For two months now, I’ve been using an app on my phone called Lose It. (It also works on a computer, and I’m sure you could do the same thing with pencil and paper, if you remember how to add.) You probably know that one strategy for losing weight is to write down everything you eat. Something about doing that has a way of restraining bad habits. “Lose it” makes a game of that for me. I have a goal of not having my waist size equal my age. To reach that, I have a daily calorie target to keep me on track. When I get close to reaching my target for the day, it makes me think twice about eating half a bag of Oreos. In two months, I’ve lost 10 pounds. I still eat ice cream, hamburgers, French fries, pizza, cookies, and candy; it’s just that now I’m not usually doing all of that on the same day.
Why am I telling you this? Fully experiencing and understanding the good news of Jesus will provoke us to generosity. However, some of us are so undisciplined in our spending, kind of like me with eating, that we have little ability to be generous. I suspect something similar to writing down everything we eat, works with managing money; writing down everything we spend. Maybe that is a no brainer but I’ve tried to wing it financially with less than stellar results. Online banking and bill pay makes it possible to nearly set your finances on autopilot. Notice I said nearly. What actually happens, I know this from experience, is that your bank account gets skinny and your debts get fat. (Don’t get me wrong, creditors love us. We keep our bills paid. Also, we give a full tithe to our church, but we've often been hindered from doing much more.) The gospel will move you to living more sensibly, not so you buy more stuff for yourself but so you can bless others and meet other needs. But in our culture, with so many ways to spend money, if you don’t have an intentional plan to be disciplined to follow where God is aiming you, you will be greatly hindered from doing so.
After taking a few weeks off from the vision series, I’m wrapping that up Sunday with a message tilted Grace and Generosity. It’s probably dangerous to announce in advance that I’m preaching on this subject, but it’s really not about the money. I believe following God’s word in this area is an important key to our ability to influence the world. So I urge you to be there Sunday, or to listen online if you live elsewhere. This is not just about Bethany Place. This need is for God’s people everywhere.
You can see the scripture and outline for the message below.
Grace and Generosity
2 Corinthians 8:1-14
1. Evaluate your experience of grace
2 Corinthians 8:1–5 (ESV) We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, 2 for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. 3 For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, 4 begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints— 5 and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us.
2. Make a plan for expressing generosity
2 Corinthians 8:6–8 (ESV) 6 Accordingly, we urged Titus that as he had started, so he should complete among you this act of grace. 7 But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you—see that you excel in this act of grace also. 8 I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine.
3. Keep preaching the gospel to yourself
2 Corinthians 8:9 (ESV) 9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich