Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Change the world with generosity

Change the world with generosity

Change the world #5


A man died and while touring heaven, he saw a friend of his drive by in a beautiful Mercedes. He said, "Boy, this is great!" 

"Oh, yes," St. Peter said, "your friend was very generous on earth; we had a lot to work with. Your transportation up here depends on your generosity down there." Then Peter gave him his transportation: a Honda motor scooter. 

He said, "Wait a minute, he gets a Mercedes, and I get a scooter?" 

"That's right; it's all we had to work with." Therefore, the guy drove off in a huff. 

A week later Peter saw the man all smiles and said, "You're feeling better now?" 

The guy said, "Yea, I've been feeling better ever since I saw my preacher go by on a skateboard!"

If that IS the way it works, I'm hoping to do a little better than a skateboard.


What if our eternal destiny WAS determined by our generosity in this life? How would you fair? Some of you might be in a Mercedes. I suspect there is a larger group that might be in a Hyundai. Unfortunately, there are some, I believe, who would be envious of the preacher on the skateboard.


Now, let's be clear right in the beginning. When I talk about changing the world with generosity, I am talking about being generous with money. However, I am also talking about being generous with time. I am also talking about generous love. I am also talking about generous acceptance. I am also talking about being generous with our talent and our service. I am also talking about simple living. I am not merely talking about a generous ACT. I am talking about generous LIVING.

That is the way this whole series has been. I have not been talking about an act of love, an act of service, an act of justice, an act of witnessing, or an act of generosity. I am talking about a whole Christian way of life grounded in love, service, justice, witness, and generosity.

That's what Timothy is saying. Don't make the mistake of thinking that he is condemning the wealthy. He is not. There is nothing wrong with having money. Timothy says that the wealthy should not be haughty. They shouldn't let their money go their heads. They are, however, to "do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share."


In other words, generosity IS about what you put in the plate. But it is so much more.

·        Generosity is also about whether you spend enough money to feed a family of 4 for a month on the newest gadget that you don't really need, or whether you actually feed that family.

·        Generosity is about whether you hoard your time, or give it away freely to people and causes around you.

·        Generosity is about whether your most important investments are held at Edward Jones, or are the invested in the lives of those who some might consider the least and the lost.

·        Generosity is about whether you are the first one to raise your hand when there is work to be done, or if you don't hear the question because you are already in the back doing the work.


You may think you know generosity, but let me tell you a couple of stories.


Leadership magazine tells a story about 4 young college students who were living in a rented house. Every Saturday this man with funny looking eyes knocked on the door and wanted to sell them some vegetables he had picked that day.

Out of sympathy, the boys bought some vegetables a few times. Then they began to visit with the man. They discovered his eyes were smoky looking from cataracts, not from drugs or something. They invited him in. He would play the harmonica, and they would visit. The students started talking about ways to help him. They had a clothing drive because his clothes were tattered and threadbare. They left the box by his door.

The next Saturday he came as usual and was playing the harmonica when he stopped and said "God is good." The boys agreed. He said, "Do you want to know why God is good?"

The boys were eager to hear- thinking that he is going to be thankful for the clothes.

The man said, "God is good because I found a box of clothes on my doorstep this week. And they were nice clothes." The boys were smiling knowingly at each other.

The man continued, "But that's not why God is good." They boys were puzzled. He said God is good because I found a family who needed them more than I do and I gave them away."


Who was truly generous, the boys who gave what didn't belong to them to start with, and wanted the pat on the back. Or the man who had nothing discovered an unexpected gift from God and shared it with a neighbor?

Generous living can change the world.


We all have stories of generosity too. In my own family, Richie has a very generous heart. After his 1st heart surgery at the age of 13, Richie, had an idea all on his own. He held his birthday party, with food and table gifts and everything. Instead of expecting gifts, he asked friends to bring in stuffed animals that would be donated to the cardiac surgeon who did his surgery. Other kids would receive a comforting stuffed animal before their surgery just like he did. When most 13 year olds are clamoring for a new phone, or game, or something for themselves, Richie was most happy to send his birthday presents so that someone he would never know or see might have that comfort for their surgery.

Generous living can change the world.


 I heard a story of a missionary in Africa who received a knock on the door of his hut one afternoon. Answering, the missionary found a native boy holding a large fish in his hands. The boy said, "Reverend, you taught us what tithing is, so here I've brought you my tithe.¨ As the missionary gratefully took the fish, he questioned the boy. If this is your tithe, where are the other nine fish? ¨ At this, the boy beamed and said, "Oh, they're still back in the river. I'm going back to catch them now.¨ That day the missionary received a gift much greater than the tithe of one fish.

