Blessed Life: Am I generous?
Turn to John 12. Open your bibles to John 12, and then put a marker at Mark 14. Open your bibles to John 12. Put a marker at Mark 14.
I want to say something, as your pastor. We’re in a series called “The Blessed Life.” And I want to let you know, as your pastor, I am so proud of you. I am so proud of you because you’re getting it. Now, this is a truth in scripture that will affect every area of your life. People are coming up and telling me. I can see it in our offerings. I can see it when I talk with people: the testimonies. It’s like if I were preaching on prayer, and you were telling me, “I’m getting it! I’m praying more than I’ve ever prayed.” And I know that prayer is going to change your life. So, it’s the same way. The only reason I preach “The Blessed Life” is to help you. Everyone, I think, knows that that knows me.
How many of you were going to sleep in this morning but you still woke up early? Can I see your hands? Okay, same with me. I thought, “Okay, this is the morning!” I woke up very early, and couldn’t go back to sleep. I thought, “Well, I’ll just go get a little breakfast.” And Debbie was able to sleep in, which I was very… happy about that. [Laughing] And then I thought of some things that I needed at Wal-Mart, so I went to Wal-Mart.
This just happened this morning. I’m standing in line. There’s a guy in front of me, and he’s got a couple of little items, there. And then he’s standing there, and there are Tic Tacs; you know, little breath mints. I can see him trying to decide, and then he takes them and puts them on the counter. He takes the little stick thing and separates what he’s buying from the Tic Tacs, and then he turns around and sees me, and starts crying. I didn’t know I had that affect on people, personally. People are in line behind us, and I don’t know what to say. You know, I don’t know why he’s crying. I mean he’s crying!
And so he said to me, “I have to tell you. I pastor a small church in Trophy Club. I listen to you every week. I’ve been listening to “The Blessed Life,” and he said, “I’m buying some things for the church, some supplies that the church needed, and I wanted to get some Tic Tacs, and I was wrestling within myself that I need to pay for this separately. Even though it’s a dollar, this is not for the church. This is for me.” And he said, “I thought to myself, ‘What would Robert Morris do?’ ” [Laughing] So, he decided to pay for them. He said, “I remember your message last week that if we can’t even handle money, why would God give us people?” And anyway, then he turned around and saw me. He said, “I felt like I saw a ghost!” I said to him, “You never know who’s watching.” I told him he should get a little bracelet. “WWRMD?” But let’s keep it WWJD, all right?
Here’s the title of the message today: Am I generous? I put this in the first-person. I started to put this in the second-person, Are you generous, but I thought about if someone asked you this week, “Hey, I was out of town. I missed the message. What was the message?” I didn’t want us to say, “Are you generous?” I want all of us to answer the question, including me, “Am I generous?” because sometimes I am, and sometimes I am not.
John 12:1 “Then, six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was who had been dead, whom He had raised from the dead. There they made Him a supper; and Martha served, but Lazarus was one of those who sat at the table with Him.” By the way, just so you know, the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead is in John 11, but it’s been two months since Lazarus had been raised from the dead in John 12. There are two months that have elapsed. All right?
“Then Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard, anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil. But one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, who would betray Him, said, “Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denarii, [that’s a year’s wage] and given to the poor?” This he said, [watch very carefully] not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the moneybox [or the offering box, which is what this is referring to]; and he used to take what was put in it. But Jesus said, “Let her alone; she has kept this for the day of My burial [which is only a few days away]. For the poor you have with you always, but Me you do not have always.” ”
Now, when I first read this the very first time, I thought, “Why did Mary give such an extravagant gift? “That’s the first question. The second question is “Why did it bother Judas so much?” And it tells us both of those reasons in the story, and we’ll talk about it. All right?
So, I want to show you that there are two hearts displayed in this passage. There’s a heart of selfishness and a heart of generosity. And I want us to look at some principles of that generosity. So, here’s number one: The enemy of generosity is not a person, even though it’s displayed through Judas. The enemy of generosity is selfishness. And every one of us has to deal with selfishness in our lives. We have it from the time we’re children.
