1 Tim. is about churches getting on the same page, carefully setting apart leaders of integrity and character, so that the focus can be on the people in the larger community rather than internal squabbling. Last week the message was about recognizing and affirming leaders. The last chapter of 1 Timothy could easily be seen as a tacked on scripture, but its not. This is Paul’s final bit of wisdom in this letter for the young pastor Timothy in how to make a difference in a struggling world.
As we serve the people around us, as we show up and make ourselves available, clearly we have little control in how people respond… this chapter, in a large measure, is the one bit of control we do have. Trust is a gift, we don’t know when it will be given, but the one bit of control we do have is to be trustworthy people. I want to live my life in such a way that I make it easy for people to trust me. We must strive to be people of character, integrity, dependable, focused on that which is most important. In a single word: trustworthy.
I have had many conversations with people around the community that goes something like this: I have had this bad experience, that bad experience, but I appreciate ___________. And one of you sitting in this room is named. Trust is a gift. You cannot control when others give you their trust, but you can live as a trustworthy person, making the gift of trust as easy as possible. I want people to trust me, so that when I point the way to Jesus Christ, they will take a second look. May Jesus Christ be glorified through our lives. Amen?
Let’s go to today’s scripture: Be trustworthy, a person of character. Our character is more important than our words. Being a trustworthy person is more important than having all the right answers. Live in such a way that you can be trusted.
Let’s go to the central phrase in this scripture. The most famous and most often quoted is probably 1 Tim. 6:10, and that’s a good verse. But I am astounded by 1 Tim. 6:6: “Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth.” Underline the sentence, and then circle the center word, “contentment.” Contentment. Too often we think we’ll change the world if we get a certain program, get the right music, vote the right policy, elect the right president, get people to change the way they do things, change the circumstances of my life – we have so little control over any of that…. But what can we control: we can learn to be content in all circumstances. Nothing needs to change for you to find contentment. Contentment is not the same as having high standards, clearly we must never accept abuse and injustice, we must always strive to help the powerless and lift up those who are in danger of falling between the cracks, but in the process, personal peace and contentment will impact the community. The most amazing people I know are those who face tragedy with a spirit of contentment.
A spirit of contentment will change your world. A spirit of contentment will change the world around you. Benjamin Franklin said, “"Content[ment] makes poor men rich; discontent[ment] makes rich men poor." The transformational power of contentment. I often joke with the postal clerk in Nooksack when I get my mail that I am still waiting for my million dollar check. True wealth is found in contentment, and that’s no joke. The apostle Paul, who has spent a lifetime laboring in the field for Christ, is saying to the young man Timothy, in order to make a difference in your community, in order for people to want what you have, learn to be content. That’s what people will see, that’s what will impact people, then you will be trusted. Live what you preach. You cannot preach peace and live chaos -- the community has enough of that. They don’t need the church for more drama. A life of contentment, live what you preach.
Leaning on his fence one day, a devout Quaker was watching a new neighbor move in next door. After all kinds of modern appliances, electronic gadgets, plush furniture, and costly wall hangings had been carried in, the onlooker called over, "If you find you're lacking anything, neighbor, let me know and I'll show you how to live without it." Live what you preach. Contentment. Your character is what people respond to – a person of integrity, a person content in their own skin…
The contentment we strive to live, is centered in godliness… “true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth.” True godliness means to live according to the values of God, the passion of God, the desires of God. The deepest sort of contentment is to live the way God wants us to live. The values of God. The fruit of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentles and self-control. Today’s scripture starts out talking about a godly life… READ 1 Tim. 6:3. The choice is set before you. I believe even committed Christians have a choice: We do not have a choice when it comes to controlling the circumstances of our lives, but I believe the Lord does give us a choice in how to respond. We can choose to be content. We must choose to live with godly values.
1 Tim. 6:4-5 sounds very much like the false teachers back in chapter 1. READ. Wealth is another way to say power, control… Money does have power to consume us. The older I get, the more I believe I understand what is most important. Money, power. Perhaps the only thing missing in this scripture is sex. I heard one person lamenting in the last week or two that what drives many people forward is an unhealthy thirst for money, power or sex.
