One of the phrases that’s come to describe the culture of generosity the Lord is creating at Restoration City is, “I Could…But Instead.” It’s a simple reminder that generosity is about forgoing one thing in favor of another. It’s a simple refrain with enormous power to shape how we spend our time and money.
If you carry the thought one step deeper, it’s a embodiment of what generosity is:
All too often we practice an “I Can…While Still” form of generosity where we figure out how much is left over after we’ve taken care of everything we want or need for ourselves. That’s not generosity, it’s selfishness in disguise where the primary goal is maintaining our lifestyle, not the good of others or the glory of Christ. Real generosity requires sacrifice. It involves us consciously deciding not to do or buy things for ourselves so that we have space to do or buy for others. The depth of our generosity isn’t measured by how much we give but rather how much we give up.
Trading Off & Up
A lot of us get in trouble by forgetting that generosity is a zero sum game. We become convinced that we can have and do it all, especially this time of year. Christmas becomes the most stressful time of the year – perfect parties, gifts, cookies, family dinners, trees, cards and travel. And then the church jumps into the mix to ask for your time and money. And we say sure, flinging those commitments onto an already overtaxed calendar and stretched checkbook. One of the hidden benefits of generosity is that it gives you motivation to say no to a lot of things. When it comes to generosity, think trade off not adding more.
And think trade up. Matthew 6:19-20, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.”
Generosity is a letting go of things that won’t matter a month from now in favor of things that will last for all eternity.
Reflecting The Gospel
2 Corinthians 8:3-5 is a stunning depiction of generosity from a 1st century church, “For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints— and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us.” Paul didn’t browbeat this church into generosity or even tug on their heart strings with a tear jerking video. No guilt. No “if you really love Jesus, you’ll do this.” Just a congregation begging earnestly for opportunities to give more. How does that happen?
2 Corinthians 8:9, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.” When our hearts are captured by how much Jesus gave up for us, it becomes a joy to sacrifice for others. The gospel ensures that the tradeoffs of generosity really feel like a trading up.
That’s what an “I Could…But Instead” culture looks like. It’s what I’m committed to personally and what I’m asking God to deepen at Restoration City. If you’re looking for ways to serve or give this Christmas season, check out a full list of opportunities to trade up at restorationcity.church/christmas.