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Jericho Ridge Community Church (Archived)

A Generous Plan

 “Generous Planning”

 Message @ Jericho Ridge Community Church – Sunday, Jan 18, 2015

Text: Luke 10:30-37 & 2 Cor 9:7 // Series: The Genius of Generosity

 

Have you ever noticed something about journeys in the Bible?  They never seem to happen in a straight line!  I know it was the ancient near east and all the limitations of that, but so many of the journeys in the Bible seem poorly planned by my standards of efficiency.  Look, for example, at this map of the possible route that the Israelites took from Egypt to Canaan.  I know, I know there was wilderness wandering and disobedience but if they would have just followed the most direct path along the Mediterranean through the wilderness of Sure and boom – you’re there!   

 

That line?  That is how my parents travel.  They want to stop and smell the roses.  They want to take the scenic route… They want to enjoy the journey.  Do we have some people in that category?  Me?  I’m wired up differently.  I want to enjoy the destination.  They say ‘Half the fun is getting there.’  To me, that’s not half the fun… that’s just poor planning.  The fun is in BEING there, not getting there.  They like spontaneity and going with the flow, when we are travelling, I like a bit more of an ordered sense of what we are going to do and when.  Like so many things in life, there’s a balance between planning and spontaneity.    

 

Even Jesus seems to meander a bit on His travels.  We were reading in our Life Journaling group this past Tuesday night at Starbucks in John 6 where Jesus’ family says to him “hey, come up the festival” and he says “nah.  But they he goes up via another route!”  Jesus is wandering. In our text today in Luke 10, Jesus is again on a circuitous route.  He is heading to Jerusalem.  And he is teaching as He walks along the road. He’s on an ancient and dusty road that cuts up through the mountains from the city of Jericho up, up, up, toward the city of Jerusalem.   “Somewhere along this winding road Jesus tells a story about a traveler on the same route at they were walking… In the story, the poor man was mugged and robbed by bandits. Other travelers, including a priest and a Levite, saw the wounded man bleeding by the roadside but left him where he was.  Finally, a despised Samaritan happened by, gave him first aid, and helped him to a nearby inn. There he got him settled and paid the tab for the man to stay till he would be strong enough to resume his journey.” (Reese)

 

Now this is perhaps a familiar story to many, often known as the Good Samaritan.  And its message is also likely familiar: be a good neighbour, even to those who are not of your tribe.  Centuries of good biblical PR have taught us this.  But something else began to jump out to me as I looked at this story through the eyes of Generosity and Generous living. 

 

We’ve begun a series here at Jericho this January called “The Genius of Generosity”.  We’re exploring what it means to live generous lives in every part of our lives.  How can we be generous with our time, with our skills and abilities, with everything that God has entrusted to us in 2015?  Two weeks ago, we jumped in and learned that generosity starts not where most people think of, with their wallets.  Generosity starts with our hearts.  We give ourselves before we give a dime.  Then last weekend, Pastor Keith led us through an exploration of one of the biggest barriers to generous living: That being Debt.  We heard Dustin share his story about how our heart can want to be generous, but unless we deal with some root issues, we can be consumed.  So good – I had to listen to what Dustin said again – there were some real nuggets of truth in there, thanks, Dustin.

 

But there are other barriers to being generous that we’ll have to wrestle with as along the generosity journey… Another one is FEAR.  Fear cripples our ability to be generous because we’re scared that if we give something away (like volunteering our time), there won’t be enough left over for us (for family time).  We’ll talk more about this in upcoming weeks. 

 

A third generosity-buster is one that I come up against in my own life… No Plan to be generous.  You might know your skills and want to use them in some way to make a difference in your neighborhood, but then if you don’t put it in your calendar or call the organization back, you’ll get to the end of 2015 and think “Oh yah, I was going to do that”… but time slips away. 

 

Here’s where the story of the Good Samaritan actually provides incredible assistance to us in understanding planning to be generous.  Let’s focus the lens of the story on the actions of the Samaritan and then let’s rewind the tape (that’s a VHS metaphor for those who missed the 80’s or early 90’s) and see how he got there.  I’m reading from Luke 10:33-35 (NLT) 

 

The Samaritan takes six, very focused, very specific & deliberate actions. 

1)   He comes up to the man

2)   binds his wounds,

3)   anoints him with oil to comfort him,

4)   loads him on his mule,

5)   takes him to an inn and cares for him,

6)   Pays for his whole stay – based on the monetary value mentioned and the going rate, this was no small amount. Probably around 3.5 weeks of care for this guy that he’s never met!