Before Paul talks about the positive, striving for true godliness and contentment, he talks about the negative, living with unhealthy motives, arrogance, lack understanding, quibble over words leading to arguments, jealousy, divisions, slander, evil. And when the community looks on and sees Christians making poor choices leading to discontent and greed, they don’t want it, and they don’t trust us. And I don’t blame them. If the church mirrors the world and tension is the norm, the world does not need the church. In order to be trusted, we must strive to live the life we are inviting others to embrace.
Twenty some years ago, when I went through the process of ordination, although not a lot of detail was given, part of the questions were about personal finances. You might think that is none of anyone else’s business, yet I understand, it has to be at least considered that to be a leader, how I am able to handle my own money has to be at least considered. 1 Tim. 6:10 is an incredibly insightful verse: “for the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil…” your attitude towards money, towards power, towards things. Money, at its best, is a tool to bring blessings, not the goal. To keep it in perspective…
When I first met Sally she had a friend (roommate?) that worked for a church. The message from the church was that her salary included her tithe, she didn’t need to give anything back because they already took it out….there is something fundamentally wrong about that… I need the discipline of letting go, I need the option of keeping, so that when I let go it means something, changes me, keeps a healthy perspective, if you will, rather than forced generosity…. READ 1 Tim. 6:9-10.
I have always found it instructive: the number one topic of Jesus in the gospels is the king of God. #2: money. There is nothing new under the sun. If your goal in life is to gain wealth, increase power and prestige, you plunge yourself into a life of competition, self-centered living, greed, never enough…. Paul is saying, your impact on the world will be stymied. People won’t trust you. They might even wonder if you only want them for a feather in your cap. People can go anywhere and find those values. The world is craving something different. Christians with depth of character will change the world, people who embrace the values of God and live with peace and contentment. One more time, take a look at these amazing central verses, 1 Tim. 6:6-8.
Room is given recognizing that we need a basic amount, I understand that. It is not greedy to want a roof over your head that doesn’t leak, and enough food in your larder so your stomach doesn’t growl. The Lord understands. Clothing from the Clothesline really is one of the basic needs that makes a difference. That’s why the clothesline is a holy place, because so many wonderful people that come just looking for the basics of life. I don’t mean it literally, but 1 Tim. 6:8 could be painted on the side of the Clothesline! Benjamin Franklin was right when he said, “"Content[ment] makes poor men rich; discontent[ment] makes rich men poor." If we have enough food and clothing, let us be content. You find contentment by adopting godly values…
The world is in turmoil. Back in the days of creation, Genesis 1:1-3, the scripture says the world was formless and empty and dark, a place of chaos, and God set about bring order to the chaos. Today people crave the same peace, the same orderliness, the same balance. I do. I am attracted to Christians that are content. The greatest image I have of my grandfather, who was retired by the time my memories start, is a man of God sitting in his rocking chair, a man of peace, content…Our calling before God is not what we accomplish in this old world, it is who we become in Christ, people of contentment. Sometimes people think the most amazing thing about creation is God creating out of nothing. That is amazing. I think the greater miracle is that he replaced chaos with order. And he can do it again. People need God’s creative power once again in their lives. 2 Cor. 5:17 says, Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:The old has gone, the new is here! The world is looking for people that have been recreated, living God’s contentment.
Paul is saying, Timothy, in order to be a people of faith making a difference for Christ in the community, be content. Content people will be embraced by the world, people with no agenda, people who are not looking to exploit others. The world can find discontentment on any street corner, any news show, at the center of too many households. People can find discontentment in the center of too many churches.
Be content, and perhaps, you will be noticed, and perhaps, you will be blessed with one of the greatest compliments imaginable: the trust of others. “true godliness with contentment is great wealth.” The world wants that kind of wealth, to be satisfied, to be changed, lives of peace and contentment. I cannot control the circumstances of my life, but I have a small measure of control in that I can choose to live a godly life and to work towards contentment.