Tuesday, 18 March 2008

The logic of generosity

Away from the resurrection debate, a bit of Scripture that pulled me up short today....

'Command [the rich] to do, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up for themselves treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for th coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.' [1 Timothy 5:18-19]

These verses shocked me because they differ so much from how Christians often think about giving. Because they are saying that being generous and doing good with our material resources is the very way we guard our hearts from the idols of materialism and greediness.

Often we think that the main reason for giving is because the church needs money, that we are fulfilling a need. This is true - and in 2 Corinthians 8-9, Paul appeals for Christians to be generous upon that logic: there's no better thing in which to invest the money that God has given you to steward than things that will last.

But here Paul takes a different line. The most important reason for a rich person to give (and, let's face it, most of us are relatively rich by world standards) is because we need to be givers. Giving generously is God's way of guarding a person against greed and trust in the uncertain riches of materialism. In other words, God may well provide for a need if a person doesn't give by some other means - but what will happen to that person's heart? If a person does not give generously, how will they store up a good foundation for the time to come? How will they remember that our true citizenship is in heaven if they are living for the hear and now?

I guess that's why in 2 Corinthians Paul calls generosity a 'grace'. Opportunities to be generous are a reminder of the truth of the gospel each time I write a cheque. A chilling reminder and an encouragement to be generous-hearted with my money: Lord, don't let become really far more comfortable here on earth with its material rewards. Keep my eyes on heaven.

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