To me, the actions of the Samaritan have become a picture of generous living. He feels compassion for someone in need, he assesses his resources and he takes active steps to meet the need right in front on him.  That’s the spontaneous part.  But there’s also the planning that happened before this.  Imagine with me for a minute what you have to do to take a trip along a road like that in the ancient world which is known as a winding and dangerous route.  As a seasoned traveler this guy has considered what he might need for this kind of a journey and he’s made a solid plan.  He might need extra money so he packs it.  He might need bandages and oil if he gets hurt. So he packs them.  He needs reliable sturdy transportation so he takes his mule.  It’s a solid travel plan.  But when he sees the wounded man, now he has a choice.  You see, his plan was structured with his needs in mind.  So if he chooses to expend his savings and his supplies right here right now, if he needs something later on in his trip - if he himself meets bandits along the road - he’s hooped because he’s just expended all of that on a total stranger from the other side of the cultural and ideological divide!  If he gets cut, too bad… he used up his bandages.  If he runs into unexpected expenses, too bad – he’s spent his money and he has made a promise to spend more if it is necessary.  He made a solid plan for his trip, but when the opportunity to be generous and meet a need presented itself, he acted without fear and without self-preservation as his motivation. 

 

Here’s the tension that many of us wrestle with in our lives.  We tend to see generosity as spontaneous… Reflexive.  We come across a need and we act to meet it.  That can be true. But it’s not the whole story of generous living.  Because if we simply wait for any opportunity to be generous to present itself, most of us never get around to actually being generous.  In other words, I’m suspicious that most of us don’t have a generosity plan.  And because we don’t have a plan to be generous, we often don’t get there.  Not because we don’t want to be, but simply because our intentions never translate into actions.  Our hearts want to be generous, but the real question is do you have a plan that allows you to be generous?  The Samaritan did. And because he had a plan, he was able to be generous.

 

It can be helpful to ask “how much of my generosity is spontaneous versus how much of it is pre-meditated?”  Do you have a generosity plan?  If your financial planner met with you tomorrow, would they be able to find you guilty of pre-meditated generosity?  I love the way this is put so clearly in Isaiah 32:8 where it says “But generous people plan to do what is generous, and they stand firm in their generosity.”                  

 

This is one of the benefits to you and I of planned generosity: it allows you to make commitments that are firm and wise and then simply to walk them out with a sense of confidence and resolve because that’s what you’ve planned to do.  Whether it’s how you’re going to spend your time this week or whether it’s how much of God’s money you’re going to give away in 2015, when you plan to be generous it gives you incredible freedom to stand firm.  “That’s for that invitation but I’m already committed on that night of the week”.  Or here’s one that happens all of the time.  “Ding dong”. I answer the door (holding the dog back who is now barking). “Hi sir, we’re here and we’re not trying to convert you, we’re just looking for a donation for x or y”…  What do you do in that scenario?  Do you shut the door and feel guilty later because you think “I had a latte this morning.  I suppose I could have given that $4 to the cancer society or heart and stroke foundation or Red Cross, etc.”.  Why do you sometimes feel guilty about those interactions?  For some people, they have a hard time saying no.  For others, I submit to you that part of the challenge in those situations is that since we have no plan, every need seems equal and valid to us.  We can get caught up in the moment, driven by our emotions or a good sales pitch or a high pressure appeal on our doorstep.

 

Look with me at 2 Corinthians 9:7 which gives us some incredibly helpful guidance on the value of planning in advance because it helps us deal with these types of situations.  “You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.””    

 

The benefit of planned Generosity is incredible freedom to say NO in a gracious way.  Because I have a giving plan, when someone comes to the door and says “can you support this cause” I can say yes or no without guilt not because I am calloused, but because I’m not giving in response to pressure.  I have decided how much I am giving and where it is going in advance and so I can make a choice that is rooted in joy and confidence.  If I decline, I can say “thanks so much for that information.  We have pre-planned our giving for 2015 and your organization isn’t currently part of that plan but if you have some information you’d like to leave with me, I can look it over and make an informed decision at a later point.”  If I say yes I can say “We have some resources that we have set aside for something just like what you are presenting and we’ve been looking for opportunities to meet needs.  We would be prepared to do x or y”.

 

If we have no generosity plan, we are driven primarily by our emotions and by high-pressure appeals not by what we have decided in our hearts, which is another way of saying that our giving comes from our values.

