November 19-20, 2005
A couple of weeks ago I was lifting weights in a local gym. And while I was working out, I saw a couple of high school students who attend Fellowship Church. They walked up to me and we began to talk. After we talked for a while, one of them said, “Ed, do you mind if I ask you a personal question?”
I said, “No, go ahead.”
He took me over to the side and he said, “Hey, does Fellowship Church force you to give? I mean you’re the pastor. Do you have to give because you’re a preacher?”
I started laughing. I said, “No, man, I don’t have to give.” And I explained to him in a nutshell why I give.
Over the last several weeks, I’ve been talking about questions that I’ve asked myself and also questions that I’ve been asking God. The first time I said, “Why do I live?” I lobbed that question God’s way. And then last week I said, “Why do I laugh?” And I asked God that question. Today, I want to answer the question that this high school student posed to me in that gym. “Why do I give?”
WHY I GIVE
I’m not just talking about myself, I’m talking about what God has told me. And when I talk to you about why I give, I’m not talking to you from a preacher’s perspective or a pastor’s vibe. I want to talk to you as a man of God, as someone who knows Jesus Christ personally. I basically have seven reasons why I give, and God has shown me these reasons.
I LIKE MYSELF BETTER
Here’s the first one. Why do I give? Because I feel better about myself when I give. I like myself better.
So often, our self-worth is too tied into our net worth. Wouldn’t you agree? One of the first words I learned as a kid was this word “mine.” I still struggle with it today. Mine. People are either givers or takers. I don’t want to be a taker. I don’t want any part of being a taker. I don’t want to be numbered among them. I want to be a giver.
Every time I give, I’m mirroring the majesty of my Maker. God is a giving God. He’s a gracious God. He wants to get stuff to us so that He can allow it to flow through us to others. That’s why I give. I like myself better when I give.
Do you get to get? Or do you get to give? I’ve gone though periods in my life where I get to get. I shouldn’t do that. In God’s economy, I get to give. But when I think only about myself, I become a taker. When I think about God, I become a giver. And I like myself. I feel better about who I am. I have a healthier self-esteem when I give, and you’re probably the same way.
THE ONE I SURRENDERED MY LIFE TO INSTRUCTS ME TO GIVE
The second reason why I give is because the One I surrendered my life to instructs me to give. The One I bow at the knee to instructs me to give. It’s not optional. It’s not something that is even worthy of a debate.
The Bible says, for example, in Malachi 3:10, “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse.”
You might be going, “Well, man, what’s a tithe?” A tithe means ten. It’s the first 10 percent of everything we make. We’re to bring it into the storehouse. What’s the storehouse? The local house of worship.
“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house.”
Lisa and I have been married for 24 years. When we got married we made a commitment to each other, and more importantly, we made a commitment to God that we were to bring at least 10 percent of what we have to the local house of worship. We’re not really giving it. We’re bringing it, because it’s not ours anyway. It’s God’s. Everything we have is God’s, and He tells me to bring it.
Now, why would God tell me to bring it? Well, I know. Because God wants me to have joy. He wants me to able to hit on all cylinders. He wants me to discover this amazing agenda that he has for my life. Generosity is at the core of who God is. Every time I give, I’m reflecting His nature and His character.
Have you ever wondered why people give? There are a lot of people who are totally disconnected from God. There are plenty of de-churched and pagans who give. Why do they give? They don’t really know why they give, but they give because they’re made in the image of God. God’s a giving God, and mankind has this desire to give. Even in our selfishness, we still want to give. And most people who are away from God don’t really give for the right reasons. But they’re givers. And they’re givers because of God.
Twenty-four years ago, Lisa and I made about $25,000 a year. And at that time I had no problem writing the check to bring the tithe into the storehouse. No problem. $2500. That’s 10 percent of $25,000. Boom! I could drop it in the plate. No problem. Well, now we make much more than that. And sometimes I choke on the check.
You’re laughing. You mean you have the same feelings, too?
