Having run a charity for 25 years, I am constantly amazed at the generosity of normal people. When confronted with needs, the normal reaction is to respond to those needs. The only thing which stops us giving is the nature of money itself. We live in an economy which encourages us to be selfish rather than generous, to accumulate wealth rather than circulate our resources through giving to others.
Deterioration of possessions
Most of our possessions deteriorate. Our cars depreciate rapidly, eventually becoming worthless. The clothes we cover ourselves with wear out. Farmland which is not properly looked after deteriorates in its usefulness to grow crops. Even the homes we live in will eventually crumble and fall. The new laptop we so eagerly bought last year will become redundant in a few more years.
It is natural for physical things to deteriorate in value over time. There is one notable exception to this rule. Accumulating money produces more money through positive interest rates. It is possible, for a rich man, to do no work at all, but to live off the interest on money he has accumulated.
For the sake of our personal health and security, and for the sake of our communities, both local and global, money needs to circulate rather than accumulate. An economy based on this principle would mean that extremes of wealth and poverty would be eliminated, there would be enough food, shelter and the necessities of life for the whole of mankind.
Love of money
Love for money causes all kinds of evil. Some people want to get rich. They have wandered away from the faith. They have wounded themselves with many sorrows. (1 Timothy 6:10 NIRV)
Note that the Bible doesn’t say that money itself is evil, but the love of money does cause evil. In particular the love of accumulating riches by amassing money is harmful to ourselves, other people and the global community.
Storing up treasure
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.
But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19-21 NIV)
Does this mean that it is wrong to save for a rainy day, or to save up for a new washing machine, or to provide for our pension for later life. We cannot make up rules for everything. The point is: where is our security, where is our heart, where is our treasure, and where is our trust?
This is a particular challenge to me. I have contributed all my working life to the state National Insurance scheme and the government now pays me a pension. I contributed to various employment pension schemes and these too pay me a further pension. When we downsized and bought a smaller house 10 years ago, I put some of the proceeds in a private pension scheme. The result is that we are able to live comfortably, though not extravagantly off money accumulated through pension schemes.
I’m not asking you to affirm me, or to judge me, because this is a personal matter between me and my God. The challenge to me is to ensure that my heart and security is not in my pension provisions but in my faith in a generous God who provides for my needs.
A Generous God
In thinking about generosity we have the ultimate example in the generosity of our creator. A verse from an old hymn says:
For each perfect gift of thine
To our race so freely given,
Graces human and divine,
Flowers of earth and buds of heaven:
Lord of all, to thee we raise
This our joyful hymn of praise
Our creator has given us everything we need. The sun to warm us, rain to drink, food (enough for the world if shared), colour and music to enjoy, language to communicate, air to breath and immune systems to combat disease. Some of those things like music, water and food have been commoditised but they were all given freely by God for our survival and enjoyment.
Generosity: the antidote
How then do we avoid being caught up in loving the accumulation of money. I know of no better antidote than gratitude and generosity. I believe that it is natural for us to be generous. It is only the love of money and the desire to accumulate wealth which gets in the way.
Being generous is a win:win situation. Being generous does us good. I am not talking about feeling smug because we have done our bit for charity. It does us good because we are living how God intended us to live. Being “made in His image”, when we are generous we are being like our creator. As Jesus said:
“Freely you have received; freely give”. (Matthew 10:8)