“Work and Money, Calling and Contentment” September 22, 2013
1 Timothy 6:1-10
SI: Preaching at Eastside Baptist. Have to leave right after Communion.
We’re almost done with 1 Timothy, and frankly, I’m glad.
I’ve found preaching this letter harder than I thought it would be.
The hard part is trying to apply it to our everyday lives.
It’s a pastor to pastor letter about church life.
So the subjects Paul mostly deals with have to do with our corporate life together
as a church body.
Things like electing elders and deacons, care of widows, church discipline,
defending sound teaching, opposing false teaching.
Important things that we need to consider now and again,
but not the stuff of everyday Christian living.
But that’s not the case with this passage.
Here Paul touches on one of the biggest, most perennial issues of life.
Something you’ve thought about very seriously this week,
maybe even already this morning.
Something we deal with every day that can have tremendous influence
over our lives. Something we must determine to use to magnify and adorn
the Gospel. I’m talking about Money.
INTRO: You know the reputation Scots have for being tight with their money.
Well, the story is told of a Scottish laird who went to church one Sunday,
and when the plate was passed, he put in his offering. But then realized
to his dismay that he had put in a pound when he meant to put in a penny.
So he got up and walked back to the narthex where deacons were counting offering.
He explained what had happened and that he wanted his pound back.
His intention was to give a penny.
The head deacon said, I’m sorry my laird, that’s not how it works.
You can put money in, but you can’t take it out.
And they got into an argument but the deacons stood firm.
So finally the laird said: Oh, keep it then! I’ll get credit for a pound in heaven.
An old deacon said: No, you’ll only get credit for a penny.
There are few things that give us a clearer window into our hearts than money—
how we cherish it, what we do with it—
and how we follow God’s commands to give it away.
You know that verse in Revelation 20 describing the Final Judgment.
“And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened . . .
The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books.”
Someone has said that the most revealing book that will be opened
on the Day of Judgment will be your check book.
Few things will reveal more about the state of your soul and your place in eternity
than what you do with your money.
The reason Paul brings up money, and the love of money, and people in the
church wanting to become rich, is because it had some connection with the
false teaching that was going on.
Remember, that was why we wrote this letter to Timothy in the first place.
Influential people teaching things out of accord with sound doctrine.
We don’t know exactly what it was they were teaching.
But somehow it was leading folks in the church astray concerning money.
You can tell by Paul’s language, that this is not a light matter.
He is gravely concerned about the spiritual repercussions.
The Bible says a lot about money and always treats it very seriously.
Everything Paul says here is echoed in other places in Scripture.
The Bible regards money as a snare that can lead to a person’s spiritual ruin.
There is a prayer in Proverbs 30 by a wise man named Agur.
It’s a remarkable prayer. He asks the Lord:
Give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread.
Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, “Who is the LORD?”
Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.
Don’t make me poor or rich, God.
Give me just what I need because that’s best for me spiritually.
Proverbs also reminds us, as Paul, there are things more important than money.
Better a meal of vegetables where there is love than a fattened calf with hatred.
Better is a poor person who walks in integrity.
And it tells us, as Paul does here, that you can’t take it with you.
Do not wear yourself out to get rich; have the wisdom to show restraint.
Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone,
for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle.
Our Lord said the same thing in his parable of the rich fool.
Remember the farmer who planned to build bigger and bigger barns
to store his ever increasing harvests. Only before he could build them,
he was taken away in death and called to give an account before God.
Remember what Jesus said at the end of that story?
“So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”
And there are many, many more passages with the same sober teachings.
But in spite of all this very plain teaching about money,
we all find the love of money a terrible temptation all our lives.
We worry about money, whether or not we have it.
We think about it constantly. We wish we had more of it. We dream about what
we would do with it if we got more of it. And we want more of it all the time.
Agur’s prayer, “Give me neither poverty nor riches,”
is a prayer very few Christians pray from the heart.
If we stopped and considered our inner thoughts, we would be forced to admit
that we think about money far too much and make far too much of it.
Especially considering what we know and who we are as sons of God,
and where we are going when we die.
In this passage, Paul gives us some help.
Three life-long exercises for putting money in the right place in your life.
I’ll give them to
you as we go.
