I think one of the most anticipated moments in the development of a human being is when he or she utters their first words. Parents wait for that moment almost with desperation... trying everything than can to accelerate those first few words.
Of course, this has nothing to do with wanting to see your child grow up. Instead, it’s all about whether that perfect little baby first utters the word “mama” or “dada”.
Never is the inbred competitive human nature exposed more passionately… as mothers and fathers secretly spend hours coaching their innocent babies to speak their name first.
Needless to say, the whole thing is probably very confusing to our little kids… particularly since we spend all that time trying to get them to speak… and then the next 15 years trying to get them to be quiet!
I won’t even dignify this issue by telling you which word my girls said first (dada slide)!
But soon after they learn "dada" and "mama," children learn the next word, “No.” Actually, Psychologists tell us it’s a very important word.
They say it helps the child individuate and set boundaries and assert his/her own sense of identity and autonomy.
Psychologists say it’s a good stage, this "no" stage, although I am convinced that most psychologists who say this have never had a small child of their own… or even met one!
Right around this time kids pick up another word… a word that they use a lot when someone else wants to play with one of their toys…
When someone tries to wear some of their clothes, when someone might want to taste some of their food, they say this word.
Do you know what word that is? MINE SLIDE! "My toys, my stuff, my room, my food, mine!"
Many people are marked by this word throughout their lives. It is written on their wallets and time.
This morning, I want to continue looking at the life of David… at the life of a man who, instead of being about the proverbial “mine, mine, mine,” lived a life of true generosity.
You know, we have discovered together that there were many areas of life where David messed up royally.
But this really was one of those areas that David got right: He had a generous heart. David loved to give, loved to share.
Like many in our society, to varying degrees, David was entrusted with much in the way of material possessions. And yet, all that stuff never seemed to get a hold on his heart, and he developed one of the most generous hearts in Scripture.
So I think he can be a model for us — a very important one — to help us get clarity on this question: What does a generous heart look like?
If it’s not the person who gives everything away… and it’s also not the person who hoards everything for themselves, then, what does an authentic, generous heart look like?
So this morning, I’d like to look at three episodes in David’s life that express three facets of a generous heart.
One way to know if your heart is developing in generosity is you’ll find yourself moved more by the needs of people in need around you, than moved by your own sense of discontent.
1 Samuel 30:9 is a classic example of David doing that. If you don’t have a Bible with you ask the person next to you to share their Bible with you. See how generous they are. Actually, Ed referenced this story in his message last week.
David has a little community of those who were in debt or in distress and discontented. And you may remember they established a refugee village in Ziklag.
And while they were away going after the Philistines, a group of Amalekites came and burned their village down. They also carried off their wives and their children and all their possessions. Can you imagine coming home to that?
They were ready to stone David when that happened. But David prayed and God said, "You ought to go after the Amalekites who have taken away your village."
In spite of the fact that they were already fatigued and demoralized by the loss of their home, we see in verse 9 that David rallies them together… and they set off to find the Amalekites.
So, they push real hard for about 15 miles or so until they come to this ravine... and when they get there, about a third of the men say, "We can’t go another step…we don’t have it in us. We haven’t got the strength. We haven’t got the spirit. We’re done."
So David has them stay with the supplies.
Then in verse 11 and following, they stumble on an Egyptian in the desert. He was exhausted and starving… left there by his Amalekite master to die. He had been in the desert for three days, three nights, no food, no water.
Boy… two strikes against him! Egyptian AND a slave of an Amalekite! I’m sure he figured they would kill him.
But instead, what does David say? He says, "What’s mine is yours." And he gives him water, gives him some Crispy Creams to sustain his strength and so on.
Because the man soon turned out to be a servant of one of the Amalekites who had wiped out David’s village, David asks him if he would lead him to the Amalekite army. Of course, he was happy to do that!
So you read in verse 16 that, "He led David down, and there they were," the Amalekites "scattered over the countryside, eating, drinking and reveling because of the great amount of plunder they had taken from the land of the Philistines and from Judah.”
Verse 19, "Nothing was missing: young or old, boy or girl, plunder or anything else they had taken. David brought everything back. He took all the flocks and herds, and his men drove them ahead of the other livestock, saying, ‘This is David’s plunder.’"
Now that sounds like the end of the story, but it’s not. We’ve still got those two hundred guys who stayed behind at the ravine.
Imagine their response when they see David coming back with their wives and their children and their possessions. "As David and his men approached, he greeted them.”
