Money and the Christian Mind
1 Timothy 6:6-10, 17-19
1. “Money and property continue to be matters of conscientious concern to all committed Christian people.” (Stott 145)
2. Appropriately, these concerns are addressed in a letter to a man who was at work for the Lord in Ephesus.
a. It was a town of wealth and opulence, largely because of the trade the cult of Artemis brought to it.
b. Remember that in Acts 19 it was a silversmith and the craftsmen who made and sold silver shrines of the goddess who stirred up a riot against Christians in Ephesus.
c. They had made their wealth from this business, and they were insistent that their gain not be interrupted by godliness.
d. It isn’t surprising that some from that environment would begin to nominally embrace Christianity because they saw it as just a better means of gain.
e. That’s why Paul offered this guidance about money and the Christian mind.
1. In the Christian mind, it is not so much about the amount of money, or about the management of money, as it is about life.
2. Life requires that we recognize what real riches are, v. 6-8.
a. The apostle corrects the idea that “godliness is a means of gain” with the claim that “there is great gain in godliness with contentment.”
i. When godliness is valued for its own sake, for what it is, and when it comes first, no matter what, it enriches life.
ii. Godliness is the “awesome respect” that we owe to God because he is the Creator and we are the creatures; the life of reverence before him and obedience to him; the sum of what Christ has done to make that life possible.
iii. “Godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come” (4:8b).
b. By coupling contentment with godliness like this, Paul offered a healthy framework for thinking about material things.
i. He wasn’t saying we should never enjoy them. “For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving” (4:4).
ii. Neither was he saying that we need nothing. He knew no one can be content without “food and clothing” (which probably implies shelter).
iii. But he is saying that life is to be lived for the God who “satisfies our hearts with food and gladness” (Acts 14:17), not for the money which might be used to buy them.
c. There are good reasons why contentment can only come this way.
ii. The first, of course, is that this is the only approach that actually recognizes reality: the Giver comes before the gifts.
iii. The next is that since “we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world,” the life we’re looking for between those two events will not be found in things.
(1) Job’s way of saying it was, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return” (1:21a).
(2) Matthew Henry observed that though we brought nothing into the world, “yet God provided for us, care was taken of us, we have been fed all our lives long unto this day; and therefore, when we are reduced to the greatest straits, we cannot be poorer than when we came into this world, and yet then we were provided for; therefore let us trust in God for the remaining part of our pilgrimage.” (Oden 105)
iv. And that leads to the other reason: the simple things like food and clothing–with godliness–appear to be the only things that really bring contentment.
d. “Great gain,” then, has to do with what I am, not with how much I have.
i. Other passages address our approach to money: we are to work honorably for it; we are expected to use it honestly and wisely.
ii. Here, however, the point is that the Christian mind is not preoccupied with money and is therefore able to enjoy what it has.
iii. Some years ago I clipped this from the local paper:
(1) DEAR ABBY: Today we live in a material world where success is measured by one’s worldly goods. I know in my gut that this is not correct. Abby, how do you measure success? Can you tell me in fewer in 100 years? – 56 AND STILL LEARNING
(2) DEAR STILL LEARNING: So am I. And I have yet to find a more apt description of success than this one:
“To laugh often and love much; to win the respect of intelligent
persons and the affection of children; to earn the approbation of
honest critics and to endure the betrayal of false friends; to
appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to give of one’s self;
to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden
patch, or a redeemed social condition; to have played and laughed
with enthusiasm and sung with exultation; to know that even one
life has breathed easier because you have lived–this is to have succeeded.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)
2. Life demands that we be realistic about the dangers of desiring to be rich, v.9-10.
a. Money is a fine practical tool. In fact, it is noteworthy how much attention Paul gives to it in this very doctrinal letter about how one ought to behave in the household of God.
i. He has spoken of the necessity of showing godliness by using money to provide for your own household (5:4,8).
