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Godliness and Contentment

Notes & Transcripts

I Timothy 6:3-10, 17-19

I.     Introduction

Start playing song before I get up, with words on the screen on a background of money related images including casinos, banks, etc.

“Money, money, money it’s a rich man’s world.”

I work all night, I work all day, to pay the bills I have to pay
Ain't it sad
And still there never seems to be a single penny left for me
That's too bad
In my dreams I have a plan
If I got me a wealthy man
I wouldn't have to work at all, I'd fool around and have a ball...

Money, money, money
Must be funny
In the rich man's world
Money, money, money
Always sunny
In the rich man's world
Aha - ahaaa
All the things I could do
If I had a little money
It's a rich man's world

A man like that is hard to find but I can't get him off my mind
Ain't it sad
And if he happens to be free I bet he wouldn't fancy me
That's too bad
So I must leave, I'll have to go
To Las Vegas or Monaco
And win a fortune in a game, my life will never be the same...

Money, money, money
Must be funny
In the rich man's world
Money, money, money
Always sunny
In the rich man's world
Aha - ahaaa
All the things I could do
If I had a little money
It's a rich man's world

Money, money, money
Must be funny
In the rich man's world
Money, money, money
Always sunny
In the rich man's world
Aha - ahaaa
All the things I could do
If I had a little money
It's a rich man's world

It's a rich man's world

This song is typical of many people in our world. They desire to have more money and think that they will be happy if they get it. As the song says, “always sunny in a rich man’s world.” Of course, we don’t believe that. We know it isn’t true, or do we? I have often wondered, “Why does the Credit Union have door prizes so people will attend the annual meeting and why do we attend because of the door prizes? Why do hockey teams have a 50/50 draw as a fund raising event? Why do some of you put $5 into a pot in order to make playing poker more fun?

This morning, we want to look at another writing which also speaks about money and gives us a very different perspective. Please read with me I Timothy 6:3-10,17-19.

Once again as he has in other parts of the book, Paul addresses the problem which this church seems to have had, a problem with false teachers. The root cause of their false teaching was that they did not pay proper attention to Jesus Christ and his teaching. Paul says in verse 3 that their teaching “does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ.” He attacks the false teachers and warns people to stay far away from them. One of the results of their false teaching is, as he says in verse 5 that they “think that godliness is a means to financial gain.” Did they teach, like some do today, that if you are a believer, you should expect God to bless you with wealth? This is unlikely. It is more likely that they received money for their teaching and became wealthy in that way. I have heard some say that if you want to get rich, start a religion. This statement about godliness and gain launches Paul on a discussion of how a believer ought to think about money.

II.   Godliness And Contentment I Timothy 6:3-10

A.  Godliness and Gain

As he begins, he does an interesting play on words to force us to shift our thinking. In verse 5 we read about the false teachers, “who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.” Although in the Greek original the word “financial”, which appears in NIV, is not there, I think that is a good interpretation. The idea that “godliness is a means of financial gain” implies that having financial gain is the highest goal a person can have. That is an idea that many of us share. The play on words, however, is between “godliness” and “gain.” In verse 6, these two words appear again when Paul says, “But godliness with contentment is great gain.” Now the implication of such a statement is that it is not financial gain that will give us satisfaction, but rather that if we are godly people and godliness is our primary goal, and if we are content, then we will have “great gain.” What a radical shift in thinking that is! It forces us to grapple with the truth that perhaps financial gain is not the highest goal we can have. It makes us think about the truth that money is not the thing that will truly make us happy. Instead, we are forced to realize that godliness is the highest goal and if it is accompanied by contentment, then we will truly find happiness. Instead of merely using the word “gain” the second time, he uses the words “great gain” to help us realize that what we are really looking for – happiness, satisfaction, peace – are found in a completely different place than with money! What a radically different way of thinking for people whose minds are fully set on “money, money, money.”

B.  What Is Contentment?

Of course to really understand this radically new way of thinking, we need to understand what contentment means.

The Greek word means “a perfect condition of life in which no aid or support is needed.  2 sufficiency of the necessities of life.  3 a mind contented with its lot, contentment.” (Strongs) So in other words, contentment means that we are happy where we are. Can you imagine what would happen if we thought like that? Our entire economic system would fall apart. The retail industry would fall apart because it is built on dissatisfaction. People buy a pair of pants, but two months later they are tired of those pants and need a new pair. Recently I was thinking about cars. They build highway tractors which travel over a million miles. Why can’t they build cars that do the same? They would last 30 years, but that would never do because by that time the car would be hopelessly out of style and most consumers would never stand for that because they would not be content without something new every few years.

