Week 1: We are generous because we were created in the image of God
Through this four week study, our hope is that you will gain a deeper understanding of why we are called to be financially generous, what happens when you give financially to God’s work through the church, and gain some tools to practice generosity. My prayer is that at the end of this study, you may choose to financially support the ministry that God is doing through Mid City Church out of generous hearts and not out of obligation.
Small group meetings will last an hour but can, of course, go over if the conversation is going well. I would strongly encourage you to not stop the conversation just because the clock says it is time. Give yourself time to finish all conversations.
- 10-15 minutes of checking in with one another
- 30 minutes discussing the weekly topic
- 10-15 minutes discussing announcements and prayer request
- Always end in prayer
This time is available for you to check in with each other. This is a very important part of the meeting as small groups bond and get to know each other, groups will become more comfortable with each other and are more willing to share and go deeper in discussion.
Here are a couple of things to remember as you check in:
- Our small groups are designed to help you connect to God and to each other in a deeper, more meaningful way. This means that if you spend the same amount of time checking in as you do studying the topic, it is okay.
- Check-in time is not structured. Rather it is an opportunity to catch up with one another. Allow the conversation to flow.
- Be prepared with an icebreaker question to begin conversation in case conversation does not begin naturally.
- Do not force conversation. If conversation isn’t happening, don’t be afraid to jump into the study early.
Giving vs Generosity?
From the time in high school when you asked your parents for money to go out with friends to the time you took out a loan to make your first big purchase like a car or house, conversations about money are always awkward and uncomfortable to have.
And if your experience has been anything like mine, having a conversation about money at church is perhaps even more awkward and uncomfortable. Sometimes it feels like the pastor is asking for money because she or he wants to make sure they have a paycheck. Other times it feels like the church simply tries to tug at your heart emotionally, guilting you into giving. And then there are even churches who refuse to talk about money because the pastor is too uncomfortable having a conversation about money.
None of these inspire us to be generous with our giving and, if they do, we end up giving for the wrong reasons.
But what if I told you that it doesn’t have to be awkward and uncomfortable? What if I told you that when we truly understand what it means to be generous, it becomes quite natural to talk about money. You see, the reality is that talking about money is only uncomfortable when we misunderstand generosity or have bad theology surrounding our conversations about money.
Let’s be clear. We do not give to the church in order to meet a budget. That is the wrong use of generosity. We practice generosity so that through our generosity others may be blessed.
In your opinion, what is the difference between giving money to the church in order to meet a budget and being invited to practice generosity by giving financially to God’s work through the church?
To give means to present something (in this case money) without expecting something in return.
Generosity happens when a person is living from a condition of abundance or when a person is moved by the needs of others.
Does God Give or Is God Generous?
Read Malachi 3:8-10
Will anyone rob God? Yet you are robbing me! But you say, “How are we robbing you?” In your tithes and offerings! You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me – the whole nation of you! Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in my house, and thus put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts; see if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you an overflowing blessing.
Let me begin by saying that this is not prosperity gospel but rather a story of generosity. What’s the difference? Simply put, prosperity gospel teaches that if you give God money, God will give you more money in return. But that is not what the text is saying. Read through it again.
In our text, God never instructs people to give money to the church so that they can receive more money in return. On the contrary, God tells the Israelites to bring their full tithe to the storehouse so that the church can have enough food.
Why is this important? Well, at the time the book of Malachi was written, the church served as a sort of food bank to those in need in the community.
Every third year you shall bring out the full tithe of your produce for that year, and store it within your towns; the Levites, because they have no allotment or inheritance with you, as well as the resident aliens, the orphans, and the widows in your towns, may come and eat their fill so that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work you undertake.
You see, when people brought their full tithe, they could ensure that the needs of those on the fringes were met. If someone had a bad year and grew no crops, they knew that they could go to the church and receive money to provide their families. If a wife suddenly lost her husband, she would still be able to feed her family thanks to the tithes that people had left at the church.
The peoples tithe was used to meet the needs of the people.
This is why God says to them in Malachi that when they don’t take the full offering to the church they are robbing God. If they do not practice generosity by taking the full offering to the church, then it lessens the amount of resources available to those who are in need.
