Preached by Dr. Robert F. Browning
Calvary Baptist Church
This morning, let’s talk about money. Down through the years, I have found this topic to be one of the most interesting I have addressed. For the most part, people listen to pocketbook preaching.
I have also come to realize talking about money is one of the most important subjects I can weigh in on from the pulpit. Since the Great Recession a little over ten years ago, there has been a heightened interest in money management by people who have a lot or a little.
Evidently, Paul felt it his duty to address money matters. He talked about money in several of his letters, including this one to Timothy. Before I refresh your memory by reading our text, let me take a moment to explain who Paul and Timothy were.
Paul was the most prominent missionary mentioned in the New Testament. After his dramatic conversion experience on the Damascus Road, Paul traveled far and wide preaching the gospel and starting new churches. During this time, he also wrote several letters to those churches or individuals in them. 1 Timothy is one of these books.
Who was Timothy? He was a fine young man converted under Paul’s preaching when Paul visited Lystra on his first missionary journey. When Paul returned to Lystra on his second journey, he became more acquainted with Timothy and his mother, Eunice, and grandmother, Lois. Together, they all agreed to let Timothy travel with Paul and assist him in his work.
This began a friendship unlike any Paul experienced.
When Paul was imprisoned in Rome in the mid to late 60’s, and it looked as if he would be executed, he asked Timothy to visit him one final time. No doubt Paul wanted to talk with him about continuing the work they had begun, but he also wanted to express his deep affection for Timothy and gratitude for their friendship.
Paul shared this assessment of Timothy in another book that was written to the believers in Philippi, “I have no one like him.” Paul went on to tell the believers in Philippi that Timothy was the most unselfish and Christ-centered disciple he knew.
The bond between Paul and this young leader was evident and also necessary for the advancement of the gospel. This is why Paul felt compelled to write two personal letters to Timothy filled with advice on how Timothy was to behave and to lead the church at Ephesus.
The sixth chapter of 1 Timothy is devoted almost exclusively to the management of money. Some of Paul’s most memorable words and warnings can be found in this chapter.
“People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. But you, man of God, flee from all this and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.
Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasures for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.” (1 Timothy 6:9-11, 17-19)
You know what impresses me most about this passage? It is Paul’s insistence that Timothy talk to the early believers about money.
Paul made it clear Timothy was not to be timid or shy. Instead, he needed to be assertive and bold when talking about a person’s attitude toward money or the use of their resources. Twice, Paul used the imperative, command, when telling Timothy how to address his audience, once when instructing them not to spike an attitude or put their hope in wealth and another when telling them to live godly lives and to be generous.
Evidently, Paul felt too much was at stake for Timothy to be negligent or vague. According to Paul, the love of money was the root of all kinds of evil, and Timothy had a responsibility to help the believers at Ephesus understand this.
Just because they were Christians, they were not immune to the lure of money that was so powerful it could undermine their faith. They were as capable as anyone of misplacing their priorities and abandoning their principles in order to make more money. They could be as devious, unethical, selfish, greedy, corrupt and arrogant as those who had made money their god, and they needed to be on guard at all times.
So, Timothy was instructed to tell his church members not to think they were better than those who had less money or let money become their god. Instead, they were to be fair in their dealings with others, faithful to reflect the nature of God and generous as they responded to the needs of those around them struggling to survive.
Who needs you to do for them what Paul did for Timothy and what Timothy did for the believers at Ephesus? Who needs you to have a serious talk with them about money?
What would you say? What have you learned about money you think would be to their benefit to know?
I’ll go first. Here are my top three.
Nothing you buy in a store or on-line will satisfy your deepest needs. Nothing.
You can buy things to satisfy your need for food, clothing, shelter, transportation and entertainment. None of these purchases, however, will come close to satisfying your need for meaning, purpose, guidance, direction, peace, security, respect, self-esteem, strength, courage, confidence, faith, hope, love, forgiveness and eternal life. These needs are met only through healthy relationships with God and those around us.
The biggest lie any of us has ever accepted is that there is something made by human hands that can meet our deepest needs. When we believe this, we are imposing expectations upon money and possessions they were never meant to satisfy, and we are setting ourselves up for major disappointments. Only a fool would replace the eternal, faithful, loving and generous God of creation and redemption with money, which can be with us today and gone tomorrow.