And yet a number of those who went ahead with David to find the Amalekites were angry and said, “Because they did not go out with us, we will not share with them the plunder we recovered. However, each man may take his wife and children and go.’"
Can you imagine how terrified these men were… of their wives! “Why didn’t you come after us?” Caught!!
Those men who went ahead to fight cried out to David, "It’s not fair. We did the work. These guys stayed behind. They’re slackers. And if they get a share, we’ll get less. So we’re keeping the plunder to ourselves."
They look at the two hundred men who were exhausted, had nothing left to give and stayed behind, and they see undeserving parasites who will eat into their profits.
Generally in the world when we see people in need, the way the world works is to say that giving to them would threaten our own fulfillment and security.
We live in a world that says the secret to fulfillment and security is more stuff and giving to other people means less stuff.
Look at David in verse 23, "David replied, ‘No, my brothers, you must not do that with what God has given us. He has protected us and handed over to us the forces that came against us.’"
I love his courage here. “The share of the men who stayed with the supplies is to be the same as that of him who went down to the battle. All will share alike.”
What I want you to notice in this text is the connection between David’s gratitude to God and David’s desire to be generous.
David says to the men, "You’re thinking about stuff all wrong. You know, we were all once a group of discontented, indebted fugitives. And now we have all this stuff. But we only have it because God was gracious and generous to us. So how can we not be gracious and generous with others?"
Here’s the point: When David has a financial choice to make, he begins by considering how gracious and generous God has been to him, and then he asks, "How can I be like that?"
And I’ll tell you, anytime you face a financial choice, to the degree that you understand just how gracious and generous God has been to you, to that degree will you want to be gracious and generous to others.
That’s what a generous heart does. But our world doesn’t work that way.
There’s a Harvard economist, James Dusenberry. After the Second World War, he wrote a classic discussion about what drives American’s financial behavior more than anything else.
In fact, he’s the guy that originated the expression, "Keeping up with the Jones’." We must have what we see. "If the Jones’ have it, I’ve got to have it."
We end up working at jobs we don’t like to make money we don’t need to buy things we can’t use to impress people we don’t even know. And even then it’s not over. What do you do when the Jones’ refinance?
Well, what you do is… you just don’t play that game. I liked the way that Bill Hybels talked about it one time. He said, "Just declare the Jones’ as the winner. You win the house game, the bank account game, the car game, you’re the winner."
Decide you will stop comparing yourself to what other people have or what advertisers tell you that you need. And…
Begin to practice gratitude for what you have… by making a more regular practice of thanking God for what you do have.
The second story is found in 2 Samuel 24, so turn there now if you would.
Here’s the second facet of a generous heart that we see in this story: Generous hearts look for opportunities to give. They are proactive or intentional.
One of the ways that you can know you’re developing a generous heart is you start looking for opportunities to give, not just opportunities to acquire.
In 2 Samuel 24:18, there’s been a very destructive plague in Israel. God stretches forth his hand to stop the destruction and Jerusalem is saved.
Verse 18 says, "On that day God went to David and said to him, ‘Go up and build an altar to the Lord on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.’ So David went up, as the Lord had commanded..."
When Araunah looked and saw the king and his men coming toward him, he went and bowed down before the king with his face to the ground.
Araunah said, ‘Why has my lord the king come to his servant?’ ‘To buy your threshing floor,’ David answered, “So I can build an altar to the Lord, that the plague on the people may be stopped.”
"Araunah said to David, ‘Let my lord the king take whatever pleases him and offer it up. Here are oxen for the burnt offering, and here are threshing sledges and ox yokes for the wood.’ Araunah also said to him, ‘May the Lord your God accept you.’"
I love this next verse. "But the king replied to Araunah, ‘No, I insist on paying you for it.’" And here it is, "I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing." Isn’t that tremendous?
Now on the surface, this does not seem to make much financial sense. Araunah is offering to give him stuff… God would end up with it all anyway so what difference does it make who pays for it?
David says, "I know God will end up with it either way. But it will not come from my heart to God in the same way if it costs me nothing."
When I give of my possessions, I’m giving a little part of myself, and my heart changes. It gets a little bit freer from the grip of stuff — a little more devoted to God. And I want that kind of heart, so I want to pay. "I will not give to God that which costs me nothing."
David is looking for opportunities to give to God.
Now this is so countercultural because our world is obsessed with opportunities to acquire. I’ll give you a little challenge this week. You just notice how often ads bombard you with extraordinary opportunity to acquire that which can “satisfy your soul.”
