The blessed life is the happy life. It’s a life that reflects the character of God and is filled with joy and generosity. It’s not about stuff—or giving with the expectation of receiving.
“God is a giver,” says Pastor Robert Morris of Gateway Church in Southlake, Texas, in his sermon series, The Blessed Life. “If you summarize the Bible in the simplest sentence possible, it could be ‘God gives.’ He gave his Son. Jesus gave His life. We are made in His image to be givers.”
Morris kicks off the seven-part series with a lesson on generosity because it’s the one thing that guarantees that we’ll live lives full of blessing. But, Morris says, there’s a difference between giving out of love and out of obligation. Our hearts make all the difference in how giving affects our lives! Resentful givers don’t feel the same sense of blessing that joyful givers do. And if a giver is close-fisted, they don’t have a giving problem, Morris says; they have a receiving problem.
In Matthew 10:8, Jesus told his disciples, “Freely you have received; freely give” (NIV). If we struggle to give, it’s because legalism has convinced us that our increase is due to our own hard work. So, when we earn something, our instinct is to protect it. Even when we work hard (which we should!), it’s God who blesses us with increase. When we understand everything we have comes from Him, we loosen our grip and soften our hearts. That’s a sign that God’s working in us!
Morris calls us to change our heart like this:
Deal with a selfish heart, which arises before giving.
Deal with a grieving heart, which arises after giving.
Develop a generous heart, which gives freely and joyfully.
Develop a grateful heart, which acknowledges God is our Source and Provider.
“We’re born with the nature to take, and we’re born with the nature to protect,” Morris says. “But when we’re born again, we’re born with a different nature—the nature of giving. We just have to learn to do it.”
The test comes with the tithe—giving the first 10 percent of our income to God through the local church. Tithing reveals where we place our trust, who we thank for our money, and what we worship with it.
“Every time you get paid,” Morris says, “are you going to believe that God’s Word works, that 90 percent with God’s blessing goes further than 100 percent without? We live in a cursed world, and what God wants to do is redeem our finances out from under the curse, but it takes our cooperation—to give Him the first 10 percent.”
Whether we pass the test is up to us, but if we put God first in our lives, we should ace it. It helps to remember what Morris calls the Principle of First: When God is first in our lives, everything will fall into place. If He is not first, nothing will come together. If you’re unsure whether God is first or somewhere further down the list, you can look where you spend your money. Matthew 6:21 tells us that “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
It takes faith, Morris says, to give the first 10 percent, not the last 10. Cain didn’t bring God his firstfruits, and he reaped the consequences. In contrast, Abraham was ready to offer his son Isaac, and God honored his faith by performing miracles in his life.
“Most people never see a miracle because they never give God the opportunity to perform a miracle for them,” Morris says. How can you expect God to do a miracle in your finances if you won’t give to Him first and do it His way? God wants to provide supernaturally for you, but you have to honor Him first.”
When we have the heart of Cain in our finances, we also have the spirit of mammon on our lives. Mammon—Aramaic for riches—is the spirit of the world that rests on money not submitted to God. Jesus made it clear that we can’t serve both God and mammon (Luke 16:13), and ignoring mammon’s call to withhold the tithe releases us from its control. God is all we really need, and we experience the peace that comes when we give God the firstfruits of our increase and steward the rest.
So how can we really be sure we’ve developed a generous heart? When our giving becomes extravagant. When Mary washed Jesus’ feet with valuable oil worth a year’s wages, she was demonstrating a grateful and unselfish heart. Extravagance is relative, though, so even those with little or nothing can be extravagant givers. God’s more concerned with our heart change than the amount we give. Besides, we can’t out-give God. He owns everything! There’s no amount of money that will impress the Owner of the universe.
When we’re truly generous, we don’t give to be rewarded. But God always rewards generosity. Often His rewards come in what Morris refers to as the Principle of Multiplication. Just like Jesus multiplied the loaves and fish to feed the multitudes, He can still multiply what we give away today, even to miraculous proportions.
God wants to bless our lives. After all, he’s the most extravagant Giver there is! He gave His only Son, and Jesus gave His own life, so that we could be redeemed. If we model our hearts after God’s heart, we’ll find the peace He desires for all of us.
We’ll have, as Robert Morris says, the blessed life.
Watch The Blessed Life sermon series here.