Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.
I Timothy 6:17-19
“God gives, but he doesn’t share”
Ouch. There’s no confusion here, not much room for interpretation either. Using “command” instead of “suggest” or “preferably” conveys Paul’s stance on this matter. We’re supposed to share what we’ve got with others. We’re supposed to do good with what we’ve got. We’re supposed to be focused on gaining that which lasts for eternity rather than that which we leave behind when we pass from this life.
Putting these verses together with the Haitian proverb, which came via reading Mountains Beyond Mountains, the current NCV volunteer book of choice, which recounts the story of Paul Farmer and his organization, Partners in Health , we’re forced to face the ugly truth that some of us are better at sharing than others.
It might be very easy for me to try and use this Bible passage on others, not looking at myself as one of those ‘rich’ people. Although I live well below the poverty line by American standards, the reality is that I live well above what most people live on here in Bolivia. I definitely have enough to be able to share with others. Am I sharing enough? What am I keeping to myself that was meant for someone else?
In a recent sermon on unanswered prayer, I had to deal with this unpleasant reality- sometimes the answers to our prayers are dependent on the obedience of others. Honestly, my first reaction was accusatory, wondering if the disobedience of others was the cause of some of my seemingly unanswered prayers. Then I had that nasty sinking burning feeling in my gut. I had to look within and wonder how many times my selfishness, my apathy, my inaction, my flat out disobedience was the cause of someone else not receiving the answer to their prayer. Ugh. Not an enjoyable experience, but a necessary one.
Choosing generosity isn’t always easy or fun, although sometimes it is. Usually it’s inconvenient, I am provided with the ‘opportunity’ to give to others when I’ve got seemingly better things to do. But when I stop and take the time to not be in my own world, I am rewarded in a way that cannot be compensated monetarily. How can I forget so easily how beautiful the act of sharing is? If it is done genuinely, this moment of obedience transcends the financial amount being given, and the satisfaction, the reward if you will, becomes a treasure indeed.