I’ve been a pastor for 14 years and money has always been a sensitive subject in church. Many people think that the church just wants your money. But, when someone says something like that, it really has nothing to do with the church. Why? Well, think about it like this: There really are places out there that truly just want your money. Target just wants your money … people aren't complaining about that. Chipotle just wants your money … people aren't complaining about that. Apple just wants your money … people aren't complaining about that.
We may complain about prices but we’re not really complaining about the spending because we’re using money to get something we want. Our money is always tied to our heart and until our hearts are transformed our wants never will be. So, my goal with this post, and the ones that follow, is that you will read them and desire to use your money on what you want … but that what you’ll want most of all is to be generous. I long for hearts to be overwhelmed by Jesus and His grace. Generosity is the result of a life restored by grace. So my hope is that we will allow our hearts to be restored by grace and not motivated by guilt. Guilt may motivate you to give today. Grace will motivate you to be generous for a lifetime.
The Apostle Paul wrote to his young friend Timothy and said, “As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.” (1 Timothy 6:17 – 19ESV) Over the next couple of days I hope to break these verses down to help us understand how to live a generous life.
“As for the rich in this present age” … Some of us read that and say, “Well, that leaves me out. I’m certainly not rich. But, my neighbor … you should see the car he drives! He must be loaded!” I get that. I really do, because we often define “rich” as anyone who has more than us. But, the reality is that being rich simply means we have more than we need.
The temptation is for me to describe “rich” as being able to afford what I want instead of being able to afford what I need. That typically leads to “rich” always being the other guy. “Rich” is the other guy with better job. “Rich” is the other woman with a nicer home. “Rich” is the one with the bigger bank account. This all leads to “rich” rarely being us. And, that’s one of the biggest challenges facing those of us who have more than we need … we lose our ability to recognize how blessed we truly are. Money has a unique ability to blind us to what we have and can cause us to see only what we don’t have.
I think this is just one of the reasons why Jesus talks more about greed than He does sex. Money has the unique ability to blind us to its effects. For example, if Wikipedia is correct, the county I live in (Howard County) is the 3rd wealthiest county in America with a median income of nearly $109,000. So, I live in the 3rd wealthiest county in America. I’m surrounded by wealth and affluence every day. Yet, I find that I rarely even entertain the possibility that I myself may be materialistic because all I have to do is know one other person who is greedy to cause me not to consider myself to be. Greed blinds us in a way other sins do not. (Keller) It blinds us to what we have. It causes us to see what we don’t have and then it hides itself in our heart. This means I’m always more willing to point out greed in another person’s life than I am my own.
But, the Word of God reminds me that I am more like the greedy and materialistic person I’m pointing my finger at than unlike them. As a sinner, it’s always more fun to point the finger at someone else’s sin because this will always keep me from having to deal with my own. And, this is exactly what Paul says money can do to us in 1 Timothy 6:17 – 19. Paul said that money can make me “haughty.” Haughty … that’s not a word we use much anymore. Sometimes I call my wife a “hotty,” but when I looked it up in the Greek, it’s not the same thing. “Haughty” means to be arrogant. So, we’re told that one of the impacts of money is that it can make us arrogant. In relation to money, I think the ultimate arrogance is to say that I am above materialism happening to me. I have no problem pointing out a greedy person until I have to look in the mirror. Greed hides itself and we can never think we’re above it happening to us.
This is why I’m desperate for grace. God uses His grace to shine light on what I cannot see and exposes what He desires to transform. And, this exposure is not a form of punishment but rather rescue. Greed will hold me captive to the worst this world has to offer. So, God “dispels our self-inflicted darkness because He knows that we cannot grieve what we do not see, we cannot confess what we have not grieved, and we cannot turn from what we haven’t confessed.” (Tripp)
Living a generous life has to start by simply asking God to reveal what is in our heart because “wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21) If any form of greed or selfishness is revealed, don’t think that God wants to punish you for it. Rather, He wants to rescue you from it and continue His work of transformation in your life.