"God loves a cheerful giver." (2 Corinthians 9:7)
As a part of this series I read the book God and Money written by two Harvard Business School grads, John Cortine and Gregory Baumer. They went to HBS with plans to make a lot of money in life, even having dreams of retiring in luxury in their 40's. They also had goals to do some generous acts like supporting their churches, but such generosity was just part of the plan. What they experienced while at HBS changed their idea about generosity to become THE plan for living.
It started with reading the Bible all the way through and wrestling with profound concepts of generosity that run through scripture. It led to them doing some research to understand if and how people have put those principles into practice. This study radically changed their lives and led to the book they wrote.
Of the many real-life stories they tell, one is about Will Pope, an oil and gas company owner in Oklahoma. Will was a Christian but his mission was growing his company. For 22 years his business boomed, but one day Will became disinterested. Just working each year to see how much more money his business made lost excitement. He felt empty and needed more. He felt like he was wasting time from a kingdom perspective and wanted his life to matter.
He took a sabbatical from his business and moved his family to Costa Rica believing the only way to find this was to become a missionary. He was still in language training school when one day during a break, a fellow student asked him, "What are you doing here?" The question froze him. It was like he heard the person speaking but the voice was from God. He wasn't sure why he was there. He wanted his life to matter. Then it was as if God said, "Do you think your business success was just your idea and abilities? Who gave you those? That's what I want to use."
Will discovered his business was his ministry. The money he made was something that could have tremendous kingdom value. He returned with an even greater desire to succeed but this time for God. He invited Christian friends to become his generosity advisors. He was put on a salary. No matter how much the company made he didn't want to receive more than he needed. That was how he wanted to live- "keep what I need and give the rest away."
But here's where life got really interesting. His "advisors" didn't limit their advice to Will's spreadsheets. They challenged him on his generosity in every capacity. Listen to his words:
The first feedback I got from my advisors is that I was too stingy with my family. For example, I remember telling my wife she could only buy store-brand food for our family. Ten cans of frozen orange juice for a dollar! I was mean to my wife, being really strict with the budget. She still suffers from my treating her that way to this day. I learned that generosity means you need to be generous with your family as well. (p66)
Generosity is a big deal! It involves so much more than our money. It is an all-of-life quality. Just ask God who gave his only son. When we live a generous life, life gets richer in every way that makes life meaningful and worth living.