I’ve told you this before. I think one of the first words that children learn to enunciate is the word “mine.” And they learn to say it at such a pitch that it will bother a nerve that you have in your back. You’ll be in another room, and you’ll hear this. “Mine! Mine! Mine! Mine! Mine! Mine!” And a parent has to get up and go find where this sound is coming from. You go to another room, and it’s usually an older child pulling something from a younger child, and the younger child is saying, “Mine! Mine! Mine! Mine!”
Okay, let me just let you know. There’s a day that all parents come to when we don’t care anymore about justice. We care about quiet, and so we end up saying something like this. “Give it to her!” [Laughing] And the older child says, “But Dad, it really is mine.” “Give it to her! She has things of mine too. Give it to her!” [Laughing] We learn the word “mine.” Here’s what God’s hope is: that one day, we outgrow that. But many of us don’t, and when it comes to our money, many of us say, “Mine!”
This is why, I believe, that God says, in the word, that the first ten percent – Listen to what God says – “is Mine,” so that we’ll never confuse it. And you only have two choices with the tithe. Never forget this. You can either bring it to the House of God, or you can steal it. Those are the only two choices you have, because it belongs to the Lord.
Now, notice, too, what Judas said in this passage, and think about if you’ve ever had this thought. “Why wasn’t this sold and given to the poor?” It sounds like a noble thought, doesn’t it? But let me give you a background on this. The Bible tells us that he didn’t say that because he cared about the poor. I’ve heard that statement a lot. Normally, we make that statement the same way Judas makes it, when we look at the extravagance of someone else.
I was driving, one time, here in Southlake, and I had a pastor friend of mine in the car. We drove past a really large house, and he said to me, “Wow! Look at that house.” I said, “Actually, that belongs to one of our members, and he’s a really generous guy.” And he said, “Generous? Pfft! He ought to sell that and give it to the poor.” And um, I decided to just let go on him for a few moments. I don’t let go on a lot of people a lot of times, but sometimes they need it. And so I said to him, “You don’t really care about the poor.” And he said, “What?” I said, “You don’t care about the poor, because if you really cared about the poor, you’d sell your house and give to the poor. And that guy probably gives a great percentage of his income than you do. And, by the way, you know where that statement, that you just made, came from? That statement came from Judas, who betrayed our Lord!” And the guy said, “I’m sorry.” We had a really good talk after I rebuked him sternly (because he need it). The point is, that is a cover up for selfishness.
When you see the extravagance of someone else - Let me tell you what extravagance is to most of us here. Extravagance is anyone who has more than we do. Now, that’s extravagant. But then, if our income goes up some, it’s not extravagant anymore. But now that guy is extravagant. Stop pointing the finger at other people’s extravagance to cover up your own selfishness. That is exactly the heart of Judas, and we see it in scripture.
Notice something else. He had the moneybox, and he used to take what was put in it. This was an offering box. Jesus was in traveling ministry. People gave offerings. We know that because the bible tells us that. And he would take money out of the offering box. Now, I just want to ask you something. We have offering boxes here. Is there anyone here on any of our campuses that would take money out of our offering boxes? No. There’s no one here that would take money out of that offering box, because that money belongs to God. Right? So, there’s no one here that would take or keep money that belongs in the offering box that belongs to God.
Isn’t it amazing that the Bible says Judas was a thief, and Malachi says that if you don’t tithe, you’re robbing God. See, I know we don’t want to talk about these things, but the reason why I want to talk about them is because you’re placing yourself under a curse, and I don’t want you to live under a curse. I want you to live under the blessings of God.
