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“Money Matters”        1 Timothy 6:6-19   October 3, 2010
 
A Colorado pastor tells of being in a grocery store one day where she encountered a woman she hadn’t seen in a long time. “It was awkward for both of us,” the pastor said, “as she had suddenly stopped attending church and we never learned exactly why.”

After some chit-chat the pastor said, “We miss you. Is there anything that our church can do for you?”

The woman replied, “Yes, there is. You could stop asking for money all the time.”

I don’t know the pastor immediate response to the woman, but she continued to think about it and eventually presented this response in a sermon to her congregation.
 
She started by acknowledging that the church is always asking for money, but she went on unapologetically to defend that practice by naming all the ministries and missions churches engage in.

She had read about a church where the members aren’t asked for money. Instead, they take turns doing everything in the church, including cleaning the building, providing the music,
preparing the bulletin, doing the preaching and teaching. In winter, they dress very warmly for worship because they don’t run the furnace. They offer no child care, no children’s church and no youth ministry.
 
The pastor thenconcluded by saying, “It’s a good thing the church is asking for money. What kind of church would the church be if it wasn’t always reaching out to help others in need? And the local church is unarguably the best place to open our pocketbooks.”


On the one hand, it was a good response to the complaint that the church is always asking for money.
 
However, that isn’t the whole response. The argument that the church should be asking for money because of all the good it does has merit, but any worthy charity can make that case.

Doing good for others can be expressed biblically as “love your neighbor as yourself.” It is the second of the two great summary commandments Jesus spoke. The first of them is “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37).
 
For Christians, giving out of what we have has as much to do with the first great commandment as with the second one.Giving is part of the way we love God with all our heart, soul and mind. We give not only for the good of others but also because it is necessary for our own spiritual well-being. We love God by loving others, and part of loving others is providing financial support when needed.

This is what the apostle Paul is getting at in the first letter to Timothy. First, he addresses the negative impact money can have on our souls. Then` Paul speaks of the gain that comes to us “in godliness combined with contentment” and goes on to mention the basics — food and clothing — as sufficient.
 
In contrast, he warns about the dangers that the desire to be rich can bring, stating, “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” (1 Timothy 6:10).

Paul next addresses Timothy specifically, calling him “man of God” (which is an ancient title for a prophet). Paul tells him to “shun all this.” In other words, some threats to our spiritual health — including the love of money — are so subtle and so powerful that the best way to deal with them is to stay away from them.

Obviously, we live in a world that runs on money. We cannot have a decent existence without money, and Paul is well aware of that. But he also recognizes that the lure of money and the desire to acquire and accumulate possessions are dangerous to our souls and we must defang them. And one of the best ways to do that is by opening our hands and giving some of it away.

Further on in the same chapter, Paul addresses Christians “who in the present age are rich.” He tells them not to allow their wealth to make them “arrogant, or to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches.” Rather, Paul says, they should set their hope “on God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.”
 
And lest they miss the point, he spells it out: “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.”

Notice he doesn’t say they should be generous and ready to share because that’s good for others, though no doubt Paul would agree with that. No, he says they should be “rich in good works, generous, and ready to share” because by so doing they “take hold of the life that really is life.”
                                             
They should be generous because it’s one of the things that make them, the givers, spiritually healthy. Therefore, we should be generous because it’s one of the things that make us, as givers, spiritually healthy. Giving is just as important to our spiritual health as are prayer, Bible study, and worship.

In 2001, popular author Stephen King gave the commencement address at Vassar College. Though King is known for horror fiction, many readers have noticed explicitly Christian themes in his novels, and he has even acknowledged that in interviews. In any case, … in the Vassar speech, he made some statements that mirror something Paul said in this letter to Timothy: “[F]or we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it.”

