Would you love to know your future? I know, I know. No one can know everything about their future. I agree with that. But that doesn’t mean your future has to be completely unknown to you. You can make sure that some things about your future are already spoken for. We already do this in a number of areas.
When you put something on your calendar, you are making sure that a specific amount of time on a specific day is already spoken for.
When you have children, whether you know it or not, you are making sure that so much about your future is already spoken for.
And when you sign up for an Epic Group this fall, you are making sure that your future friendships and your future faith is already spoken for.
And perhaps the best is that when you put your faith in Jesus, you’re making sure that so much of your future is already spoken for. Aren’t you thankful that in the most amazing way, Jesus has already spoken for your future?
But here’s the area we want to ask you about today: Have you already spoken for any of your future income? More specifically:
Do you have an actual plan for being generous or are you taking a “wait and see” approach?
Some of us think we have to know more information before we can make a plan. I get it. It kind of feels like we have to wait and see what happens in the future – how much we’re going to make, what needs come up over the next 10 or 20 or 30 years, how our investments do, and many other variables. But:
What if we can make a generosity plan for our future that doesn’t involve us knowing everything about our future?
We believe the best about you. We think most of us (the people in this room and those of you watching online) really intend to be generous. That’s great - I would even say it’s commendable. But here’s the thing:
Without a plan, our intentions of being generous will not make us generous people.
I intend to wake up early every day, but without a plan called an alarm clock, my intentions won’t be enough. I intend to get in shape but without a plan called exercise, it probably won’t happen. It is the same with generosity - we need a plan. And today we want to show you why you need a plan and we want to give you that plan. We’re calling this message, “Spoken For”.
Luke 12:13-21 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”
And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”
“But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”
You know who thinks they’re generous? Almost everyone.
You know who thinks they’re greedy? Almost no one.
But Jesus says be on your guard because greed is our default. It’s not that we intend to be this way. It just kind of happens.
Here’s a big question: What are you making your life about? Know this:
You were made for more than building bigger barns for yourself.
Bigger barns = a small mission. God has made you for a grand mission. Don’t settle for a small one.
Any mission that has you at the center of it is a small mission.
This doesn’t mean making a ton of money is a bad thing. There’s nothing wrong with this man having an incredible harvest. God gives good gifts, but those gifts make bad gods. But what really stands out to me about the parable Jesus told is that this man had no plan for what he would do with whatever he was given. After he had an abundant harvest, only then did he begin to ask the “What am I going to do with all of this?” question.
Pre-decide what you’re going to do with whatever God gives you in the future.
We plan for everything, so why would we not have a plan for our giving? We have a plan at work for how to deliver excellence to our customers. We have a plan for what we’re going to do on vacation. Anyone besides me sometimes have more fun planning the vacation than on the actual vacation itself? What if planning for your future generosity could be as joyful as planning for a vacation? I love this verse from the Apostle Paul to the Corinthian Christians:
2 Corinthians 9:7 Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
Each of you – not just type “A” people who have a plan for everything. We should all have a plan for our generosity.
What you have decided in your heart to give – we said last week that the conversation with money always starts in our hearts…but now Paul is saying it’s got to get out of our hearts and into our lives.
God wants giving to be a joyful “get to” for us, not a guilt-ridden “have to”.
You might be thinking, “Do I really have to decide ahead of time?” I think you really do. In fact, I want to show you what might happen if you don’t have a plan.
Back to the man in Jesus’s parable: He thought everything he received was to help him coast. He only stored up things for himself…things that, as we said last week, will not go with him into eternity. And he missed this amazing opportunity to be rich toward God and other people.
I know we are all over the map when it comes to the “how much money do you make” conversation. Some of you aren’t sure how you’ll pay rent next month. Some of you are on the brink of making hundreds of millions of dollars. And most of us are somewhere in between. Wherever you are in this mix, I want to beg you:
Prioritize investing in the mission of God over merely building bigger barns.
This man fell into a trap that many people are still falling into. He thought getting more for himself would bring joy and that giving would bring sorrow. It reminds me of this from Proverbs:
Proverbs 11:24-25 One person gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.
How much should we give if we want to be rich?
Not talking about prosperity gospel; I’m talking about reframing how we define “rich”.
