How many of you have heard of the American Dream?
It’s not a dream that is limited to the United States. In fact, it’s a worldwide phenomenon. It is the desire to pursue prosperity, success and upward social mobility. While it is not wrong to be successful in life, the pursuit of the American Dream can work against us. It interferes with our ability to find contentment in what God provides for us. We seek more money, power, benefits and so on, and that often forces us to miss the opportunity to pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.
Since the dawn of history, man has tried to be independent of God. It’s in our nature to be self-sufficient and self-supporting. This does not bring us face to face with our need to depend on God every day. True godliness means that a person trusts God to provide for everything and learns to be content with what He gives. God is not opposed to our having good things. In fact, every good thing we enjoy comes as God’s gift. We must not confuse the gift with the Giver.
Growth in godliness does not necessarily lead to material gain or wealth. The idea that we are complete without having enough money or material goods is foreign to us. The world tells us to get as much money or other goods as possible.
Contrary to the popular saying, money is not the root of all evil. It is the love of money that is the problem. The pursuit of money or all the things it can buy is the problem. It shows that we are putting our faith, our sense of security and our hope for the future in material goods. Instead, we need to put our hope in God.
This does not mean that we should not save money for retirement or other emergencies. Accumulating wealth so that we are not a burden on others is a wise move. From a spiritual point of view, Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:25-34 that God will take care of our basic needs. God is our sole provider and if we focus on the necessities of life, we can be content. Those who want to get rich often fall into temptation.
Paul tells Timothy and us in 1 Timothy 6:6-19 that true ministry is not motivated by greed but by the reality of eternal life and an awareness of accountability to God. True joy can only be found in a relationship with Christ. When we have faith, we are no longer slaves to our circumstances. When we combine our love for God with acceptance of His will for our lives, we will find great gain. When we rely on him alone, we will experience our greatest happiness and freedom.
The subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) temptation of any culture is to disregard eternal values for temporary gains. Yet no person takes his money with him when he dies. That’s why you never see a U-Haul behind a hearse in a funeral procession. This is why money is such a poor object for our affection and trust. It does not last beyond this life. A far better plan is to put it to good use here on earth by giving as much as possible to help others. Between this life and the next, believers must trust God to provide.
Most early believers were poor, but there were some rich believers. The rich were given four specific commands.;
- Don’t be haughty.
- Trust God, not wealth.
- Do good.
- Be rich in good works, giving and sharing
Godly people know what they flee from: the love of money. One of greed’s many dangers is its ability to make people err in the faith and become unfruitful. The rich are to give some of their money to the poor. The sense of accumulating wealth for personal security or comfort is foreign to Jesus. The unchecked desire for money leads to the love of money, and the love of money is the root of all evil. The love of money is called greed. This evil is one of many evils that we have to confront.
We don’t have all of the skills or knowledge to fight every evil. Our efforts are better spent focusing on only one or two issues. We are to fight evil, but we must also recognize when it is best to flee from evil.
It’s not wrong for Christians to have money-even a great deal of money-as long as that money does not have them. According to Paul, the problem comes when accumulating wealth becomes the focus of our lives. When money begins to rule lives, people fall prey to greed. Greed is not only an obstacle to achieving godliness and contentment. It is a gateway to all kinds of evil.
It’s like the burglar who was caught in the act of breaking into a house. He was taken to court and found guilty. Before he passed sentence, the judge asked the burglar if he wanted to say anything in his own defense.
The burglar said, “Well, Your Honour, its like this. The more a man has, the more a man wants.” The judge replied, “Is that so. Well, I tell you what I’m going to do. I’m going to sentence you to fifteen years in jail. How many more would you like?”
The godly are known not just by what they flee from but by what they follow after, fight for and are faithful to. Paul used the active verbs pursue, fight, lay hold on and keep. Believers should strive for these qualities as long as they live.
Paul calls Timothy a man of God. This term is found only twice in the New Testament, but over 70 times in the Old Testament. It often refers to prophets-people who spoke for God. For believers today, a man or a woman of God is someone who belongs to God, is dedicated to God, finds true joy in God, and lives for the glory of God. In Paul’s eyes, Timothy was such a man.
The balance in a bank account does not determine a person’s ability to be rich toward God. Those who are good stewards in God’s economy make investments in eternity by sharing their earthly resources-whether many or few-with the church and those in need.
Pride is one of the dangers of being wealthy. Wealth brings a sense of achievement. It also brings power and privilege. There is no room for pride in God’s kingdom. In fact, there are some Christians who are adopting a simpler, less expensive lifestyle in order to direct more money to helping the poor and spreading the Good News.
A willingness to share what we have with others is a mark of Christianity. When we share with others, it breaks materialism’s hold on us. If we focus on giving our resources (including giving tithes and offerings), the result leads to worship and praise. We can take the treasures we have been entrusted with in this life and invest them in the life to come. Jesus even tells us to store up treasures in heaven.
Where there is wealth, pride is often nearby. Believers can counter this temptation to haughtiness in three ways:
- By concentrating on good works.
- By giving generously.
- By trusting in the living God alone.
It is more difficult for people to take pride in earthly possessions when they realize that all they have comes from the Lord and is only temporary. Jesus wants us to use the money God has given us to bring people to Christ. Godliness will pay in both this life and in eternity. It makes sense to make the pursuit of godliness a priority.
Faith is a constant struggle that requires effort. We must always confess Jesus as Saviour and Lord all the time. Confessing means speaking out in faith. As Christians, we can enjoy life because our consciences are clear. We can have fun and laugh in church. We can enjoy friends and family. In the long run we are better off if we let the godliness of Christ within us and contentment give us the greatest gains of all, moment by moment.
- Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible, New King James Version (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013; pp. 1711-1712)
- Demarest, G.W. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 32: 1,2 Thessalonians/1,2, Timothy/Titus (Nashville, TN.: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1984, pp. 223-232)
- MacArthur, J.F. Jr.: The MacArthur Study Bible, New American Standard Version (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers; 2006)
- Stanley, C.F.: The Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible, New King James Version (Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles, 2005)
- ESV Study Bible. Part of Wordsearch 11 Bible software package.
- Pastor David McGee, “Godly Contentment.” Retrieved from www.crossthebridge.com
- Selwyn Hughes, “God’s Four Purposes for Money.” Retrieved from Christianity.firstname.lastname@example.org
- Selwyn Hughes, “True Contentment.” Retrieved from Christianity.email@example.com
- Pastor Rick Warren, “The Best Financial Investment You Can Make.” Retrieved form firstname.lastname@example.org
- Bayless Conley, “The Reward of Godliness.” Retrieved from www.answersrbc.org
- Pastor Rick Warren, “How God Helps you Enjoy Life.” Retrieved form email@example.com
- Alan Smith, “Needing to Share.” Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org
- Joan Walker Hahn, “Now That’s Priceless.” Retrieved from Christianity.email@example.com
- Pastor Jeff Schreve, “Are You experiencing Life Indeed?” Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org
- Katie Emery, “God Pause for Wednesday, 9/21/2016.” Retrieved from email@example.com
- Sandra Hermann, “The Power of Money.” Retrieved from https://store.sermonsuite.com/printer.php?i=788040809