God has blessed Eastside with the opportunity to reach thousands of people with the message that Jesus loves them and wants to change their lives in profoundly positive ways.
But we don’t want to be satisfied with what God has already done, with what He has already blessed us with. We want to use the blessings He has given us wisely so that we can help even more people understand the life-changing power of a relationship with Jesus.
Deep down most of us want to be generous, we don’t want to love money, but something gets in our way: fear.
We’re plagued with the “what if” questions. What if the economy completely collapses? What if I lose my job? What if I can’t buy groceries? What if there’s an unexpected illness? What if I can’t pay my house payment? What if there’s another major terrorist attack?
What “what if” question causes you financial fear?
Giving some of our hard-earned money away goes against every natural inclination because we’re all natural born takers. We’re all selfish.
Don’t believe it? If you’ve ever had a baby, you know that suddenly life revolves around them. And do they grow out of it? Well, what’s the favorite word of every English speaking 2 year old on the planet?
But here’s where our view of money and God’s view of money is different. Our view is when you give money away, it’s gone, but God looks at money in a completely different way. If we grasp this it will change everything about how we view money.
When God looks at what’s in our bank accounts or investments, He doesn’t see money to be lost but rather seed to be planted. God sees everything He has entrusted into your management as seed.
He’s given you some seed to eat. He’s given you some seed to pay the bills. He’s given you some seed to set aside for a rainy day, and He’s given you some seed to share and be generous with.
Now when you plant a seed do you say goodbye to it forever? No you expect it to produce a return. The seed you keep is all you have, the seed you sow God multiples.
How do you currently decide how much seed to plant (i.e. to give away)?
Have a volunteer read 2 Corinthians 9:6-15.
You’ve got to plant seeds in order to get a return. We understand this to be true in many areas of life.
If you want to have a great friendship, you’ve got to plant seeds in the development of that relationship. If I just invest a shot-glass full of seeds in a relationship, it’s probably just an acquaintance. If I invest a bucket load of seeds, I might find the kind of friend that the Bible talks about in Proverbs that sticks closer than a brother.
If you want to have a great marriage, you have to put something into it. If we all put as much seed planting into marriage after the wedding as we did before, almost all of us would have extraordinary marriages.
Have you seeing this principle of sowing and reaping, of planting and harvesting, hold true in aspects of your life other than your finances?
Have a volunteer re-read 2 Corinthians 9:7.
For many of us our generosity is based more on emotion than on a plan. In fact, that’s how many of us manage all of our finances. It’s why we can go to Wal-Mart to buy bananas and come home with an 80” TV. We didn’t have a plan.
The key question for us to answer is, “What’s my plan for generosity?”
As a church we try to model good stewardship by operating this church as efficiently as we can: our church staff is half of most churches our size; we spend less than is given so we can pay cash for things like Park Rapids, La Habra, and Bellflower; and we’re trying to strategically position ourselves for when God brings more opportunities.
We want everyone who calls Eastside their church home to follow Paul’s advice that, “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart not reluctantly (don’t be a scrooge) or under compulsion (don’t be manipulated by spur of the moment emotion), for God loves a cheerful giver.”
So what’s your plan for generosity? In service on the weekend there was a card that was handed out to help you plan your giving and to help Eastside plan for the future. If you didn’t get one or didn’t have a chance to fill one out, you can pick one up this coming weekend or access it online.
What do you think about the idea of planning your generosity? Is it something you’ve ever done before?
Gene shared three principles that he and Barbara use to plan their giving that are based on what Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians.
1. Priority Generosity
You can give in one of two ways. You can pay all your bills, then give God your leftovers. Or you can do as the Bible instructs and prioritize giving to God, and then trust Him for your needs with the leftovers.
Gene shared about how he set up an automatic contribution to his retirement plan nearly 30 years ago, and little-by-little, deduction-by-deduction it has grown. It works because he never sees the money. He doesn’t spend it because it’s in the retirement account before it hits his bank account. And he’s done the same thing with his giving, automated it so that it’s given to Eastside every time he’s paid, before he even has the chance to prioritize something else and spend it.
Do you discipline yourself to give first? If so, what has been the result? If not, why not?
2. Percentage Generosity
Have a volunteer read 1 Corinthians 16:2.
God doesn’t look at the amount we give, but the percentage. We don’t give equally, but we can all sacrifice equally. If you haven’t already, become a percentage giver.
