NAVAIDS โ€“ The Core Value of Generosity

NAVAID, is a blended word which is short for navigation aid.  The primary functions of navaids are threefold:

1) They help you determine where you are

2) They identify and help you avoid danger, and

3) They direct you toward your destination

In this series we are focusing on three navigation aids which are beneficial to us as individuals and as a community of believers: core values, mission and vision.  We compare core values to a map or chart which shows us where we are and provides direction to where we want to be.  Our mission is like a compass which keeps us oriented toward the destination we believe God has for us.  And our vision depicts the destination itself.

We understand who we are and what we value by what we actually do, therefore, we have identified 6 core values which will guide us forward in our mission and vision:

LifePoint Core Values:

1) Relationships: Everything revolves around relationships.

2) Prayer: Prayer is the avenue by which we communicate with God and discover who He is.

3) Worship: We individually and collectively exist to glorify God.

4) Constant Pursuit of God: God wants us to know about Him and pursue an intimate relationship with Him.

5) Generosity: We acknowledge that our time, energy, talents and money are gifts from God and are meant to be shared.

6) Administrative Flexibility: We value administrative structures which allow us to respond efficiently.

At LifePoint everything and every other core value is connected to relationships.

Today we’ll focus on our core value of generosity.

Long before we identified generosity as a core value at LifePoint we promoted and practiced it.  Generosity was and continues to be an integral part of our culture about which we are intentional, both as a community and as individuals.

You cannot read the Bible without being confronted with the infinite generosity of God.  The heart of God is revealed by His overt and lavish love and generosity toward His creation.  Unfortunately, we tend to think of generosity mostly in terms of money and possibly some of our substance.  Notice, however, how God’s generosity toward us is most profoundly expressed.

John 3:16 (TNIV)
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

In this very familiar verse we see both the love and generous disposition of God.  He loved us and, therefore, He gave His Son to be sacrificed in our place.  Isn’t that a staggering expression of divine generosity?  How humbling that God would consider any of us of such worth that He would give so much to reconcile us to Himself.  It is in the deeply personal nature of God’s generosity that I believe we find our best example for Biblical generosity.

Because money is so essential to our existence it has assumed the status as the highest expression of generosity.  Even when someone is generous with their goods or services our tendency is to quantify such gifts in terms of dollars and cents.  Charities often accept donations of goods which can be auctioned and, thus, transformed into cash.

Because money is so important to us it’s significant when we voluntarily part with it.  We live in a very selfish generation (though I’m not so sure we’re actually different from any other generation).  We are constantly reminded of our personal “rights” and encouraged to take all we can from life, government, community and relationships.  Giving up what we’ve accumulated, on the other hand, is often considered a sign of weakness or misplaced priorities.  The world says, “take care of yourself first.”

It would be naive and dishonest to suggest that Christians aren’t influenced by wealth in our culture.  We are an affluent nation by every standard.  Billions of people exist with far less wealth and substance than we take for granted every day.  Yet, affluence brings no guarantee of generosity.

Just because we have more doesn’t mean that we are anxious to share what we have.  Most of us — even Christians — struggle or have struggled with the attraction of wealth, comfort and security.  And that attraction ultimately leads us to redefine how much is enough.  As one wealthy person once said in answer to the question, “How much is enough?… “Just a little bit more.”  I think we’ve all probably looked at our finances at times and felt the same way.  Some, in fact, would change that reply to, “A whole lot more than I have now.”

As a whole, Christians give more of their wealth than non-Christians in our culture.  Yet, even among those who claim to be followers of Jesus, charitable giving remains well below ten percent, not just to the church but overall.

But what if generosity isn’t just about money?  What if financial wealth and our willingness to share it isn’t the standard by which we measure generosity at all?

There was a rich young man in the scriptures who wanted to know what he needed to do to obtain eternal life.  Jesus told him to sell all that he had and give it to the poor.  Why?  Because for this young man wealth and possessions were keeping him from following Jesus.  Jesus wasn’t asking this man to be generous, He was asking him to do the same thing that He asks of any disciple:  Lay down everything that keeps you from following Him.  Fishermen were asked to lay down their nets.  A tax collector was asked to leave his profession with all of its perks and benefits.  I’m not sure I could cite a single example where Jesus used money to teach about generosity.  Even the widow who gave her last penny may have been a better example for sacrifice, devotion and gratitude, than for generosity.

So what is the standard Jesus established for generosity?

Matthew 10:5-8 (TNIV)
5 These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans.
6 Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel.
7 As you go, proclaim this message: The kingdom of heaven has come near.
8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.

Jesus instructed his followers to give in the same manner which they had received.  The word translated “freely” in this passage means “undeservedly.”  In other words we are told that we have been given something which we do not deserve.

One definition of grace is “God giving us what we do not deserve.”  We do not deserve to be forgiven, to be pardoned, to be adopted by God.  Nothing we could do would qualify us for His favor.  Yet, God has given us what we do not deserve: Salvation by the blood of Jesus which was shed for our sins.

The impact of Jesus’ instruction would not be truly realized until He died on the cross.  Then, it all made sense.  Jesus, the generous gift of God, gave the world what it did not deserve.  He embodied the grace of God.

The other part of that phrase, however, speaks to the very nature of generosity for us.  The disciples were told, “Freely give.”  Just as we are undeserving of the love and grace of God, we are to make his love and grace available to the undeserving.

It is this message of the Kingdom which we are guilty of keeping to ourselves.  If we are less generous than we could be with our wealth we are often even more selfish with the message Jesus entrusted us to share.

That which the disciples in the passage we read earlier had freely received was not monetary but relational.  They had been welcomed into the household of God even though they did not deserve a place at His table.  And Jesus instructed them to share the message of God’s generous love and acceptance to undeserving people everywhere.

Later, Jesus gave this mission to the church.

Matthew 28:19-20
19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. 

Absent from the mission Jesus gave the church is any restriction upon whom the message is for.  No one is exempt or disqualified.  The good news of Christ’s Kingdom is for everyone, everywhere.  And we, who do not deserve to be called the sons and daughters of God, are commissioned to share this message of God’s love and grace with those who are as undeserving as we are.

The navaid of generosity helps us steer clear of the hazard of selfishness and greed.  It teaches us to live with open hands as custodians of a message which is too good to be true but too true to be ignored or hoarded.  We cannot escape the call to generously share the love of Jesus with our generation.  We may be giving our money, but are we sharing the message of God’s grace?  If not, how can we become more intentional with our mission?