Am I Generous?
Over the past month we have been in a series called the blessed life. We have three messages left in this series, and I pray that this series has helped you.
Turn in your bibles to John 12:1-6. Today’s message is entitled, Am I Generous? Let’s read the passage together.
John 12:1-6 “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. 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 and given to the poor?” This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it.”
There are two questions in this story that I think we should answer today.
Why would Mary give such an extravagant or generous gift?
Why would Judas be upset about it?
In this passage, there are two hearts displayed. The first is a heart of generosity, and the second is a heart of selfishness. I want you to notice what revealed each heart…Giving.
So when I shared the title of this message today it is in the form of a question: Am I Generous? The question is in the first person because your asking yourself am I generous or am I not. It is a first person question because I know in my own life there are times when I am generous and when I am not.
So I also have to ask myself the question Am I Generous. This is a persistent battle we all will have throughout the varying seasons of our life. With this in mind, let me tell you some things about generosity.
The enemy of Generosity is selfishness.
Remember I have told you in previous messages that we were born selfish in sin, and that we have need of being born again. When we are born again, I believe that we are reborn with a desire to be generous. At the core of who we are we really do want to be generous, but sometimes we just don’t see how we can be.
We know that God is pure in His ways and as a result He is generous. So much so that He gave his most precious gift in Jesus. When we are born again by the Spirit we are intended to become like Him. We just have to renew our minds. This means that as we read God’s word consistently we allow it to change our thinking. When we change the way we think, it will change the way we act. The word will cause us to become like Him.
If God is pure and generous than we know the opposite is also true, satan is corrupt and selfish. We are born into sin and the result is selfishness. We have laughed about it, but we know that one of the very first words a child learns to annunciate extremely well in their toddler years is MINE!
They are in fact so proficient with it that it has the ability to make you jump up off of the couch while you are watching your favorite sports team to make it stop. I know you can hear it. Your children are in the other room and you begin to hear mine, mine, thats mine the volume steadily rising, and up you go from the couch! Ready to deal with the selfishness.
You get to another room and one of your children is pulling something from another child saying mine. Our desire is for our children to grow out of selfishness and learn to be generous. I believe it is the same with God. He as our Father has a desire for us to mature in all things.
In this story in John 12:1-6 Mary gives an extravagant offering and Judas makes this statement: Why wasn’t this sold and given to the poor?
I think we do this more than we would like to admit. Someone else gives something, or someone we consider to be more blessed than us does or gives something and we evaluate it. We ask a Judas question. Why didn’t they do ________ with it?
We see the extravagance or the perceived extravagance of someone else. By the way let me give you a definition of extravagance. The one who has more than you. That’s extravagant. Now that neighborhood there thats an extravagant neighborhood. Until you get a raise and move into that neighborhood. Now that one is not extravagant but that one over there is.
Can I tell you something about the passage we read.
Judas didn’t ask the question because he cared for the poor. He asked the question because he carried the money box and was stealing from it.
I have been in conversations with people in the past that have made statements about how they think another person should have given differently in a specific situation, or they critic the generosity of another person.
What they said sounded very pious and spiritual, but when I enquired about what they did to help it was usually met with silence and excuse.
This has also happened with generosity expressed to traveling ministers. I don’t think they should make that much for one service. They are just greedy. On a few occasions I looked to see if they gave anything to the minister. Typically the ones with that perspective didn’t.
Listen, it is always easier to point to someone else so we don’t have to point to ourselves. Judas was pointing at Mary criticizing her offering while giving no offering of his own.
The enemy of generosity is selfishness.
2. The extravagance of generosity.
Throughout the scripture there are several stories of extravagant gifts.
One of them is King David. He personally gave 21 billion in today’s economy to build the temple of the Lord.
God himself gave an extravagant gift. His one and only son Jesus. Anybody thankful for that? I know I am!
Another gift that Jesus said was extravagant, others might not, but He did. The widows two mites. You see its not the amount its the attitude behind the amount.
In our story today, Mary gave 300 Denari. Denari is the plural of denarius. The word denarius is about a days wage.
Let me ask a question. If you were to give your annual salary in one lump sum would it be extravagant? Of course it would for all of us!
Let me ask you something else. Would it be extravagant if you were take that lump sum and purchase a perfume to turn around and pour it on someones feet?
That is literally what Mary did in this story. She took a years wages purchased a pound of perfume and poured it on Jesus feet. Not only that but she wiped his feet with her hair!! That is an extravagant offering and beautiful!
