If it is not easy for you to be generous with your money, says Francis Chan, the answer is not to make yourself give more. The answer is to turn to God’s generosity.
“You see, when you really understand who Jesus is,” said Chan in a sermon he gave on Nov. 7, “when you’ve really tasted,” you will not care about money. When you realize the creator of the universe wants to know you and dwell with you, God’s generosity will cause you to love giving what you can to bless others.
Speaking to Kong Fok Church in Hong Kong, Francis Chan shared that he was asked to preach about giving to the poor and caring for the needy. When he considered this topic, he was concerned that if he focused on asking people to give, the church members would comply because they are good at following rules. And that is not the picture of generosity that Scripture gives us.
We Can Be Generous Because of God’s Generosity
Francis Chan and his family recently moved to Hong Kong where Chan is originally from, and the pastor said he has observed that people in Hong Kong are hard-working. One of their weaknesses, however, can be that they do not prioritize relationships, including their relationship with God. The gift of having a relationship with God is not something Chan himself understood when he first became a Christian. He had no relationship with his dad, who emphasized obedience. So the commands of the Bible made sense to Chan, but he found the book of Psalms to be very confusing because of the writers’ joy and delight in simply knowing God and being in his presence.
Philippians 1:21 communicates a similar idea. In this verse, the Apostle Paul says, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Paul loved Jesus so much but he would rather be with him than experience anything else on earth. Yet even though many Christians study the Bible and obey its commands, they do not experience the joy that comes from knowing God. Chan compared this situation to knowing a lot of information about food on a menu without ever tasting the food. “I believe there are some of you here that all you’ve done is read the menu,” he said. But Psalm 34:8 says, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.”
Chan gave several examples from the New Testament that show what it looks like when people taste and see that God is good. In 2 Corinthians 8:1-4, Paul describes believers in Macedonia who were extremely generous even though they were quite poor:
And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people.
“Picture the poorest people you’ve ever seen, and imagine them begging, ‘Can we give you what we have to other people who are in need?’” said Chan. That’s what the Macedonian believers were like. And Paul says they were like this, not because of anything they had done but because of “the grace that God has given.” Quite possibly, said Chan, there are people in Kong Fok Church who are generous givers. “That’s nothing to be proud of,” he said. “That was a gift that was given you. Why are you so generous? Because God gave you his grace.”
God gave such a gift to Chan years ago during a trip to Africa when he witnessed people living in extreme poverty. In particular, he met and prayed for a little girl in Ethiopia who was dying of starvation (she miraculously survived). Chan came home from that trip and asked his wife if they could sell their house so they could have more money to give away. She agreed. They kept giving generously, said Chan, and they kept getting happier.
Then Chan told God that if God made him rich, he would keep living at the same level and continue giving his extra money away. The next year he made a million dollars because of a book he had written and was told he would likely see millions more. So he signed all the royalties over to a nonprofit, and he and his wife have continued practicing generosity with their finances. “That’s why I feel like we’re the happiest people in the world,” he said.