What we learn here is that God not only wants those in need to have something to eat, he wants them to have more than enough. God doesn’t just give, he wants to be sure that the gifts are generous. And because God loves to be generous, God invites us to be generous. But God doesn’t want us to practice partial generosity, he wants us to be willing to be as generous as we possibly can. You see, we are the only physical body that God has here on earth to meet the needs of people. And because of that, God tells the Israelites (and us today) to be generous with what we have so that others may have enough. And in so doing, they will be blessed.
But notice something very important. God does not offer those who give a blessing of more crops, more money or more prestige. God simply says “put me to the test…see if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you an overflowing blessing.” God is daring the Israelites to test his generosity by being willing to be generous first. And the promise he gives them is that they will receive a blessing so big that it will overflow.
But what does that blessing look like?
Have you ever seen a child receive a Christmas gift after being told that they would probably not be receiving anything that year? Have you ever helped someone jump their car after their battery died? Have you ever brought a meal to someone whose spouse just ended up in the hospital?
The blessing that being a generous provides is the joy in seeing your abundance bring joy, peace, hope, and so much more to those who received your gift.
The $20 you spent buying that kid a toy brings you much more joy than if you had spent those $20 on yourself. Seeing the smile on someone’s face after their car starts inspires you to help others. Sharing the meal you cooked reminds you that there is always plenty to go around. These are the types of blessings God tells the Israelites they will receive in abundance. And it is as true for us as it was for them.
Here is the promise that the church makes you. This year, when you give, 100% of the money you give will go to support the ministry of Mid City Church as we, together, actively share our faith so that others can find life and purpose in Jesus. It will not pay for overhead, it will not pay salaries, it won’t even pay bills. You money will go to help support the ministry of Mid City Church.
Through your generosity, others will come to have a deeper relationship with God. Others will find peace and grace. Others will be reminded that they are loved by God. Some will find forgiveness for the first time. Through your generosity, we promise to be Jesus’ hands and feet in the community, so that together we can be a part of what God is doing. And that, is one of the greatest blessings we could ever receive.
Has this promise been true in your life?
How have you experienced a blessing by helping others? Share your experiences with the group.
Why Do We Practice Generosity?
There is one fundamental truth you need to understand about generosity though. We do not give because we will receive a blessing from it. The blessings that God promises are a byproduct of our actions, but not the reason for our actions. So why do we practice generosity?
Read Genesis 1:26-27
Then God said, “Let us make humanity in our image to resemble us so that they may take charge of the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the livestock, all the earth, and all the crawling things on earth.”
God created humanity in God’s own image, in the divine image God created them. Male and female, God created them.
I don’t want you to miss what is happening here. Every person on the planet – every person of every age, every race, every gender, every orientation, every political affiliation – EVERY person, was formed and created in the image of God.
Yes, we are all unique, independent and different from each other, but all of us have been made to resemble God. Listen to the text once again: God created humanity in God’s own image, in the divine image God created them.
Because God is generous, we too are called to be generous. We don’t give in order to receive more from God. We are generous because God is generous. And since we have been created in God’s image then we too are to reciprocate God’s generosity.
Does knowing that we are called to be generous because God is generous change anything in your understanding of generosity? How?
Does this conversation lead you to a greater willingness to practice generosity or less? Why?
What difference does seeing God as a generous God make in you as you wrestle with your personal generosity?
PUTTING THIS INTO PRACTICE
In a couple of weeks, you will be asked to make a financial commitment to God’s work through the church as a means of practicing generosity. But before we get there, I want to challenge you to practice generosity.
This week make a plan to practice generosity towards someone. Bring someone a meal. Randomly buy someone a gift card to their favorite restaurant or coffee shop. Donate to your favorite charity. Take time to notice the blessings you receive as you are a blessing unto others.
Make sure to do the following before you close your time together:
- Ask if anyone has any closing thoughts about this week’s discussion.
- Ask for prayer request.
- Offer announcements and reminders.
- Pray together.
 Page 84 from The Good and Beautiful God