I saw this ad recently. It was an ad for Crate and Barrel. You know the furniture store Crate and Barrel? It’s a picture of a beautiful sofa, and the caption underneath it says, "That’s not tribal drums you’re hearing. It’s your heart."
You want a real heart movement get this sofa. There was an ad for I think it was a BMW. Again, a beautiful car in the picture and here’s the caption: "You can’t buy happiness, but now you can lease it."
We live in a world that’s obsessed with opportunities to acquire, but the sign of a generous heart is you begin to look for opportunities to give. You just start looking for them.
Illustration: The people in Tajikistan (Kulyab)
Here’s the deal… When you give, you set in motion a spiritual dynamic that can’t be held back. Good things start to happen. They happen to the one who receives the gift.
They happen in the heart of the one who gives, and they happen to people who watch it. You can’t give without setting this kind of spiritual dynamic in motion. That’s why Jesus says, "Give, and it will be given back to you."
That has to be understood not in a crude way as a new method to acquire stuff, it’s just something happens.
Generous hearts increasingly seek opportunities to give. And they’re all around you.
Maybe there’s a kid you know who could really use a secret scholarship to go to Camp Paradise next summer. You could do that. Maybe you know of a family who is really struggling, and just a gift, an anonymous gift certificate or a meal to a great restaurant they wouldn’t get to otherwise can make a huge difference.
3. Then there’s the third thing: Generous hearts increasingly experience joy in giving.
Generous hearts find themselves filled with gladness more and more and more when they give. That’s one of the ways that you can tell that you’re developing generosity is you like to give more.
Look at 1 Chronicles 29 now. In this section, David is leading the people in giving gifts for the building of the temple. He wants to build a house for the worship of God and the gathering of God’s people to symbolically express the presence of God in their midst.
David initially wanted to build it, but God said, "No, you’ve been involved in too much bloodshed and violence."
So David decides he’s going to kick off the campaign to give to it. He says, "With all my resources I have provided for the temple of my God" — gold and silver and bronze and so on. He says in verse three, "Besides, in my devotion to the temple of my God I now give my personal treasures" — not just from the state coffer — "my personal treasures of gold and silver."
He just goes through this long, extravagant list of giving. And it fills him with joy to be able to give like that. Then that gets contagious.
At the end of verse five he says, "Now, who among you are willing to consecrate yourselves today to the Lord?" In other words, "To give as I’ve set the example?"
Look at verse six. This is one of the greatest pictures of the joy of giving and how it infects a community in all of Scripture. "Then the leaders of families, the officers of the tribes of Israel, the commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds, and the officials in charge of the king’s work gave" what’s the next word? "willingly."
Look at verse eight, "Any who had precious stones gave them to the treasury of the temple of the Lord in the custody of Jehiel the Gershonite.
Look at verse 14. David now is praying to God, leading in a prayer of joy at this giving. "But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this?’" Notice his perspective on giving: "Everything comes from you, God, and we have given you only what comes from your hand. We are aliens and strangers in your sight, as were all our forefathers…
As for all this abundance that we have provided for building you a temple for your Holy Name, it comes from your hand, and all of it belongs to you… And now I have seen with joy how willing your people who are here have given to you.’"
Now I want you to notice two things. David and the people face a project on a scale they have never come close to before. It could have been overwhelming.
Two things: one is David’s perspective. David says, "Everything comes from you. What we give to you just comes from your hand. All this abundance is just stuff that you’ve given to us."
And here’s the phrase — David’s perspective on material possessions. In a single phrase, "It’s not my stuff. God, it’s your stuff."
We have this illusion in our world, "It’s my stuff, mine." And that doesn’t fade away easily. But nothing is really mine. It all came from God. It was made by God; it belongs to God; it’s going back to God. You can just play with it for a little while, and then somebody else gets to play with it for a while.
It’s not my stuff. If you forget everything else today, I want you to remember that, so we’re going to say it out loud, all together right now, "It’s not my stuff." When you go home tonight, open the door of wherever you live and survey the inventory.
You’re going to say with great passion tonight, "It’s not my stuff."
Tomorrow morning the first time you pull out your wallet and you look at the credit cards and the money, instead of saying to yourself, "There’s not enough in there," like e sometimes do, you’re going to say with great passion, "It’s not my stuff!"
All this stuff that we get so attached to, God, it’s yours. You made it. It belongs to you. It’s going back to you." He just has clarity on the stuff deal — "It’s not my stuff."
