1 Timothy 6:6-19 Gratitude Season at Peace
Elizabeth M. Deibert 19 October 2014Every day my husband Richard and our new friend Jane Rhudy who is joining Peace today are caring for Hospice patients and their families. At such times, when someone is dying, one can hardly ignore the fact that we brought nothing into the world, and we will take nothing out of it. Richard’s been into homes on Casey Key, and you know what, they die too, and usually have a harder time with it because of the way money fools you into thinking you can maintain control of your life. Or at least it distracts you from thinking about what really matters. I have noticed myself that there are never Uhaul trailers behind hearses. Having stuff keeps us busy. And making enough money or managing the money we have invested well so that we can buy more stuff keeps us even busier. Then we don’t have to think about dying. How can you think about dying, if you are walking through the new mall? Shiny money. Shiny stores. Shiny gods. We are easily distracted from the business of real living and giving, because we have too much to accomplish, too much to achieve, and mostly, too much to acquire and possess.
It is hard to feel contentment, if you are always striving toward goals that are not fulfilling. Studies show that we have this problem with food. When we eat foods that are not healthy, we keep feeling hungry. We have to fill our bellies with superfoods to get satisfied – vegetables, vegetables, fruits, fruits, nuts, nuts, a few whole grains, a little fish and chicken. Same thing if we are filling life with the wrong stuff. If we fill our minds with thoughts that are not Christ (remember Philippians 2), if we fill our lives with actions that are not pure and holy (remember the Ten Commandments), if we fill our hearts with anxiety and fear, rather than trusting in God to give us peace (remember Phil 4), then we will go after relationships, possessions, and experiences that leaves us feeling like the old song that played on my brother’s radio: “I can’t get no satisfaction.” But we can get satisfaction if we start putting our energy and time and money into God first.
Listen for the word of the Spirit to her church today in these words of the Apostle Paul who was mentor to Timothy:
6 Of course, there is great gain in godliness combined with contentment; 7 for we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it; 8 but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these. 9 But those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.
11 But as for you, man of God, shun all this; pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith; take hold of the eternal life, to which you were called and for which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 13 In the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you 14 to keep the commandment without spot or blame until the manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 which he will bring about at the right time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords. 16 It is he alone who has immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see; to him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.
17 As for those who in the present age are rich, command them not to be haughty, or to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but rather on God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 18 They are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, 19 thus storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life that really is life. (NRSV)
Godliness and Contentment – that’s the life. Not a new Iphone 6. Not a new car. Not a new house. And definitely not a new shopping mall. No Godliness and contentment will come from there – unless you go there to walk and pray and occasionally to eat. There is nothing you can buy at UTC that will produce ultimate contentment. It will be like a single potato chip, or a miniature piece of chocolate. Godliness and contentment come from making sacrifices that benefit others – like Jesus did. So if you are seeking to make a lot of money so that you can be generous like Bill and Malinda Gates, go for it. John Wesley, founder of the Methodist Church, said, “Earn all you can. Save all you can. Give all you can.”
We do not have to think very hard about those who want to be rich falling into temptation, plunging people into ruin. Remember how we landed in a housing bubble – too many people trying desperately to be rich – making loans than should not have been made. Money is NOT the root of all evil, but the LOOOVE of money. Money is an extremely useful tool for good. Yet it quickly turns into a god. There are too many companies for whom profit has become more important that business ethics. Ecclesiastes 5 says, “The lover of money will never be satisfied with money.” Jesus said we cannot serve both God and wealth. We have to choose. We have to choose God if we want to be in the right, if we want to be content, if we want to live the good life. We have to choose God. Money is only for the purpose of serving God.
But of course, we have to live. So first, we plan well, because poor planning leads to waste. Richard and I know from experience. We have had seasons of very tight budgets. Remember when I told you in a sermon that we had cut up all our credit cards. We had to learn to live within our means before we could have a credit card. Living within your means or living to become more generous means cutting out lots of the dumb little purchases – five dollars here and twenty there. Fast food, coffee shops, seasonal clothing and decorations, books and magazines you don’t have time to read, and frequent meals out.Hold back on all the unwise major purchases – new cars or houses before you really need them. All kinds of money can be saved! But if you tempt yourself by looking at something often, you will succumb to the temptation, so stop looking at the thing online. Don’t shop for it, until you’ve concluded it is absolutely a necessity. Too many people buy things they don’t need with money they don’t have to impress people they don’t even know.
