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Weekly Word

Entries in Riches (2)

Friday
Nov272015

The Wisdom Behind Contentment

1 Timothy 2b-10.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on November 22, 2015.

Last week we looked in depth at being a person that is thankful and gives thanks.  Today we are going to look at the other side of the coin and that is contentment or the lack thereof.  It has been said many ways throughout history, but Benjamin Franklin summed it up nicely when he said, “Content makes poor men rich; discontent makes rich men poor.”  Thus the question of what it really means to be rich has a very complex answer.  The modern world has much invested in stirring the discontent of the individual, all the while promising great riches and the like.  Whether it is in advertising, or politics, much money and energy is moved by the stirring of discontent.  However, most generally, it leaves a wake of emptiness and devastation behind it. 

There is certain wisdom in contentment that is seen in a story that a former United Kingdom ambassador, Philip Parham, shared regarding a rich industrialist who comes upon a fisherman who is sitting lazily by his boat.  It goes like this:

“Why aren’t you out there fishing?” the industrialist asked.

“Because I’ve caught enough fish for today,” said the fisherman.

“Why don’t you catch more fish than you need?’ the rich man asked.

“What would I do with them?”

“You could earn more money,” came the impatient reply, “and buy a better boat so you could go deeper and catch more fish. You could purchase nylon nets, catch even more fish, and make more money. Soon you’d have a fleet of boats and be rich like me.”

The fisherman asked, “Then what would I do?”

“You could sit down and enjoy life,” said the industrialist.

“What do you think I’m doing now?” the fisherman replied as he looked placidly out to sea.

Illustration from Our Daily Bread, May 18, 1994, https://bible.org/illustration/lazy-fisherman.

Some Are Not Content With God’s Word

In our text this morning the Apostle Paul has been sharing with the young minister, Timothy, things that he should teach.  It is at the end of verse 2 that he tells Timothy to teach and exhort all the things that came before.  However, he also, points out that Timothy will run into people who reject these things and desire to teach and exhort something different.  These teachers would be within the Church of Jesus, but they would refuse to promote the sound teaching that had been once and for all handed down to the saints by Jesus Christ and His Apostles.  They have received the Truth, but they are not content with it.  They would rather pick and choose what parts they will believe and then “fix” those parts with which they disagree.  Thus they end up teaching something which is otherly from what Jesus and the Apostles taught. 

Of course today we stand at the heights of 20 centuries of such men who have come and gone, while leaving behind their accretion of human wisdom.  They have created much doubt and division within the body of Christ, and leave some extremely dogmatic over questionable things, and others unable to trust whether they can believe anything.  There is no doubt that the Bible we have is from the Apostle’s hands, and with very little differences, and none of them meaningful.  But, there is some doubt about what exactly was meant in certain passages.  Paul is talking about people who have rejected clear teaching from those who know.   This is still happening today.  However, we should also recognize that much of our disputes today are over areas that could be explained in several different ways.  So let me just sum this up by giving the caution.  Be careful of always searching to find an explanation that you like regarding unclear passages.  This kind of risk can lead down very dangerous paths.  Rather, it is better to pray for understanding, keep an open spirit to the Spirit of the Lord, and be content with being faithful to what you do know.  We err in trying to explain everything.  Let’s be honest.  God has not explained everything to us in the Bible and we are often driven to fill in all those gaps with our own human reasoning.   If your faith depends upon those “fillers” then you are on shaky ground.  Learn to rest in the Lordship of Jesus and your discipleship.  By striving to “master” the Scriptures we can be in danger of becoming the master, rather than the disciple.  Even if you do settle on a view of a questionable passage, you should hold it humbly with the recognition that you could be wrong.

Paul goes on in verse 4 and following to reveal the spiritual problems that give rise to such men.  First they are prideful rather than humble.  They have an over-inflated view of their mind or of some man that they admire.  When Jude tells us that the Faith was “once and for all delivered unto the saints” in the first century, he puts us in a place of humility.  We are the receivers, whereas Jesus and the Apostles were the givers.  How can the 21st century follow the wisdom of the first century?  The question is flawed because it ignores the Truth.  The Gospel is not first century wisdom.  The Gospel is Timeless wisdom brought down from heaven to contradict the wisdom of all centuries that have and will ever exist.  Thus the Gospel is a rebuke to the wisdom of this age. Until we see ourselves as beggars of truth and come to God’s Son and His Apostles as those who have set a banqueting table for us, then we will be doomed to the same fate of these teachers Paul warns against.