Generous hearts get real clear perspectives like that. And therefore, the second thing I want you to notice is they are able to give with a certain spirit that is willing — a willing spirit.
Over and over and over in this text, David gives willingly, the leaders give willingly, the people rejoice and they give willingly. And God loves that.
Paul says when he writes to the church at Corinth, "Give what you have freely, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver."
See, the paradox is we’re afraid to give generously because we think that having more stuff is the secret to happiness.
You never meet a really, really, happy, joyful, greedy person. You never do. But the primary hallmark of this scene is joy.
And you think it was joyful for them, what must that scene have been like for God? What must have been going on in God’s heart? I think about how happy it makes me when I see generosity in one of my children as fallen as I am.
For God, who knows nothing but the joy of generous giving, what must it do to his heart when God sees his children get it?
First David, and then the leaders see David giving and they give, and then the people see the leaders give, and they’re filled with generosity, and they give. And they have a huge party.
Here’s part of why this is so moving to me because that was David. David served God in his generation, as the Scriptures say. Now it’s our day. I just think about what would happen if that scene gets repeated here. Let’s think about that.
You know… our heart is to have a ministry center here in the Morristown area. Do we need it? Yes! Living Waters, Alpha, Worship events & practices, Youth Group…
This is our time! I’m more than certain that if the conviction that all of our stuff belongs to God came as powerfully on us as it did on them, then we’ll be ready for that first month’s rent in no time!!
What if his spirit of willing, free, contagious, joy-filled generosity moved as powerfully in the midst of you and me as it did of that people in that day?
Let me be honest about something… several weeks ago as the numbers of our fallen soldiers continued to increase and the threat of terrorism increased, I was hit by about 5 minutes of anxiety… not for myself… but wondering what kind of world my girls would grow up in once I’m gone.
But I’ll tell you… when I gave that to the Lord… He gave me something back. He gave me a renewed passion to build a church that is stronger in the next generation than it is in ours, and stronger in the one after that than it is in the next one.
You know, for a variety of reasons in our day, we have this kind of phenomenon where churches get born and grow fast and flourish, but they just reach one generation. And that one generation kind of holds them real tight. And when that generation dies out, that church dies out.
We have this incredible opportunity of building a church stronger for our kids than it is for us… and stronger for their children than it is for them.
What if we gave with such heart that we created a spirit of generosity that became a legacy to our sons and daughters and their sons and daughters and generations that come after us that we will never know?
So that in a world where for centuries upon centuries human beings have grown up saying, "mine!" there is a community of human beings that get raised up who have learned to say to God and to the people God loves so much, "yours."
May it be so here.
MINISTRY TIME: Extravagant Generosity…
Generously give mercy and kindness
Generously extend forgiveness
Generously give of your time and money
Generously extend a heart that expresses Jesus’ heart… “to give is better than to receive.”
And I want to say one more thing while we’re here on this story for parents to help you develop generous hearts among your children.
Parents, help your children get a real firm grip on the difference between "needs" and "wants," because we live in a world where the smartest people in the world work real hard to make us think that our wants are really needs.
I read this by an author named Stephen Glenn, who is an expert in parenting. This is what he writes, "When my children want jeans, I am willing to provide good solid basics. Today, however, many young people expect more than basics. They want style determined by designer labels."
I’m just waiting for the day when one of my daughters rush up to me and say, “Daddy, I need some Calvin Kleins and Guess jeans. I need them."
Believe me… I’m well aware of the power those two girls have over me… just one look and kiss and I’m ready to sell the house. I have no choice but to prepare for that day.
“Listen, Becca, I got into the parenting deal to cover your body, not to decorate it. And I’ve discovered I can cover it for about $25."
“Dad, I can’t wear $25 jeans. They’re generic to the max.” or however they’ll say that in 8 years. She’ll pout and get angry… and, at least in my thoughts, I’ll resist!!
“Becca… what you want is style. What you need is modesty. Frankly, I’m only committed to modesty because I can handle that for $25. When you ask me to consider style, you’re asking for $30 more."
You see, "I’m not talking about neglect. I’m talking about weaning. And remember that weaning has never been attractive to the weaner or the weanee."
It sounds like kind of an odd thing to say, but that’s what he says. "But it has always been essential to the survival of both, and that is really important now."
And he says, "Television watching is one area where extensive weaning would be beneficial towards the development of capable and generous hearts."
One of the ways you can know if you have a generous heart is you’ll find yourself increasingly motivated by the needs of others over a chronic sense of discontent. And you just see that with David.