MP#1 Consider your calling
Consider the work you do—whether you are a butcher, baker or candlestick maker.
Consider your station in life, the place you live.
These are all callings from God. God has put you in your place in life.
And with that calling comes a corresponding standard of living.
So how do you make decisions about all the financial matters of daily life?
How can you be assured you are following God’s will with your money
in all the checkbook decisions big and small—matters of houses, clothes, cars?
A large part of the answer is this—Pursue your calling.
The Lord has called you to a particular place and station in life,
and in that place you are called to make use of the unique talents, gifts,
and opportunities that he has given you.
So when it comes to financial matters, you are to work out the details before
the Lord in the context of your calling.
In verses 1-2, Paul talks about how slaves should obey masters,
serve them well, whether those masters are unbelievers or believers.
I probably should have broken up this reading and preached those verses separately
The topic of slavery and how the Bible handles it is confusing to people.
Often you will hear people attack the Bible over slavery.
Claim that the Bible endorses or supports slavery, so Bible morally deficient.
That couldn’t be further from the truth. The Bible’s teaching is the only force
in history that has ever successfully opposed slavery and abolished it.
But, I didn’t want to take time preaching that, and I really think that these verses
addressed to slaves part of the bigger point Paul is making about money.
When we hear slavery, we think of racial slavery practiced in the South.
We think of black people being kept in absolute poverty.
Laws against even teaching them to read, that sort of thing.
Slavery in the Roman empire was a very different institution.
Not that there wasn’t cruelty and abuse, there certainly was.
But Roman slavery was not racial. A third of population were slaves.
Slaves held positions of learning—they were accountants, even physicians,
in the great Roman houses. Many were paid and even gained freedom.
The reverse also happened: Poor free people would sometime sell themselves
into slavery as a way of getting a steady job and room and board.
It was even a way of social advancement if a slave in an honorable Roman house.
Paul says in another letter, if you are able to gain your freedom, by all means do so.
But the fact was that the vast majority couldn’t. This was their life, their work.
And to them he says, this is where the Lord has called you.
Do your work well as unto the Lord, and live in a way consistent with calling.
The false teachers who were troubling Timothy’s church were saying the opposite.
They were saying something like: You deserve better.
God wants you to have more. You shouldn’t be in this position.
They were cultivating a spirit of discontentment over material things.
That’s what Paul was pushing back against.
No, if you are going to ever deal with money biblically, must consider calling.
Must come to terms with where God has put you in life and serve him there.
The Christian should look at himself and say—God has called me to this place,
to this position and station in life, has called me to these responsibilities,
my stance toward money, my use of it, must be consistent with my calling.
Means that in financial matters, you cannot compare yourself to other people
to justify certain luxuries—to think, so and so has that, I want it.
That’s plain wrong for a Christian.
Shows aren’t thinking about your calling. You’re thinking about other people.
On the other hand, shouldn’t deny yourself certain things just because other
Christians are denying, or because they say you will be holy if you do.
I’ve read Christian books on money, good until application. Things like:
Wrong for a Christian to buy new car, irresponsible use of God’s money.
Wrong for a Christian to own two homes, millions of homeless, lack of love.
Blanket judgments like that completely disregard God’s callings.
He’s called some to be kings. Kings live in palaces. They wear crowns.
He’s called some to be captains of industry. They fly private jets.
If they are Christian kings or captains of industry, they must be modest, sober-
minded, and generous in a way that sets them apart from unbelieving peers.
But even so, the trappings of their life, the things they buy will rightly look different
from that of a Christian ditch digger or street sweeper.
Every Christian must work this out before Lord in light of his or her unique calling.
This is not an excuse to do what you want.
If think this means you can spend money how I want, completely missed point.
Lord holds you accountable in these matters. Consider your calling.
MP#2 Cultivate your contentment.
The false teachers were saying godliness is a way to financial gain.
There are TV preachers who say the very same thing today. Health and wealth.
Paul says: No, godliness with contentment is great gain.
If you learn contentment, struggle with money is mostly won.
Contentment is one of the great themes of Paul’s life and writing.
His comments about it in Philippians are absolutely profound.
There he describes a great, positive argument Christian must learn and practice.
But here, he goes another route.