You might say “pre-mediated generosity sounds like a great idea, Brad. But how do I get started?  What does a giving plan actually look like?”  I’m glad you asked.  I am going to invite up Tyler & Lindsey Schacter.  Tyler is one of our elders, Lindsey is one of our supported global missionaries and last year, Tyler and I got into a conversation about this and I really appreciated and benefited personal from their journey and healthy habits in this area so I asked if they would be willing to share with all of us a bit of their generosity journey today.  So Tyler, Lindsey, what does this look like for you?  How did you get started with this idea of planned generosity? 

 

[Media note: when Tyler calls for it, put up the slide titled Sample Structured Giving Worksheet]  

 

  • Positive – knowing how much, when, to whom (freeing).
  • 3 categories (decided commitments, yours might look different)
  • Draw-backs: Where does Spontaneity fit in? (Bonus gifts)  

 

Brad - If you want a copy of this worksheet, e-mail Tyler at the address below and he will happily send it to you.  Let’s thank them for sharing. 

 

As pastors and elders, our hope for you in this series is not that you will amass more information about generous living.  But rather that in 2015 you will take another practical and concrete step on your journey of generosity. 

So here’s your Take Away for Today.  Maybe for you, the first step is getting together a generosity plan. You might not be a spreadsheet person like Tyler is, but you might have another way of doing this that works for you.  The system isn’t the point.  The point is having a 2 Cor 9:7 conversation with yourself to ask “have I decided in my heart what I am going to do in 2015 and beyond?”  If so, then there is incredible freedom in standing firm in that plan.  Letting your yes be yes and your no be no. 

 

BUT, just like the difference between the way my folks travel and the way I travel, it is also wise to leave room in your plan for flexibility.  Step 1, have a generosity plan, Step 2 – look for opportunities to be flexible.  A legitimate need God wants you to do something about might come to your attention and if you are so fixated on your plan that you say “no thank you” to the work of the Spirit, we’re not in the category of generosity anymore, we’re taking about obedience vs. disobedience to a whisper of the Spirit.  This is where the story of the Good Samaritan is helpful for me.  The guy had a plan, but when he encountered someone bleeding by the side of the road he didn’t use his plan as an excuse not to help, he simply responded.  There’s room for both planning and spontaneity. 

In fact, I would suggest that there is not just room for both, but like Lindsey and Tyler modeled for us, there’s a healthy and dynamic relationship between planning and spontaneity.  I wasn’t quite sure how to put this for those of you who like to take notes so here’s my feeble attempt at expressing this: If #1 is having a generosity plan and #2 is looking for opportunities to be flexible, then Don’t do #2 without #1 OR #1 without #2!  There’s such wisdom and freedom in Planning but don’t let your spreadsheet become idolatrous.  So many times, God has an amazing and sometimes difficult way of leading us off the map and onto the circuitous routes.  You might come across a need this week that God has put in your path and it might not fit into your neat and tidy box.  It might mess up your schedule.  It might tweak your monthly budget, but if you know that God has put it in your way to do something about it, then you’d better do it.  Proverbs 3:27 says “Do not withhold good from those who deserve it when it’s in your power to help them”. 

 

But do make sure that it is a) within your power and that the need is yours to meet.  That’s the value and freedom of a plan that aligns with your values.  If there’s any way we can help you with this as a church community, we would love to do so.  Last weekend, we gave you all a free book “The genius of Generosity” Read Chapter 2 in that book – it goes into more details on what we’ve talked about here this morning.  If you didn’t get your copy, stop by the Welcome Centre and Denise will make sure you get one.  Read it and discuss it with people you know and trust. 

 

Another response plan for you might be to get some confidential personal coaching in this area.  There are lots of people here at Jericho Ridge who are wise and whom we trust to walk with you in this area of your life.  Tyler and Lindsey, Al Thiessen, Pastor Keith… If you want to meet with someone e-mail me and let me know and I’ll work to help put that in place for you.  Our teaching philosophy here at Jericho is not just to tell you what you ought to do, but to give you the tools and the ability to put it into practice in ways that will help you do what God is calling you to do. 

 

All of this is rooted in our vision and our core values here at Jericho where we say that “We commit to living as faithful stewards, willing to cheerfully share what we have with others. We listen to and depend on God in every circumstance with a humble spirit of gratitude. Generosity touches all aspects of our lives: our friendships, our service, our time, our gifts and abilities, and our material resources.”

Let me pray that as a benediction for each of us as we go from this place today with not only a heart to be generous, but a plan in place to live that out in ways that free us to respond to the Spirit of God at work in the world. 

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