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The love of money (1 Timothy 6:6-10, 17-19)

Chatswood Baptist Church https://www.chatswoodbaptist.com.au
  1. If I were a rich man

“If I were a rich man” was a song that came from the Broadway musical called Fiddler on the Roof. It was also turned into a move in the 1970s. I remember the song from the movie, the beginning of which somehow lodged itself in my head.

In the musical the song was sung by a poor Jewish milkman (Tyve) living at the beginning of the twentieth century in Russia pondering what it would be like if God had made him a rich man (just a small fortune). He sings that all day long, he’d biddy biddy bum if he were a rich man. He wouldn’t have to work hard. He would build a big house, a tall house with rooms by the dozen right in the middle of the town. He sings that in this house there would be one long staircase just going up and one even longer coming down and one more leading nowhere that was just there for show. He then says that he would fill his yard with chicks, turkeys, geese, and ducks all squawking loudly so that the town knew that in that house lived a wealthy man.

Many in our society dream such a dream of being rich. It was fuels things like Lotto with people choosing their winning numbers each week waiting with bated breath each Tuesday to see if their numbers come up. For many the dream is a big house with lots of rooms. It might not be geese and ducks that we want to surround ourselves with but its cars and phones and other notable things by which we let others know how wealthy we are.

The dream of being rich fuels much that goes on in our society.  And many Christians are tempted be caught in this dream of wanting to be rich. Today I want to look at why we need to be careful about this desire to be a rich by looking at Paul’s word to Timothy about the trap that those who want to get rich fall into in chapter 6 of his first letter to Timothy.

At the time Paul wrote this letter, Timothy was in Ephesus dealing with false teachers. What motivated these false teachers was their desire to get rich and they were causing division in the church. They were teaching things that were at odds with the gospel of the Lord Jesus which promotes godliness rather than greed. But these false teachers saw godliness as mean of financial or material gain. They were people whose thinking had become corrupted by their desire for money. He described those who had been taken in by their message as having …

 1 Timothy 6:5

“been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain (6:5).

  1. Instructions about money

So, before he ends his letter to Timothy Paul found it necessary to give Timothy some instructions about money. He explains what’s wrong with wanting to be rich and why godliness with contentment is great gain and what those who are rich ought to be doing. This morning, we are going to look at verse 6 to 10 and 17 to 19 of this chapter and consider:

  • What’s wrong with wanting to get rich (verse 9 to 10)?
  • Why godliness with contentment is great gain (verses (6 to 8)
  • What if we are rich (verse 17 to 19)

2.1 What’s wrong with wanting get rich?

So, what’s wrong with wanting to be rich?  Why does Paul warn against this desire to be eager for money?

  1. We fall into temptation and a trap.

Paul argues that those who to get rich fall into temptation and trap.

1 Timothy 6:9

Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction[1].

What always has struck me about this verse is that Paul says that those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap. He doesn’t say that they could possibly fall into a trap, but that they actually have for the gospel ought to work out in our lives so that we desire is godliness not financial gain. For Paul this desire for money is an outworking of the love of money. Money is the temptation and those wanting to get rich fall into it. And if you fall into it, you are in trouble for along with it comes many other harmful desires that lead to ruin and destruction.

At times, I have had problem in my garden with rodents (rats) and sometimes I set traps. I remember one year where just about every cucumber I grew had been hollowed out by a rats or mice. To get rid of them, I put out the spring-loaded sort that snaps shut and that hopefully kills the rodent once it has taken the bait. The bait itself is good. It’s some peanut butter or cheese but it’s the desire for it traps them.

The wanting to get rich trap is like this. Money isn’t wrong. But the love of money and our eagerness for it leads us somewhere we ought not go. It entices people so that they run after things rather than trusting in God. People think that being rich will be some sort of panacea to the troubles of life and so they desire to be wealthy. They think that money will make them secure and happy.  But Paul says it’s a trap that that involves many other foolish and harmful desires. These harmful desires could be things like envy, jealous, pride, covetousness, and lust etc. And just like the baits that taste and look good but are deadly these desires plunge people into ruin and destruction. The gospel of Jesus ought to lead people to desire to live a godly life that involves contentment not the love of money. As Paul wrote godliness with contentment is great gain.