I’m supposed to be different. I’m a preacher, right? I’m a preacher, but I’m not any different than you. We’re all the same. This church doesn’t force me to give. I don’t have to give. I’m not manipulated to give. I give because I like myself better. The one I surrendered my life to instructs me to give.
I want to be such a generous man that I want to regularly give my accountant heart palpitations. I’m serious. I want him to look at what I give and ask, “Well, what do you mean? Why are you giving that much? I can’t believe that!” The world will not understand the giving of those of us who know Jesus Christ. The world won’t understand that.
But because of what Jesus has done for us, and once we realize that and own that and process that; once I realized what Jesus has accomplished for me, I can’t wait to give. And He tells me to give. Why?
IT KEEPS ME IN THE ZONE
Well, that brings me to the third reason why I give. It keeps me in the blessed place. That’s the third reason why I give. I want to live in the blessed place.
We throw this term around all the time these days. “Hey, blessings on you.” “You’re blessed.” “This is a blessing.”
What in the world does that mean? Blessing. What does that mean? The word “blessing” means to be on the receiving end of the tangible and intangible favor of God. Usually, when we talk about blessings or being blessed, we’re talking about the intangible stuff we can’t feel or touch or smell or pick up. And the intangibles are part of it. Yes, God blesses us that way.
But also, notice this, blessings are not just about the intangibles. They are also about the tangible stuff. In other words, matter matters. God made the world. He invented,He created matter. He made the tangible stuff. So the blessings of God are both intangible and tangible. So if I’m in the blessed place, I’m going to be on the receiving end of the tangible and intangible favor of God. I’m in the zone. If I’m in the zone, I’m protected. I’m in the safe place, the sweet spot of God’s success.
I discovered a long time ago that I’m not rich enough, I’m not powerful enough, I’m not smart enough to secure God’s protection and blessing on my life without being in the zone. I can’t do it. I’ve got to have it. I’ve got to have it.
Proverbs 11:24-25 says, “One man gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.”
And that’s the wildest thing about giving. When I understand that God has given stuff to me and that He wants to work through me to give to His church and to others, I refresh myself by thinking about others and by giving to others. It’s amazing in God’s economy.
Malachi 3:10, once again, “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house.”
We’ve talked about that. Now, let’s keep going in the text. “’Test me in this,’ says the Lord Almighty, ‘and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have enough room for it.’”
This is the only place in the Bible where God says, “Okay, test me.” I don’t want to be a dam. I want to be a river. I want to be someone who is not like Velcro. I want stuff to just slide off of me to others, like an eel, you know? Whoosh, things just slide off of an eel. That’s what I want to be in God’s economy. God’s given me stuff. I get to give, not get to get. If I get to get, stuff sticks to me like Velcro. We don’t want to do that. And I don’t want to do that.
IT BREAKS THE BACK OF MATERIALISM
Here’s the fourth reason why I give. It breaks the back of materialism. Do you struggle with materialism? You better throw your hand up. We all do. Don’t act like, “No, not me. Not me.” We all do.
I have the opportunity to travel around the country, and people oftentimes say, “Well, man, Ed, I’ll just be honest with you.” It’s always weird when people say that. Like you’ve been lying to me all along? “To be honest with you, man, I hear that Dallas/Fort Worth is like really materialistic. You know, Texas with its big hair and big cowboy boots, big belt buckles, big Rolls Royce, big ranches. It’s kind of materialistic.”
And I want to laugh because everybody struggles with materialism. I don’t care if you live in the Midwest on some farm, or if you live in Highland Park or on Rodeo Drive. Everybody struggles with it.
What is materialism, anyway? It’s a preoccupation with things. It’s being obsessed and possessed with things. “Oh, man, those are my things. And I made those things. And they’re mine.”
That’s what it means. And we all struggle with that. We think we make money or we have stuff. We think it’s our stuff. But I’ve never seen a U-Haul trailer behind a hearse. I’ve never seen that.
