Playing the (really) long game

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
— Matthew 6:21

Generosity is one of the key values that should shape a Christian’s life.

One of the reasons for this is because the Christian worldview completely redefines how we view everything we own. As with most things, the Scriptural approach is quite different from the secular world.

That's why I want to start by talking a bit about our relationship with stuff. I find that for myself personally, putting material things in their proper place helps me to be more generous.

Jesus tells us we can’t love him and simultaneously hoard our stuff as a backup plan. We’ll inevitably love the one and hate the other. So, we have to choose (Matthew 6:19-24).

Do we hang on to earth's temporary treasure, believing that is all there is, or do we pursue heaven's eternal treasure, believing we will reap the benefits of our choice forever?

The only thing that is certain about earthly treasure is that it will one day be gone. Jesus warns us to be smart and think long-term. And eternity is about as long-term as it gets.

The question I ask myself when I come across passages like this is:

What is my treasure?

I’m pretty good at being generous with my money. I can always get better at this, but for me, earning as much as possible is not an idol.

Instead, I struggle more with wanting to keep the things I own in pristine condition, which means not sharing them often or willingly. This frustrates me because I know these items are ultimately unimportant; I won’t get to keep them when I die.

Another thing I often treasure is my status. This has been getting better. God has been doing a good work in me, reminding me that the goal is to serve him, not to build up my own success.

But I need to keep being aware of these things. I don’t want to miss out on opportunities to be generous because I’m cherishing worthless things or clinging to my own selfish ambition.

But what’s the alternative? If we’re not supposed to pursue wealth or position in this life, what are we pursuing?

We need to know what heavenly treasure looks like.

Ultimately, it is rooted in the promise that one day Jesus Christ will come again to restore justice and order. There will be a brand new heaven and earth and those who have followed Jesus on earth will get to dwell with him in perfect joy, unity and peace (Revelation 21:1-8).

If we keep that perspective, we recognize that material goods have no lasting value in and of themselves. However, they can be used for immense good for God’s kingdom.

If we are open-handed and generous with what we have, God will ensure that we are provided with what we truly need in this life. Not only that, but we will one day be blessed beyond measure—receiving far more than what we gave (Luke 6:38).

How does this affect our generosity?

It simply means that we don’t ever put the worth of material gain above that of another person.

This is not to say we shouldn’t have stuff or that it’s wrong to hold an important status. Nor does mean that we shouldn’t enjoy these things if we do have them.

However, we trust in God’s promises instead of trusting in the security or temporary pleasure of material things.

As Christians, we also know that everything we have has been given to us by God. Whether a little or a lot, it is a gift; we are each appointed as stewards of the resources God has given us (Matthew 25:14-28); (Proverbs 19:17).

And of course, as we saw last week in talking about love, our generosity is primarily fueled by compassion and genuine care for the people around us.

Human beings are God's treasures on earth. Those who follow him are responsible for using their resources wisely to help anyone in need. 

Read part six of this series.