Part 2: It Takes Technique
Proverbs 3:9; 1 Cor. 16:1-3; 2 Cor. 9:6-9
Rev. Morris Brown
If you were here last Sunday you know we launched our new generosity initiative - Boundless! Through this initiative we are raising 6 million dollars which we’re going to use do four important things.
1. We’re going to resource our budget for the next two years.
2. We’re going to quadruple our giving to missions.
3. We’re going to retire our $250,000 debt on our worship center.
4. We’re going to complete some much-needed enhancements to our facility!
To help us reach the goal of our generosity initiative, and grow in our ability to live more generous lives, we began a 4-week worship series last Sunday entitled, “Boundless.” We began this series last week with a message entitled “It’s Starts With ‘TUDE!” In our time together, we learned that living a generous life begins with our ATTITUDE. We said that each day we must decide whether we are going to approach life with an attitude of scarcity – which says “what I have is not enough!” Or, we are going to approach life with an attitude of abundance – which says “in every situation God will supply what I need, and more!” To help us make a healthy decision, our faith reminded us that an attitude of scarcity can make us scared, selfish and sick. While an attitude of abundance invites us to realize what we’ve got, share it generously, and trust in the power of God’s provision!
Well, this morning we turn to the second message in this series. And today I want to talk about the fact that living a generous life also takes technique. In other words, we can have an attitude of abundance, but if we don’t have a technique, a method for living and giving generously, our attitude won’t do us much good.
So, where do we find this technique? I think we can find it in a rather unlikely source. I think we find a technique for living generously in the life of Warren Buffet! Some of you may know Warren Buffet is a financier from Omaha, Nebraska who is the second richest man in America. He is worth a staggering 39 billion dollars. What you may not know is that a few years ago, Warren Buffet decided to commit what Fortune magazine called, “the largest act of charitable giving in American history.” He announced he was going to give 85% of his 39-billion-dollar fortune to charity before he dies. And when he dies, his estate will give away the rest.
Now, I realize that very few of us will ever be able to give away 39 billion dollars! But, I am not interested in “the amount” of money that Warren Buffett is giving away. What I am interested in is “the way” he’s giving it. That’s because the techniques Buffett is using to give his money away are very biblical and practical. And I believe implementing the techniques Warren Buffet is using to give his money away can help us live a very generous life whatever our level of income might be.
So, what are the biblical techniques Buffet is using to live a generous life? And how can these biblical techniques help us live a generous life as well? Let’s see!
The first technique that can help us live a generous life is to make giving a PRIORITY in our life.When Warren Buffet announced that he would give his fortune to charity he said, “For many years making money was the top priority of my life. But now I realize the top priority of my life should have been giving it away.”
Warren Buffet has discovered that to live a generous life we first have to make giving a top priority! And our faith says that, too! Proverbs 3:9 says, “Honor God with everything. Give God the first and best.” And 1 Corinthians 16, Paul says, “On the first day of the week put something aside for a contribution to help others.” Both scriptures make the same point - giving to things that support God’s work in the world, especially the mission and ministry of our church, needs to be a top priority in our lives. It should be one of the first things we do with the money we earn. The truth however, is that’s often the last thing we do with our financial resources.
We’re often like the woman I heard about who called the Butterball Turkey hotline. When the customer service rep came on the line she said, “I have a Butterball turkey that’s been in our freezer for 23 years. Do you think it’s still good?”
“Has the turkey been frozen the whole time?” the customer service rep asked. “Oh yes,” the woman said.
“Well,” the customer service rep replied, “As long as the turkey’s been frozen the entire 23 years, it probably won’t make anybody sick. But, I do have to tell you a turkey that’s that old is probably not going to taste very good!”
“Oh, that’s okay,” the woman said, “I’m just going to give it to my church!”