We can’t take it with us. But we can send it on ahead, can’t we? Materialism. How do you break the back of materialism? Here’s how I do it. I regularly give stuff away. And I’m not talking about mangy stuff, stained stuff, ugly stuff. I’m talking about stuff I like. I regularly just give it away.
Naturally, I don’t do that. Naturally I think, “It’s mine. It’s my purple jacket. This is my rod and reel.” Naturally, that’s my whole mentality. God has shown me, though, because He’s so gracious and so awesome, that He wants to work through me. So I just regularly give stuff away, stuff I like.
For example, I like clothes and I’ll give clothes away a lot. Good clothes. “Here you go. Like that shirt?” And I’ll tell you what I really love. Fishing equipment. I like that better than clothes. Regularly, I’ll give away stuff, good rod and reels.
And then I love to tie flies. And I’ll spend a lot of time tying flies. And I’ll buy the materials and invent these patterns to catch fish, and sometimes the Holy Spirit will whisper to me, “Ed, give away the flies.” Not audibly, but I can just feel it. So I give them away. And I feel good when I do it.
Now, beforehand, I’m saying, “That’s mine. Lord, that’s my jacket. That’s my rod and reel.” But I give it away because when I do that, when I give stuff away, I have a loose grip on the things of the world. And it breaks the back of materialism.
But please don’t compliment this jacket, because someone gave this to me, okay? So don’t say you like it, because I’m not going to give it to you today. No.
You know what’s hilarious about materialism, though? I was talking to my brother about this a while back. Materialism begins where my income ends. Some of you’ll get that on about Thursday. I think it’ll make sense then.
Let me unpack that for a second. It’s like if someone drives the same car that you drive, you don’t think they’re materialistic. If they drive a better car, “Oh, they’re materialistic.” Isn’t that true? Aren’t we like that?
Okay, okay, okay. Materialism is really a funky thing. It’s freaky. Because how do you know if someone else is materialistic? And here’s where I mess up. In the past, I have judged people and I’ve called them materialistic. But here’s what God has shown me: “Ed, you don’t know if they’re materialistic. You’re not God. Who are you to say, ‘Oh, you’re materialistic. You’re materialistic.’”
Here’s a good example. At 1:00 today, I have a flight that takes me to another city. I’m going to be picked up at the airport, and I’m going to spend four hours with the owner of an NFL football team. This guy is worth billions of dollars. He has the jets and the yachts and that stuff. I’ve never met the guy. I have no idea if he’s materialistic. How can I say, “Well, because you have this and that, you’re materialistic?” I don’t know. Only God knows.
You see? So let’s quit worrying about other people. Let’s quit comparing ourselves, contrasting ourselves. And let’s start to worry about an audience of one. Regularly give stuff away, and break the back of materialism. Material is cool. It’s the “ism” that messes us up.
IT’S A ONE OF A KIND ADVENTURE
The fifth reason why I give: it’s a one of a kind adventure. People say to me all the time, “Ed, I want to know that God’s working. I want to see God alive in my life.” And here’s what I tell them. “Read your Bible, pray, get to know God, and then, after that, start giving. All heaven will break loose.”
That’s one of the quickest ways to see God move in your life. Just start giving. Start giving.
God has shown me some amazing things through giving. He’s gotten a lot of stuff to me and through me by His grace and power. Not by my stuff, but by His stuff. It’s been an adventure.
So, guys, don’t have an affair. Start giving. Don’t buy some red sports car. Start giving. You’ll not believe what’ll happen.
Fifteen years ago, we started Fellowship Church. And as you’ve heard me say before, we scraped up enough money to put a down payment on this tract of land—159.2 acres. We sold 22 of the 159 without a sign on the property for what we owed on it, exactly—pretty much to the penny. We own the land free and clear.
Then, Grapevine Mill shows up. Bass Pro shows up. And all of a sudden, the value of the property skyrockets. Then we say, “Well, it’s time for us to build.”
People at Fellowship Church, man, were giving sacrificially to build. This building didn’t just happen just one day. I think people think Fellowship Church has always been this way. I think they say, “I guess it just happened one day.”
