The Wealth God Provides
It is no secret that we live in a society that is greatly concerned about money. How much money we spend, and how much money we save, is very important to most people. This is reflected in how much we talk about money. No, we don't often tell others what our income is, or what investments we have chosen for ourselves. What we talk about, rather, is such things as the weakness of the Canadian dollar, we talk about what's on sale at the IGA, and we talk about the obscene gas prices we have been paying.
I remember getting preaching advice a number of years ago, 'Bryn, you can preach on sin, you can preach on God's wrath, and you can preach on hell without too much consequence, but be very, very careful if you ever choose to preach about money'. That's true isn't it?
My response to warnings I've received about preaching on money has always been the same: When the Bible speaks about money, I will preach about money. Yet, today's passages aren't so much about money as they are about the attitudes that accompany the accumulation and distribution of money.
We begin in Luke 12, verses 13 and 14, "And someone in the crowd said to (Jesus), 'Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.' But (Jesus) said to him, 'Man, who appointed Me a judge or arbiter over you?' ".
Why would this man approach Jesus with this type of question? It is likely that the man took Jesus to be a Rabbi, for rabbis customarily gave decisions on disputed points of the law(Morris, Luke, 232). Jesus, however, wanted nothing to do with such a dispute. Jesus' response, beginning with the address, Man , is neither cordial nor diplomatic. To understand Jesus' response, Bible commentator, Leon Morris, reminds us that '(Jesus) came to bring people to God, not to bring property to people'.
We see from Jesus' next statement, that what concerned Him the most was the attitudes that accompany the pursuit of wealth, "Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions "(v.15).
Jesus gives a stern warning here. Are we on guard against "every form of greed "? Probably not. Our society encourages greed, it may not always call it greed, but that is what it is. Our society may call it capitalism, diversification, or maximizing profit margins, but what Jesus calls it is greed.
We see this quite clearly in the parable Jesus gives; "The land of a certain rich man was very productive. And he began reasoning to himself, saying, 'What shall I do, since I have no place to store my crops?' And he said, 'This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, 'Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink, and be merry.' But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?' So is the man who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God "(v.16-21).
If this parable does not resonate with your experience, try this one: "There was a certain man who invested in a 'dot.com' internet stock and made a lot of money. He thought to himself, 'What shall I do? I have more money than I need'. Then he said, 'This is what I will do. I will hire a financial advisor and have my investment diversified'. I will say to myself, 'You have plenty of money for many years. You deserve a break; retire early, travel overseas, buy a cottage in Muskoka, and be happy.'"
What would Jesus say to such a man? 'Well done, good and faithful servant'? No! He calls the man in the parable a "fool ". Why would Jesus do this? This parable is about a man who acted prudently and responsibly by every worldly standard. Jesus begins by telling us that this man "was very productive "--that is, his profit margins were extremely high. And like any good businessman, this man was always on the look out for ways to improve his productivity. He set short-term goals and long-term goals. He was wise enough to have retirement in view--he anticipated gaining enough goods that he could one day sit back, "take ease, eat, drink, and be merry "(v.19). Yet, Jesus calls this man a "fool ".
At first glance, this man was anything but foolish. He was productive, he was proactive, and he was prudent. Why would Jesus call this man a "fool "? Jesus answers this question in verse 21, "So it is with the man who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God ". We learn a number of things from this statement. First of all, we learn that one can be rich in a worldly sense without being "rich toward God ". Secondly--and this is critical--part of what makes this man foolish is that he is laying up treasure "for himself ". Notice how many times the word "I " occurs in this passage--6 times. Notice also, how often the word "my " appears in this passage. It appears 5 times: "my crops ", "my barns ", "my grain ", "my goods ", "my soul ".
The sin here is not being wealthy. Some of the most godly individuals in Scripture were wealthy. The sin here is laying up treasures for self-serving purposes. Jesus said that the man laid up treasure "for himself "--not to serve God, not to help other people, but "for himself ". And it is these types of people--people who use their resources only on themselves--that Jesus describes as being "not rich toward God ".
As you might have already guessed, today's passages aren't so much about gaining worldly wealth as they are about gaining heavenly wealth. Jesus, in Luke chapter 12, clearly explains how pursuing worldly wealth to the exclusion of heavenly wealth is downright foolish. Now, I'd like you to turn to 1Timothy 6, where Paul instructs Timothy about, not only earthly wealth, but also heavenly wealth.
Beginning at verse 6, Paul tells Timothy about the wealth that God provides, "godliness is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment ".
The word for "gain " is, por-is-mos , which literally means "money getting " or "profit ". Paul is saying, 'If you want profit; if you want to be rich; if you want wealth, then what you need is "godliness " with "contentment ".
What should be the priority of every Christian? Is it earning lots of money and accumulating lots of possessions? No, for Paul reminds us in the next verse, "we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either "(v.7, 8).
Paul is reminding us that our earthly belongings have an expiry date. You cannot take your home to heaven with you. You cannot take your new car to heaven with you. You cannot take your big screen TV, your computer, or your living room ornaments to heaven with you. But you can take your godliness. You can take your contentment.
There are things which we can pursue in this lifetime that will endure through eternity. Godliness and contentment is our profit for eternity, but what is also amazing is that godliness and contentment is our profit now.
Do you want to be happy now? Do you have a desire to be completely satisfied with your life? Of course you do. Then pursue godliness. Contentment is the byproduct of godliness. Contentment is the byproduct of fixing our attention on Christ.
The is the message Paul gives to Timothy, "Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy "(v.17).
As you can see, Paul's main point has little to do with money. Paul's main point has to do with what we "fix (our) hope on ". We could fix our hope, I suppose, on many things, but Paul recognizes our human tendency to fix our hopes on money and possessions. Paul is aware of our temptation to rely on money and so he reminds us of the one thing we are to rely on: God.
Notice that Christianity does not require one to quench all desire. Christianity does not insist that one live a life of monastic deprivation. Paul's goal in this passage is not for the Christian to extinguish desire for every worldly thing, but rather, Paul's desire is that we kindle our desire for the right thing.
Godliness with contentment is the wealth that God provides . And, as much as I would enjoy a million dollars, I would take godliness with contentment over riches any day of the week.
As Augustine has said, 'You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in You'. If your heart is restless; if you are anxious, ask yourself where your hope is fixed. Only God can satisfy your deepest longings because, as the Westminster catechism states, we were created to enjoy God. Amen.