The Character of the Christian: Generous

What does it mean for Christian leaders and for all Christians to not be lovers of money and wealth, but instead to be marked by generosity?

It is the Christian’s duty and delight to hold loosely to wealth and to give generously to the Lord’s work. Any problem with money is not the fault of the money itself but with the sneaky, sinful human heart. As Thabiti Anyabwile points out, we have something so much greater than money that can captivate our affections in a much deeper way: “The Lord gives us greater loves than money, which makes wings and flies away (Prov. 23:5). He gives us greater delights in Christ, who in fact is the greatest delight of all.

 

day we continue our series on the character of the Christian. We are exploring how the various character qualifications of elders are actually God’s calling on all Christians. While elders are meant to exemplify these traits, all Christians are to exhibit them. I want us to consider whether we are displaying these traits and to learn together how we can pray to have them in greater measure. Today we will look at what it means for Christian leaders and for all Christians to not be lovers of money and wealth, but instead to be marked by generosity.

Paul tells Timothy, “An overseer must … not [be] a lover of money” (1 Timothy 3:3). Likewise, he tells Titus, “an overseer … must not be … greedy for gain” (Titus 1:7). Finally, Peter writes exiled elders, “Shepherd the flock of God … not for shameful gain, but eagerly” (1 Peter 5:2). Clearly, the biblical authors understand that the way we use our money displays something very important about our relationship with God. They understand as well that there will always be people who pursue ministry for the purpose of personal enrichment.

In his commentary on 1 Timothy, Philip Ryken points out that there are two grave errors that can come when considering Christian leaders in light of money: “It is a grave mistake to consider wealth a credential for spiritual leadership. Being rich does not disqualify a man from the eldership, but it does not recommend him for it, either. What matters is how he uses his money, and especially how much affection he has for it. An overseer must not be a money-lover.” Thus, John Piper writes that an elder’s “lifestyle should not reflect a love of luxury. He should be a generous giver. He should not be anxious about his financial future. He should not be so money-oriented that ministry decisions revolve around this issue.” The man should be free from both the love of money and the love of the lavish lifestyle that money can buy. He displays his freedom from the love of money through his generosity.

Alexander Strauch explains,

This qualification prohibits a base, mercenary interest that uses Christian ministry and people for personal profit. … Like a powerful drug, the love of money can delude the judgment of even the best men. … Elders, then, cannot be the kind of men who are always interested in money. They cannot be men who need to control the church’s funds and who refuse financial accountability. Such men have distorted spiritual values and set the wrong example for the church. They will inevitably fall into unethical financial dealings that will publicly disgrace the Lord’s name.

And, indeed, we regularly see men fall into scandal for that very reason. Jesus warned “You cannot serve both God and [money]” for every person can have only one master (Matthew 6:24). It is crucial to the well-being of the church that its leaders are joyfully controlled by the Word of God rather than the desire for wealth.

How about Christians that are not elders? Not surprisingly, God requires the very same standard.

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