"Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share." 1 Timothy 1:18
When hurricane Katrina brought devastation to the Gulf Coast in 2005 I heard on a news report that a famous sports figure had donated $100,000 to the relief effort. He opened his heart like so many of us at the time and gave. Without passing any judgment whatsoever let me ask you a pointed question. Was he being generous? According to celebritynetworth.com this athlete makes $45,000,000 a year in salary and endorsements. When seen in this light his gift amounts to two-tenths of one percent of his yearly income. According to the U.S. Census Bureau the 2005 median income for individuals over 25 was $32,140. A gift of two-tenths of one percent of $32,140 would be $64.28. My purpose is not to diminish the superstar’s gift but to make the point that defining generosity can be tricky.
The real question is, “What does God expect me to do with what I have? How does He define generosity?” The Bible does not condemn wealth. It does condemn greed. Give a careful read to the following passage.
“Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them 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.” 1 Timothy 6:17-19 NIV
Notice that “God...richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.” It is not evil to have abundance. We serve a good God. But hold on! Notice too that God speaks clearly to anyone who has abundance and says not to be arrogant about your wealth and don’t put trust in your money. Trust in God who gave you the money. Money can quickly corrupt us and make us think we’re somebody special because of what we’ve been able to earn or accumulate. God hates such arrogance.
Notice too God’s directive. “Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.” The primary reason God blesses us with more than we need is that we might be generous and ready to help others in need. The crucial question for all of us is, “How much do I keep and how much do I give away?” Don’t be too quick to answer that question. Ponder it. Ask the Lord to give you His answer. Let Him teach you, where you are right now, what He wants you to do with what you have.
Jesus said in Luke 12:15, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” Just as it is difficult to define generosity so it is difficult to define greed. It has many faces! Here is something I read recently that puts it in perspective quite well.
Greed is having more than enough and using our abundance on our own interests instead of what interests God.
God wants to move us away from greed and toward generosity. Like every area of the Christian life it is a journey. As we travel this road we can benefit from two simple yet profound statements. Trust God, not money. Love God, not money. As we grow in our faith and love for God so will our understanding of what it means to be generous.