This is a radically different way of thinking, and yet this is what the Bible calls us to. In verse 8 it says that “if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.” Who of us is content with food and clothing? We all want much more than that. But notice what the text says. It does not say, “if we have food and clothing, we should be content with that.” It says, “if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.” Is that possible? That is what contentment means. It means that we realize that if we have food and covering, we have everything to satisfy us and we have all we really need and it is OK.

C.  Why Godliness & Contentment?

How in the world is that possible?

1.    The Long View

It is possible when we understand what Paul says in verse 7 when he says, “For we have brought nothing into the world and we can taken nothing out of the world.” This wording which appears in most translations tries to deal with what is a rather difficult verse in Greek. The original wording is “For we brought nothing into the world because we can take nothing out of it.” The problem is the word “because.” Does it mean simply that our life is bracketed by having nothing? Or did he get it backwards meaning because we brought nothing into the world therefore we can take nothing out either?  Or could it be that it means exactly what the Greek wording says, that we brought nothing into this world because we can take nothing out? I think we are probably on the safest ground taking it the way it is written, but what would that mean? What it teaches us is that we need to take a lesson from our birth. In the end we can take nothing out of this world. We will go into eternity with empty hands and that is the reason why we came into this world with empty hands. We entered with empty hands and we should therefore live content with what is provided for us. One writer says, "the reason why we brought nothing into the world is because we are not going to be able to take anything out." The implication of this is that we are built for eternity and that gives us a powerful reason for contentment. If this present world is our whole life, then by all means let us accumulate as much as possible, but it is not. Since we are built for eternity and will live by the provision of our eternal benefactor, why spend a lot of time gathering what will mean nothing.

To be consumed with possessions, when we have this eternal perspective is like looting the Titanic and putting all your hoarded treasures in your cabin which is quickly sinking into the ocean.

I like the joke about the man who was determined to take his possessions to heaven and gave instructions for his possessions to be converted into gold bars and put in a bag and placed in his hand when he died. As the story goes, he died and his instructions were carried out and he came to the gates of heaven with his bag of gold in his hand. When asked what was in the bag and why he wanted it, he showed the angel his bag of gold, with a smug look on his face. When the angel saw what was in the bag, he was rather puzzled and asked him “why do you want to take pavement into heaven.”         

            We came with nothing and we leave with nothing because we will inherit something much better, and that is why we will be content with food and covering.

2.    The Dangers Of Discontentment

The other reason we will be content with food and covering is because we discover that there are terrible dangers associated with discontent.

In verses 9,10, he talks about those who desire to get rich and all the trouble they get into when they pursue getting rich instead of godliness and contentment.

            First of all, there is the trouble of temptation. If we want to get rich, we put ourselves in the path of temptation. If we want to get rich, we put ourselves into the path of the temptation to covet what others have. We set ourselves up to be jealous of what others possess. It puts us into the path of temptation to cheat and steal. I bet half of the movies about crime are about people wanting to get rich and committing a crime because they yield to those temptations.

            Wanting to get rich also leads to a trap. I have some experience trapping animals. We have had woodchucks in our yard and I have used a live trap to catch them. Of course they would never walk into the trap without bait and so a little lettuce works well. They are lured in by the lettuce and the trap snaps shut and they are stuck. The greatest trap related to wanting to get rich is that you are never satisfied. When you get what you want, you always want more. You can apply it to any purchase. When I bought my first computer, I told the guy that I didn’t need a mouse, I would be content without one. Of course I wasn’t. When colour monitors came in, I didn’t think I would need one, but I now have one. Six or seven years ago I bought a new computer and it was very satisfying, but guess what? I want a newer faster one. It will never be enough and so the disease spreads.

            Wanting to get rich also plunges people into many foolish and harmful desires. The word plunges is interesting because it illustrates a person being submerged and drowning. I don’t think there is a more fitting illustration of this than gambling. People get into it as a fun game, but soon they want more and more and many of them lose fortunes, jobs, families, respect and even their lives because they are drowning in a sea of foolish and harmful desires. When our government sponsors gambling with VLT’s and casinos we have another illustration of this folly. It boggles my mind to think that the government hands you a noose and then tries to prevent you from hanging yourself!

            The final end is ruin and destruction. One writer says that ruin is material disaster and destruction is spiritual death. In the case of the false teachers Paul is talking about here, their destruction is that they have left the faith. Many people have left faith because of a desire to get rich.