You’re thinking, “How can I even answer that if I don’t know how much I’m going to get?” This is the genius of the generosity plan we see all throughout the Scriptures. And this plan works regardless of how little or how much future income we have. It is called proportional or percentage giving.
In the Old Testament, we read about the tithe. Tithe means 10%. When we read about generosity in the New Testament, some people talk about the fact that it isn’t mentioned or practiced. When generosity is referred to in the New Testament, it seems obvious that it’s usually more than 10%. The tithe is meant to be a baseline. But if that gap seems impossible from where you are today on your generosity journey, then start somewhere. But start with a percentage. Here’s why: Every time generosity is taught in the Scriptures, it’s always about how much someone gave out of what they had been given.
2 Corinthians 8:12 For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have.
So, if someone gives $20,000 a year…is that generous? What about if someone gives $200 a year? You can’t answer that question without knowing one other variable – how much they received. If the one giving $200 made $2,000 and the one giving $20,000 made $2 million…which one is generous? One gave 10% and the other gave 1%.
Practically speaking, let me tell you what Shauna and I do. Going into every calendar year, we pre-decide what percentage of our income we’re going to give for the following year. Since we were first married, we have given 10% to our local church and about ten years ago, we started increasing our giving - so that we could give generously to other kingdom causes. And this decision informs our actions for the next year. If something extra comes in, we already know what we’re going to do with it. Minnie, tell us about your journey on all of this.
I got serious about planning my finances in 2012, which is when I started learning how to manage my money God’s way. I had not done that before - I have always done things MY WAY (and it was a BIG MESS, no matter how much I made). In fact, I saw that making more didn’t necessarily make my finances any healthier. My simple reason for budgeting was to see how I could give 10% of my income and still make my numbers work!
Last week, Ben talked about how our relationship with our money starts in the heart. Well, what is God’s heart for us when it comes to money? Is it all about give 10%, give up everything and follow me? That can’t be it, can it?
Deut 14:22-29: Reading this recently surprised me. Here God gives two main tithing instructions to the Israelites. Remember, God gave Israelites laws to abide by so that they can live as freed people after 400 years of slavery.
The first one, He says to set aside a tenth of all that they produce; then what does he say to do with it? It says - "Eat the tithe of your grain, new wine and olive oil, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks in the presence of the Lord your God" (v.23); not, "Bring it to the tabernacle and have the priests store it somewhere." He wants us to enjoy it. He even makes accommodations for those who are either too far to travel or carry everything, to sell them, and use the silver to buy whatever you like: cattle, sheep, wine or other fermented drink, or anything you wish. Then you and your household shall eat there in the presence of the Lord your God and rejoice (vs.25).
And do not neglect the Levites living in your towns, for they have no allotment or inheritance of their own. At the end of every three years, bring all the tithes of that year’s produce and store it in your towns, so that the Levites (who have no allotment or inheritance of their own) and the foreigners, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns may come and eat and be satisfied…(v. 27-29). Secondly, He is like, also don’t forget my priests the Levites, the orphans, foreigners and the widows. Provide those for who don’t have land (means to produce) and/or who don’t have anything/vulnerable.
The result of that is: 1) We learn to revere the Lord our God always (v.23); 2) Everyone comes and eats and is satisfied (v.24); and 3) the Lord our God blesses us in all the work of our hands (v. 29).
This is consistent with what Paul writes to Timothy in 1 Tim 6:17, that God richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. "Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment." - 1Timothy 6:17. It is also consistent with what God says in Lev 19:9-10 - "When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest...Leave them for the poor and the foreigners. I am the Lord your God." - Leviticus 19:9. He wants us to help others enjoy it, too. He is asking his people to give at the front end, and leave some for the poor in the back end.
What else about God’s heart? He wants us to have what we need with what He gives us - "Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever." - 1 Timothy 5:8. We are to provide for our family and relatives.
So this is what I'm budgeting - I’m budgeting the heart of God! In summary, this is what my budget is to reflect:
Set aside 10% for my faith community. (I’m a part of the community, so what this community enjoys as a whole, I’m a recipient of that, too.)
Use my income to provide for myself and others. (I don’t have a family, so I can expand that to wherever I want!)
Leave some margin for those in need
I not only want to budget this throughout the month and year, but I also want to plan this out further.