He encourages contentment by warning against the opposite—discontentment.
The temptation to be discontented comes every day. Often connected to money
It might just be a catalog that comes in the mail—you look at all this neat stuff,
clothes or computers—and it’s always better than what you have—
and suddenly there is the temptation to be discontent with what you do have.
Or maybe you see an old friend, and he is so much more successful than you
that you become discontent with your own success.
Visiting fellow pastors—discontentment or pride.
Vacation in South Florida—beautiful cars, homes, people.
The 10th commandment.
Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house,
Nor his man servant, nor his maid servant, Nor his ox, nor his donkey,
Nor anything that is thy neighbor’s.
The reason you covet those things is because you are discontent
with your own wife, house, manservant, maidservant, ox, donkey, or whatever.
God wants you to fight discontentment and cultivate contentment.
One of the ways he motivates you is by warnings.
The Lord says: Listen to me. Discontentment is dangerous.
Believe me and fight it. Push it out of your mind. Resist it.
Now, let’s look at these warnings. In 1 Timothy 6 there are at least three.
1. Discontentment causes troubles, spiritual and material.
“People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish
and harmful desires . . .The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.”
Is it wrong to make money? Is it wrong to get rich? No.
If you follow your calling, content, generous—usually better off than otherwise.
If you allow discontentment to take over your thinking, money will become a huge
spiritual problem for you. Not to mention other things. When Christians look at themselves and say: How did I get into this mess?
How did I get into this trouble—financial, relational, marital, sexual—often,
it’s rooted in discontentment with what God has given.
2. Discontentment spoils the ordinary gifts of God.
“But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.” .
Food and clothing are a way of talking about the ordinary things that God gives
us in this life. The good, ordinary things a Father gives his children.
Paul is saying that a content person is satisfied with these things
because he sees them for what they are, and uses them as God intended.
But discontentment spoils these ordinary gifts.
It’s deeper than just not liking what you have and wanting better.
A discontented person demands more from these ordinary gifts of God,
than they are intended to give. He wants them to fill holes not intended to fill.
And that ruins them for his use and enjoyment.
Money is an ordinary gift of God, to enable us to buy things we need and want,
and to help other people and advance the
Discontentment spoils money—not just by making you want more,
but by demanding it to give you security or a sense of self worth.
Money can’t do that—not intended to. So discontent spoils money.
3. Discontentment can send you to hell.
What’s the end of discontentment: “plunges men into ruin and destruction.”
The ruin and destruction Paul is talking about is not just in this life.
Not just saying that discontent can ruin your finances or your marriage.
He’s talking about eternal destruction.
That’s plain when he says that through this some have “Wandered from the faith.”
The way you view money has eternal spiritual consequences.
You can spend your whole life worshipping it, serving it through discontentment.
Your daily prayer is: O money, come to me and bless me. Idolatry.
Make contentment a goal of your life. Strive to say like Paul:
I have learned to be content in any and every situation.
When it comes to money, resist, resist, resist allowing your thoughts to go down
those comfortable paths of coveting better things, wishing you had more.
You’ll reap a rich reward. Money will become your servant, not other way around.
Consider your calling—God has put you in a particular station in life.
The way you view and use your money should be consistent with your calling.
Cultivate your contentment—Strive to have a quiet, grateful heart.
Resist, fight discontentment. If so, money will serve you, not other way around.
MP#3 Cherish your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ
Paul says: “The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.”
One of his most famous lines, known even by many unbelievers.
But it’s usually misquoted—Money is the root of all evil.
No, it’s the love of money. Paul is getting to the deepest matter of all.
What do you love? What do you cherish?
I’ve mentioned before the way Tim Keller says you answer those questions.
It’s through two tests. He calls them the solitude test and the nightmare test.
The solitude test is this: Where does your mind go in solitude?
When the busyness of life is hushed, what do you think about?
What are your dreams? What do you imagine? Those are the things you love.
The nightmare test is similar.
What do you dread losing more than anything else?
Is there anything you would rather die first than lose?
Once again, those are the things you love most.
I think that if we were honest we would admit that often in the solitude of life
it’s money, or the things money could buy, or the way money could change
or lives and circumstances, give us security, lift us up with right people.