He also points out that they have an unhealthy fixation with disputes.  The word for “obsessed” in the NKJV has the idea of an illness of the mind.  This is a person who not only strives against God’s Word, but also against people.  They love to dispute controversial issues and argue over words and their meanings.  Instead of accepting the Words of the Spirit with contentment, they quibble and become judges of their fellow man and even God Himself.  Such internal, spiritual problems always surface in relationships.  Thus they envy the honor and esteem of others.  They stir up strife between brothers.  They literally “blaspheme” (slander) both God and man.  They live upon evil suspicions of others, always assuming the worst of them and innocence of self.  Thus they create constant friction within the group in hopes that it will lead to their own benefit.

Paul tells us that such people have a depraved mind.  They had received the truth, but it has been robbed from them and corrupted with the poison of human reason.  Later in verse 11 Paul tells Timothy to flee such ways.  In verse 5 Paul also points out that they somehow think they will gain by such ways.  The gain is most likely both money and influence.  They promote discontent in others to enrich and empower themselves.  There is a great discontent brooding within the body of Christ today.  Due to deception, error, and pride, the Church has fractured into hundreds of denominations.  Some are full blown cults that undermine the basic doctrines of salvation.  Others involve subtler distinctions that should not have led to separation.  Now there is nothing wrong with distinctions in the body of Christ.  This is healthy.  However, we must not let it disintegrate into what is being described in this passage.  The spiritual problem of pride and human wisdom dredges up much wickedness in the Body of Christ.  When will we stop letting those who are not walking according to the humble ways of Christ lead us down such paths?  Paul tells Timothy to withdraw from such men.  Instead many Christians suspend their trust in Jesus and trustingly follow a dynamic teacher.  God forgive us for such sin.  We are under the command of Jesus to flee such wickedness and work to promote wholeness in the body of Christ.  Yet, wholeness does involve separation from some.  A good church will protect the body of Christ from the harm of error and human wisdom without descending into pride and arrogance itself.

The Root of Discontent Is Exposed

In verse 6-10, Paul turns the motivation for gain of the false teachers, and redeems the true “gain” that we ought to seek.  Thus he states, “Godliness with contentment is great gain.”  The false teachers use “godliness” and God’s Church as a means for promoting themselves.  However, if they were content with God and what He had given them, they wouldn’t be doing what they are doing.  Of course the gain Paul has in mind has nothing to do with money and power over people.  Rather, it is in a mind and life of peace with God and others.  We should not strive with one another like the disciples often did in front of Jesus.  We should not let selfish ambition, even to be the favorite of Jesus, cause us to harm one another.  Thus much evil ambition promotes itself under the banner of godliness, worship, and spirituality.  The spirit of discontent will poison your mind and corrupt the way that you are living for Jesus.  But, when you reject discontent and embrace contentment you can rest in the provision and love of our Lord without fighting with one another.

Paul then reminds us that we can’t take anything with us when we die.  Why do we strive for so much that we can’t hold on to?  It has been said that the only thing we can take into eternity is the souls of those whom we’ve helped to believe.  You can spend your life trying to obtain the temporary or we can spend our life making an eternal difference.  Even, this can be corrupted as we seek to be “the best” at something.  Many that we call the best in the Church will be shown to be far less than they appeared.  And, many that we call the least in the Church will be shown to be far more than they appeared.  It is foolish to strive for such temporary distinction, when it is what the Lord says in eternity that will really matter?  Thus learn to have contentment with what God has given you and fully embrace it with thankfulness.

