1 Timothy 6:6-19
6 Of course, there is great gain in godliness combined with contentment, 7 for we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it, 8 but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these. 9 But those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.
11 But as for you, man of God, shun all this; pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and for which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 13 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, I charge you 14 to keep the commandment without spot or blame until the manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 which he will bring about at the right time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords. 16 It is he alone who has immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see; to him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.
17 As for those who in the present age are rich, command them not to be haughty or to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches but rather on God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 18 They are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, 19 thus storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life that really is life.
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That little music video made me smile; I hope you did as well. But it is also very poignant in the fact that we cannot take it with us in the end, which is the crux of our lesson in 1 Timothy today. Timothy is an interesting character in the scriptures. We are first introduced to him in the book of Acts in which Paul meets him on his first missionary journey. Timothy and Silas (sometimes called Silvanus) follow Paul on the rest of this journey and the second missionary journey as well. After that trip Timothy remained in Ephesus and was asked to help read the scriptures, preach, and raise up the young disciples in that region. Scholars believe that Timothy was running into some issues in his new church, asked Paul for help, and thus we have two letters form Paul to Timothy.
In this first letter Paul is encouraging Timothy to fight the temptations of this world, including but not limited to evil people, and Satan. One of the issues is money. Like all good churches money is a great hot topic. Never enough, cannot pay the bills, cannot help people in need, so on and so on. Paul’s advice to Timothy is one that he hoped his young disciple could take to heart and those of us who read this as well. It is to be content with what we have and share the extras.
Paul begins this section of his letter by saying “there is great gain in godliness combined with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it, but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these.” (v.6-8) I have a hard time being content personally and that also does not fit into our system of capitalism as a society. Personally, I also like my house, my car, my golf clubs but I am always looking at new ones with new technology, because let’s face it I cannot play that bad on my own it has to be the clubs, and the list goes on.
Capitalism itself breeds competition and self-sacrifice. Society teaches us that the more we have in possessions the happier we are going to be. The more we have the better we can compete with our neighbor. And if we are willing to sacrifice somethings now, it will all be rewarded in the end with a better retirement, vacations, and a life of luxury.
Paul says that because we love money we fall into temptation. “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.” (10) How many times have we heard that people are not going to give money to the church because it is a waste of money. “That preacher doesn’t need all that money—he only works one day a week.” “Look at all the nice stuff they have in that church, they should be spending it on the poor.” “I don’t believe in their theology and they sure as heck need to be paying taxes, I pay my fair share.” The competition grows as we seek how and where to spend our hard-earned dollars.
The response is what can I afford to give, if I do give, and still maintain my ability to grow my finances. A recent poll showed that 80% of all church goers now give less than 1-2% of their income to the church and/or other charities. Christians as compared to non-believers give less than those who do not attend church or claim no faith. We don’t like to talk about money in church and when we do we get told “it’s none of your business.”
One more trend that is hurting the church and Christianity overall is pandemic related. As we come out of the pandemic people are not as involved in the life of the church as they were before the pandemic. People are not willing to give up their time especially in the evenings for meetings, choir practices, Bible/book studies, volunteering in the church and community. There are real shortages in entities that rely on volunteers to get things accomplished. When people get home, they are no longer leaving to do other things.
Paul asked the young disciple Timothy to “shun all this and to pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and for which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” (v.11-12) The calling of timothy to fight the good fight is our calling as well. Promoting the virtues of Jesus as he walked this earth are not about competition, but about the gifts of the Spirit to care for those around us.
And then he goes into a beautiful doxology about the presence of God manifested in Jesus the Christ. Many believe that this was a baptism doxology that new believers were encouraged to learn to confess theologically who Jesus was and the relations of Jesus to God. As Jesus was baptized by the Holy Spirit so we are as well. Jesus’ baptism was to witness to the love of God and that kingdom. We are called to do the same; confess Christ and the love that was demonstrated by Word and deed.
Hearses have no hitches because when it is all said and done, we are the children of God and not children of what we own. Paul concludes this passage with words about what we are to do with the money we have. “As for those who in the present age are rich, command them not to be haughty or to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches but rather on God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 18 They are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, 19 thus storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life that really is life.” (17-19)
Yes, this is about time, talent, and treasure. The more you participate, the more time you spend, the more you realize that God’s love is growing in us. With that love we want to share and we share by giving to people who do not have. We share with the church to provide more opportunities to learn of God’s, grace and build us up from within, not with trailers full of stuff that cannot be pulled by hearses.
I would imagine many have had the task of cleaning up when a loved one has departed and there is no one to take their place. We wrestle with what to do with it all. Do we keep, sell, or throw away. We wonder why was this important to them? Why do they have this knick-knack, or this box of whatever, and this closet full of all this stuff. Those are great questions. Why do we have it all? I am amazed at the disconnect that occurs between generations. If we did not like having to do that, why would our kids?
I believe it stems from fear and lack of trust. We do not trust that if we have food and clothes God will take care of the rest. We do not trust that if I give it away it will go to good use. We believe that some day we are going to need that thing even though we really do not know where we put it and will probably own three of them in our lifetime.
Disciples practice generosity. We have so many things that we own and that have been given to us, we can afford to open our fists. We can let go and allow God to use the gifts for God’s purposes. The treasures we store are in our actions and our hearts. We are called to be disciples and that includes our actions. May our lives be a testimony to the outpouring of God’s grace and love in all that we have and all that we share. Amen.