By the way, did you ever think about this? Who gave Judas the moneybox? Well, let me ask you another question, and we can figure it out. Who was the leader of this group? Jesus. Do you think Jesus knew he was a thief when He gave him the moneybox? Sure He did. One year before this, Jesus said, “Did I not choose twelve of you? And one of you is the devil.” He knew Judas would betray Him. He knew! Why would He give him the moneybox, then? God actually gives you opportunities to grow in your areas of weakness. He didn’t give him the moneybox to fail. He gave him the moneybox to pass! And, by the way, here’s what the Bible says. You say, “Well, he was tempted with that. He shouldn’t have given that to him. The temptation was too great.” No, no! Never ever – don’t let any man say that when he’s tempted, he’s tempted by God, because God tempts no man.
1 Corinthians 10:13 says, “No temptation has overtaken you except such as common to man; but God is faithful [watch this] who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” Every time Judas was tempted; first of all, it was never beyond what he was able. Second of all, God actually made a way of escape so that he could bear that. But he did it anyway because of selfishness. That’s the enemy of generosity.
Here’s the second thing I want to tell you: the extravagance of generosity. This is 300 denarii. The word “denarii” is the plural of the word “denarius.” Denarius is a day’s wage. They actually change. People might say, “Well, what’s the value of a denarius?” I’ve had Bible College students ask me that. I say, “Well, are you talking about in 10AD or 20AD? Or 30AD?” The reason is because it actually changed with inflation. It would be similar in our society to the minimum wage. The minimum wage was so much in the year 2000, and it’s so much now. A denarius was a day’s wage. 300 denarii, when you take off Sabbaths and days off and holidays and things, that’s about a year’s wage.
So, when he said, “Why wasn’t this sold for 300 denarii?” he’s saying, “Why wasn’t this sold for a year’s wage?” Now, think about this. Would a year’s salary, for no matter who you are; everyone here – Would a year’s salary be an extravagant gift to give to the church? Well, sure. It would for any of us, right? That’s extravagant. But I want to ask you a second question. Would that impress God? Have you ever thought about that? How much money would impress God?
Well, before you answer that, let me remind you about the city where He lives that He built. The streets are paved with gold. And God didn’t do that to show off. He did it because he has so much lying around that he’s got to do something with it. It’s asphalt in heaven.
Did you hear about the guy who snuck gold bars into heaven? They said he couldn’t take them with him, but he got in the casket, and somehow, he snuck them into heaven. And Peter said, “Open that suitcase!” He opened it up and it was gold bars. Peter said, “You brought asphalt?” [Laughing]
The foundation of the walls, which are 1380 miles wide and 1380 miles long, are diamond and rubies and precious stones. Again, He’s not doing it to show off. They’re just all over the place. And His gates, which are 1380 miles high, are made of pearl. And let me just remind you of one other thing. God owns everything. So, how much money could you give that would impress God? Well, no money would impress God. But did you know that there’s something that does impress God that you can give God?
2 Corinthians 8:5 says, “They first gave themselves to the Lord.” And according to the Bible, God jumps up and down and twirls about over you. He jumps up and down – and I’m using a paraphrase – and twirls about. It uses the word “rejoices,” but this word “rejoicing” means to twirl. And He twirls about when you give Him your heart. That’s what excites God.
Now, there are three levels, by the way, of giving in the Bible: tithes, offerings and extravagant offerings. I can show you just about any offering in the Bible, and it’s either a tithe, it’s an offering, or it’s an extravagant offering. There are lots of extravagant offerings in the Bible. David gave 21 billion to the temple. That’s not bad. Even for a king, that’s not bad. Here’s an extravagant offering: the widow gave two mites. And Jesus said she gave more than all. Solomon offered a thousand sacrifices. There are all sorts of extravagant offerings in the Bible.
So, tithes, offerings and extravagant offerings. When I saw this, I called Steve Dulin, one of our elders and a good friend of mine, because I was just so excited, and I said, “Did you know there are three levels of giving in the Bible?” He said, “Yeah.” I said, “Oh, you don’t either!” [Laughing] See, you need to understand something. When a pastor finds something in the Bible, he thinks no one else has ever seen it before. I said, “You don’t know what they are.” He said, “Yes I do.” I said, “All right, name them.” He said, “Tithes, offerings and painful offerings.” [Laughing] I said, “Well, that’s close enough.”