In verse 8 Paul points out that we do not need much in order to be content: food and clothing.  Actually “clothing” could be better translated as covering (whether clothes or shelter).  Regardless, the word for “enough” is the same word used in 2 Corinthians 12:9.  “My grace is enough for you.”  It is sufficient, enough to satisfy.  Jesus says it is enough, but your flesh cries for more.  Oh, friend, don’t despise the good Jesus has given in hopes for the lesser things your flesh desires.  When the world or a worldly Christian tells you that you don’t have enough, your flesh will gladly latch on to it.  It always wants more and is never satisfied.  Thus we are ripe for temptation and destruction when we let it lead.  Do you remember the words of the Lord in Matthew 6:31f?  ““Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”

Lastly, Paul talks about those who desire to be rich.  The word for “desire” here is not the normal word meaning lust. Rather, it points out that you want something and mentally plan to obtain it.  The person here has made it their plan and intention to work towards not just money, but also the abundance of possessions of any kind.  Such people have not learned to have faith in God even though they have very little.  In fact their faith is dependent upon having abundance.  Discontent leads to a desire to fill one’s life with more than you really need, rather than trusting the supply of God.  Thus Paul tells us that he had learned how to live with little and how to live with much.  His faith in God enabled him to go through the trials of both without losing his faith.

Thus the person who is intent on riches falls into temptation and snares.  This is the time of proving whether your faith is real or not.  We will either restrain ourselves and give thanks to God, or we will be caught in a destructive trap and fall.  Praise God that a person who falls can be restored through repentance and those who are spiritual should always work to help such a person.  Yet, why suffer such things knowingly?  The desire to be rich also opens us up to many more foolish and harmful lusts.  The whole world of the rich and famous is a minefield of bombs (vices and temptations) that you will not get out without having paid the uttermost.  Thus the person ends drowned in destruction.  The words translated there are literally “destruction, even utter destruction.”  The flood here is an allusion back to Noah and the ark.  God’s wrath was poured out upon those who were following their flesh rather than the Spirit of God and its warnings.  Such destruction begins in this life but it is not yet carved in stone.  This is the time of discipline when a disciple can repent and follow the master.  This is the time when we can be saved from destruction or persist and go on to eternal destruction.  Thus the wisdom of contentment is not a quaint thing.  It is the deliverance of your very soul from the hands of the Tempter!

Contentment mp3

Tuesday
Dec302014

When Your Time is Up

Today we are going to be in Luke 12:13-21.

Our time is up for 2014 and 2015 is soon to begin.  We cannot go back and change what we said, did, or accomplished this previous year.  The New Year reminds us that we are mortal and we are now one year older.  How many years do I have left?  Am I living in such a way as to bring judgment or grace upon me when I stand before God?  These are some heavy questions that we may tend to avoid.  However, it is imperative that we deal with them now while we have time, rather than waiting and being caught off-guard.  The Bible tells us that “it is appointed to men to die and then the judgment.”  Instead of seeing these things as dark and foreboding, we can look at them as powerful understanding of what is to come.  When you know what is coming in advance, you can make preparations now that will help you be successful when they come.  That is the wonderful thing about the present.  Even though your past is “etched in stone,” the present allows you to affect the future that those past decisions are taking you towards.  We can make course corrections and thereby overcome things that we cannot change.

A Person’s Life Is Not In The Abundance of Possessions

In verses 12-15 Jesus is interrupted by a man who wants Jesus to do something for him.  Jesus then turns to his disciples and teaches them because the man is an illustration of an important principle.  Life cannot be found in the abundance of possessions.

Now this man addresses Jesus as “teacher.”  Thus he approaches Jesus as a disciple.  However, there is no sense of wanting to learn in his request.  He simply wants Jesus to do something for him.  So is he a disciple or is he only a manipulator trying to get something out of Jesus?  Jesus exposes his true motivation: covetousness.  This man wants what his brother has and is hoping Jesus will get it for him.  Now notice the response of Jesus.  He calls him “man.”  This is quite different then the “my friends” he used with his disciples back in vs. 4.  This is a more curt and formal address.  Jesus clarifies that he is not really the man’s teacher and the man is not really his disciple.  Jesus was merely a means to an end for this guy and do not be deceived, God will not be mocked and used by us for fleshly means.