You see it is not the size of gift that impresses God. It is the heart and attitude in which we give. Think about it: Is there really an amount that we could give that would impress God?
I am talking about an actual amount now? The one who owns everything. The one who by the way paves his streets with Gold. Has twelve foundation to the new Jerusalem and all of the foundations are made of precious stones. Has gates that will be made by a single solid pearl.
An amount will never impress God, but let me shift the question. Can you give something to God that would impress Him? The answer is yes. When we put our trust in him He rejoices! Zephaniah 3:17, Matthew 8:5-13.
Zephaniah 3:17 says, “The Lord your God in your midst, The Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.””
The Roman Centurion in Matthew 8:5-13 made Jesus marvel when he expressed deep faith and trust in the word that Jesus spoke.
You see it is not the amount, its the attitude. It is the posture of our hearts that has the ability to impress Him, and can I tell you today God wants your heart. It’s easy for a person to say of course God has my heart, and I trust Him. Yet Consider Judas, he claimed to be a disciple when He was actually a thief. Jesus did not have His heart.
Judas’s heart was not with Jesus, it was wrapped in his selfish desire for more money selling out Jesus for a mere 30 pieces of silver.
Remember that Jesus said, in Matthew 6:21 “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Can I make a bold but true statement to you. If He doesn’t have your money, he doesn’t actually have your heart because when God gets our heart he also gets our treasure. Our trust is in Him. Our joy is in Him. Our contentment is in Him.
When God has our heart I have learned that there are three levels of giving in scripture. Tithe, offerings, and extravagant offerings. In nearly every gift you see in scripture falls under a tithe, an offering, or an extravagant offering.
Did you know that most christians never get to the first level of giving.
Here are a few statistics from 2021:
Of the 247 million Americans that identify as Christians roughly 1.5 million tithe.
In a normal congregation tither’s make up only 10-25% of the congregation.
Of the whole number that identify as Christians roughly 5-6% tithe.
94-95% of all believers never even get to the first level of giving.
Of the group of 1.5 million about 80% of the people give 2% or less.
This means that roughly 94-95% of believers are under the curse. I am telling you that is not what God desires. We don’t have to be a people that walks in step with statistics. If we will choose to honor God, and operate in the principle of the first we can see the curse broken. Not only that but if you get to the first level. It will just be a matter of time before God opens the windows of heaven over your life and you make it to the second and third levels.
Remember, giving an extravagant gift is not about an amount. It is just something that is costly to you. But can I tell you from personal experience. When you get to look back on the gift you gave it will bring you more joy than you could ever imagine! For the rest of your life your thinking it was such a joy to do that, and it will cause you to give great glory to God!
I know Acts 20:35 to be true when it says, “I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”
3. The reward of generosity.
This same story of Mary’s extravagant gift is also in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark.
In Mark14:9 Jesus 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.””
Notice that there was a reward with her Generosity. She didn’t give to get a rewarded, but Jesus said, wherever the Gospel was preached her story was going to be told as a memorial to her.
At the beginning of the message I asked two questions.
1) Why did Mary give such an extravagant gift?
2) Why was Judas so upset? We know that Judas was upset because He was a thief in charge of the money box.
The question we have not answered was why did Mary give such an extravagant gift? Here is why: A few months before this offering her brother Lazarus had been raised from the dead by Jesus. Knowing this is it even a stretch to wonder why she was willing to give a years wages in a single offering.
There is not one person in this room if Jesus was to raise someone you loved from the dead that you would not do the same!
This morning we must understand that a heart of generosity comes from gratitude. Grateful people are always generous people.
The last thing I want to share with you is that God always rewards generosity. The definition of generosity is when you give expecting nothing in return. Selfishness is when you give and think God owes you something. That is selfishness. Generosity is when you give to not get anything back. But here is the amazing thing is that God always rewards generosity.
Mary didn’t give to be rewarded but she was rewarded. Let me tell you why. Hebrews 11:6 “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”
God is a rewarder. It is who He is. For Him not to do it would be to deny himself, and I am fairly certain that He will not do that. When you give with a joyful heart God rewards the attitude of your heart. What is the reward? It’s not money, it is Him. In Genesis 15:1 God tells Abram, “After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, saying, “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.””
He is our reward. It is His presence with us now affecting every area of our life. When that happens your gratitude increase and your joy will overflow!!
That God would help us to live generously.