The Stretch: Trading Up

Our lives are largely a series of transactions. Whether something is good or bad is determined by what drives us and what we’re ultimately trying to achieve.

  1. We trade our lives for resources (young).
  2. We trade our resources for more life (old).
  3. We trade our time for money.
  4. We trade our money for security.
  5. We trade our money for status and standing.
  6. We trade our freedom for relationships.
  7. Sometimes, we selfishly trade our relationships for self-fulfillment.

On and on.

We even do this with faith and religion. We all started on this journey because we became aware of something we didn’t have. Maybe it was inner peace, a God-shaped hole where we knew there was more security, or confidence. Or maybe it was more pragmatic. You’re trying to raise your kids well or be a better spouse or friend.

Many of these are good things, aspirations, and intentions. Some of them aren’t so great. It’s always good to take a long, serious look at ourselves in the mirror, to look at our lives and say, “Why am I doing this, REALLY?”

To be brutally honest, we might not like the answer sometimes. But the truth is a great place to start, and it opens the doors to trading up this entire way of living and seeing life for something better.

The mindset with which you approach your life determines who you become.

We embrace generosity in our lives not to get something but to become like someone. In 1 Timothy, Paul speaks to Timothy. It's an older man talking to a younger one and telling him about what he's learned.

1 Timothy 6
6 But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.

Even if you nail the concept of trading up, there’s still a point where you can’t take it with you.

1 Timothy 6
8 But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.

And if you’re honest with yourself, you’re saying, “No, actually I won’t.” You know there’s so much more you could trade.

1 Timothy 6
9 Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

He doesn’t say, “Money is the root of all evil.” It can be a powerful, incredible force that can do all kinds of good. We all have a relationship with money. It’s not just an inanimate object or concept. And it’s important to note that our relationship with money is an incredible indicator of the state of our hearts.

Jesus talked a lot about this. Where your treasure is, there your heart is. Wherever you’re putting your hope in (the next trade) that’s where your heart is.

1 Timothy 6
11 But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 13 In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus, who while testifying before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you 14 to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 which God will bring about in his own time—God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen.

We shouldn’t flee from money, we should flee from a toxic relationship with money.

That type of relationship with money will lead you in the opposite direction of righteousness, Godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness. There’s something so much bigger than this life that should shift our perspective on how we live this life. But it’s not just the bigness of the universe, it’s the bigness of God.

How do we take hold of that eternal life? How do we take hold of that eternal perspective way of living? If we’re not supposed to flee from money and things, but change our relationship with it, how do we do that? Paul shows us the “how.”

1 Timothy 6
17 Command those who are rich in this present world

Paul is commanding Timothy to command the followers of Jesus, so he’s also commanding us. It isn’t a suggestion.

1 Timothy 6
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. 18 Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 19 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.

All of us want to be generous. But living a generous life and staying that way is incredibly hard.

Why is this?

Whether we realize it or not, we view our resources (our lives, time, talent, treasure) as currency in the trading game. This limits how open-handed and generous we actually become.

Interestingly enough, even when we are generous, we're doing it as another trade – to get something, whether that's peace of mind, feeling a little less guilty, being seen in a good light, or even trying to appease God.

It’s this idea that if I give God His cut, He’ll give me my cut and bless me.

It is important to remember that we should believe that God will bless us if we honor Him with our resources. But this will not necessarily mean we can trade up for more.
If that’s our mindset, we’re likely to be disappointed. That’s because we’re stuck in this earthly mindset while still trying to do it with God.

There’s something so much greater than this at stake. God has blessed you, but if you don’t listen to His word, you’ll still be blessed, but you’ll hit the ceiling of it. You’ll never find a final sense of peace. You’ll miss out on “life that is truly life.”

It all boils down to the same thing.

  • “I wish I hadn’t been so caught up in accumulating.”
  • “I wish I hadn’t worked as hard.”
  • “I wish I had spent more time on the things and with the people who mattered.”

The problem is that once you realize this on your own, it's usually too late to change. Paul is trying to get us all off this train, and it can be hard for us to depart. What if God gave you what you have as an opportunity to break out of the mold of getting and into a new way of becoming?

He does, but with it comes the need to stretch.

1 Timothy 6
18 Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 19 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.

Do good, be rich in deeds, not accumulation. This isn't about a number on a balance sheet but about the legacy of what you have done. Be generous and willing to share with others.

It’s not what we get, it’s who we become more like: Jesus. And what did Jesus do? He gave himself for others.

We’re not here for ourselves. The world around us teaches us individualism, but the scriptures teach that we are given to each other. When we embrace the stretch of generosity, we may not see what we “get” by giving of our time, money, or ourselves. However, we can see the WHO.

But we struggle with that because we’re taught that when we give something, we get something. So, what do we get from being generous? To answer that we need to know what the point of our relationship with Jesus is.

If the point is cosmic fire insurance, to simply “go to heaven,” then we already got what we wanted, we traded up. And we never have to be generous again. We won’t give of ourselves because of the individualism in our hearts and our standards, we’ve given our life to Christ, we get heaven when we die, everything else is mine to consume.

But if the point of a relationship with Jesus is to become more like Him, to embody the character of Christ, and allow God to shape and mold us, then we become generous people because we see that generosity is a characteristic of God Himself. We see the “others” component of living our lives with our time, resources, and lives.

So, how do we know when we’re being generous?

We know we’re being generous when our feelings of inadequacy and insufficiency kick in.

When it creates a hole that could’ve been filled with more of us, we’re being generous. What do we “get” when we become generous people? Maybe nothing. Maybe the only thing we “get” is becoming more like the God who gave of Himself poured out Himself in His Son without any expectation of return.

Would that be enough for you? We become generous people because we love a generous God. Embrace the generosity in your life not to get something but to become like someone.

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