Paul cared too much for his son in the ministry, Timothy, and his friends at Ephesus to let them do this without warning them of the dangers. “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment,” Paul wrote.
“Command them,” Paul told Timothy. This is a “get in their face and make sure they understand their welfare is at stake” kind of word.
Why was Paul so adamant about this? I suppose it was because he knew money and possessions play a useful role in life only between birth and death. When life on earth ends, their value to that person is gone.
All that matters beyond death is the kind of person an individual was and the character traits they developed and cultivated on their journey. Were they honest, trustworthy, reliable, and dependable? Were they fair, just, kind, thoughtful, considerate, unselfish and humble, or were they dishonest, untrustworthy, undependable, unjust, rude, self-serving, stingy, manipulative and arrogant?
Did they do all they could to advance God’s kingdom or did they spend their time here building their own kingdom? Did they build bridges of goodwill, understanding, hope and reconciliation with all people or erect walls of suspicion and hate?
Paul knew character was the measure of true wealth, the kind that leads to “the life that is truly life,” and wisdom comes from knowing what to run after and what to run from. “Flee greed,” Paul commanded his readers. “Pursue godliness,” he wrote on nine occasions in his Epistles. There had to be a reason, and there was.
What does this mean for us today? If you can make money while being faithful to God, do it. If you must compromise your convictions to attain wealth, pull back. For your own well-being and the good of all humankind, replace the desire to have more with the passion to be more.
Who needs you to help them understand this? Don’t be shy.
The second piece of advice I would share with someone in a conversation about money concerns peace and joy. Financial problems will make you miserable and destroy your health and relationships.
There are no exceptions. They will do this every time. Bank on it.
Making the pursuit of wealth the prime purpose of life, which is what the love of money leads to, always results in disappointment and danger. It brings the worst out in us as we sacrifice everybody and everything of value on the altar of self-indulgence. It traps us in a prison without bars of our own making.
“People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction.” (1 Timothy 6:9)
To avoid this, draft a budget and stick to it. Live within your means, curb your appetite for more things and say no to impulsive shopping.
I know this is not popular or easy. It is hard to buy a candy bar anymore without being encouraged to sign up for a credit card. Perhaps this is why so many people are drowning in debt and living with an overwhelming amount of anxiety, stress, worry and fear.
Overindulgence always comes with a high price, and it demands to be paid. You will be aware of this every waking moment, including many sleepless nights.
Jackie and I have lived with annual budgets our entire marriage because we were adamant about living within our means. We felt like home would be a better place for our children if we could solve silly riddles, play Candy Land and enjoy a good game of Rook instead of fussing and fighting over money.
Don’t get me wrong. We did our share of fussing and arguing, and some of it was over money.
Unexpected expenses came up. Fixed costs rose beyond what we projected. Things on store shelves became too alluring for us to turn down. Kids wore us down when they begged to have something all their friends had.
Like all parents, there were times we caved in like a rock slide on an interstate. But in those times we doubled down and stopped it before it got out of hand.
Losing sleep over what the next credit card bill was going to be was just not worth it. Overindulgence came with a price we were not willing to pay.
At times, all of us give money too much influence over us, and when we do, it brings out the worst in us. It becomes a wild bull instead of our friend. It blinds us to what is really important and permanent and makes us selfish, greedy, arrogant and angry.
When this happens, money ruptures relationships, destroys marriages, erodes happiness and contributes to health problems quicker than anything I know. Don’t let this happen to you or someone you love.
One of my favorite comic strips is ‘Baby Blues’. It was created and distributed in 1990 by Rick Kirkman and Jerry Scott.
It chronicles the life of the MacPherson family. The parents are Darryl and Wanda and the three children are Zoe, Hammie and Wren.
Recently I saw a strip where Zoe and Hammie are sitting side by side in a chair and their parents are standing in front of them with serious expressions on their faces. Darryl opens the conversation.
“Our monthly expenses are getting out of hand, guys.”
“What’s that mean?” Zoe asks.
“It means we need to do some cutting back,” Darryl replies. And Wanda chimes in, “And that involves you.”