Do you realize that most Christians, according to the statistics, never get to the first level? The latest poll shows that, of all Christians – do you know how many tithe? And let me explain again what tithing is. Tithing is ten percent of your gross income, not your net. It’s ten percent of your gross, and it’s undesignated to the church where you attend: to the church where you’re fed. Okay? Please hear me. It’s not five percent here, and three percent here or two percent here. It’s ten percent, and it’s undesignated. The reason it’s undesignated is because it’s not yours. People love to designate their gifts. You want to know why? Because we like to control with our money. “Pastor, if I give a big gift, can I have an appointment with you?” No. No. You can’t control with your money. It’s amazing how many people have tried that. That’s amazing to me.
This one guy was going to give a big gift, and he wanted to transfer some things and all, and I knew him, and the church was even small. It was very small. And because then I was actually working and helping in this transfer of this asset, he said, “Listen, can I meet you tomorrow morning at ten o’clock to transfer this gift.” I said, “No, because I study in the mornings.” And said to me later, “You can’t tell me how much that impressed me.” I actually told a pastor that this last week, and he said, “I’d have told him yes.” I said, “Well, I had a more important meeting. I was meeting with God.”
So, do you know the latest statistic on how many people actually give ten percent of their income? -- Five to seven percent. 93-95% of Christians never even get to the first level of giving. By the way, if you ever get to the first level, you’ll get to the second and the third level. You want to know why? Because the curse is broken, and the windows of heaven are opened over you. So, you’ll get to the next level!
And here’s number three: the reward of generosity. If you look over in Mark 14. Now, this passage, by the way, is in John 12, Matthew 26 and Mark 14. You can read it in all three of the synoptic gospels. All right. And if you started in verse 3, you would see the story, but we’re going to start at verse 9. Verse 9 says, “Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.” She got rewarded!
Now, let me clarify just one thing. I said, “You know, why did it bother Judas so much?” Well, it bothered Judas because he was a thief, because he was not a tither, and because he took money out of the offering box. That’s why. Extravagance always bothers non-tithers, I’m just saying.
My second question was “Why did Mary give such an extravagant gift?” Well, I think I know the reason, because two months before, her brother had been raised from the dead. Can I ask you something? If one of your family members was raised from the dead, do you think that might change your view of worldly possessions? Well, let me remind you before you answer too quickly. According to the Bible, if you’re a believer in Jesus, you are dead in trespasses and sin, and He has made you alive. We have all been raised from the dead, and that ought to change our view on worldly possessions.
So, she gives this extravagant gift. Now, I’m telling you – the reward of generosity! Jesus said, “Wherever the gospel is preached, what she did today is going to be a memorial to her.” Listen. Do you realize that verse is actually referencing my sermon today? I’m telling you what this woman did. She came not thinking about that. And do you know why she did it? The Bible says Jesus said, “She did this to prepare my body for burial.” This was the only anointing that His body got for the few days He was in the tomb. This is it! They actually put Him in the tomb right before the Sabbath. They didn’t have time, so they actually come then, the day after the Sabbath. They come to anoint his body. They brought a hundred pounds of spices, it says. And they got there early in the morning it says, but Jesus had already checked out. He wasn’t there. This is the only anointing that He got. In other words, she gave Him a gift, and she didn’t even know where it was going.
Many, many times, we give a gift. We give. We tithe. We give gifts here, and we don’t even know it’s going to build an orphanage somewhere else in the world. We don’t even know where it’s going. She just came, and she gave. She gave this extravagant gift. It’s amazing to me!
