Faith Finance 101
February 16, 2020
1 Timothy 6:6-19
My seminary training was an enjoyable part of my life. Not only did I get an excellent introduction to the Bible and other subjects to prepare me for ministry, but as newlyweds, Tina and I begin to explore how to do life together as husband and wife.
Part of that experience was learning how to earn and manage money.
Tina earned a Ph. T Degree, (that’s a “Put Hubby Through” degree), during our three and a half years in Louisville, Kentucky.
Tina graduated from college with honors in accounting in three years. Now that’s how you save your parent’s money.
Actually, she wanted to finish college at the same time as I did so we could get married and she did.
With Tina’s excellent credentials, she landed a nice job with the STM Development company, a company that developed upscale housing subdivisions.
Soon she was working on some of their large accounts.
I landed a job driving a school bus, and we paid our bills and saved some money during those years.
While there, we had some opportunities to rub shoulders with some wealthy people from Tina’s work.
One of the partners in the company owned a horse racing track in Cincinnati, Ohio. One year, he leased a bus and carried the entire company to Cincinnati. He seated the employees and their spouses in the luxurious box seats that overlooked the track, fed us a delicious meal, and gave us some money to place some bets.
I was told it wasn’t a sin to bet someone’s money, so I placed my bet and lost his money.
While that was odd, I discovered that those wealthy people were not. They were just like the rest of us. Their money didn’t keep them from having problems. In fact, some of them had problems because of their money.
After discovering I was a student at the seminary, it wasn’t unusual for some to tell me about parts of their lives that were not in good order. I felt like a priest with people coming to me for confession.
While I didn’t realize it at the time, this was also a part of my theological education. What I was learning from these people is that their money had not bought them happiness. I learned that their wealth did as much to complicate life as it did to enhance it.
When you read Paul’s words to Timothy, you are reading the text of a professor lecturing to his aspiring student. These letters were the closest thing Timothy had to a seminary education.
In 1 Timothy 6, Paul is lecturing on finances. What can we learn?
The Apostle Paul’s job before he gave his life to Christ involved the persecution of Christians under the authority of the High Priest.
Paul was zealous in this pursuit and had he continued in this line of work, he would likely have been a person of considerable financial means.
As a high ranking Jewish leader, his income would have been much higher than the average Jew, certainly higher than a tentmaker, which was the profession Paul undertook after his conversion.
When Paul converted to Christianity, he did not consider how this would affect his financial well-being. When he became a missionary of the gospel, at times, Paul had to rely on the generosity of others to have his essential needs met.
Paul did not answer God’s call to ministry to become wealthy. Neither should anyone else.
Paul did not have a problem with people being wealthy. He only had a problem with how people acquired their wealth or what people did with their wealth when it came their way.
Paul makes it clear that godliness should be pursued out of love and obedience for God, not because it may bring us a financial reward.
Likewise, no one should join a church because it may help their image, their business, or their political ambitions. I really believe that God frowns on those that use the church for their own political ambitions but have no interest in following the teachings of Christ.
Paul warned Timothy that the ministry of preaching the gospel is not about making lots of money.
This profession is about saving souls by preaching Christ, Christ crucified, and Christ resurrected.
This profession is about baptizing believers, discipling converts, and gathering the saints for worship and fellowship.
The profession is about warning others that at the end of this life we face judgment; therefore, what we decide about Jesus has eternal consequences.
This profession is about guiding the body of Christ to do the work God has called us to do.
This profession is about guiding people through grief and offering words of comfort and assurance at a time of significant loss.
This profession is about praying for those who are estranged from the church and from God.
This is a profession that places complete trust in the word of God and uses the word of God for direction, both in one’s personal life and in the life of the church.
This is a profession where we challenge the faithful to follow Jesus with their finances, and one where we should lead by example.
Paul wants Timothy to develop a proper perspective regarding wealth.
Here are a few things he taught him in what I call Faith Finance 101.
1. The Desire to Get Rich is a Trap
Paul warned Timothy that if the pursuit of wealth is our primary goal in life, we are setting ourselves up for heartache.
It becomes easy for people to compromise their integrity in decision-making to turn a dollar.
When making money is the most crucial priority, Paul teaches Timothy that we are setting ourselves up for great disappointment.
If this is our number one priority, Paul says that this is a recipe for self-destruction.
Verses 9-10 from the message Bible read,
“But if it’s only money these leaders are after, they’ll self-destruct in no time. Lust for money brings trouble, and nothing but trouble. Going down that path, some lose their footing in the faith completely and live to regret it bitterly ever after.”
These words sound strange to us that live in a capitalistic society.
We idolize people that make lots of money. We pay good money for others to tell us how to make lots of money. Is this wrong?
Before Paul became a missionary, he spent ten years in Troas as a tentmaker. I’m just going to assume that he didn’t make his tents for free.
I’m going to assume that he sold them for a profit. Paul was a businessman. He was a capitalist.
There’s a difference between making a living and living to make money.
Making a living is honorable and necessary.
Living to make money dishonors God.
