Scripture Reference: 1Timothy 6:6-10, 17-19
In the Heart of God Lives Generosity
When Jesus said to “store up for yourselves treasures in heaven . . . for where you treasure is there will your heart be also,” he used an interesting reflexive phrase. He proclaims that by giving to others you store up “for yourselves.” Who doesn’t want to store up treasures for one’s self? But Jesus says we can do this only by choosing not to make a priority of storing up for ourselves treasures on earth. (Matthew 6.19-21)
The passage in Timothy we learned from last Sunday is about learning to serve yourself by serving others. It is counterintuitive to the carnal mind that we can fulfill our needs for self-treasuring by sharing our treasure with others. Yet in verse 17 Paul commands the rich in this present world (that’s us Americans, incidentally) not to put their hope in wealth. If we have ever put our hope in wealth I think it has been cured for a while. We have learned in the last three years that the words “financial security” can be an oxymoron in a recession.
Rather than putting our hope in wealth, the Apostle says, “Command them [we the rich] to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.”
Those are some powerful phrases that Paul loads into verses 18-19! Generous. Willing to share. Laying up treasure for the coming age. To take hold of Real Life.
Here are the lessons I learn from this passage, as well as Jesus’ words about generosity, care for the poor, and treasure in heaven:
Generosity toward God changes my thinking.
When we get it in our heads that God owns everything and entrusts it to us for management, then we will be more cognizant of God’s priorities when we get our paycheck. We will learn from the aftermath of foolish purchases. We will grieve over our inability to serve God with our generosity because of runaway debt. We will also begin to see our own greed and selfishness clearly for what it is.
Generosity toward God changes my actions.
We now behave like a trusted manager. Our hearts are now tied together with our money. Our giving becomes systematic—not occasional or inconsistent. We start “seeing” the poor and afflicted as those to whom god has called us to share of what we have.
Generosity toward God changes my feelings.
I am now willing to share. (v. 18) I now want to take hold of life that is really life. Most folks chase getting, spending and hoarding for me, me, me. God changes my feelings so I no longer think that making more money and spending it on me is the purpose of life.
I now know that generosity is how we take hold of real living. I now feel cheerful when I give. A cheerful, satisfied giver. It is actually FUN to have set aside money (or my time, goods, presence, prayers, skills) with which to bless someone who is in need of it. And it isn’t always important for me to know if the recipient is “worthy” or “responsible” since it isn’t my money anyway.
These three lessons above amount to a single principle for life that can guide me: WHEN GENEROSITY CHANGES ME, MY GENEROSITY WILL CHANGE THE WORLD.
Here are some parting words for the resistant:
I have heard from people time and again when they are challenged to become generous people toward God, “Once I have more, then I will give more to God.” To which I answer, “No you won’t.” You won’t because giving is a faith issue. If you are faithful in little then you will be faithful in much. In the parable of the stewards you will notice that the amount the stewards were responsible for wasn’t of concern to the master. What mattered was their faithfulness.
Let’s not sugarcoat this friends. The reason we are not generous people is because we think that our money and possessions belong to us. Either we believe God owns everything or we don’t, and most folks don’t believe it. I want to be think differently, act differently, feel differently. I want to be generous. I feel good being generous. I act a lot better when I am generous. I think straighter when I’m generous.
There is no more profound model of generosity that our Lord Jesus Christ, whose generosity in giving his life for all us ingrates is monumental. Let his generosity be our inspiration. Let us also “run the race with endurance that is set before us. fixing our eyes on Jesus . . . who for the joy set before him endured the cross.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)