If we, like Warren Buffet, want to live a generous life we need to make giving one of the top priorities of our life! I have to tell you, I’ve learned this in my own life. When I GIVE first I find I always have the money I need left to LIVE. But, when I LIVE first I find I usually don’t have any money left to GIVE!
The second technique that can help us live a generous life is determine a PERCENTAGE of our income we’ll give away. Warren Buffet announced that he would give 85% of his fortune away before he dies. Now, to live a generous life we certainly don’t have to give away 85% of our income away. We should, however, prayerfully decide on a percentage.
So, what percentage should we give to our church? Well, the Old Testament taught God’s people to give a “tithe” or “10% of the fruit of their labor” to support God’s work in the world. And over the years many Christians have adopted this standard as their own. To be honest, however, the New Testament talks a lot about the importance and benefits of giving, but it never mentions a particular percentage a person should give. Instead, as we heard in 1 Corinthians 16 this morning, Paul simply encouraged the early Christians to “set aside a portion in keeping with their income.”
Later Paul says, “Each person should give what they have prayerfully decided in their heart.” You see, based on our stage and station in life, our giving might sometimes be less than 10%. But sometimes it will be much more. For example, a friend of mine who’s single and has no children gives 50% of her income to her church.
The point is simply this. If we want to living a generous life, we all need to prayerfully determine a percentage of our income we will give to support the mission of our church and other ministries doing the work of God in the world. And we should strive to grow in that percentage each year based on our stage and station in life.
The third technique that can help us live a generous life is the development of a spending PLAN.Warren Buffett committed to give his fortune away. But, he is not giving all his money away at once. Instead he’s giving it away gradually. According to one report, “Buffett initially gave away 1.54 billion dollars. He then planned donations in varied amounts that he will give away on a regular basis.” You see, Mr. Buffett had developed a plan, a budget for his giving.
Paul tells the early Christians to do the same thing. He says, “Put aside some money on the first day of each week, so that you will be ready to give when I arrive.” If we want to live a generous life, we need to do the same thing. We need to develop a financial budget. We need to develop a spending plan for living and giving. Why? When we plan how we will spend our money we tend to waste less and be able to give more.
For example, I recently read about an interesting experiment. A group of financial planners asked their clients who usually gave to charity sporadically to make charitable giving a part of their annual financial plan. They asked each of their clients to sit down with their spouses and develop a budget that included how much they’d need to live on and how much they could give away. Then, at the end of that year they compared their client’s planned charitable giving with the previous year’s spontaneous charitable giving. Do you know what they discovered? They discovered that the clients who made charitable giving a part of their annual financial plan were able to double the amount of money they gave.
Planning makes a difference! So, if we want to live a generous life we need to make giving a priority in our lives. We need to decide what percentage of our income we’ll give to the mission of our church, and we need to develop a spending plan that will enable us to live and give generously each and every year.
A fourth technique that can help us live a generous life is to PARE down and live more simply.One reason Buffet has been able to amass an incredible amount of wealth and become a very charitable person is because he is pretty frugal. Although his earned income has risen over the years, he has kept his expenses minimal.
“Despite his immense wealth,” the article pointed out that, “Warren Buffett is famous for his unpretentious and frugal lifestyle. For example, Mr. Buffet can afford to live anywhere he wants to live, in any kind of house he wants to live in, and yet he continues to live in the house in Omaha he bought in 1958 for $31,500.”
Throughout his life Buffett has lived frugally. Now, this doesn’t mean he’s a miser. On the contrary, he has had fun. But, he has always done it by always living within his means. If we want to live generously we need to do that too.
The problem, however, is many of us have the tendency to “live above our means.” Sometimes we’re like the yuppie that wrecked his car. When the police arrived, the yuppie was standing next to his car crying, “My Mercedes! My Mercedes! I’ve lost my Mercedes!”
The policeman said, “Never mind your Mercedes, you’ve lost your left arm!”
The yuppie looked down and saw that his left arm was gone. So, he started crying, “My Rolex! My Rolex! I’ve lost my Rolex!”
