In our last lesson we talked about overflowing in contentment. Discontentment leads to all kinds of problems in this life. Not only does it lead to problems in the present, it can also draw you away from the pain and pierce you with many sorrows (6:10). The apostle Paul teaches us another picture of how we are to overflow as disciples of Jesus in the next paragraph. With contentment in mind, disciples of Jesus are to overflow in generosity. Notice what Paul says in 1 Timothy 6:18.
They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share. (1 Timothy 6:18 ESV)
This is where Paul is going in this paragraph. Do good, be rich in good works, be generous, and be ready to share. So let’s look at how Paul teaches us to overflow in generosity.
Paul begins by talking about where we run to in this life. In verse 11 Paul says to run from these things. What does Paul want us to run from? The prior paragraph was all about the desire for more and loving money. The desire for more causes disaster. Paul says run from wanting more and more. Run from loving money. Run from discontentment. Stop looking at what you do not have. Run away from being concerned with what everyone else has that you do not have. The godly person runs from these things.
But we cannot just run away from discontentment. We need to run to something. This is the nature of the fight against sin. You cannot simply stop but must replace it with something pure and godly. So we not only need to run away from the desire for more, and run to righteousness, devotion to God, faith, love, steadfastness, and gentleness. Pursue the things of God and do not pursue money. Pursue faith, love, gentleness, and endurance and do not pursue having more and more.
But notice what Paul calls this in verse 12. Paul says, “Fight the good fight of faith.” Paul wants us to see something. This is the fight that we are engaged in as the people of God. We are in a constant struggle between contentment and discontentment. We are in a constant tug of war in our hearts between desiring more and more material wealth and desiring godliness, righteousness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness. This is the fight. Paul tells us to engage in the fight so that you can take hold of eternal life. Eternal life is the goal and it is awaiting us if we will run from loving wealth and possessions and run to a deeper devotion to God. Fight this fight and make this decision. By doing so, you will take hold of eternal life. Do we hear what Paul is saying? Do not reach and take hold of the things in this life. Reach for and take hold of eternal life. Eternal life is in front of you. You were called to eternal life.
Further notice what else Paul says in verses 12-13. This is the confession you made as a believer in Jesus. This is what we signed up for when we decided to follow Jesus. We made the confession of Jesus which was a declaration that we would pursue him and not this world. We would run toward him and his righteousness and not toward wealth and the cares of this world. Jesus himself made this proclamation before Pilate. This Jesus who alone has immortality, lives in approachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. In John 18:37 we read Jesus confesses before Pilate that he is a king and he came into he world for this very purpose of giving the testimony of this truth. We are confessing Jesus as our Lord, Savior, and King, not this world. We are choosing him and not choosing this life. Living generously requires us to run to our Lord and run toward our confession, and toward this world.
Second, Paul wants to give us an important warning which is found in verse 17. Paul addresses the rich in this world. Now we mentioned last week that according to God we are rich. Sometimes we define the rich as everyone who has more than us. But Paul told us that with food and clothing we will be content. If we have the necessities, then we are rich in this world. So Paul is giving a warning to us. The warning is to not be arrogant or set our hope on the uncertainty of riches.
Why do riches cause arrogance? Riches cause arrogance because we can believe that it is by our own experience, ability, intelligence, and hard work that we are rich. We might think this is even true. But notice what Paul says. The reason you must not be arrogant if you are rich in this life nor should you set your hope on riches is because it is God who gave you what you have. Set your hope on God because he is the one who gave you everything that you have.
Now think about how important it is to think this way when it comes to living generously. We can do good, be rich in good works, be generous, and share what we have because we realize that what we have was given to us by God. It is not mine. God is letting me use these things. I can be generous with what I have because I did not come to these things by my own might and ability. I came to have these things because God in his generosity has given them to me. I have what I have so that I can do good works. I have what I have so that I can be generous. I have what I have so I can share it with others. The apostle Paul made the same point to the Corinthians.
And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. As it is written, “He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.” He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. (2 Corinthians 9:8–11 ESV)
Paul teaches the same concept in both places in the scriptures. God is telling us that he has given us what we have so that we will use those things for his glory. When we do so, he will give us more so that more good works can be done. God is not going to give to the stingy. The apostle Paul also said to the Corinthians a little earlier, “Remember this: Whoever shows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously” (2 Corinthians 9:6 NIV). Set your hope on God and understand that he is the one who has given you everything with the purpose for you do to good works and share what you have. So we must stop and ask ourselves this important question: what good works am I doing with what God has given me? God has given us a job. What good works are we doing for God with it? God has given us wealth and possessions. What good works are we doing for God with them? Generous living comes from running away from discontentment and the desire for more and running toward God as the giver of all that we have.
Why Does It Matter? (6:19)
Why is this so important? Look at verse 19 as Paul ends his teaching about our need to live generously. When we do good, are rich in good works, are generous, and ready to share, then we are “storing up treasure as a good foundation of the future so that we can take hold of true life. Why is it so important that we are generous with what God has given us and that we do good works for God with what we have? Paul tells us that this is how we are laying up treasure for ourselves in eternity. We are declaring and showing that we do not see our treasure as the material possessions of this world. We are showing that the treasure we desire is the rich treasure of eternity that our Lord Jesus will bring. Our generosity shows that we know that God has given these things to us for good works and to share. Our generosity shows that we value the eternal treasure and not these things that we cannot take with us. We are content because we know that God gave it to us. We are generous because we know God gave it to us so that we would use it for his glory and goodness. We know that we are storing up treasure for ourselves in heaven by living this way.
Let me end the lesson by thinking about these instructions in the reverse. If we are not generous and not using what we have been given by God to do good works and to share, then it shows that we have not put on our hope on God, but on the uncertainty of riches. We are saying that we do not trust God to provide more for us. We are telling God that we do not think he has given us these things. This is why Paul told Timothy to fight the good fight of faith (6:12). We are in a fight for our hearts, minds, and souls. We have to decide what we want to reach out a take for our lives. We can reach out to eternal life by trusting in God as the giver of all we have. Or we can reach out and try to take hold of this world’s possessions and wealth which are uncertain and lead to all kinds of pains and ruin (6:9-10). What will you do with what God has given you?