Jesus said, “Wherever the gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will be a memorial to her.” So, here’s what I want you to know. She came not expecting to receive, and God rewarded her. God is a rewarder. Hebrews says God is a rewarder. It’s the only time that word’s in the Bible. It’s actually a culmination of two Greek words. Here’s what it means. The first one is a very common Greek word. It means, “to pay what is due.” The second Greek word is very rare. It’s only used a few times, and it means, “to give over and above what is due; extravagantly.” So, God is a rewarder. He’ll not only give you what’s normal for tithing, He’ll give you over and above. And here this woman came and did this. Here’s what I’m trying to tell you. If you’ll give with the right heart, God is going to reward you, and I’m sorry but I can’t stop it. I’m sorry. I can’t do anything about it, because it’s His nature. He’s a rewarder.
I told you a moment ago about Steve Dulin, one of our elders. Let me tell you something that happened to him one time. He’s a guy that, I think for about twenty years, has given fifty percent of his income to the Lord, and God’s blessed him tremendously. He teaches business seminars on how to operate your business God’s way. One day, he paid all his bills, and he looked at how much he had left in his checking account, and he thought, “God, you are so good!” And then he thought, “I wonder how much I have in my savings account.” So he went over and he looked at his savings account, and he added the two numbers together. Then, he thought, “I wonder how much I have in my investment account.” He went and looked at that, and he added the three numbers together. And then, he thought, “I wonder how much I have in retirement. God you’re just so good!” And he went and got that number. He added all four numbers together, and he got a very, very large number because God has blessed him tremendously financially. And he went to bed that night. He had this number, dollars and cents, in his mind. He woke up the next morning and is having his quiet time, and the Lord said to him, “How much money do you have?”
He said, “My first thought was that I knew I shouldn’t have added those numbers up!” [Laughing] So, he said, “Well, Lord, what do you mean? What do you mean how much money do I have? Do you mean in my wallet; how much I have in my wallet?” And the Lord said, “How much money do you have?” He said, “Well, Lord, what do you mean? Do you mean in my checking account? I mean, what do you mean? What do you mean how much money do I have?” The Lord said, “You know what I mean. How much money do you have?” He said, “Well, God I have this much.” And the Lord said to him, “Will you give it to me?”
He said his first thought was what many of us would think; fear, because the enemy attacks. His second thought was joy. He thought, “Lord, you probably don’t ask very many to do this. What a privilege! I’d love to give this to you.” So, he and his wife, Melody, gave it all away.
At the end of the next calendar business year, he’s having his quiet time, and the Lord said to him, “Hey, go add up those accounts again.” Steve said, “It’s okay. I trust you! It’s good.” [Laughing] The Lord said, “No, no. Trust me. I’ve got something else in mind. Go add them up.” He went and looked, and listen to this. All four accounts had exactly twice as much as they had the year before. And the Lord said to him, “What took you fifteen years to do, I did in one.” It never happened before in his business. It never happened since. And in one year, God doubled everything that he gave.
I have such a burden that every member of Gateway Church is a tither and a generous giver. I want us to live in generosity.
I want you to bow your head and close your eyes. What’s the Holy Spirit saying to you? Don’t let that question be something you hear every week and you just forget. Ask him right now! I want every person at every campus to just ask the Holy Spirit, “What are you saying to me through this message?” And God might answer you right now, or He might answer you sometime next week. Ask the Lord, “What are you saying to me through this message?”
We want to pray for you, no matter what you’re going through. If you’re going through any type of a difficulty, if you need prayer for any area of your life, and no matter which campus you’re attending, or if you’re in an overflow room or if you’re on the second level at Southlake, we have prayer partners there as well. So, if you want to pray with someone, in just a moment, I’m going to pray. After I pray, we’ll stand, and as soon as we stand up, you just stand up, step out and come forward. All right? Just come to the front, even if you’re in the second level. At every exit at Southlake, we have people to pray for you. NRH, Frisco, no matter which campus you’re attending, as soon as we stand up, just stand up, step out and come. Let us pray for you, all right? You don’t have to be a member of Gateway Church to come for prayer.
Holy Spirit, I pray you’ll draw every person, at every campus, that has any prayer need. In Jesus’name, Amen.