  1. The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil

But the love of money Paul says is a root of all kinds of evil.

1 Timothy 6:10

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

Because of the love of money people exploit the poor, grocery chains exploit farmers, people scam elderly people, people harbour resentment, families argue about inheritances, people cheat on their taxes, they lie and steal and commit murder etc.  While it is not root of every kind of evil, it is root of all kinds of evil. Money itself isn’t a root, but it is the love of money that is.

  1. It causes some to wander from the faith.

In the second half of verse 10 Paul make it clear that some people in their eagerness for money had wandered from the faith and have pierced themselves with many griefs. One wonders whether Paul has in mind Hymenaeus and Alexander who he mentioned in chapter 1. He wrote of them that they were among those who had shipwrecked their faith (1:19-20). But regardless of who the apostle had in mind he wrote that some people who had been too eager for money had wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. The love of money will keep you out of the kingdom. The Lord Jesus said that you cannot serve two masters.

Matthew 6:24

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.

2.2 Why godliness with contentment is great gain

Paul wrote that godliness with contentment is great gain.  What the gospel ought to produce in us is not the desire to get rich but the desire to be godly, the sort of godliness that is accompanied by contentment not covetousness. That is great gain.

1 Timothy 6:6-8

6 But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 8 But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.

  • Godliness has great value

Earlier in the letter Paul explained that godliness has great value. In chapter 4 he compared physical training with training ourselves in godliness. While he said that there is some limited value in physical training, training in godliness has value in every way (for all things). It holds both promise for the present life and the life to come (see 4:8). There is value to godliness in this life for there is wisdom in living God’s way and avoiding folly and the heartache that comes with it. We avoid piercing ourselves with many griefs. But godliness is not only a benefit to us now, it also reaps fruit in eternity. As the apostle will say later it is a firm foundation for the coming age. But he makes it clear that this godliness is godliness with contentment. Being satisfied with what one has and not always wanting more.

  • We take nothing with us

It isn’t about storing up things for ourselves here and now. We don’t live to just squirrel away our money. Paul says we bring nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it[2]. John Stott wrote about a pastor who was conducting funeral of wealthy woman. After the funeral some quite nosey sort of person was curious about the deceased woman’s wealth and how much she had been worth in terms of her assets. This person came up to the pastor and asked him, “How much did she leave behind?”[3] Quick as a flash the pastor replied, “All of it, she left all of it behind”. As the Lord Jesus told his disciples…

Matthew 6:19-20

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

  • We are to be content with having our needs met.

But what should we be content with? Paul explained in verse 8 that if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Paul is talking about being content with the basics of life. He is talking about being content with having our needs met in contrast to always being discontent and always desiring more.

When Jesus taught us his disciples to pray, he taught them to pray for their daily bread – what they needed. He told them to not store up for themselves treasure on earth. He told them to not worry about what they what they would eat or wear because our Heavenly Father knows what we need. Rather than spending our lives just chasing after these things, they were to seek his kingdom and his righteous trusting that the Lord would provide them with what they needed (see Matthew 6:19-34).

  • Our perspective on life is different

The believer has a different perspective on life to those who love money. It doesn’t mean that we don’t plan or work or provide for ourselves, but life isn’t all about storing up treasure on earth. It isn’t just about getting rich and having more. Those who love money are eager to get rich. Those who have experience the grace of God are eager to live godly lives.  For us life is about about being godly, living godly upright lives in this world while we wait for Jesus coming. Listen to what the apostle says that the gospel teaches.

Titus 2:11-14

11 For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.

We aren’t to be eager for money but eager to do good being content with what we have, whether it is relatively little or plenty. We aren’t to make life all about money and getting rich for to do so is to fall into temptation and trap.

2.3 What if we are rich?

But what if we are rich? What if God give us more than just what we need for our daily bread? Paul addresses those who are rich in verses 17 to 19.

  • Don’t be proud

The first thing Paul told Timothy was that he was to command those who are rich in this present world not be arrogant.

1 Timothy 6:17

17 Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.

Perhaps the biggest temptation for the rich is arrogance and pride.  We can think more highly of ourselves than we ought forgetting that is the Lord who provides us with what we need entrusting us with much more than what we need so that we can do some good with it.