ii. He has taught that widows of a certain character should be aided with money, but not so as to burden those who are not really responsible (5:9f).
iii. And he has quoted Jesus to show that one who has labored in the Lord’s behalf is deserves his wages (5:18). In each of these cases, money has a place as a tool to be used.
b. But money is a poor god.
i. The truth of the matter is that when it is pursued as if it were an end in and of itself, God is dishonored and people are dehumanized.
ii. Observe the parallel phrases used here: “those who desire to be rich...the love of money...through this craving...”
iii. Again the apostle is not talking about how much; he is talking about the greed which consumes a person’s affection and energy, the “covetousness which is idolatry” (Eph. 5:5; Col. 3:5).
c. As with any false god, attraction to this one is destructive. The apostle says that to desire to be rich is to fall into:
ii. A snare.
iii. Many senseless and harmful desires that drown people in ruin.
d. When one devotes himself to this lifeless idol–that is, when he becomes a lover of money–his misplaced devotion becomes “a root of all kinds of evils.”
i. Notice that it’s not money but “the love of money,” and it’s not the root of all evil but “a root of all kinds of evils.”
ii. The love of money is a vice that seldom appears by itself.
iii. It is through this powerful craving that some have:
(1) “Wandered away from the faith.”
(2) “Pierced themselves through with many pangs.”
e. What I mean by this point is that all of us need some specific moments and activities in our lives that keep calling us back to the truth about this.
i. The threat of the desire to be rich is all around us every day.
ii. Every ad is an enticement; every news report is an appeal.
iii. What brings you back to who God really is and what life is really all about?
3. Life means accepting the responsibility that comes with being rich, v.17-19.
a. There are some important points to be observed just from the manner in which this instruction is offered.
i. There were some in the church who were “rich in this present age.”
ii. Their wealth was not wrong in and of itself; they were not required to divest themselves of it in order to become, or to remain, Christians.
iii. They were to be taught–charged–about what God wanted them to do, without fear or favor, just like everyone else.
b. In their case, that meant accepting the responsibility of using the riches they had “in this present age” in such a way as to store up treasure “as a good foundation for the future.”
i. Just like those who are content with food and clothing or those show are tempted by the desire for money, the rich had to understand that their wealth was not “that which is truly life.”
ii. There is a play on words used here to move their attention in the right direction: “rich in this present age...the uncertainty of riches...God, who richly provides...to be rich in good works...storing up treasure...that which is truly life.”
iii. Remember that Jesus insisted that “one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” so one who “lays us treasure for himself and is not rich toward God” is most foolish (Lk. 12:15,21).
c. So how does a person who has things go about taking hold of real life?
i. Be humble: “charge them not to be haughty.”
(1) Having money doesn’t mean you’re better than other people, or that you will always have it, or that you don’t need to listen to God.
(2) James 1:11 – “For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits.”
ii. Be hopeful: “not to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy.”
(1) There is no security in stuff. There is in the Giver.
(2) Proverbs 23:4,5 – “Do not toil to acquire wealth; be discerning enough to desist. When your eyes light on it, it is gone, for suddenly it sprouts wings, flying like an eagle toward heaven.”
iii. Be helpful: “They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share.”
(1) One who has a lot is in a position to do a lot of good; one who has been blessed can be a blessing.
(2) In doing this, they will be imitating God–what a privilege!
d. A person who lives this way shows that he is living for something that he knows money cannot buy–and he will find it!
1. There is a wonderful balance in the Christian mind in its thinking about money.
a. Against materialism (an obsession with material possessions), there is simplicity of lifestyle.
b. Against asceticism (the repudiation of the material order), there is gratitude for God’s creation.
c. Against covetousness (the lust for more possessions), there is contentment with what we have.
d. Against selfishness (the accumulation of goods for ourselves), there is generosity in imitation of God.
2. Always in the background is the thought that “the Lord is my portion...his steadfast love endures forever.”