The Love of Money

1 Timothy 6: 6-19

Saint_TimothyThere is great gain in godliness combined with contentment; for we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it; but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these. But those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.

But as for you, man of God, shun all this; pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith; take hold of the eternal life, to which you were called and for which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. In the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you to keep the commandment without spot or blame until the manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ, which he will bring about at the right time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords. It is he alone who has immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see; to him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.

As for those who in the present age are rich, command them not to be haughty, or to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but rather on God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, thus storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life that really is life.

This lesson is delightfully straightforward. No mind-bending theology. No pastoral gymnastics needed.  Even the structure is comfortingly familiar—it’s a sandwich. In the middle, the author tells us what we need to do in the context of God’s covenant. On either side we’re told what not to do. Of course neither meat nor bread is particularly easy to digest, but at least it’s clear what’s being said.

The author begins by wryly observing that if you’re living a Godly life you can get by with very little—principally food and clothes. He quickly moves on, however, to those who want to be rich. He offers some practical words of caution. The quest for wealth can lead to temptations and desires that can distort one’s moral vision. It’s good advice. No one today is unaware of the questionable and criminal behavior that can accompany greed. Look only as far as Bernie Madoff. The author also gives us one of the Bible’s most quoted and misquoted warnings, “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” This is true because the accumulation of wealth is an inherently selfish process. Of necessity, the focus has to be on yourself and on your personal advancement. You may be religious in the common sense of the term, but that faith will always be secondary to your primary pursuit.

The author then offers up a better pursuit. He directs our focus beyond ourselves. He exhorts us to do the right thing, to be kind and to live always with an awareness of God’s presence. He also makes it plain that it won’t be easy. If we’re to take hold of the Kingdom, we’ll need to exercise endurance to fight the good fight. The author wraps it all up with a prayer that celebrates the Kingship of Christ and the promise of a glorious future.

But there’s still a little bit more to consider. What happens if you’re rich already? Mercifully, the guidance continues to be practical. First of all, don’t be haughty. There’s no need to flash your wealth. Exercise some modesty and humility. Next, start turning your focus on self to a focus on others. Share what you have, be generous and apply what you’ve accumulated toward the accomplishment of good works.

So fight the good fight. Look beyond yourself. Do the right thing. Be kind and take hold of the life that really is life.       Ebert

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