So first principle is to live within your means and second principle is to start giving back to God more than you think you can. That what generosity means – giving more of your time, talent, and treasure than is easy. Think about it – can you say you’ve been generous to someone if it did not affect you at all? Can I claim generosity to Richard if I never sacrifice what I want for what he wants? Can I claim generosity to the church, if I only give as much time, talent, and treasure as you expect me to give. Most of us have not really trusted God enough to give generously. Nearly every one of us can do more than we are currently doing, but not if we don’t make some sacrifices and stretch ourselves out in faith. One person’s sacrificial pledge is going to be much smaller than another’s easy money. If you don’t feel a little crunch in your giving, then I say, “maybe you have not been generous.”
Paul says to Timothy to fight the good fight of the faith. Cling to the life that is really life. Because this life here on earth is very, very short. The life that really is life is the life is life-giving – storing up treasures in heaven – doing things that build God’s kingdom here and now, and leading more people to see the eternal life of knowing Jesus Christ and his love. And we’ve been told parable after parable and lesson after lesson in the scriptures about the disaster of being too wealthy. There was the man building bigger barns, and bigger, and bigger until he died. There was the rich man who was tormented while Lazarus the poor man who had begged for help went to heaven, and the rich man was tormented in a hell of his own making. There was the rich young ruler who thought he had done everything – he had followed all the commandments – except the charge to be generous, so Jesus said, “Sell your stuff and come follow me.” And the rich ruler could not see that that action would liberate him so he was sad and turned away. Are you sad because you have not sold out to Jesus? Give generously and you will discover a cheerful heart comes with that. Paul says to Timothy to tell all rich people to be generous, and by the world’s standards, we are all very, very rich. So we are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share.
I have to end this sermon with an amazing story of a generous heart. Some of you may remember that five years ago I told the story of my struggle to love a new neighbor who had yelled at me for the trimming the hedge between our houses – trimming it too far. This encounter had so injured our relationship that we just waved politely for five years – never really talking again. Then the couple split up, and this week, our neighbor (not the one who yelled) came over with a gift. She said she’d like to start our relationship afresh – that her heart had been wounded since that day. Mine had been too. We talked for an hour. It was the most amazing thing. It took a lot of courage for her, when she is suffering still from a broken relationship with him, to take the first step to heal the broken one with us. But she did. This is godliness – to take the generous step, to go further than you have to go, to give more than you have to give. She gave us maple syrup from her recent trip to Vermont. I’m sure it is the sweetest maple syrup ever, because of the reconciliation that it represents. The first three tablespoons of it went into today’s communion bread.
We will never be satisfied with life, never content, never whole, and at peace until we determine that our entire life is given to God for God’s purposes – our hearts, our minds, our souls, our pocketbooks, our fears, our desires – all of it. We must turn it all over to God and be guided by God to a life as generous as God’s amazing love of us. It is a process of giving over more and more of your life, entrusting it to God. David and JoAnne Klement who are joining today taught me a new acronyn INNW. If not now, when? If not now, when will you turn over more of your life to God? Don’t wait until you go to the Hospice House when it becomes clear you have no control left. Stop chasing money and start chasing purpose and you’ll find contentment.
Choose now to operate by, in, and through the generosity of God’s love which is ours by the power of the Spirit of Christ dwelling in us. Choose now that uncontainable joy that transcends fear, that peace that surpasses understanding, and that hope that grows out of suffering. Why do you think an all-loving and all-powerful Christ-God-Spirit would allow us so many losses and wounds and griefs – except that it is good for us to lose the little idols. It guides us to let go and come to see that Jesus Christ is truly the King of kings and Lord of lords, and that nothing can come before him. Not our dreams and aspirations, not our children or parents. Nothing. Jesus Christ, is the treasure that we seek. He is our all in all.