I don’t know why some things stick with me from childhood and other don’t. However there is one joke I heard as a young boy that I have never forgotten. (As you read the joke you will know it is an old joke). As a family is walking to their neighborhood church, mom gives her son 2 nickels. One nickel is for God. The other is for an ice cream cone after church. As they walked, the boy dropped one coin and it rolled down a drain. His reaction? “Oh no, I lost God’s nickel.”
The joke illustrates what, according to the practice of many, is a problem with developing a generous character. Regardless of what words we say, our actions speak louder than our words. Maybe for many, it is not done with an intentional forethought. We max ourselves out to get the house, car, etc that we can “afford.” “Afford” usually means, what someone will loan me and if all goes well, I can pay back.
Not long ago I preached a sermon series entitled, “What I wish for you.” One of the lessons had to do with the management of God’s money. What I wished for them was the ability to live without worry, to be in peace and to receive God’s “riches” (Luke 16:11). After the lesson, a young couple told me that the lesson had led them to a decision. They were struggling over which of two houses to buy. They knew the more expensive house would lead them cut their giving to God. Their decision? God First. They decided to pray about what God wanted them to give and live on whatever was left. They got the less expensive house and increased their giving to God.
There is a reason the Bible speaks so much about God receiving our “first fruits.” When we became a sinful people, we became very selfish. Our journey is to return to the perfection of our Father (Matt. 5:48). We are to be holy because he is holy. We are to be truthful because God cannot lie. We are to be generous because our God is, by his very nature, generous. To be generous, we have to be good managers of God’s money.
If I am asked, “how can I become a generous giver,” I echo the steps that Don Linscott (a founding partner of Generis) shares in much of our material. First, “Reassess your lifestyle” (where is the money going). Second, “Re-order your priorities.” Then, “Reallocate your Resources” so they actually reflect your priorities.
Given a situation where life has gotten tough and I must cut back, do I give up cable TV during football season or cut back on giving to God? Our thought process goes like this, “God wants me to be happy and watching football makes me happy.” Insert any other material thing and the thought is the same. There goes God’s nickel down the drain! The truth is that God wants me to be faithful and obedient. God wants me to love him like he loves me, sacrificially.
The issue is “God First.” That is what makes generosity and stewardship an issue!