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Godliness with Contentment,

Sermon, June 27, 2009

I was praying this morning for all those who are either out of work or afraid they will be,


and something Paul wrote to Timothy came to mind, unbidden.

I wasn’t looking for it, it was just there.


It was just one verse, but it encapsulated everything that was on my mind.

The verse is 1 Timothy 6:8 “And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.”


          I was struck that he didn’t mention shelter. Just food and clothes.


                      And I thought: Living in the richest time and place man has ever known, we have wandered a long way from this.


                      And we have also wandered a long way from contentment.

That verse has a context, and it is worth considering.

(1 Timothy 6 KJV) Let as many servants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honour, that the name of God and his doctrine be not blasphemed. {2} And they that have believing masters, let them not despise them, because they are brethren; but rather do them service, because they are faithful and beloved, partakers of the benefit. These things teach and exhort.


          It was a different world, wasn’t it?


                      It is odd, in a way, that Paul did not condemn this kind of servitude.


                      In many ways, it differed little from having a job. You just couldn’t quit.


                      But who wants to quit a job in this evironment.


          The word “honor” is interesting. The Greek is time, which means, broadly, value.


                      The servant is to give full value to the master, and all the more so if the master is a believer.


          But what is a Christian doing, being the master of another Christian?


                      It’s no big deal. Some people work better under supervision, and the supervisor deserves a share in the labor.


                      Note the expression, they are “partakers of the benefit.”


          This is fundamental in a free economy.

Paul isn’t through, by a long shot.

{3} If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; {4} He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings,


          You could almost stop at every verse.


                      The teachers of “otherwise” are motivated by pride.


                                  Conceit, actually. Greek tuphoo, lit. “to envelop in smoke.”


                      Such a simple statement of truth, and irrefutable—and kind of obvious.


          I have an idea that Paul has someone in mind, but he doesn’t name anyone.


                      He does, though, describe them.


          conceited, ignorant, overwhelmed with questions and arguments about words.


                      A friend used to call these people “loose brick artists.”

The NIV here has a good take on these chaps:

(1 Timothy 6:4-5 NIV) he is conceited and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions {5} and constant friction between men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.


          If I have to tell the truth, and I really should, shouldn’t I?


                      This is an awfully good description of what has torn the church of God apart.


          I don’t know so much about the last sentence. The word “financial” is not in the text.


          And I think the NIV has it wrong. The word is porismos, and it is used in the very next verse.


          {6} But godliness with contentment is great gain.


                      Surely not financial gain.


                      A closer English word is “means.” As in “he is a man of means.”


                                  And “advantage works well.”


                      “who think that godliness is a means to advantage.”


          But, “Gain” is not bad, if you divorce it from the word “fnancial.”

Paul goes on in v. 7


          {7} For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. {8} And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.

Now that is easy for Paul to say. He had no wife, no children, no employees.


          You have to take care of those for whom you are responsible. But . . .


          {9} But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. {10} For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

The NIV is better here: “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.”


          There is nothing intrinsically wrong with being rich. Abraham and Lot were, and God was content to have them so in the end.


                      And in the process, he took care of a lot of people.


                      Men like Abraham and Lot created jobs.


          But the love of money is unhealthy in the extreme.


                      Men like Abraham and lot did not set out to be rich.


                      They did the right things, and woke up one morning and realized they had become rich.



          {11} But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness.

What a nice set of descriptions to own! And the instruction is to follow after them.


          Watch yourself that they don’t get away from you.


          {12} Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses. {13} I give thee charge in the sight of God, who quickeneth all things, and before Christ Jesus, who before Pontius Pilate witnessed a good confession; {14} That thou keep this commandment without spot, unrebukeable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ:


          {15} Which in his times he shall show, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords; {16} Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honour and power everlasting. Amen.


          {17} Charge them that are rich in this world,

I don’t know if you realize how rich you are in comparison to the rest of the world, and to the First Christians.


We have been living in a golden age, and the poor among us are richer than Solomon.


          {17} Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy;

Well now, have we had an object lesson in the uncertainty of riches?


          I was really surprised when I read David Smick’s book “The World is Curved, to learn that in the beginning of the 2000's, the world was awash in capital.


                      So much capital in fact, that there weren’t enough good investments to place it.


                      Some clever dudes like Bernie Madoff came along and created investments out of thin air.


          More people have been brought out of poverty over the turn of the Millennium than at any time in the worlds history.


                      But the people who had money were not content to just enjoy it, live well, and in consequence, provide jobs and well being for a lot of others.


                      They had to get more.


          And I have this feeling I can’t shake. That the government bailouts were done, not so much to help the poor, but to rescue big money people who had invested stupidly.


                      They had to bail these people out, because they were the ones who put them in office.


          But I may be wrong. It is just a feeling.


          {17} Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; {18} That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate;

King James is archaic here: NIV: “and to be generous and willing to share.”


          {19} Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.


          (NIV){20} Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, which some have professed and in so doing have wandered from the faith. Grace be with you.

And so ends Paul’s letter.

It is incredibly apt in this present world, is it not?


          Time goes by and nothing ever changes.


          No one knows what the future holds.

There is an old saying that if all the economists in the world were laid end to end, they would still not reach a conclusion.


          The reason is simple. No one seems to understand the simplicity of what Paul told Timothy.


          “Having food and clothing, let us be therewith content.

Why is this important?


          Well, food and clothing really are essential.


          Everything else is superfluous.

Because the important thing is the love of family, friends, brethren—but first, of God.

            Not merely in this world, but in the world to come.

Everything else is a distraction.

(Philippians 4:9-11 KJV) Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you. {10} But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again; wherein ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity. {11} Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.

(Hebrews 13:5-6 NIV) Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." {6} So we say with confidence, "The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?"

A proverb to remember:

(Proverbs 23:4-5 KJV) Labour not to be rich: cease from thine own wisdom. {5} Wilt thou set thine eyes upon that which is not? for riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle toward heaven.

And here is a psalm for the ages:

(Psalms 62:7-12 KJV) In God is my salvation and my glory: the rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God. {8} Trust in him at all times; ye people, pour out your heart before him: God is a refuge for us. Selah.

{9} Surely men of low degree are vanity, and men of high degree are a lie: to be laid in the balance, they are altogether lighter than vanity.

{10} Trust not in oppression, and become not vain in robbery: if riches increase, set not your heart upon them.

{11} God hath spoken once; twice have I heard this; that power belongeth unto God. {12} Also unto thee, O Lord, belongeth mercy: for thou renderest to every man according to his work.

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