I talk about this as if it is easy. For those of you who have been a part of my Financial Wisdom group, or the workshops I did, you all know that this only came as a result of going through a scary and rather painful change. My heart started from a place of obedience - I did it because God said these truths, not because I had a generous heart and was ready to give. I know, Pastor Ben said earlier, this should be a get to, not have to - but I do believe that when we start with a have to, God can and will transform our hearts to a “get to” state. We were in the Holy Spirit series just a few weeks ago - and let’s be real, let’s not do this without the Holy Spirit - without him, we can’t know the heart of God, we can’t hear from him, and we certainly cannot do what he asks us to do. When I obeyed, God met me there with his grace. It took about 2-3 years of dedication and discipline, which helped me completely change the way I see and think about money.
These have been and will continue to be my three main goals when it comes to my finances:
1. Plan to give away more every year;
2. Live within my means; and
3. Become/Stay debt free.
This positioned me to be free to make more financial decisions to give more, bless others more, and still provide for myself in a way that blesses me and others - regardless of my income level. By mid-2015, I was earning 40% less; but I was giving more than I have ever before, living became debt-free, and yet I was not financially lacking - this is no small miracle, and I still don’t fully comprehend how that happened mathematically, but..this is God’s economy and I’m living in it.
Fast forwarding a little - now that I’ve been immensely blessed with more resources, my will to control creeps up on me, more often than I’d like (proof that greed is my default; having more didn’t automatically make me more generous). But thankfully because of the years of discipline with God in this area, and my intimate relationship with Him, I can hear His plans and by His grace, I can say yes.
Speaking of saying yes, we would love for you to say yes to something today, something that I said yes to 8-9 years ago and started this whole thing. We are calling it the 90-day Generosity Challenge. I dare to say that this is also the 90-day faith challenge.
You will find a card….
If you text “90Days” to 313131 , it will send you a link to where you can sign up digitally.
90-Day Generosity Challenge
__I am taking the generosity challenge to give a % of my income over the next 90 days.
__I will attend the budgeting workshop on September 7.
Ok, what is this budgeting workshop? Since we don’t have time to go through the specific steps of budgeting here, we’re going to talk about this in more detail in this online workshop. We want to help you - and this is the first way we want to help. Secondly, if you have decided to give or give more consistently, we want to make the execution part easy for you. In fact, that has always been our intent. When I set up automated giving for the first time years back, I was like, "Hmm this feels so transactional and dry" - well, it is, but it turns out it was going to be the only way for me to not renege on my commitment with the Lord when I said I was going to give x% of my income every time I get paid. I set it up (this amount is “Spoken For”), and I don’t have to think about it until the end of the year, when I change my giving %. Someone at our church recently told me, “Thank you for making generosity so easy!” when I emailed him on how to set up automated giving on our giving site. I was like, "Well, we just want to make giving easy, because generosity is hard!"
And lastly, if you are turning in your generosity decision today, and you know what - we all have our next steps, so why don’t we all hand in our decision - we want to help you stay on it by sending you a newsletter/survey for the next 90 days… from time to time. It’s a way for us to check in with you, ask if you have any cool stories, or challenges, and ask how we can pray and encourage you. And we want to do all this, not because we want to be annoying and we want to chase you down for more money (I used to think this!), but because we are so eager to see all of our finances reflect the heart of God, so that we can live in financial freedom, and that’s what God wants - we can live generously and freely as people who are Spoken For - we’re spoken for by the most infinitely generous God, who has infinite resources.
Did Jesus make a pre-decision about his own generosity? I love how Paul talked about Jesus in this 2 Corinthians 8 passage:
2 Corinthians 8:9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.
Aren’t you glad Jesus had a plan for his generosity? Aren’t you glad it included you? It started in his heart, but it couldn’t stay in his heart. It had to get out through his life and in his case…it had to get out through his death. For God so loved the world that HE GAVE.
I really only have two questions for all of us today:
If you haven’t received the generosity of Jesus, to let him speak for your forgiveness, your identity, and your eternity – will you receive what Jesus gave you through His death and resurrection? And for the rest of us:
As people who are spoken for, will we decide today that at least some percentage of everything we receive in the future is already spoken for and earmarked for generosity?