            Those who yield to this desire pierce themselves with much pain because of love of money. What kind of pain? There is the pain of a gambling addiction, the pain of never having enough, the pain of dependence on things instead of God and the pain of loss when we depend on things instead of God. One writer says that those who desire riches are self torturers. If you are trapped, there is a way out. God wants to free you from the pain.

            So why would anyone want to do that to themselves? Although radical compared to how we live, it is quite clear when we examine this with spiritual eyes that the pursuit of godliness with contentment is indeed great gain. It allows us to avoid all kinds of trouble, to experience joy and peace now and to prepare ourselves for eternity. So I want to invite you to discover godliness and contentment and leave behind the desire to be rich.

III. Living With Wealth I Timothy 6:17-19

But what if, in this world, we find ourselves with much, as many of us do? Is it wrong to be rich? Should we get rid of our wealth? No! wealth is not wrong or bad, but it does create some challenges for how we live our faith and 6:17-19 teaches us how to live with wealth.

A.  How To Live With Wealth

1.    Don’t Be Arrogant

The first warning is that those who have much, which is most of us, should not be arrogant. Once again as I read this I have to cringe. I know very well that I have looked down on those who are poor. I have thought that God loves me more because he has given me so much. I have thought that I am better because I am smart enough to do well with what I have. That is the kind of arrogance we must not have. It is a violation of the command to love one another and it is a gross misunderstanding about who we are and how we have gotten what we have. If we think that we are better than others because we have more, we have forgotten that we came into this world naked and we will leave the same way. God is strongly opposed to those who are proud. Woe to us because we have been so guilty of this attitude.

2.    Put Your Hope In God

The greatest danger is that we begin to put our hope in our stuff. Paul warns those who have not to put their hope in what they have, but to put their hope in God.

I think that this year, more than any other, we know that this is true. Even the best farmer, if he had a few years like this year, would be finished. We are totally helpless when it comes to the rain or the lack of it as we have had in years of drought. That reality should help us understand that we are not in control. No matter how wealthy we may be, we cannot put our hope in what we have because everyone is vulnerable. Psalm 52:7 issues a similar warning when it says, “See the man who would not make God his refuge, but trusted in the abundance of his riches, and sought refuge in his wealth!” In Luke 12:16ff, Jesus tells the parable of the rich man who had an incredible harvest and was self satisfied and wanted to put his hope in all he had so he built bigger barns and stored all he had for his own delights. The conclusion of the parable is “’You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ “This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.”

Instead, we ought to put our trust in God. The wonderful thing about living by trusting God is that it comes with a promise. We read in verse 17, He “provide us with everything for our enjoyment!” If we are content with food and covering, we will be happy, and when we put our hope in God, we will find that He gives us much more than food and covering. He gives us blessings in abundance. How many times have I tried to secure a particular thing for my happiness only to be disappointed, but when I have left my life in God’s hands, He has always given great joy.

3.    Be Generous

So if we have much we should not be arrogant and we should not hope in our wealth. How then can we learn to hope in God and not depend on our wealth or be arrogant? The answer is to be good, to be rich in good deeds and to be generous and willing to share. Instead of holding tightly on to what we have and seeking more, we must hold it loosely and be willing to share. This is true of our money, our possessions, our time and our relationships. The operative word for one who hopes in God is generosity.

A while ago, I read a book with the title “First Fruits Living.” The thesis of this book is that we will find joy when we give the first of everything we are and have to God. When we do that, then money will not possess us, we will be stewards of God’s gifts to us and we will find joy.

B.  Why To Live This Way

Why is this way of living so important? The reason we need to live in this way is because it places us back into the eternal perspective which we spoke of earlier. Verse 19 says that we then lay up for ourselves a foundation. It is as if we are building the foundation of a mansion which will be eternal. The wonderful thing about this is that as we build the foundation, we are not only preparing for eternal life, but we are also building a foundation for the best kind of life here and now. “Take hold of the life that is truly life” means that real life is not found in money, but in relationship to God and in preparing for eternity.

Another way of looking at it is like this, if you like to put your money in a bank, why not put it in the Bank of Heaven, by being generous, where it will be for all eternity?

IV.Conclusion

“Money, Money, Money, it’s a rich man’s world.” What a sad way to live! We consume ourselves with wanting to have enough money in the bank, being sure that we will be taken care of when we get old and having enough money to enjoy all the things we possibly can on this earth. This text calls us to recognize that that way of living is a lie. I have bought into that lie and perhaps you have bought into that lie. We have built our lives on that lie. We instruct our children on the basis of that lie.

The Bible calls us to a radically different way of living. It calls us to make godliness our goal. It calls us to contentment. It calls us to put our hope in God and it calls us to generosity. How can we learn to live like that? May God help us!

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