While walking down the road one day in 1999, King was struck and severely injured by a minivan. In his speech, he referred to both his accident and to the earning potential of the graduates, saying:

"Well, I’ll tell you one thing you’re not going to do and that’s take it with you. I’m worth I don’t exactly know how many millions of dollars ... and a couple of years ago I found out what “you can’t take it with you” means. I found out while I was lying in the ditch at the side of a country road, covered with mud and blood and with the tibia of my right leg poking out the side of my jeans.... I had a MasterCard in my wallet, but when you’re lying in the ditch with broken glass in your hair, no one accepts MasterCard. ... We all know that life is ephemeral, but on that particular day and in the months that followed, I got a painful but extremely valuable look at life’s simple backstage truths: We come in naked and broke. We may be dressed when we go out, but we’re just as broke. ... And how long in between? ... Just the blink of an eye."

King went on to discuss what the graduates could do with their earnings in the time they had in that eye-blink:

"... for a short period ... you and your contemporaries will wield enormous power: the power of the economy, the power of the hugest military-industrial complex in the history of the world, the power of the American society you will create in your own image. That’s your time, your moment. Don’t miss it."

But then he added:

"Of all the power which will shortly come into your hands ... the greatest is undoubtedly the power of compassion, the ability to give. We have enormous resources in this country — resources you yourselves will soon command — but they are only yours on loan. ... I came here to talk about charity, and I want you to think about it on a large scale. Should you give away what you have? Of course you should. I want you to consider making your lives one long gift to others, and why not? ... All you want to get at the getting place ... none of that is real. All that lasts is what you pass on. The rest is smoke and mirrors."

Finally, King mentioned a specific local charity called Dutchess Outreach, which helps the hungry, the sick and the homeless. He said he was making a $20,000 contribution to it and challenged audience members to do the same. And here’s one more thing he said:

Giving isn’t about the receiver or the gift but the giver. It’s for the giver. One doesn’t open one’s wallet to improve the world, although it’s nice when that happens; one does it to improve one’s self. I give because it’s the only concrete way I have of saying that I’m glad to be alive and that I can earn my daily bread doing what I love. ... Giving is a way of taking the focus off the money we make and putting it back where it belongs — on the lives we lead, the families we raise, the communities which nurture us.

Pretty good sermon, Stephen.

In the church, we often refer to certain practices as important for our growth in the Spirit. They include prayer, Bible study, confession of sins, worship, submission, service and others, and we sometimes refer to them as “spiritual disciplines.” The disciplines help us avoid superficiality in our faith.
 
 
Richard J. Foster, who has written profusely on Christian Disciplines, calls superficiality “the curse of our age,” adding “the doctrine of instant satisfaction is a primary spiritual problem.” He explains that the spiritual disciplines “call us to move beyond surface living into the depths. They invite us to explore the inner caverns of the spiritual realm.”

Generosity is also a spiritual discipline, which means its one practice that helps us avoid superficiality in our faith. In fact, someone has said that when we present the offering plates at the altar after the collection has been taken, the gist of our offertory prayer should be, “No matter what else we say or do here this morning, O Lord, this tells you what we really think of you.”


The church is always asking for money; but it’s also always asking you to pray, read the Bible, confess your sins, do good deeds and attend worship. All those things are good for our souls and help us go deeper into our faith.

Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and all these other things (food, clothing, provisions) will be added unto you.” We don’t have to be afraid to part with our money when the Spirit prompts us to give because God promises again and again throughout Scripture that He will provide for us all that we need.
It all comes down to faith. Do we put our faith only in our own ability to provide for our selves or manage our own finances, or do we have enough faith to take God at his word and believe He’ll provide for us? . . . even when we can’t see down the road how that may come about?
 
Yes, the church does ask for money, and giving it is not only for the benefit of those who will be helped, but it is also for our own spiritual well-being. Thus, one blessing of attending church is that it provides us with an opportunity to give generously,for our own good. Amen

Rev. Rosemary Stelz


1 Timothy 6:6-19
6:6  Of course, there is great gain in godliness combined with contentment;
6:7  for we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it;
6:8 but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these.
6:9 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.
6:10 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.
6:11 But as for you, man of God, shun all this; pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, gentleness.
6:12 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.
6:13 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
6:14 to keep the commandment without spot or blame until the manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ,
6:15 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.
6:16 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.
6:17 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.
6:18 They are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share,
6:19 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.
 
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