Over the next few weeks we are going to prepare our hearts for the upcoming holiday season. We want to live by two words: Be and Do. In the 1st Century AD, the Apostle Paul wrote a letter to one of his protégés, a young man named Timothy. Timothy was leading the church in Ephesus. Ephesus was a diverse economic community made up of slaves, widows, working class and well-to-do families. Obviously it was a simple church assignment for a young pastor, right? On top of the economic disparity, the church had been preyed upon by the greed of dysfunctional teachers. The situation was complex and volatile and there were no case studies on how to walk a church through such drama. So Paul is writing to Timothy to instruct and encourage him in the midst of these circumstances. Here are his words to Timothy:
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.
What is Paul’s desire for the church? … To be a generous people. Generosity is powerful. It disarms tense situations, it is contagious, inspiring, and brings hope. An entire community rallying around generosity is a compelling force in any culture. In the Kingdom of God, generosity is where true wealth is found. When you give, something leaves you; but something else is returned to you. While something is poured out of you, something else is poured into you.
William Barclay writes, “The teaching of the Christian ethic is, not that wealth is a sin, but that it is a very great responsibility. If a man’s wealth ministers to nothing but his own pride and enriches no one but himself, it becomes his ruination, because it impoverishes his soul. But if he uses it to bring help and comfort to others, in becoming poorer, he really becomes richer. In time and in eternity “it is more blessed to give than receive.”
God is generous. His people should be as well. For this holiday season, let us BE RICH IN GOOD DEEDS, and DO GOOD. May our lives become a gift to our community.