, "You need to read this book, and I want you to help me. Let's walk through what this means for us," and just the blind spot I knew I had. You can do that with your friends, your community, or whatever venue, but I would encourage you to do that.
One of the quotes from this book that was so helpful for me essentially says, "God doesn't make us rich…" Again, many thinking someone else. "…so that we can indulge ourselves and spoil our children or so that we can insulate ourselves from needing God's provision. God gives us abundant material blessing so that we can give it away, and give it generously. Abundance isn't God's provision for me to live in luxury. It's his provision for me to help others live.
God entrusts me with his money not to build my kingdom on earth but to build his kingdom in heaven. Why does God give some people more than they need and others less? He does it to teach us to help each other. God distributes wealth unevenly, not because he loves some of his children more than others…" This isn't the prosperity gospel. "…but so that his children can learn to distribute it to their brothers and sisters on his behalf."
I think back to where I was in 1994 and the years I had spent focused on preserving and building up money in ways that I was blinded to the joy of giving. Again, he set us on a journey asking, "What else does he has for us in giving? What else does he have besides elements of income or possessions?" One aspect he made clear for Lucina and me was our home and our empty bedrooms. We started doing this before our kids left our home. Our kids have now been gone for over 15 years.
We saw the opportunity to use empty bedrooms in our home as provision for others who needed a temporary place to live, and we had them live with us as if they were part of our family. Young women who lived with us… I thought about them as my daughters who I needed to protect. Most of the people who lived with us were between 20 and 35 years old. Over the last 25 years, we've had 70 people live with us. Many are still here at Watermark and still in our lives. I have friends who go to another church, and I look over, and there's Keira who lived with us.
We try to align our giving and our time and the ways God has equipped us. For us, that's primarily Watermark, but we're also involved in several other ministries where, again, we try to align all three of those. Lucina and I try to do it together, where we're giving our money, our time, and either ways we're gifted or ways God has equipped us. God continues to remind us that generous living is not a one-time decision, but it's a lifetime of daily discovery of what faithfulness looks like for us. I want to remind you, as I said earlier, we can all live a life of generosity regardless of how much or how little we have.
As I wrap up, I want you to take a second, and I would encourage you to ask the Lord, "What do you want me to take away from this message?" Then, this week, I would encourage you to ask yourself, and to talk to your spouse or your friends or people in your Community Group, "What is keeping me from giving generously? What do I need to release? What are the needs God is showing me that I might be his provision for?"
Randy Alcorn has 19 questions on giving that were really helpful for Lucina and me. They're actually in the back of this book. We have a QR code up here if you would like to capture that. They're excellent, as you marinate more on this. Lastly, I would say, the easiest way to express generosity is by, first, experiencing God's generosity toward you.
Many of us know well the verse John 3:16. "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life." If you don't know God personally, we would love to have a conversation with you so you can understand the love and the grace he extends to all of us by faith in Christ. Please pray with me.
Father, thank you for the sacrificial love you show us, that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. I thank you for this area that, you remind us, can get its tentacles in our hearts and the ways you want to free us. I thank you that life is a journey. I know for each one of us, we're in different phases of what you're teaching us. I pray that as we reflect on this message today, you would help each one of us see the right next step for us.
I thank you for the ways you've done that for Lucina and me over the last week or two as I prepared to share this morning. Above all, we thank you for the way you extend us grace, the way you are patient with us, the way you forgive us and continue to love us unconditionally, and the way you draw us to yourself. We thank you for the way you modeled unconditional love perfectly through Jesus. Amen.