Here’s the point. There is nothing wrong with owning a Mercedes or a Rolex or anything else that makes our lives more enjoyable - unless our purchase or financing of those things inhibits our ability to provide for our families and give generously. Proverbs 21:20 says, “A foolish person devours all that he or she has.” In other words, “people who learn to live frugally will have money to support their family and give to those in need. But people who don’t, miss the opportunity to give.” So, if we want to live a generous life we may need to find ways to live more frugally.
A fifth technique that can help us live a generous life is to keep a PARTY attitude! After Warren Buffet began giving his fortune away he said, “I used to think giving my money away would make me uneasy, but I discovered the opposite is true. I discovered giving my money to benefit others brings me intense joy!”
I love the story of the mother who had been trying to teach her daughter about the joy of giving. One Sunday, before church, she gave the little girl a quarter and a dollar.
“Sweetheart,” the mother said, “you may put either the quarter or the dollar in the collection plate and keep the other for yourself. It’s your decision.”
When they were coming out of church, the mother asked her daughter which amount she had given. “Well,” the little girl said, “I was going to give the dollar. But just before the collection the man in the pulpit said we should all be ‘cheerful givers.’ I knew I’d be a lot more cheerful if I gave the quarter and kept the dollar, so I did.”
Paul says, “Each of you should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” Are we cheerful givers? When we financially support the mission and ministry of Christ Church does it bring us joy? It should. Why? When we give to our church we’re helping others. We are enabling our church to provide excellent children’s ministries where boys and girls learn that God loves them. We are enabling our church to provide wonderful youth programs the enable our young people to feel supported as they navigate their teenage years, discover their gifts and find out how God wants to use them.
We are enabling our church to provide excellent worship experiences that give people hope each week. We are providing funding that enables us to support a great staff that supports folks of all ages in our congregation. We are enabling our church to fund mission work that blesses people in our community and around the world.
You see, when we provide financial support for the mission and ministry of our church we are not giving to a budget! We are providing financial resources that are being used to transform lives for Christ! And that should give us incredible joy! So, if we want to live a generous life we need to give with a party attitude!
A final technique that can help us live generously is to consider giving PERPETUALLY. In other words, we need to remember that we can give well beyond our lifetime. Think about it. Warren Buffet decided to give 85% of his fortune away during his lifetime. But, the rest of his fortune will be given away after he dies.
I had a woman in a church I once served named Mary. For many years Mary was a secretary in a small company. Now, Mary never made a lot of money, but she believed in the mission of her church. So, during her lifetime she faithfully gave what she could to support the church. Eight years ago, however, Mary died. About a month following her death, I received an envelope from Mary’s estate. When I opened it, I nearly dropped my teeth! Why? Inside the envelope was a check for $150,000. Attached to the check was a note from Mary that said, “Although I’m gone, I hope this money can help my church continue its mission.”
Mary understood the power of perpetual giving. She understood that even through her death she could help her church accomplish its mission. And because of that, she will be affecting lives for the cause of Christ for years to come.
Have you considered perpetual giving? Have you considered naming Christ Church in your will? If you haven’t, I hope you will. It will enable you to continue to help our church “embrace people, our community and the world with the boundless love of God” for years and years to come. So, if we want to live generously we might want to consider giving perpetually. We need to remember our church in our estate.
So, here’s the deal. Boundless is asking all of us to make a 2-year pledge that will help us raise the 6 million dollars we need to continue being a church that’s “embracing people, our community and God’s world with the boundless love of God!” And to help us do that our faith says we can apply the techniques Warren Buffet is using.
We can make giving a PRIORITY. We can decide on a PERCENTAGE of our income we’ll give. We can develop a spending PLAN giving. We can PARE down our lifestyles. We can give with a PARTY attitude. And we can give PERPETUALLY. Will we consider doing that? I hope we will!
© Morris A. Brown 2017