The Lord warned the Israelites before entering the land about the dangers of pride. He told them to be careful that when they had built their fine houses and had settle down, with their herds and flocks having grown large and with their silver and gold multiplying then the danger would be that their hearts would grow proud, and they would forget him. Moses told them what they would say and what they needed to remember…

Deuteronomy 8:17-18b

You may to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” But remember the Lord your God, for it he who gives you the ability to produce wealth,

Paul doesn’t condemn the rich for their being wealthy. He doesn’t tell them to get divest themselves of their wealth. He isn’t opposed to the wealthy. But he does warn them of the danger that having wealth often brings with it, pride.

Wealth can make people feel self-important. It can make them feel better than others, more deserving than others and worse still the temptation is to put their hope in their wealth, rather than God. Instead of trusting that it is God who provides us with everything that we need to enjoy this life, the danger for the wealthy is that they put their hope in their wealth which is so uncertain. It’s a false security to trust in what you have. For we bring nothing into this world, and we take nothing with us when we depart from it. None of us get to take it with us. But what we do with does matter.

  • Be rich in good deeds

Paul went on to tell Timothy to command the rich to good and be rich in good deeds.

1 Timothy 6:18-19

Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 19 In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.

If God has been generous to us giving us more than what we need for our daily bread, then we are to be generous to others and willing to share. We are to share the good things that God has entrusted with us so that we might be rich in good deeds. We are not to be like that farmer that Jesus spoke of in Luke chapter 12. When God gave him a bumper crop, he decided that the best thing to do was to tear down his barns and build bigger barns so that he could take life easy, eat, drink and be merry. He thought life was all about storing up things for himself. But God called him a fool. We are not to just be about storing up not treasure on earth but treasure in heaven.

We are to live self-controlled, upright lives godly lives. We are not just to indulge ourselves more and build house with more with more rooms and staircases in them that go up and some that go down and some of which are just there for show or to fill our yards with chickens, ducks, and geese or whatever the equivalent is today so that other know how wealthy we are. Instead, we are to be eager to do good and share what we have been given with those who in need. We are to our resource for the work of the gospel so that people are saved and secured for all eternity. We aren’t to be laying up treasures on earth. We can’t serve two masters. You either love one or the other. You can’t serve God and money.

  1. If I were rich man

“If I were a rich man…” Well many of us are rich in comparison to others.

  • Most of us are comparatively rich

The poor Jewish milkman Tevye living in Russia at the turn of the twentieth century would have regarded many of us of having a small fortune. And so would many people in this world. Many of us have been given much more than what we need for our everyday needs and sadly often we just find more way to spend it on ourselves. How many times have you been faced with buying a birthday present for someone not knowing what to get them because they just seem to have everything that they could possibly need.

We are much wealthier here in Australia than even the previous generation of Australians. I remember one of my kids had to do a project when they were in primary school which involved asking my dad what his best Christmas present as a child had been. I think it was my eldest who was doing the project and I remember him being stunned at dad’s answer. Dad’s family didn’t have much and his best Christmas present was a homemade cricket bat that his father had made for him out a fence paling. We are comparatively well of compared to many people in this world. Of course, there always people wealthier than others just like among the poor there are people poorer than others. But most of us here on the north shore have more than we need for the essentials in life.

  • Be content and generous

We need to carefully consider these words about contentment and wanting to get rich. Wanting to get rich is a trap that many fall into and some who have been too eager for money pierce themselves with many griefs. The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Our goal is godliness with contentment that results in generosity. We are to learn to be both content and generous with what we have.

  • Don’t lay up treasure on earth.

It isn’t about laying up treasure here on earth. It isn’t just about having enough to feel secure. For those who love money never feel they have enough. We are to remember that it is God who provides us with what we need to enjoy life. He has generously provided for us so that we can be generous like him. So don’t put your hope in your wealth. Don’t just be about storing it up for it’s so uncertain. Let’s put our hope in God and be rich in good deeds.

 

 

 

 

[1]  Unless otherwise indicated all Scripture citations are taken from The New International Version. (2011). Zondervan.

[2] See Job 1:21 for a similar view of life.

[3] John Stott, “The Message of 1 Timothy and Titus” The Bible Speaks Today, page 150.