Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!
Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.
Sunday, September 25, 2016
Godly Contentment - September 25, 2016 - Ninth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 21) - Text: 1 Timothy 6:6-19
In our Old Testament reading for this morning the prophet Amos warns the children of Israel and us against the sin of self-reliance. In the Gospel lesson, using the story of Lazarus and the rich man, Jesus also warns us against the sin of self-reliance. In our text for this morning, we continue reading Paul’s letter to Pastor Timothy. This morning Paul echos the words of our Old Testament reading and our Gospel reading by reminding us of the importance of being content, not relying on ourselves, but relying on our Lord. Perhaps you have heard the cliche’ “When we worry we undo our prayers.” To fret and to worry is indeed a show of a lack of faith! To be content in all circumstances shows great faith, just ask Paul.
Paul begins by reminding us of the importance of being content. We read, “6Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, 7for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. 8But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. 9But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs” (v. 6-10).
Paul begins by reminding us that what we have when we are born into this world and what we take with us when we die is what is truly ours, in other words, nothing is truly ours. We may talk about the things we own or have, but really everything is God’s. We might liken our conversation to that of our children who talk about their room and their bed while living in our house. It is not really our children’s room or bed, but ours which we have purchase for them to live in. Likewise, nothing is really ours, it is not really our house or our car, but it is all God’s which He gives to us to use while we live in this world.
Paul reminds us that all we really need is food and clothing and yet how much more do we have and very often how much more do we want, because we can always want more. Perhaps we would do well to make a distinction between needs and wants. Do we really need a television in every room of our house? Do we need a telephone in every room of our house or for that matter, does everyone in the family need their own telephone? Do we need ten pairs of shoes, twenty changes of clothes, four coats, and I could go on and on. Paul reminds us that all we truly need is food and clothing. And really, if we think about it, if we were honest with ourselves, we could survive this world if all we had was food and clothes. Think about Jesus, the only thing He owned while living on earth was the clothes on His back and He never concerned Himself with where He would sleep or where He would get His next meal.
Paul’s warning is a warning against covetousness and envy which lead to destruction. As children we are more blatant in our covetousness suggesting such things as “I gotta have it,” in reference to the latest and greatest toy or video game. As adults we are more subtle in our covetousness, not necessarily stating that we “gotta” have something, but often making sure we have the latest and greatest so as not to be outdone by our neighbor.
Blatantly, Paul tells us that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. Notice, money is not the root of all kinds of evil. Money is not evil in and of itself. Money is simply a means of barter. However, the love and desire to amass more and more money does lead to all kinds of evil. And we see this time and again in our world as the news paper and the evening news have story after story of anything from petty robbery to corporate scandals.
Thankfully Paul does not simply give us words of warning, but he also points us to a proper pursuit. We read, “11But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. 12Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 13I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, 14to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen” (v. 11-16).
Paul gives us a different goal, that is to pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness and gentleness. Interestingly enough, as we hear Paul’s words of encouragement, because of our sins of omission, that is because we fail to live as we ought, some of Paul’s words may seem as an accusation against us. Paul suggests that we are to pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness and gentleness, but these are not what we pursue. Do we always do the right thing, think the best of others, speak well of others, explain everything in the kindest way? Do we live our faith or do we rather trust more in ourselves? Are we steadfast and gentle or are we more unforgiving and hardhearted? Do we believe everything we have is a gift from God or do we believe we have worked for and earned everything we have?
Paul’s urging is to live the life we have confessed, that is to live a life of faith in Jesus. Yet, how often do we find ourselves worried and fretting about our lives, about our finances, about our bills, about who knows what? Unfortunately, no matter how hard we may try, because we are conceived and born in sin, we cannot live as Paul urges us. The fact of the matter is, we sin and we sin boldly.
Yet, Paul gives us the answer. He reminds us that Jesus’ confession was to give His life for ours. Remember, the very reason Jesus was born into this world was to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. Jesus was born to live perfectly for us, in our place. Jesus was born to live a life of contentment because we cannot. And Jesus was content. He lived His whole life owning only the clothes on His back and the sandals on His feet and He was content.
But Paul is not done. He goes on to encourage those who have been given to, in other words He encourages us. He says, “17As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. 18They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, 19thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life” (v. 17-19).
Paul is not writing to give us a new law, rather he is writing to us to help us live lives of faith, that is he is encouraging us in our response of faith. To those who have been given, Paul says, they are expected to be good stewards, in other words, they are to be doing good works and be generous in sharing what God has first given to them with others. As we come to realize that God does give us all that we need, we will also come to realize that God gives us even more than we need and much if not most of what we want. God is gracious to us because His desire is not that we keep these things for ourselves, but that we share from our bounty with others. And we will find that as we do so, returning first to God, He will bless us even more. Because you cannot out give God.
Interestingly enough Paul reminds us that in giving we will be storing up treasure in heaven. I know that is exactly opposite of what the world believes, teaches and confesses, but God’s reality is not the worlds reality. Returning to God first, from what He has first given to us is a sign of faith. As we believe God has first given to us and so we return a portion of our first fruit to Him, that is a sign that we do believe He has given to us in the first place and that He will continue to give to us. Which means that the opposite is also true, when we fail to first return a portion of our first fruits, that is a sign of a lack of faith and perhaps even a sign that we believe we have earned what we have and that we believe it is ours. Yes, we might well conclude that the gift of possessions is a lot of work.
So, what does this mean? First and foremost we are again reminded that God owns and man owes. Everything we have is God’s and we are simply stewards of all we have. Perhaps we might take care, then, in the way we speak about the gifts God has given to us. Maybe we need to change our language from speaking about our things and instead begin speaking about how we are to care for the gifts God has loaned to us to care for, then maybe we will not be so tempted to be so possessive or so envious or covetous.
Second, God, through Paul reminds us that a life lived in pursuit of financial gain and possessions is not only folly, but could be detrimental. In other words, our continued pursuit of money for the sake of gaining more could lead us to idolatry, believing in ourselves and our own powers instead of believing in God and the gifts He has to give.
Third, God, through Paul reminds us that all we really need is food and clothing. And yet we have more than we need, much of what we want, and often more than we could want. Last week Paul reminded us of our need to pray and especially our need to give thanks to our Lord. This week even more we are reminded of our need to give thanks. We are indeed so well blessed in this country. We have so much more than others do in many countries around the world. And what is our attitude, to give thanks or to ask for more?
As we are reminded every Sunday, God has given to us our greatest need, that is He has given His all in Jesus. God gives us the greatest gifts we need; faith, forgiveness and life. These are not things we get for ourselves. These are not gifts we deserve or earn, rather they are gifts because they are not earned or deserved. If they were earned or deserved, they would no longer be gifts. But the fact is, they are gifts because God gives them to us because of His great love for us. They are gifts because God gives them without expecting anything in return. Yes, God gives and we are given to.
And finally, not only does God give us all the good gifts and blessings we have, not only does He expect us to be good stewards of all that He has given, but to make sure we are good stewards, He also promises to help us. And He continues to forgive us when we fail, as we often do. So, as always, we are pointed back to God and what He does and gives. What a great God we have. What a loving God we have. What a gift giving God we have. To Him alone be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.