It’s possible to make money, even lots of money and still be people-centered and Christ-centered.
But when we live to make money, we make money at the expense of people and run roughshod over the commandments of God. God becomes secondary to our money-making desires. Letting go of our money becomes secondary to our selfish desires.
Paul warned Timothy that
2. The lust for money leads to destruction.
The word here is ep-ee-thoo-mee’-ah. It means a desire or a longing (especially for what is forbidden).
The Bible seems clear that there is no evil in money or in material possessions. It’s the potential that the money or the object has in taking over the desires of our hearts.
When Jesus told the story of the parable of the sower, he said that some of the seeds fell on thorny ground. When the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things enter in, they choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. (Mark 4:18-19)
What is Jesus saying?
I’ll start by saying that I don’t like thrones. They prick you. They stick in you.
I’ve been caught in a briar patch when walking in the woods and they have left me scratched and bleeding. All I could think about while in the briar patch was getting out. The thorns were a distraction from what I was in the woods to do.
Jesus is saying that the cares and riches of this world can be a distraction.
They can choke out what should be our primary focus, which is the word of God.
Wealth comes to us flashing such great promise, but it’s deceitful. It never delivers on everything it says it can do for us.
No matter how much money people have, people still get lonely, afraid, and abused. People still get divorced, mistreated, and abandoned. People still die, grieve, and suffer.
People must still figure out what life is all about and decide how God fits into their lives.
Paul’s Alternative Message to Timothy
Instead of having a desire to get rich and lusting after money, Paul tells Timothy to
1. Be Humble – Humility is natural when nobody knows us, and we are struggling from day to day to make life work.
But elevate us to some important position, and things sometimes change. Give us a little money through a great job or an inheritance. Let us marry into a prominent family. It’s hard sometimes to stay humble after we’ve moved up the financial ladder.
If you don’t believe it, go back to a class reunion thirty or forty years later and you might see this for yourself.
Moses was trying to keep the Children of Israel from getting the big head after being delivered from Pharaoh as they headed to the Promised Land.
These slaves that had come out of Egypt were now coming into great wealth because Yahweh, the Yahweh, the God that created the heavens and the earth, was giving them a land flowing with milk and honey.
“You might say in your heart, “The power and strength of my hands have made this wealth for me.” 18But remember that it is the LORD your God who gives you the power to gain wealth, in order to confirm His covenant that He swore to your fathers, as it is this day.” (Deut. 8)
We would do well to remember the same thing.
2. Paul told Timothy that wealth is uncertain, so put your hope in God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.
Do you remember the message Jesus had about the man who had a great crop, and he tore his barns down and built bigger ones to put in all his grain.
“Then I will say to myself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take it easy. Eat, drink, and be merry.”
Jesus shared this story because this man put all of his hope in his bumper crop of grain.
The problem was, that very night, he died.
So, Jesus tells us that life is uncertain. We could die at any time. Don’t put your trust in your possessions.
Paul tells Timothy not to put his hope in wealth because our wealth is also just as uncertain.
Paul tells Timothy if we want to be rich in something to be rich in good deeds.
He tells him to be generous and to share.
In this way, we will lay up treasure for ourselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so we may take hold of the life that is truly life. (verse 19)
This is a place where our belief and understanding about God and our possessions can become very practical and elementary.
If you have small children, nieces, nephews, or grandchildren, then one way to help them live out faith is to teach them to be kind and generous.
Here are three things to remember.
1. Be an example of generosity. Children will watch and copy what you do. When your children see your kindness and your generosity to others they will want to participate and do it themselves.
2. Talk about generosity. When you see others being generous, point it out. Use those opportunities to explain that God is generous with us, and we should be generous with others.
3. Encourage generosity. Look for opportunities to help your children practice being generous and doing things for others. Brainstorm with your children. Let them come up with some of their own ideas of how to be kind and generous. https://www.worldvision.org/christian-faith-news-stories/top-5-ways-raise-generous-child-age
If you have children, your home is a seminary. Your home is where children learn about God.
You are the most important theological teachers your children have.
If children are going to learn to be generous, they must see you model generosity.
A lot of families begin teaching their children about money by giving them an allowance.
It seems that we can also teach them about building treasure in heaven by modeling for them how to be kind and generous to others and giving them opportunities to do the same.
Today, if the pursuit of money occupies too much of your energy, interest, or time, then ask God to help you readjust your priorities.
All of us need money to live, but we don’t need to live for the money.
If you find yourself living for money instead of living for Jesus who promises to provide for all of our needs, I invite you to pray and ask God to help you readjust your priorities.
If you struggle to have enough money, then you need to continue to lean on Jesus and trust him to provide you with wisdom to manage what you have been given so that you will have enough for all your needs.
This morning, remember, Jesus is the most important treasure we have. If you realize that Jesus isn’t your first priority, then today, ask Jesus through his Spirit to help you realign your priorities.
Perhaps you need to make this your church home, and commit you and your family to Christian service within our church. Andy will be here to welcome you into our church.
Photo Credit: polyvision.com