No, man. We had so many people to give sacrificially. It’s unbelievable what went on. So if you’re new here, if you’ve not been with us for at least 12 or 13 years, take a quick panoramic view of this campus and these beautiful buildings. People before you sacrificed and gave so God could bring you here and to reach you with the life-changing message of Jesus Christ.
Well, during the time that we were building this building, a lot of people were stepping up and giving sacrificial gifts. I’m not talking about amounts of money. The amount doesn’t matter. It’s what’s left over. You know, one of the greatest gifts to Fellowship Church could be someone giving $2,000. Maybe they make $20,000. And that’s a much greater gift than someone who’s making $3 million a year who gives $100,000. That one who’s giving $100,000 and makes $3 million is throwing pocket change God’s way. That’s just the way God works.
Well, during this whole deal, Lisa and I were trying to have another child. We had LeeBeth; then we had E.J. And the doctors said, “For you guys to ever have another baby, you’re going to have to go through all these infertility tests and all this stuff. And you’re going to have to spend some serious money to make it happen.”
I said, ‘Doctor, how much?” He gave me a figure. I was like, “Wow!”
So we saved and saved. And we had some money set aside in an account earmarked for the next baby, for infertility. We were praying and we were talking about building a building, and God just spoke to us and said, “Give the money earmarked for the infertility to the church, Ed.”
So Lisa and I prayed about it, we wrote the check, and we gave it to the church. A year later, without any medication and without any medical procedures, Lisa had twins. That’s the blessings of God, man. See, God’s going to bless your life. You cannot get out of the zone if you give.
I’m not talking just about financially. Yeah, God blesses us financially. He does. But He’s blessed my life in much bigger and broader ways than just financially. He’s blessed me relationally, occupationally, spiritually—stuff that money can’t even touch.
But a lot of you here are walking around saying, “Man, I’m pretty sharp. I’ve made a lot of money. I have the gift of making money.” Hey, man, it’s not you. It’s God. God’s getting that stuff to you, because He wants to get it through you to His church.
Here’s another one. This is a crazy story about giving. See, God tests me all the time with stuff. Oh, I don’t know how many years ago, five or six years ago, I bought Lisa a car. The first time in my life I paid cash for a car. Some of you are saying, “Well, that’s stupid. It’s a depreciating item. I wouldn’t do that.”
Well, I did it and God used it. I bought her the car and she was so excited. She drove it around for like eight months, you know. And one day I’m sitting in my office, and my assistant says, “Ed, there’s a car dealer on the line and someone has donated a brand new car to you and Lisa.”
I said, “Is someone trying to play a joke on me? Let me talk to them. Hello?”
This guy goes, “Mr. Young?”
He said, “Someone has anonymously donated a car to you and Lisa.”
I said, “I don’t need a car. We don’t need a car. I just paid cash for a car.” I was kind of bragging, you know. “I just paid cash for a car. I don’t need a car.”
He said, “You don’t understand. This guy said God has led him to do it, and the car is coming. I’m delivering it in a couple hours. What kind of car do you want?”
I said, “Okay, a black Suburban with tan interior.” [Laughter]
So several hours later, this Suburban pulls up. And, guys, let me talk to you. You know what I’m thinking, don’t you? “I’m going to sell Lisa’s car and pocket the money. That’s what I’m going to do.”
So I call Lisa and tell her, “Lisa, it’s unbelievable. Someone anonymously—this is just nutty—gave us a car. I’m going to sell your car and pocket the money.”
She’s said, “Well, have you prayed about it?”
I’m like, “I know I should do it!”
So I—you won’t believe this—I put the phone down. The car is sitting in the parking lot. Are you ready for this? I walk outside of my office and I walk into Preston Mitchell’s office. And here’s what Preston says to me. He says, “Hey, Ed, there’s a needy family at Fellowship Church. And they have some handicapped kids. They need a special van to carry the kids in. Do you know anybody who has any kind of money to buy them a van?”
And I’m telling you, I felt the Spirit of God say, “You the man.”
