We continue delving into the Timothy journey this morning on this thanksgiving day. Remember we are in one of the “Pastoral Epistles”. The letters offer a wide spectrum of warnings and encouragements as well as instructions to pastors/leaders in the local church based on actual experience of the author. We are in the important Roman provincial city of Ephesus; a city dominated by one of 7 wonders of the ancient world – temple to the goddess, Dina or Artemis.
TEXT Timothy 6:6-19 (New International Version) 6But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 8But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. 9People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. 10For 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. Paul’s Charge to Timothy 11But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. 12Fight 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. 13In 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 14to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15which God will bring about in his own time—God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honour and might forever. Amen. 17Command 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. 18Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 19In 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. Today God speaks of how to deal with both the blessing of wealth and the dangers of it and what that great gift is of being truly content in God and in so, in life. title slide
“Leaning on his fence one day, a devout Quaker was watching a new neighbour move in next door. After all kinds of modern appliances, electronic gadgets, plush furniture, and costly wall hangings had been carried in, the onlooker called over, “If you find you’re lacking anything, neighbour, let me know and I’ll show you how to live without it.”
Contentment? I read this quote from some unknown person…. “I had no shoes and complained until I met a man who had no feet”.
There seems to have been some people in the Ephesian community who were falling for the age old trap of selling out for the almighty dollar – at the cost of everything else in life. They seem to have been saying that being disinterested in money, lacking the heart to chase it and build it was a road to emptiness and poverty. But there seems to have been a, faith-destroying side to this flawed view. These church folks were suggesting that living a God-pleasing, faithful life was to be the ticket to financial gain! As if our whole life with God was really all about gaining material possessions, health and whatever else is good for us in our view! Paul turns this shallow understanding of life in Jesus right back on their heads and says, in fact, there is great benefit in godly living – and it is not financial gain – but that most valuable state of being – ‘contentment’. “Godliness with contentment is great gain”, says Paul to Timothy, just in case the young pastor is in doubt.
So Paul is saying that we live in God’s way for contentment in him – not for what money or possessions or status we think we need and seek.
The main reason why giving your heart to the pursuit of wealth destroys your faith and your life in the end is because wealth is so flimsy! Banking on money in the bank to bring lasting contentment in life is folly, according to the Word of God. So, what to do my heart when it comes to money and the pursuit of the accumulation of wealth?
Flee. “Flee from giving too much of your heart to it”, says Paul to young Timothy. “Take hold of”: Grab on to the more lasting and precious and life-giving thing – God and his word and his people”, says Paul. Grab on to where you have been with God, says Paul. Remember where you have come from with the Lord and hang on to that. But there is something else to do. “Confess faith”. (v13). Instead of speaking about the making of money and the great reward of being wealthy and etc…, speak about your life in God’s riches – your security and personal fulfillment in the love of Christ and his presence with you.
So, this is how we receive the great personal gain of that much sought after gift, “contentment”: Flee from the love of it, hold on to the things of faith and speak about them
And what of being wealthy? Everyone here is wealthy – or at least wealthier than a lot of other people around the world. Interesting how Paul never suggests that being wealthy is bad – just dangerous.
I was reading a book called “Mustard Seed Verses McWorld” by Tim Sine. It is an insightful work that sees right through our ‘McWorld’; fast and disposable culture. Tom suggests that there is a whole generation of wealthy Christian people who don’t know how to be wealthy and faithful at the same time. Somehow we wealthy Christians seem to hear “Wealth is not good” in the church. Therefore we go underground and don’t mention the “M” word or the “Giving” theme.
Well, let’s get above ground now. Being wealthy is not bad – just dangerous; like every other sort of life really! Wealth is a gift. It is not even a gift to be gotten rid of as quickly as possible or hidden as much as you can to be a “real” Christian, as far as Paul is concerned here. He says that this wealth has been given to you by God for your enjoyment! (v17).
God has given me my income, my house, my motorbike, my car, my……. because he is happy that I enjoy them. That’s the truth. The truth is that wealthy Christian can do a lot of things, support a lot of people and be a huge blessing to many people – because they can – because we can.
“Tell the wealthy folks to be rich in good actions – generous and always willing to share”, says Paul to Pastor Timothy. Paul can say this with confidence because he knows in his own life that God and his provision is trustworthy. He knows words from God like these…
Psalm 145:15-16 (New International Version) 15 The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time. 16 You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing.
So, wealthy men and women of God, we can trust that the Lord will provide all we need and more – enough for us to be generous. And with this trust, we don’t need to attaching too much of ourselves to the pursuit of wealth and status. Instead we can be generous, hospitable, giving people. That is how to deal with our wealth in this community – give it, share it, do good things with it.
It is also our responsibility to pay for the work of the gospel with our wealth. That is why we have an offering and why we don’t seek lots of government grants or company sponsorship for our congregation’s work.
Christians pay for the work of the Lord and for the help of those in need. It is what we do. It’s what Jesus told us to do. The guide in the OT community was that God’s people gave a 10th of their income for the Levites – the priestly family who served the people and the Lord in a special way in the worship and teaching of God’s Word and help for the alien and the needy in Israel.
I have come across wonderful wealthy Christians who have done so much good for people and the church and those in need in my Christian walk They have become a model of how to be a wealthy Christian to Leanne and I – generous, giving, sharing their time and their wealth.
Maybe the truth is that the less stick we put in stocks and shares and money and etc. the less our heart is sidetracked by this pursuit and the more our heart finds its peace and love and rest in Jesus? Maybe Paul is right – Contentment in God’s Way and his love is of the greatest personal gain for each of us and for those around us.
So, friends, watch your heart when it comes to your money and stuff. Thank the Lord for it all. Hold on to who you are in your baptism and what the Lord has called you to. Speak of your faith; speak of the gift of life in Jesus. Give it away as much as possible.
Do good things with your wealth – things for the gospel, things to meet the needs of those in need. Support our work here – give your offering as an offering to the Lord of your life who has given himself and everything he has to you and still does. God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honour and might forever. Amen.