Command those who are rich in this present world . . . to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous.
1 Timothy 6:17,18
Imagine the apostle Paul has just stepped forward into our 21st Century society. He has received a detailed description of the typical standard of living for Christians who live in a modern civilization. He’s learned all about our conveniences: access to medical care, ease of travel, varieties of food, freshly squeezed orange juice in the dead of winter, closets of clothes, garages of cars, indoor climate control, family trips, net assets, investments, retirement plans, our income that’s often so disposable we may think nothing of “going out for a bite to eat” simply because we can.
Then, with Paul knowing what he knows about us, you and I stand before him and clear our throats. We then try to explain to him that the Word of God in our reading that speaks “to those who are rich in this present world” does not apply to us.
The vast majority of us—in comparison to most parts of the world and in past standards of living—are among the materially rich. That is not wrong in and of itself. We give thanks to a lavish God for it. But in light of this lavish treatment, let’s confess to our Lord and to each other all the time you and I have failed to demonstrate heartfelt generosity in its many forms. Let’s also confess all the times we have talked ourselves into thinking that we cannot afford to be generous; that generosity is meant for someone else.
Thank God that we are even richer in another way. We are rich in God’s grace. We are rich in God’s overwhelming forgiveness of our every sin through faith in the blood of Christ. That makes us truly rich, eternally blessed.
How to thank such a generous God? “Be rich in good deeds,” Paul tells us, “be generous.” And we can do so joyfully. For doing this, we are simply giving shouts of praise to God for what he’s already given to us.
Lord, by your gospel, displace the stinginess of my old self with generosity and joy. Amen.