Now, I didn’t hear it that audibly, but I knew it. “You the man.” So I said, “Preston, yeah, I might know someone.” So then I walked back into my office and picked the phone up. “Lisa, guess what? I really feel like God is leading me to do this. What do you think?”
So we prayed about it. We said, “Okay. We’re going to sell the car, take the money, and buy the van for the family.”
It was done. I was feeling good about myself, and Lisa and I were high-fiving each other. It was incredible.
So we sell the car and get the money. And then I find out that there was a mistake on my taxes. And I discover I owed the government pretty much the same amount of money that I made in the sale of Lisa’s car.
“Oh, man,” I said, “It’s ridiculous.” I called Lisa on the phone. “Lisa, I’m sorry. We’re not going to give the money. Lisa, we can’t afford this. I do have some money in retirement, but I’m not going to take that out. They’ll penalize us until the cows come home. We’re not going to do it, honey. We can’t do it. We’ve got four kids. It’s not going to happen.”
Lisa goes, “Ed, we need to pray about it.”
I think guys struggle with this more than women. In fact, I know we do, guys. Women are just naturally more generous. Guys are like, “It’s mine.”
So we prayed for two days and I knew that God wanted us to give that money to this family to get the van. So we did it. And I cannot tell you what a God-thing that was to do that—for me, for Lisa, for LeeBeth, for EJ, for Laurie and Landra. We told them, even though they were tiny at the time, what we were doing. And it was a great thing. It’s just an amazing thing.
You see, God knew that I did not need a car. But God gave me that car to test me, to see if I was the real deal or not with this whole money thing, with this stuff. And He knew in His grace, He could give it to me. Because in my struggles and in my selfishness, I would finally allow Him to give it through me to someone else. God does that in all of our lives. It’s the treasure test. He just tests us to build our faith.
Let me tell you what’s happened since that situation. I’ve had the opportunity to write about 12 books since then. So don’t sit there and tell me that God has not blessed me. God is a God who blesses. And if you want to see God show up in a big-time way, start giving. I’m telling you, it is awesome. But, again, this is just me talking. I’m telling you from my heart the deal.
I WANT TO BE AN EXAMPLE TO MY KIDS
Here’s the sixth reason why I give: I want to be an example to my kids. I want to press this stuff into their lives, because I’ve discovered that values are more caught than taught. And oftentimes I wonder, “Are my kids getting it?” They see us give, and we put out the offerings for them to give in children’s church and student ministry and all that stuff. But do they get it? Do they get it? And I’m just so thankful to have grown up in a very generous family. I’ve seen my parents give away almost their entire net worth two or three times.
I saw that. I remember one Christmas we asked them what they were getting us for Christmas. Dad and Mom said, “Nothing.” But that was the best Christmas we ever had because we made gifts for each other. It was really cool. It was fun.
I was speaking on the East Coast about a month ago. I took my 11-year-old, one of the twin daughters, Landra, with me to this event. My father had just given her a $100 bill. I’m still looking for that $100 bill for me but you know grandparents. They’re parents on steroids, aren’t they?
So Landra and I, with some other people, are sitting on the front row. And I always have PMS before I speak—Pre-Message Syndrome. I’m a little bit nervous. And this was a big church, and the music was going, and all of a sudden the pastor takes the platform.
He said, “Are you ready?” And everybody in the church began to cheer. Then he said, “Are you ready?” And then they started doing the wave. The entire church was doing the wave.
I’m thinking, “Why are they doing this? I mean it’s a little bit crazy.”
They were preparing to give the offering. That’s how excited they were. And I got so caught up in it. I remember thinking, “This is incredible!” And I look over, and Landra is putting her entire $100 in the plate.
I said, “Yea, God, she gets it. She gets it. She’s a river, not a reservoir. God has gotten into her. And already, He’s working through her to bless others.”
Because, see, we’re blessed to be a blessing. That’s why you’re blessed and I’m blessed. And we have different stacks of stuff. Forget how big or small the stacks are. We’re blessed to be a blessing. And I want to be a blessing. And I want to press that into the lives of my kids.
