The 19th Sunday after Pentecost October 7, 2007
1 Timothy 6:6-17
15, 430, 425, 788 [TLH alt. 439]
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. I urge you in the sight of God who gives life to all things, and before Christ Jesus who witnessed the good confession before Pontius Pilate, that you keep this commandment without spot, blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ's appearing, which He will manifest in His own time, He who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see, to whom be honor and everlasting power. Amen. Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy.
In Christ Jesus, who provides all we need to be happy and content today and forever, dear fellow Christians:
How would you like to walk into Sears, Home Depot, Target, or Kohls this afternoon and buy whatever catches your eye without paying a penny for it? You could pick out new clothes, tools, or electronics worth hundreds of dollars, and take them home even if you have nothing in your wallet. Or how would you like a new car or house at an unbelievably low monthly payment? It’s possible. All it takes is a credit card, a no-money down offer, or an interest-only loan, and you can get all kinds of things for little or nothing...at least for the moment. That is what grabs people’s attention. Offers like these are snatched up because they satisfy the urge for instant gratification. We know what that’s like. When we want something, we don’t want to wait. We want it now!
However, these seemingly great deals are really traps in the long run. Sure, you can buy almost anything with your Visa or Master Card, but it is not free money because eventually you have to pay the debt plus interest. Businesses advertise that they want you to enjoy their products now at no cost but do not emphasize that in six months, a year, or two years from now, the debt will still come due. The great deal in the short term may end up costing far more than a person is able to pay. The smart shopper looks beyond the moment to the bottom line—to what is the best value over time. The bottom line is where the Lord directs us today—not just the best deal over a year or two but what is worth the most throughout all eternity.
At the moment, here and now, what seems to be worth the most? Isn’t it money? If you have money you can go places, do things, and buy whatever the world has to offer. Without it, the possibilities are much bleaker. That is all the farther some people look. Their overriding goal in life is to get wealth. They believe that money will give them happiness and security, and it may do that for the moment. It’s enjoyable to sit behind the wheel of a new car in which everything works. It must be thrilling to win $1,000,000. It’s nice to have money for a vacation or to pay for unexpected emergencies. That is what we see now at the moment.
But what about later? What about the bottom line? The happiness quickly wears off. When we have $10 we think that if we only had $100 or $1,000, then we would really be happy. People become caught up in a frantic, desperate struggle to get more and more. They pack casinos, religiously buy lottery tickets, and dream of striking it rich. Yet even those few who do, cannot buy permanent happiness with it. Solomon writes in Ecclesiastes: “Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. This too is meaningless” (Ecclesiastes 5:10 NIV). The bottom line is that, like addictive drugs, it takes more and more money for less and less satisfaction.
“Those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition.” [v.9] Love of money leads some to gamble away all they have, even their homes. It destroys marriages. It fuels jealousy, coveting, and stealing. As Paul says, the love of money is a root source of all kinds of evil. Worst of all, it can drive faith out of the heart. Solomon’s great wealth led him astray from the Lord for a time. Judas’ greed drove him to do the unthinkable and betray the Son of God into the hands of His enemies.
And no matter how great the wealth, it is only temporary. Possessions break. Clothes wear out. Cars rust. Homes are left behind for assisted living centers and nursing facilities. Even if you have the billions of Bill Gates, the fact remains: “We brought nothing into the world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.” [v.7] If money were all that important, the Lord would see to it that we would be born with a fully funded bank account. If big homes and expensive clothes were vital, He would not make us leave them behind. But He does. Those who live for money now will one day have nothing with which to stand before their Judge. The rich man in Jesus’ story learned the hard way that loving the good life comes at a fearful cost later.
Where are we at? In a typical day what do you think about more: what you can earn and buy with dollars and cents, or what the Lord offers you free of charge? What would you more likely turn down: an hour of overtime at work or an hour with the Lord in worship? What do you work harder at: gaining material things you can see and hold, or gaining more spiritual possessions?
