The Smartest Way to Live

( [email protected] ) Dec 02, 2003 12:19 PM EST

The following article is drawn from Chip's two-part sermon The Genius of Generosity-How to Capture the "Christmas Spirit" 365 Days a Year.

With Christmas just around the corner, I'm already looking forward to the arrival of that remarkable season that transforms the way people think and act for one month of the year.

You've probably noticed it. During the holidays, people smile more. They're in an extra good mood. They make an extra effort to show they care about others. They drop coins in Salvation Army kettles. And they maintain that warm glow we've come to call the Christmas spirit.

It's amazing. It's contagious, and it arrives every year along with the sparkling lights, tinseled trees, and holiday feasts.

Why? Because for one month, people think, plan, make lists, and focus on one thing - giving to others. For one month, people live as if they really believed Jesus' words, "It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35).

The Smartest Way to Improve Your Quality of Life

That's the genius of generosity. When you give to others, you yourself are blessed (Proverbs 11:25)! It's the greatest win-win proposition in the world!

And it's also the smartest way to improve your quality of life. When you act generously, you feel good, you treat others well, and you attract other people. Friendships abound, and your quality of life soars.

But when people are greedy, they are miserable, unhappy, and lonely, for no one wants to be near them.

Charles Dickens captured this principle with his character, Scrooge, in A Christmas Carol. When we meet Scrooge, he is a miserly, selfish businessman. He's a miserable person-caring for no one, and having no one to care for him. But by the end of the story generosity transforms him.

He experiences the joy of giving, and he becomes giddy with delight. He rediscovers his family, he finds friendships, and he declares, "I don't deserve to be so happy!"

The Smartest Way to Prepare for Your Eternal Future

But the benefits of generosity go far beyond the life you are now living. Generosity is also the best way to prepare for your eternal future. In Matthew 6:19-20 Jesus admonishes us, Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.

God is not saying here that it is wrong to save money or plan for the future. On the contrary, God admonishes us in Proverbs 6:6-8 to consider the wise ways of the ant, who stores his provisions in the summer.

But God does not want you to focus on storing treasures for yourself on earth. His desire is that you live with your eternal future in mind. Rather than hoarding your possessions for your brief life on earth, He wants you to establish eternal treasures in heaven through godly stewardship of the blessings He has given you.

The Smartest Way to View Your Possessions

So the smartest way to view your possessions is to understand that they're not really yours. God owns everything-your time, your talents, and your treasures. You're just His steward, the one who manages what belongs to God in a way that pleases Him.

And that's a huge responsibility. But it's not an impossible task, especially if you regularly ask yourself the following four questions:

1.Am I regularly giving the first portion of my income to God? Giving to God right off the top is a good way to remind yourself that God owns everything you have and that as His steward you are committed to managing His resources well.

2. Am I using the money entrusted to me in accordance with God's wishes? When you make decisions about how to use your time, talents, and treasures, are you fulfilling God's goals and agenda or your own? Are you advancing the kingdom by fulfilling the Great Commission? Are you building up the body of Christ? Are you helping the poor and hungry and the widows and orphans? Or are you pursuing your own agenda?

3.Am I carefully keeping account of where all God's funds are going? God owns the 90 percent, 92 percent, or 85 percent that you didn't give back to Him just as much as what you did give. How are you managing it? If you're not already doing so, I challenge you to track every dollar you spend for one month. It will show you where your priorities lie because you spend and give for what matters most to you.

4.Am I becoming "best friends" with God through the privilege and opportunity of managing His resources? To be a wise steward, you must know God and His wishes well. You must spend time with God to ask for His direction. But you should also spend time rejoicing with Him over how you have used what He entrusted to you to bless others.

God has entrusted you with time, talents, and treasures to manage for Him. He wants you to be a wise steward, and He wants to reward you for your faithfulness by saying, "Well done, good and faithful servant! . . . come and share your master's happiness!" (Matthew 25:21).

So today I challenge you to recognize that all you have belongs to God. Strive to develop a deep, personal relationship with Him so that you can discover by His grace where and how He would have you invest your time, talents, and treasures. And always remember that generosity really isn't about money. It's an attitude, and it's a way of life.

And I'm convinced that it's the smartest way to live.