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.
1Timothy 6:18-19 (NIV)
Read: 1 Timothy 6:11-21
Consider: We come to the sin of greed. This is a sin that manifests itself in the cult of ‘me’ and ‘looking after number 1’. Greed is characterised by self-centredness to the exclusion of others, or at least putting the needs of others second to your own needs.
The virtue normally taken as opposite to greed is ‘charity’. Again this is a word we don’t hear much today, except within the context of charitable giving. Charity can be defined as ‘the voluntary giving of help’. Within this context it is giving that is not forced because the person feels they have to do it. Rather they give voluntarily because they want to do it.
Generosity is also something that is commended throughout the Bible. In the passage from 1Timothy 6, Paul encourages those who are rich in this world to be generous and willing to share. It would be all too easy to think that this doesn’t apply to us, but we all know that even in so-called rich western countries there are those in need. The rise in the number of food banks and the increasing number of people accessing them is evidence of this. Of course we should also be outward-looking and meeting the needs of those in need throughout the world.
Paul speaking to the elders of the Ephesian church (Acts 20:35) refers back to the words of Jesus himself, so to Paul generosity was something that Jesus himself encouraged:
In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
Looking into the gospels and what Jesus said there, this gives us the context for generosity and how we are to practice it. In Matthew 6:1-4 he says:
Be careful not to practise your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. ‘So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honoured by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
Pray: Father, help us to take our focus off ourselves and our own needs. Give us a generous spirit that is willing to be open-handed with others. Protect us from wanting the praise of others and to practise our generosity privately. Amen