Paul tells us to keep our eyes on the bottom line. Don’t be shortsighted and grab at instant gratification and pay the price forever after in Hell. Flee the love of money and pursue something far better!
“Godliness with contentment is great gain!” [v.6] Godliness is a completely different attitude and way of life. It is living in love for the Lord. Paul reminded Timothy that he had publicly confessed that life. It was likely at his baptism that Timothy stood up and willingly stated his faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior. Before Pontius Pilate Jesus had confessed that He was a king, but that His kingdom is not about money and territory, but is a spiritual rule within the heart.
Jesus did not come with the main goal of making our lives on earth richer but to set us free from slavery to the love of money. He did that by succeeding where we have failed. We have often fallen into the temptations money presents, but Jesus never did. He fought off all sin as our Substitute. When Satan offered Him all the riches of the world if He would fall down and worship him, the Lord fired back: “Away from Me, Satan! It is written: ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and serve Him only’” (Matthew 4:10 NIV).
Our greed condemns us, but Jesus paid off our sin. “It was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed...but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect” (1 Peter 1:18-19 NIV). Jesus clothes us with the dazzling white robe of His righteousness. He straightened out our bottom line from a huge deficit to a positive balance. Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.
Now He lives within us by faith and enables us to go in a different direction from the world. Paul uses some very strong action verbs: “Pursue righteousness, faith, love, patience, gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith. Lay hold on eternal life.” [vv.11-12] When we pursue the righteousness of life worked by love for Christ instead of struggling for more money, when we fight for the faith which the Spirit has given us instead of fighting for more and more things, when we take hold of and hold onto eternal life instead of letting it slip through our fingers in order to get more things to stuff into our garages, then we are the richest, most contented people on earth.
Paul wrote the Philippians: “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:12-13 NIV). We truly can be content regardless of how little or how much we have, because the Lord has rescued us from our greed and the punishment we deserve, and has given us a new outlook. We know that the Lord who gave us forgiveness and life will also give us just the right amount of money and possessions in the manner and time He knows is best.
If the Lord has given you a great abundance of earthly blessings, thank Him for them. On the other hand, if you are struggling because of losses, and you see your bank account dwindling, also thank Him, trusting that He has a good purpose in mind. Ask for the faith of Job to say, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21).
Is there good in less? Think of traveling. If you drag along five large suitcases, drape two cameras around your neck, and juggle three different guide books in your hands, you’re going to get bogged down and quickly tire of the trip. If you travel lightly you can move more freely and keep your eyes on the goal. The Lord does not want us to get bogged down on our journey through life. The bottom line is that He wants us watching and waiting when He returns to take us home.
Many years ago a Lutheran pastor described the two richest people he knew:
One is a laborer with his wife at his side, his little flock around the table, a simple meal before them. They fold their hands and bow their heads as grace is said and Jesus is invited to their table. They are happy and content, care knocks in vain at their door, and their greatest treasure lies upon the tidy shelf against the wall—a well worn Bible. The other is an old man in a nursing home, his beloved Bible and hymnal among the few possessions he cherishes. From his little savings he gives each week to the Lord's work. Thankfully he looks at the sunset in the west and thinks of pleasant bygone days. Thankfully he praises God who has fulfilled His promise: ‘At eventide it shall be light.’ These two have learned the great secret of true riches: godliness with contentment is great gain.
Today when you sit down to dinner, relax with the Sunday paper and glance through the ads, when you go to work and school tomorrow, when you buy things and use computers, TVs, appliances, and all the other possessions God has given, don’t forget the bottom line. Don’t spend more on these things than they are worth. Don’t love them, but rather love the living Lord who richly gives us all we need for our happiness and contentment, not just for the moment, but forever! Amen.
All depends on our possessing God’s abundant grace and blessing,
Tho’ all earthly wealth depart. He who trusts with faith unshaken
In his God is not forsaken and e’er keeps a dauntless heart.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. NIV®. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.