Good morning and welcome to the final podcast of the week. My name’s Bryony and it’s been great to share this week with you. Today we come to the end of Paul’s first letter to Timothy, his friend and fellow church leader.
In today’s passage Paul jumps back to the theme of money which we touched on during Wednesday’s podcast. It seems that this was a real problem for the church, there seems to be real inequality in wealth and Paul is particularly concerned with how the wealthy are viewing their wealth and that this view isn’t turning into bad theology which the church are accepting.
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.
The first thing to note is that Paul isn’t saying being wealthy is wrong or somehow ungodly. There are plenty of people who use money for good. We see this all over the Bible, think of Lydia the business woman who used her skills and wealth to help the apostle. Paul’s gripe here isn’t with money itself but the attitudes money can elicit in people’s hearts. Namely, here, that it can make people arrogant, think they are better than those with less, or that wealth can become a security, the thing we need to be ‘ok’.
Paul offers a counter to this. He says, do good and be generous. Generosity is always the counter to wrong attitudes about money because wrong attitudes about money often stem from a wrong view that our money is our own. Paul keeps reminding the church throughout his letters that all our money is God’s, it’s a gift of provision from him. When we view it like this it becomes easier to be generous because we don’t view our money as simply ours to hold onto.
But generosity isn’t simply about our money. A few years ago myself and my husband did the parenting course at STC. One of the activities at the end of the course was to write down a family mission statement, a few words that say what we want to be true for our family. Ours was pretty simple, it read:
‘The Wells’ will be generous.
With our time, our things, our money and our love’
Sounds very aspirational, right! Now before you switch off in disgust at my ‘picture-perfect’ family, let me tell you this…being generous is hard! It has been something that I have had to work at over the years. Our default as humans is to be selfish – to continually struggle with wanting to put our needs first, to make sure we are ok first before we tend to the needs of others. Of course in some situations, like putting our oxygen mask on first on a plane before helping others, this is wise advice! However this is the default which Paul is wanting to nudge us out of, as if our lives start being coloured by this view we don’t step fully into everything God has for us and the riches that come with loving other people.
I mentioned the other day that as a family we have been simplifying and minimising our stuff for a few years now. Part of this was to enable us to live more generous lives where we were less attached to our stuff and less overwhelmed by life so we could live more lightly and lovingly. Getting our children involved in this has been a slow burn, however we have definitely made progress. As our eldest child has seen us getting rid of things and giving things away she has slowly caught the vision. It helps her to know who will be the recipient of their excess or unneeded things, particularly clothes. When my daughter has grown out of something or doesn’t wear a particular item, I ask her ‘who do you think might like to wear this?’. She’s always excited to be able to give things to her younger friends and loves to see her clothes getting a second outing. She is learning the joy of generosity or living with open hands. My prayers is, as she grows, this spirit of generosity will grow into other areas of her life, into how she deals with money, how she chooses to spend her time and most important how she loves people.
Living generously, as Paul says in a later verse ‘lays up treasures…as a firm foundation’. Generosity benefits everyone, the recipient and the giver! It’s a win-win situation, ultimately no-one loses out when a spirit of generosity is in a room, a family, a workplace or community.
So where could we press into this today? Maybe the challenge for us is quite obviously about money and how we view and use it, maybe we need to review our generosity in that area. Maybe as a parent we know that we need to give our child the gift of time, we get down on the floor and play a while, to stop and read an extra book. Maybe at work we could grab someone lunch when we notice they are snowed under. Where’s a place we could learn the art of generosity today?
God, thank you that you are generous Father. You give us so much to enjoy. We are sorry when we use the gift you give to us unwisely, when we become arrogant with or put our trust in the things we have. Help us to put you in the centre again and teach us how to cultivate generous hearts once more. Amen.
READING: 1 Timothy 6:17-21
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.
Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, which some have professed and in so doing have departed from the faith.
Grace be with you all.