Generous people, Paul said, “will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age” (6:19). Wise stewardship accumulates eternal reward. Giving and good works are an investment in eternity. The Bible consistently reminds us that our faithfulness here and now has eternal consequences. God rewards His people. Our generosity not only helps others here and now, it provides blessing for us throughout eternity. Giving isn’t about losing wealth but about laying up heavenly treasure. The Lord Jesus is the one who taught us to think about heavenly treasure:
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Mt. 6:19-21).
Our giving reveals whether we are motivated primarily by eternal values or by present values. D. L. Moody observed, “It doesn’t take long to tell where a person’s treasure is. In 15 minutes, with most people, you can tell whether their treasures are on earth or in heaven.” The Lord’s counsel is not that we do not invest our money to make a profit. Rather, He wants us to be sure that we take the long view and are more concerned about eternal yields than earthly ones.
Generous people also “take hold of the life that is truly life.” Wise stewardship takes hold of life. We hear people say, “This is the good life. This is really living!” Often that describes a time of special self-indulgence. There is such a thing as real life, and it refers to living life at its fullest here and now in a way that is consistent with God’s promises for eternity. As Paul wrote earlier in this letter, “Godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come” (1 Tim. 4:8). There is a richness to life when we use the abilities and resources that God has made available to us to make a difference in the lives of other people. And there is a huge difference between living with a thirst for pleasure and living with a sense of purpose. The richest times in life come when we use our money to further God’s kingdom. That is real living, and its value extends far beyond the present world into eternity.
In 1999, the death of Oseola McCarty received national attention. On one level this was surprising, because Miss McCarty had lived a life of obscurity. She had lived all her life in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, doing laundry for the well-todo, at 50 cents a load, using an old-fashioned washboard.
Then, at the age of 87, she stunned officials at the University of Southern Mississippi by making a donation of $150,000. Where had she obtained that kind of money? She had lived frugally, saved carefully, and invested wisely. As an elderly woman, she found herself with $150,000 and decided there was something better to do with it than spend it on herself. “I had more money in the bank than I could use,” she said. “I can’t carry anything away from here with me, so I thought it best to give it to some child to get an education.” She was embarrassed by all the attention, but when asked by reporters why she had done what she had done, she borrowed some familiar words: “It’s more blessed to give than to receive—I’ve tried it.”
Generosity is a God-given gyroscope that brings stability to our lives. Paul draws a vivid contrast between two ways of life, only one of which is appropriate for a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. Those who desire to get rich, who are characterized by greed, “plunge . . . into ruin and destruction” (1 Tim. 6:9). Their ship capsizes in the seas of materialism and consumerism. But those who live with Christ-imitating generosity “lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age.” They not only reach their destination safely, they flourish when they arrive. The book of Hebrews offers the same message:
Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” (Heb. 13:5-6).