And I think we would have to admit that we could have plenty of nightmares
about money, considering how easy it is for us to worry about it.
So how do you overcome the love of money? By replacing it with a greater love.
Thomas Chalmers was a great 19th century minister.
He preached a sermon to pastors titled, “The Expulsive Power of New Affection”
In that sermon he made the point that our bad habits and flaws never just go away
on their own. They only go away when they are pushed out by a new love.
He says for example: A young man could be very lazy, very slothful.
But he might develop a love for money and wealth, want to get rich.
That new love for riches, pushes out his old love of laziness.
Or, a man who loves money and making money
might be drawn into politics and develop a love for power.
And that love for power in a sense, pushes out his love for making money.
As Chalmers puts it: “The only way to dispossess the heart of an old affection
is through the expulsive power of a new one.”
Now, here’s what he says to pastors. It’s so powerful.
It is not enough to hold out to your people the mirror of their own imperfections. It is not
enough to come forth with a demonstration of the fading character of their enjoyments, or to
speak to their consciences of their follies. Rather, make every legitimate method of finding
access to their hearts for the love of him who is greater than the world.
Do you catch that. It’s not enough to talk about how wrong and dangerous it is
to love money and how it will enslave you and harm you spiritually if you
chase it all your life, and how you can’t take it with you when you die.
It’s not even enough to talk about something so grand and positive as a Christian
view of calling.
All true. All need to be said. The Bible says those things. Paul says here.
They are all part of the big picture, and we need the big picture.
But Chalmers is saying that the only thing that is finally going to deal
with the love of money or anything other idol is when our hearts are opened
to the love of Jesus Christ who is better than all the riches of the world.
Where is that in this passage?
Well, I didn’t read it because of the way verses fall.
But that’s exactly where Paul leads Timothy next. He says in verse 13.
“I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and Christ Jesus, who in his
testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, to keep the commandment
unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ, and his terrible trial for you. He stood before Pilate who had life
and death in his hands, and he did not try to save his life, he made the good
confession, he affirmed his calling as the Suffering Servant, the anointed Lamb,
and he died for you.
And he’s coming back. We will see him. Take our place in his eternal kingdom.
To the degree that the love of Jesus Christ is poured out in your heart—
to that degree your love of money will be expelled.
And one more important point in all of this. There is no greater witness to the
world of the power of Christ and the effect of his love on your heart,
than indifference to money. Especially in our grossly materialistic world.
The greatest testimonies of the Christian faith demonstrate this.
When we become a church full of content people who prove our contentment
by the way we regard money, then the Gospel is adorned, world takes notice.
There are so many great stories of this,
but let me tell you just one that I’ve mentioned before.
In the late 1700s, there were two Scottish brothers Robert and James Haldane.
They were born into a very wealthy family.
One of their family estates was Gleneagles—a name you golfers will recognize.
Their parents were both Christians but died when the boys were very young.
In fact, their father died two weeks before James was born—
and then their mother died four years later.
She did all she could to raise her boys in the faith in the time she had with them,
but as they grew up, they showed no interest in Christianity.
Robert inherited the estate and he poured his energy into developing it—
the gardens and farms and manor house.
He brought water down from the hills to make a lake
James, the younger brother, went to sea and made a fortune in shipping.
And then, both brothers came to faith in Christ at the same time.
Robert was 30 and James was 25. They weren’t together.
It wasn’t through the influence of a particular person.
It was just that the Lord answered the prayers of long-dead parents.
As Robert and James grew in their faith, became interested in missions.
So Robert decided to sell the estate that had been in his family for generations,
to sell Gleneagles, and use the money to fund a new mission in India.
Plans were that he and his brother and their families would move there.
The India plans fell through, but that was God’s providence,
because their interests were directed toward Europe and Scotland.
Things were at a very low ebb spiritually at the time.
They weren’t ordained ministers but through their preaching and teaching and
encouragement of pastors and founding of seminaries, a significant revival.
Was known as the Haldane revival.
Because of it, church strengthened for several generations.
It was all because these two brothers had a love for Christ poured out in their hearts
that expelled their former loves of wealth and money.
We aren’t Scottish noblemen, but in our own ways, let’s strive to be content
people who use money well and generously, in so doing adorn the Gospel.