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First Timothy

Monetary Directions

1 Timothy 6:3-21

Lesson AudioPaul has several threads in this last section of his letter.  They are woven together, but we shall take the strands apart to test the strength of each.

If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions, and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment. For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content. But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who testified the good confession before Pontius Pilate, that you keep the commandment without stain or reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which He will bring about at the proper time--He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see. To Him be honor and eternal dominion! Amen. Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed. O Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you, avoiding worldly and empty chatter and the opposing arguments of what is falsely called "knowledge"-- which some have professed and thus gone astray from the faith. Grace be with you.

(1Ti 6:3-21 NASB)

The Problem

Paul now gives a description of one who is very familiar to almost any preacher or teacher of the Gospel:  Mr. Argument.  Often this person has a good reputation in the church, at least on Sundays.  He appears to be knowledgeable; and frequently can amaze you with a diversion into the various fine points of Greek translation.  Before we can deal with this, we must first identify the problem.  If every teacher who pores over the Scripture were cast in this bucket there would be no good ones left.  We shall therefore examine the problem in two ways:  how it is, and how it appears.

How the problem appears.

The first evidence of the problem comes in a difference of doctrine.  The difference is usually not trivial, but it is argued on trivial points.  The defining test of the difference is that this man’s doctrine does not agree with the clear teaching of Christ.  You might ask how such a position could be maintained.  If you have sufficient ego that you can never be wrong, little things like facts don’t disturb your argument.

There is a style difference here.  This is a man who loves to argue.  He is much more concerned with winning the argument than he is in learning the truth.  Often, it appears as if he is having difficulty understanding the truth.  It’s not difficulty; it’s lack of interest.  He likes controversy, and the more trivial the better.  Controversy inflates your ego; and if you lose, you want it to be on something trivial.

The result is constant friction.  Paul gives us some of the symptoms:

  • There is envy.  This is a man who knows that he’s smarter/wiser/better educated/more in tune – and he’s green with envy of those who are appointed his teachers.
  • There is strife – the feud isn’t just this Sunday.  Things begin to take on a personal nature.
  • There is also abusive language.  This is the giveaway; the tongue that knows how to sneer and righteously condemn.
  • And – a bit of self-projection:  this is a man who sees evil where no one else does.  He’s sure that the teacher/preacher is up to something.

Why?  Because he’s up to something.  This is a man whose godliness is not driven by love but by the desire for gain – whether an inflated ego or an inflated wallet.  He thinks God’s path the best route to it.

The real problem

That’s the problem, then.  It’s a love of self, usually found in a love for money.  “More money” is always the target.  This has an unexpected result.  It gives Satan a convenient handle to grab you – and manipulate you.  If there is something you love more than God and his righteousness it is easy to tempt you to fraudulent dealing, particularly of the “it won’t hurt anyone” variety.

The result?  Much grief.  The dangers of greed teach lessons – but those lessons are never learned.

What to do about money?

Well, then, is it wrong to have money?  Not if you know what to do with it.  Is it a sign of God’s displeasure if you don’t?  Not if you know what to do with that.  So it boils down to two questions.

What should I do if I have money?

The answer in this instance is rather simple:  you recognize it as being grace from God – and you use it in accord with his will.  Paul gives the rich four instructions here:

  • Do good.  Do not think that just because you have been blessed from God with much money that you are exempt for the ordinary duties of a Christian.  The teaching and commandment apply to you too.
  • Be rich in good works.  Your money enables you to do good deeds in a way that others cannot.  If so, you should act like you’re rich – towards God.
  • Be generous.  Always give just a little bit more than asked; look for opportunities to give and brighten someone’s day. 
  • Be prepared to share.  Have a little fast food scrip in your wallet for the beggar you pass.  Carry a few dollars so that when the need suddenly arises, you’re prepared to give.  (This one can produce surprising results).
What should I do if I don’t?

This would seem to be a more common problem – until you consider how wealthy this nation is.  The American middle class lives in a luxury that is the envy of the world.  But let’s take this complain seriously for a few moments and see what the apostle would have us do:

  • Have a sense of proportion.  You came into this world naked, broke and screaming.  You will leave it and when you do you’ll take nothing with you.  So just how important is money – compared to eternity?
  • Be content with food and shelter.  Be honest:  is it really true that you could not get along without your Mercedes?  Couldn’t ride the bus?  Have to have that showcase house? 
  • Indeed, contentment is great gain.  A man is poor when his wants exceed his possessions; he is rich when vice versa.  The road to riches is in the control of “I want”, not in gaining “more, always more.”

Direction

Paul gives three verbs for the Christian:  pursue, fight and guard.

Pursue
  • Righteousness.  It’s not just something that happens to you, nor does it pursue you.  You have to go out looking for it.  It takes work.
  • Godliness.  You are the child of God; so act like it.
  • Faith.  Righteousness and godliness cannot be sustained by will alone;  you will need the faith Christ gives if you are to pursue this.
  • Love.  What’s your driving motive?  Older whiskey, younger women, faster cars and more money?  Or the love that God puts in your heart?
  • Perseverance.  Did you think this was a short term action?  Or are you prepared to do this the rest of your life.
  • Gentleness.  If faith, hope and love have a style, that style is gentleness.  Remember, you are the child of the King of Kings; what need do you have of strife and violence?
Fight

We must never forget that we are engaged in spiritual warfare – whether we want to be or not. 

  • Take hold of the eternal life.  Have you ever had a puzzle which you couldn’t solve until some sudden discovery?  You might say you “grasped” the solution.  When you commit yourself to God, you grasp the eternal life in similar manner.  Things make much more sense.
  • Make the good confession.  Be ready to tell people what you believe and why.
  • Do this in happy anticipation of His return.  The troubles of this world will be insignificant on that day.
Guard

When you have been given something precious, you take care not to lose it. 

  • That which has been entrusted to you is not of your own invention.  It is not a belief system you carved out; rather, it was given to you.  Treat it, then, as a precious gift.  Be on the alert.
  • Avoid “worldly chatter.”  So many Christians are so verbose on things for  which they have neither control nor contribution. 
  • Finally, avoid “knowledge.”  Remember that you start with what God gave you, not the latest craze at the book store.

There’s a road that leads up; there’s a road that leads down.  Choose wisely and well.

 

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