One of the greatest illusions of our day is: More Money Will Make Me More Generous.
My wife, Brandi, and I have always enjoyed hosting small-group Bible studies in our home. Over the fifteen years we’ve been married, we’ve almost always had a group that met regularly in our house. I’ll never forget something that happened some time ago in one of those groups.
At the time we were serving in Morgantown, Kentucky, and our group was made up of married couples and singles. One of them was a single woman who worked at a local factory. I’ll call her Peggy.
On this particular night we were talking about generosity. She had remained quiet for most of the conversation but spoke up during prayer requests at the end.
She said, “Pete, it’s no secret to most of you that I play the lottery on a regular basis. I would like to ask you and the group to pray that I win the Kentucky Powerball this week. It’s up to forty-seven million, and if I won that kind of money, I guarantee you I would give a lot of it away.”
That request put me in a difficult position. I wasn’t even sure if as a pastor I was allowed to pray for someone to win the lottery. I asked her if she would tithe on the winnings and she said yes. So I prayed and I prayed hard. But after the meeting finished I felt prompted to explore the issue a little further.
I asked her, “Peggy, do you give any of your money away right now? Do you tithe or give to any causes or individuals or anything?”
She thought for a second and said, “No, not really.”
I asked, “Between you and me, how much money do you make a year?”
She said, “I make about twenty-one thousand dollars a year.”
“Peggy, what in the world makes you think that you would be generous with forty-seven million if you’re not generous with twenty- one thousand?”
When Jesus said, “It is better to give than to receive” he wasn’t just giving us a quotation we could use on greeting cards at Christmas. He really meant it. You’ll actually like your life more, you’ll actually have more peace, if you spend more time thinking about how you can give than how you can get.
She sat there for a second but really had no response. And I didn’t push the matter because, to be honest, there are times when I find myself thinking the same way she did.
This may be one of the greatest illusions about money. We think the only reason we’re not generous is because things are too tight right now and we don’t make a lot. We think, “When I make more money I’m going to start being generous.”
The trouble is, it doesn’t usually work that way.
One of the most reliable financial statistics that exists is that lower income people give a higher percentage of their income away. The more you get the harder it is for you to be generous. If you can’t be generous when you make $21,000 you will not be generous when you make $41,000. If you’re not generous with $41,000 you won’t be generous with $141,000.
If you can’t be generous with what you have now, you will never be generous with more.