I LOVE THE VISION OF FELLOWSHIP CHURCH
Here’s the seventh and final reason why I give. I love the vision of Fellowship Church. I tell you, man, I love Fellowship Church. Here’s what Jesus says in Matthew 16:18. “I will build My hospital…” No, I’m sorry. “I will build My university…” No, no, wait a minute. Oh, I’m sorry.
“I will build My…” What? “Church!” The church is it. So Jesus has taken away all of the debate, again, all of the guesswork. He said, “Direct the lion’s share of your stuff to your local house of worship. That is where life change will take place.”
There are two things that will last forever. People and the church. So we have the opportunity, I have the opportunity, to invest in eternity.
I often wonder, “Why do people give to hospitals and universities?” I think it’s fine to do that. But a lot of people give these big, honkin’ donations because it’s an ego trip. Your name will be in lights, and you’re the man. You’re the woman. They can announce, “Yeah, I’m the man. I’m the woman. Look what I did!”
But see, when it comes to the church, no one knows but God. And that messes with our selfishness. That messes with our pride and ego. And a lot of people cower and a lot of people slither into the shadows, because they’re thinking about themselves. They’re thinking about the crowds and not playing for an audience of one.
“I will build my church.” “The gates of hell will not prevail against the church.”
Well, how does Jesus build the church? He gives stuff to us so He can pass it through us. That’s how he builds it. He blesses us. We’re blessed to be a blessing. Fellowship Church is a total God thing, and God has done stuff at Fellowship Church that has rarely been done throughout church history. And for me, just to be a part of it, just to hook up with what God is doing has been just a supernatural thing. It’s truly, truly amazing.
We had something cool happen a couple days ago. We bought a building in downtown Dallas for our uptown campus. Isn’t that great?
It’s off of I-75 and Ross Avenue. It’s an older building. We’re going to take it, retrofit it into a church, and it’ll be a beacon. It’ll be just a great, great house of worship right there in the Arts District. It’s only 1.4 miles from where we meet right now in the temporary facility of North Dallas High School. To do it, though, it’ll cost about $8 million. We don’t have the money yet. But we stepped out in faith and tied it up. And I’ll be telling you more about that over the ensuing months. That was a cool thing.
I’ll tell you another thing that was crazy. And this is another God thing. Last Saturday morning, I went to a board meeting, and there were some people sitting in this room who have a ministry. And this ministry owned 1,100 acres in East Texas, 1,100 magnificent acres with pine trees as big around as my arms can reach. There are two lakes. It’s beautiful, beautiful acreage. These people had heard about the wonderful things that God has been doing at Fellowship Church, and because of that, they gave 1,100 acres of East Texas land to our church—1,100 acres!
I still am in shock. And we’re going to build the camp of all camps out there for our children and students. And also, we’re going to build a retreat center for pastors all across North America and the world that are hooked into our church. I’m so amped up about that. I’m still in shock.
Isn’t that amazing? See, when you have a church that’s generous like Fellowship Church is, as we give and help others, things just flow to us and through us.
I PLAY FOR AN AUDIENCE OF ONE
Do you remember the first week of this series, that initial installment, “Why I Live”? I talked about the time I started in a major college basketball game in Florida State. It was against Auburn. I was so happy. I called my parents and I said, “Mom and Dad, I’m starting tonight. This might be a once in a lifetime thing,” which it was. I said, “If you guys could come out here to see me play, I can get you a ticket.”
So they talked, and Dad hopped a plane, flew out, and I played the game. I didn’t have a great game, but I played. But the whole time, I did not think about the 16,999 people there. I only thought about my father because we had a great connection with sports and athletics, and we had some great times together. So I was playing for an audience of one.
I make money for an audience of one. I save for an audience of one. I give for an audience of one. And one day, when I graduate from this life to the next, the God I love, hopefully, will say, “Ed, well done, My good and faithful servant. You earned consistently, you saved strategically, and you’ve given liberally.”
I give for an audience of one. How about you?