In his book The Genius of Generosity, Chip Ingram writes the story of how he was changed for life in his understanding of generosity. Ingram was serving in his first pastor role in a small, rural Texas church. A successful businessman, John Saville, was an elder in this church.  

One day Saville invited Ingram to lunch, telling him that he must wear a tie. This restaurant was surrounded by glass on the top floor of a large Dallas office building--obviously an upscale place. Saville directed him to order the best item on the menu, which didn’t even include the prices. Chip’s middle-class background was being challenged.  

As the meal concluded, Saville pulled out a small white box and had a business deal he wanted Ingram to consider. It was not a deal to make money; rather, it was about giving it away. This was to be their secret pact. Saville laid out his reasoning behind his plan:

  1. Saville had a desire to help poor and hurting people.
  2. Ingram was in daily contact with poor and hurting people.
  3. Saville wanted Ingram to be Saville’s eyes, ears, hands and feet to help poor and hurting people as God may lead him to do.  

Saville gave Ingram a checkbook titled “Pastor’s Discretionary Fund.” Ingram opened it and discovered the ledger showed a single entry for a deposit of $5,000. Yes, Ingram was to use these funds as he felt led, and that would honor Saville’s request. This was the beginning of a series of divine lessons that Ingram later described as “The Genius of Generosity.”

The saga continued as Ingram periodically met with Saville to:

  • Give an account of how he using the funds to help poor and hurting people.
  • Celebrate God’s goodness and the impact of Ingram’s giving.
  • Gain unique understanding of how Saville wanted him to use his money. 
  • Replenish the Pastor’s Discretionary Fund for more service to poor and hurting people.  

This true story impacted and changed Ingram’s perspective on money and generosity. It’s a wonderful and pointed parallel to how God calls us to generosity.  

Consider the parallel between Saville and Ingram and God and us:

Seville and Ingram God and Us
Saville gave Ingram money God gives us money (and other resources)
The money was still Saville’s The money we have belongs to God
Ingram sought to understand how Saville would like him to use the money We are to seek to God’s understanding on how His money should be used    
Saville called Ingram to give an account for how the money was used Someday God will call us to give an account for how we used His money and resources on earth
Ingram’s role and responsibility in this gave him a deeper friendship with Saville and feel closer to Saville’s causes to help poor and hurting people We draw closer to God and the people helped as we steward God’s resources

Ingram says generosity is genius because it:

  • Changes our lives.
  • Connects us with others.
  • Helps us invest in what matters.
  • Frees our hearts.

Three questions wise stewards ask:

  1. Am I using the money entrusted to me under the Owner’s wishes?
  2. Am I keeping an account of where the Owner’s funds are going?
  3. Am I becoming best friends with the Owner by managing His resources?

The Genius of Generosity is one of my favorite studies about money, generosity and eternity and can be used either as an individual or small group study. It is only four chapters long and includes Ingram’s added video commentary for each chapter.  

This summary merely scratches the surface of the rich, compelling truths Ingram shares. I encourage you to get both the book and the accompanying DVD; then consider a small group study with family, friends or in your church community.   

If you have any questions about cultivating a culture of generosity at your church, contact us.

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