“I don’t like the sound of this,” Zoe says with a worried look upon her face, to which Hammie shouts, “Zoe’s the oldest. Sell her first!”
Do your best to live within your means. You will worry less and your kids will feel safer.
The third piece of advice I would add to a conversation about money is this. What you give away to help others will make you happier than what you keep.
In his letter to Timothy, Paul never said wealth was evil but a great responsibility. As my friend Ruben Swint writes on-line in Generosity Guy, “Why do you suppose God has gifted you with the ability to gain wealth? Is it simply so you and your family can have a good life? Or is there more to it than this? Is it so you can be trusted to make good decisions that will impact other people’s access to education, employment, decent housing, health care, a secure retirement and even eternal life.”
I believe Paul would say it is. Listen to what he wrote Timothy.
“Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasures for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.”
There’s that word command again. For Paul, this was not negotiable.
When drafting a budget, I advise people to begin with what they are going to give away. I encourage them not to begin with monthly bills or fixed costs, such as utility bills, mortgages or even retirement accounts. Begin with what you feel, under the leadership of the Holy Spirit, you should share.
Why do I challenge them to do this? First of all, it is what I do. At the top of every budget I have drafted for almost fifty years is church and charity. This is the best way I know to express gratitude to God for life, health, family and a job. “Religion without sacrifice,” writes my friend Tom Ehrich, “is pomp and posturing.” I don’t want to be guilty of insincerity.
I also encourage people to begin their personal budget with what they are going to give away because I believe it is more blessed to give than receive. In the Bible, joy is related to generosity. This is true for God, who gives out of His fullness and love for us. It will be true for us if we do it.
I believe the more you give of yourself and your resources the happier you will be. It’s that simple. Each person determines his or her level of happiness in this world, and generosity is the determining factor.
We are most like God when we are grateful and generous. We are happiest then, too. This week, replace greed with gratitude and generosity and see how you feel.
There is another reason I encourage people to begin their budget with what they intend to give away. I know human nature. Money not designated for charity will be spent on things we are absolutely convinced we cannot live without, even if we already have three or four of them.
A person who has not determined how much he or she will give away will more likely yield to the temptation to make impulse purchases every time they enter a mall or go on-line. This will result in giving merely the leftovers to God and those who are struggling to survive. Each year the leftovers will grow smaller and smaller.
When my daughter, Amy, was seven years old, she received twenty dollars along with gifts for her birthday. This led to a talk with Amy about stewardship.
“I want to buy a pair of skates, a cabbage patch doll, a new bicycle and lots of candy. Do I have enough money?” she asked.
Jackie and I told her she did not have enough to make all her dreams come true. Then we shared with her our philosophy of money management.
“If the money were mine,” her mother said, “I would give two dollars to the church, put one-half of the remainder in savings and spend the other half on something I wanted.”
Amy looked a bit disappointed. “Give two dollars to the church,” she blurted out. “Why?”
Then came an unexpected question. “Will I ever get it back?”
Her mother started preaching. Her sermon focused upon the blessings she would receive from tithing. She told Amy about the happiness that comes from obeying God, the joy which comes from feeding hungry children and the satisfaction she would feel by supporting missionaries.
Then Jackie said one of the most profound things I have heard. “Amy, you will not get your two dollars back, but you will get more than two dollars can buy.”
Well, Amy was not convinced. She did not respond when her mother gave her an opportunity to put two dollars in her offering envelope. To her credit, though, she did put in one dollar a little later!
Josh was listening to this conversation. He was five at the time. He looked at us and said, “I want a car.” For some reason I didn’t think this would be our final conversation on this subject, and it wasn’t.
I hope you talk to your kids about money. If they are still home, teach them how to draft a budget.
Be as transparent about your finances as you can be so they can learn from your experiences.
Share your struggles with them and what you have learned about money management through those struggles.
Tell them about any changes you have made regarding finances and why you have made them.
Encourage them to be faithful stewards who strive to be grateful and generous whether they have a little or a lot.
Help them to understand the relationship between spiritual growth and financial responsibility. The two have always been intertwined.
There is too much at stake for you to ignore this responsibility. Ask Paul and Timothy.