Christ-followers are to imitate their Lord in developing a lifestyle of good works: “Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds.” The God who provides for us richly expects us to respond richly by practicing good works. No one insists more strongly in Scripture that we are not made right with God by good works but by God’s free grace. At the same time, no one is more emphatic that God’s people will demonstrate the reality of their new life by good works empowered by the Holy Spirit. The emphasis of the New Testament is consistent:
Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven (Mt. 5:16).
For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do (Eph. 2:10).
. . . our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for Himself a people that are His very own, eager to do what is good (Ti. 2:13-14).
I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good (Ti. 3:8).
Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order that they may provide for daily necessities and not live unproductive lives (Ti. 3:14).
Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds (Heb. 10:24).
Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise— the fruit of lips that confess His name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased (Heb. 13:15-16).
Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day He visits us (1 Pet. 2:12).
Paul did not specify what these good deeds are. Clearly he had in mind acts of caring and compassion, which meet the needs of people. And it is significant that he mentioned good deeds before he spoke of generosity. Those with money often find it easier to give cash than time, but the Lord will not allow those with money to think they have this option. They are not only to do good works; they are to be rich in them.
Christ-followers are also to develop a lifestyle of generosity: “Command them . . . to be generous and willing to share.” The two Greek words that are translated “generous” and “willing to share” are virtually the same and serve to reinforce the idea of financial generosity. The New Testament makes no mention of tithing as the Christian standard. It was a clear law under the Old Covenant, but the New Covenant, instead, points us to God’s grace as our pattern. Generosity is the New Testament standard of giving.
Freely you have received, freely give (Mt. 10:8).
In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus Himself said: “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).
Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work (2 Cor. 9:6-8).
Generous giving is proportional giving, not merely percentage giving. While tithing may provide a useful guideline, it falls short of generosity for those who have been richly blessed by God. As Fred Smith comments, “I firmly believe that tithing for wealthy people is an escape from giving” (“A Holy Boldness Toward Money,” Leadership, Spring, 1981, p.49).
Generous giving is also joyful giving, because “God loves a cheerful giver.” And generous giving is intentional giving. It is not impulsive or spasmodic but thoughtful and prayerful.
Generosity serves as a drain plug for greed in our lives. When Karl Menninger wrote a book in 1981 titled Whatever Became Of Sin?Behind The Stained Glass Windows, p.202). That is a remarkable statement from a secular perspective. However, there is a cure for greed, and it involves the intentional cultivation of generosity.
Generosity is a commanded lifestyle for God’s people. We are to be richly generous because God has been richly generous to us. Generosity is also a chosen lifestyle. It is the intentional decision of the Christ-follower to imitate his self-giving, generous Lord. This happens because those who are rich in this present world know that they do not live solely for this present world. That is why Paul directs our attention beyond the present age to the coming age in 1 Timothy 6:19.