Generous living can change the world.


Which boss is more generous-- the boss who is generous with raises but treats their employees like dirt, or someone who is more conservative with raises but more generous with praise for a job well done, thank you's for the efforts put forth, and affirmation that you make an important contribution. They're both generous, but most of us would rather work for the one that is generous in compliments.

Generous living can change the world.

There was an experiment performed at a museum. It was a small museum that charged one-dollar admission. One day they didn't charge, but instead took donations in a box. On average, people put in $1.23.

So they decided to humanize it. They still took donations but instead of a box, they said, "pay the cashier whatever you want." That day they took in an average of $2 per person.

Finally, they decided to take it one-step further and see the effect of grateful generosity. They said, "Someone ahead of you paid for your admission, so you can go in free; or you may pay whatever you want so that someone behind you can get in free. When they felt grateful that someone had given to them, people were even more generous and averaged $3 per person that day.

Generous living can change the world.


I was challenged this week to think about what our world would look like if all people lived generously.

We are taught that human beings are basically selfish and we have to look out for number one because no one else will. That is built into us and it is part of our economic model. Which is: I have what you need and if you give me what I need you can have what you need. I am not criticizing that, just describing it.

What would the world look like, however, if we changed the assumption? What would the world look like if we believed that human beings are, fundamentally loving and generous? What if we assumed that our true nature is to be in community and to look out for our neighbor?  

Is that so hard to believe? We are, after all, made in the image of a loving and generous God. We are created by the God who generously gave all he had in order to become one of us. As a man, he generously gave all he had to the poor, the sick, the downtrodden, and the rejected. As a savior, he generously gave his own life that we might have life. Is it so hard to believe that we, as his creatures, are created to be fundamentally generous?

As I shared this vision in conversation, the universal response I got was, "that won't work. That won't work because we'll give and give and soon we won't have anything left."  


Do you know why they thought that? Because we have been taught by the advertizing industry that there is only so much good to go around and we won't have it unless we buy their product. We are taught by advertisers that we are given only so much youth and we have used it up. We are taught by advertisers that there is only so much stuff and it if we don't act in the next 5 minutes we'll miss out. We ate taught that there is never enough. That we need more and more and more. 

What if we could break free of the advertising industry's message that we are never good enough, we never have enough, we are never young enough, we are never successful enough, our car is never new enough, and our bodies are never fit enough? What if we could break free of that never enough mentality? What if we could break free of that scarcity mentality?

Gandhi said, "There is plenty in the world for everyone's need. There will never be enough for everyone's desire." What if we could break free of that scarcity mentality and simply live gratefully, lovingly and generously. I'll tell you what would happen. It would change the world.

Impossible you say? That's what people thought when Charles Ellot Jr. was hired to build the first bridge across Niagara Falls in 1846. Traditional construction was out of the question because of the depth of the gorge. People said it was impossible. They laughed at Ellot when we had a contest offering $5 to the first kid who could fly a kite across the gorge and crash it on the other side. They mocked him when he used that kite string to pull a cord across the gorge. They thought him a fool when he used the cord to pull a rope across the gorge. They said he was a dreamer when he used the rope to pull a cable across and then a bigger cable and then a still bigger one. When he hung a basket from that cable and used that to carry a second cable across on which he could build the bridge, they stopped laughing and life for that community would never be the same.


Is it hard to imagine changing the world with generosity?

·        Can you give the church an hour of service each week? You can begin to change the world by being just a little more generous in giving your time.

·        Could you teach someone about something you can do? Mentor a young adult? Could you give generous encouragement to a youth? You can change the world by being a little more generous in giving your gifts.

·        Can you befriend a homebound person, comfort someone who is grieving, write a note to a prisoner, or spend an hour with someone who is lonely? You can change the world by being more generous with yourself.

·        Can you donate to the food pantry Saturday when the postal carriers collect food? Or giving to aid and assistance today? Or giving ½ that windfall tax refund to the church or a charity of your choice. You can begin to change the world by being more generous with your possessions and money.

Can you see the vision of a world where there is no one in need? No more hunger?  No more tears? No more pain? No more poverty? No more sickness? No more selfishness? No more greed? No more fighting over land, or food, or rights?  

If you can… if you can God bless you. Go be generous and make it happen.

If you can't, just start with where you are. Send a string across to that unimaginable land by doing one small act of generosity. 

And together- whether you can see the land to which the lord is leading us, or not;  by loving, and serving, and doing justice, and witnessing and living generously we will begin to change the world for Jesus.




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