Home » Spiritual Direction » Lectionary Sermon for Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Lectionary Sermon for Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost

1 Timothy 6:6-19 Spiritual Economics

Over the last few months, many of us have experienced what economic inflation can do. I do our family grocery shopping and so I have noticed the increase in prices, sometimes as much as double. We are told by the news media that inflation will be a big issue as to whom people will choose to hold public office. Not who is the most moral, ethical, intelligent, and courageous, but who can help us have more money.

Money is the most sought-after element of human living. The pursuit of money is what drives people in what has been called “the first world countries.” And whereas money might give a person the means to get the material things they want or think that they want, ultimately our wealth will be meaningless, as Paul writes, “For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out.” Still, for many, many people the desire to obtain and have money is the driving force of their lives.

Jesus told a parable about the desire for wealth and the foolishness of making it life’s priority, “A rich man’s land was very productive. He thought to himself, ‘What should I do, since I don’t have anywhere to store my crops? I will do this,’ he said. ‘I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones and store all my grain and my goods there. Then I’ll say to myself, ‘You have many goods stored up for many years. Take it easy; eat, drink, and enjoy yourself.’ But God said to him, ‘You fool!1 This very night your life is demanded of you. And the things you have prepared– whose will they be?  “(Lk. 12:20 CSB)

In this passage of Scripture, Paul indicates that wanting more and more, allowing the desire for more, is not a positive influence on our spiritual lives. Paul indicates that a better path to pursue is one of contentment. If you are pursuing contentment as your goal with the material side of your existence rather than desire will live a more satisfying life.

Any person who has gone from a comfortable, seemingly secure life supported by economic means to someone who is not always sure where the money will come from knows that contentment is much more valuable than desire or sorrow for what was lost. This is what Paul gives as a solution in dealing with the insecurity and finiteness of any economic order, seek contentment with what we have been blessed with.

When I hear the word contentment, I think of the feeling I get from a good satisfying meal. I think of the feeling I have after waking from a good restful nap, and the warm feeling I get from a meaningful hug from a loved one. I can only equate the word contentment with good things. Not so much with desire.

Paul says to Timothy and to us, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and by craving it, some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.” What is interesting is that the phrase, “for the love of money” is a single word that has selfish intent and an evil foundation. And what does this love of money do? It will produce a misleading desire that will likely lead to one’s spiritual bankruptcy.

To help avoid this trap we must remember our primary desire should be to seek God. Our primary desire, which if not sought will be replaced by desires that can never bring contentment, must be on grounded in faith and trust. Jesus makes us a promise, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. (Matt. 6:33 CSB)

In verses 11 and 12, Paul exhorts Timothy on what he must do for his own spiritual survival in a world obsessed and dominated by material economic desires. Paul gives Timothy a list of pursuits he should take instead of giving in to the draw of the material. Paul instructs Timothy to seek righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness.” (1 Tim. 6:11 CSB)

Why do we have to pursue anything? Why not just go with the flow of life? Well, to do so would be to make a very foolish choice. First, we live in a world hostile to our existence (I believe global warming and the recent pandemic gives this statement credence).

Second, the flow is the easier path Jesus warned his followers not to choose. Jesus said, “Enter through the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the road is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who go through it. (Matt. 7:13 CSB) and third, if we just go with the flow, we will miss the opportunities and blessings seeking the will of God brings.

To choose to follow Jesus is not easy. It is a fight of faith. We will fall, not might but will. Get back up. We will fail.

Again, we will not we might. Start again.

Paul writes, “Instruct those who are rich in the present age not to be arrogant or to set their hope on the uncertainty of wealth, but on God, who richly provides us with all things to enjoy.” And then this warning given by Paul that is as counter-cultural as any statement could ever be, “But those who want to be rich fall into temptation, a trap, and many foolish and harmful desires, which plunge people into ruin and destruction. (1 Tim. 6:9 CSB)

If one of your goals in life is to be rich, be warned. Seeking this path you are likely setting yourself up for pain, disappointment, fear, and all the struggles a rich person goes through to try to increase wealth or preserve it.

Wealth is not a means of hope. Wealth is responsibility. If a person becomes wealthy without pursuing wealth but as a result of “righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness,” then one should have the spiritual maturity to use wealth as a tool in seeking to bring salt and light to others. This is why Paul tells Timothy to, “Instruct them to do what is good, to be rich in good works, to be generous, willing to share. Instruct those who are rich in the present age not to be arrogant or to set their hope on the uncertainty of wealth, but on God, who richly provides us with all things to enjoy. (1 Tim. 6:17 CSB)

Money can appear to be a source of hope when our vision is materialistically myopic. Our only real hope lies in, “the only One who has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light; no one has seen or can see Him, to Him be honor and eternal might.” (1 Tim. 6:16 CSB) Our only hope is in Jesus.

The material economic status of this world will rise and fall. Some of us will make money and some of us will lose money. Some of us will be financially successful and some will not. However, if our focus is not on material economics but on spiritual economics we are those who are “working for storing up for themselves (ourselves) a good reserve for the age to come, so that they may take hold of life that is real. (1 Tim. 6:19 CSB). Yes, the spiritual life is the life that will ultimately determine our eternity.

Imagine if you could know the success Apple or Microsoft were going to have when they first began to sell stock. How rich would you be now? But that is silly. We cannot know the future.

Oh yes, we can. A day is coming, not might be coming but is coming when the material will give be transformed into the eternal. God gives us knowledge. It is up to us if we desire God’s promise or not. How is your eternal portfolio?

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