When we realize the vastness of our divine resources, when we acknowledge that the eternal richness of heaven is His gift to us, we won't be miserly with the things we have. On the contrary, we'll be eager and free to share. In short, we will know the joy of generosity. A generosity rooted in godly contentment also has some priceless benefits. Four come to mind as I peruse Paul's words in 1 Timothy 6.
First, we hold temporal things loosely. Paul wrote, "For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either" (1 Timothy 6:7). Since we enter this world carrying nothing, wearing nothing, owning nothing, and since we leave the same way, why on earth would we cling to earthly goods? Generosity rooted in contentment allows us to say with Job, "Naked I came from my mother's womb, / And naked I shall return there" (Job 1:21).
Second, we keep our essential needs to a minimum. As the apostle declared, "If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content" (1 Timothy 6:8). If we're honest, we'll admit that the genuine needs of life are few: food...water...clothing...a shelter to protect us from the elements. Essentials form a very short list. On the flip side, the "he who dies with the most toys wins" lifestyle never satisfies. When we mix up luxuries with essentials, joy eludes us.
Third, we withstand the appealing allure of greed. Paul warned:
But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. (6:9-10)
The glitter of silver and gold lures people to destruction like a backyard bug zapper. The hypnotic force of greed leaves the debris of broken promises and relationships in its wake (6:10). Please understand, money itself is not the problem...the problem is our infatuation with it.
Fourth and finally, we cultivate a truly thankful and joyful lifestyle. What about those who are already rich? Paul addressed them in 1 Timothy 6:17:
Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy.
In other words, don't look down on those who have less...and don't fix your hope on false security. Instead, view your possessions as items on loan from God to you for His glory and for your enjoyment. Yes, our enjoyment. God is not a pleasure-squasher but the ever-gracious pleasure-provider. He wants us to realize that an absence of conceit plus the presence of security will equal true, lasting joy.
Contentment is foundational for a generous spirit. When we hold temporal things loosely, keep essentials to a minimum, resist the lure of greed, and cultivate a thankful and joyful lifestyle, greed will have no place to take root. A joyful generosity growing out of contentment will help us keep focused on what's really necessary for ourselves — and what's needed for others.
Adapted from Charles R. Swindoll, "The Joys of Generosity," Insights (May 2007): 2-3. Copyright © 2007 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights reserved worldwide.