Sit down later with your spouse and/or family, not while you’re listing to a sermon or at your small group, and decide, “This is what we’re going to do.”
The Bible teaches about mathematical percentage called the tithe. It literally means 10%. It was taught before the Old Testament law, contained in the Law, and then affirmed by Jesus in the New Testament in Matthew 23. And whenever the subject of tithing comes up there are a few FAQs, so here they are:
Q: Do I tithe on the net or the gross?
A: That depends on whether you want a net blessing or gross blessing from God. You reap what you sow. Those who sow sparingly, reap sparingly. Those who sow generously, reap generously.
Q: Should I tithe if my spouse is dead set against it?
A: Returning the tithe to God was never meant to drive a wedge into a marriage relationship. Talk it over with your spouse and attempt to come to an agreement together. Perhaps you could say, “Let’s try tithing or percentage giving for six months, a year, just on a trial basis. If we’re not better off, if God hasn’t blessed us, I’ll quit bugging you about it.” And leave the results up to God. But if you can’t come to an agreement, don’t destroy your marriage over it.
Q: Will I go to hell if I don’t tithe?
A: No… but someone else might. This is why so many Eastsiders are committed to being roof-wreckers, to help people get to Jesus no matter the cost, because in reality the stakes are so high.
What questions do you have about tithing or giving?
3. Progressive Generosity
If we really understand that from God’s perspective everything we have is seed, and that the more we sow, the more we will reap, as we mature as followers of Jesus we will naturally increase our percentage giving to beyond the tithe because we keep reaping more.
We reach a point where tithing won’t stretch us spiritually, it becomes so natural, so automatic, it’s like breathing.
Gene shared about how shortly after he and Barbara were married, the church he was pastoring started a long-term fundraising campaign to raise money to relocate. They had just bought a new house and were already committed to giving a bit more than10%.
They prayed for God to lead them, and after enormous wrestling, prayer, and late night conversations, on a combined salary of around $100,000 they committed to give an extra $40,000 over and above their tithe for the next three years.
Of course, several months later Barbara got pregnant and quit her job when the baby was born, so their income went down considerably. It stretched them, but they kept that commitment, and at the end of that three years they made a similar commitment for another fundraising campaign.
They participated in these kinds of fundraising campaigns for nearly the entire first 10 years of their marriage, and then moved to Chicago in 2003 and found their new church was in such a campaign. And then they came to Eastside, and we had a three-year fundraising initiative to relocate our broadcast campus to Anaheim.
Gene said that those have been some of the most spiritually stretching and developmental times of his life, because God got more of his heart. And it was Jesus who said that where our treasure is there our heart will be also.
Gene also said that when they have been generous, God has blessed generously, and he shared stories about opportunities for extra income that have come their way.
Have you ever experienced the blessings that come as a result of sacrificial giving?
Have a volunteer read James 1:17.
Paul closes 2 Corinthians 9 with the proclamation, “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!“
God gave us the most generous gift ever given in history: His only son. Not only that, every good gift we have has come from Him.
Every time we express generosity from our hearts in the name of Jesus Christ, it’s like sending God a thank you note and saying, “Thank you, God. Thanks for loving the world so much that you gave your one and only son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.”
Eastside exists because over 55 years ago a group of people with a heart for everyone started meeting in a warehouse and they planted seeds. And for 55 years, people have been planting seeds week in and week out: seeds in the hearts of the next generation; in the lives of the broken and the hurting; in marriages and families; in the lives of spiritual explorers; in some of the neediest corners of the world.
The seed you keep is all you have, but the seed you sow God multiplies.
It’s always fun to give a gift. What gift have you most enjoyed giving?
This is the final week of our What If… series, in which we’ve all been challenged to consider how God would move if we were to pray, go, and give above and beyond for one year.
Pray – Set an alarm on your phone for 5:08 PM and commit to praying to ask God to use us to reach 1% of the 5.8 million people that live within 20 miles. In fact, do this one right now.
If you’re not already serving, visit eastside.com/volunteer or come to week 4 of Next Steps to learn more about how you can serve.
If you are already serving, talk with your ministry leader about ways that you can get more involved: maybe you move from serving monthly to serving weekly; maybe you move from serving to leading; or maybe you move from your current campus to help launch the new Bellflower campus.
Give – Use the What If card and make a plan to give generously.