Now the man’s issue has to do with an inheritance.  He wants Jesus to make his brother divide the inheritance with him.  Now it makes sense to come to Jesus to settle an issue of justice.  The Scriptures said that the Messiah would rule with perfect justice and would cause righteousness to shine.  He would be the ultimate arbiter of mankind.  Yet, we are not given enough information about this particular situation to judge the merits of this man’s appeal.  Was his brother being wicked and squeezing him out of his proper inheritance?  Or was this man wicked and trying to get more than his proper share?  Or were they both wicked and covetous?  Regardless, one thing is true, Jesus does care about justice.  He does not reject this man’s appeal because he doesn’t care.  Even if this man’s cause was just, Jesus recognizes that something deadly has happened in his heart.  He has been overcome with having what his brother has.  Much covetousness lies behind the talk of justice.  Christ cares too much about this man’s soul to prostitute justice for the sake of his flesh.  Is it possible that getting justice might be the last thing we need spiritually?  Jesus essentially tells the man that his problem is not his brother, but his own heart.  He has become greedy and is coveting.  To give him what he wants would only make his spiritual situation worse.

In verse 14 Jesus asks him, “who made me judge over your case?”  Legally no one had.  Thus Jesus points out that the man is only seeking leverage over his brother.  Had his case been heard by the authorities and denied?  We are not told.  But there is far more to this story then is made evident by the man’s appeal.  Why come to Jesus and not the proper authorities? 

Jesus may also be reminding those who are listening of the situation of Moses.  When Moses first decided to do something about the plight of his people, he ended up killing an Egyptian taskmaster who was harshly whipping an Israelite.  Later he sees too Hebrews fighting and tries to get them to quit quarreling.  One of the men responds, “who made you ruler and judge over us?”  As much as people want justice and cry out for it, when God does supply the man to get it for us, we complain.  Justice is a double edged sword.  It not only cuts those who have treated us unjustly, but it cuts us as well.  Thus as Messiah, God had made Jesus judge over all mankind.  In fact we see this in 2 Timothy 4:1, “I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His Kingdom…”

The real issue here is the man’s relationship to Jesus.  If Jesus really were his master and judge, then the man would have left everything in order to follow him and know true justice.  From the point of becoming his disciple and following, the only purposes and intention that would matter would be those of Jesus.  Thus we see the problem of my agenda versus the agenda of God.  God’s agenda is generally not the same as ours even when we claim to want the same thing as him.  Our understanding of justice is not always just.  We live in a world that loves to co-opt the person and message of Jesus for its own understanding and intention.  Yet, in the end they will not follow Jesus as Lord.  Check your own heart and see if there are desires and agenda items that are more important to you then having Jesus as your Lord because this will reveal your true relationship with Jesus.  He is either Lord of all or not Lord at all.

Jesus then turns to his disciples and warns them to watch and guard against coveting.  Our sinful nature will seek to suck life out of material things instead of turning to God from whom all life flows.  Our life is in the words of Christ to us, not in what Christ says to our brother.  Even if the entire world turns against Jesus and you are left alone, his words to you can supply life to you, if you believe.  “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”  All else is peripheral and often detrimental.  When we covet we want to have more, especially that which belongs to another.  In Colossians 3:5 we are told that coveting is idolatry.  This man looks to the inheritance that his brother has as more important than God.  He is not really interested in justice, but in satisfying a craving for more possessions and wealth.  Jesus says to watch and guard against such sins.  But what are we guarding?  We are guarding our hearts from being infected by such sin.  This man was being swallowed up in sin.

The Parable of The Rich Fool

In verses 16-21, Jesus tells a parable to his disciples to slam home the main issue here, this man’s soul is in jeopardy and he is being foolish.  When you look at the man in the parable you will notice that his thoughts are all centered on himself.  If you count the personal pronouns he uses you will get the picture.  Also note that there is no mention of God in all of his thinking.  It is irrelevant if he goes to synagogue every week and prays loudly in front of everyone.  We see here in the private counsels of his own heart that God has no place.

In the parable the man has bumper crops to the point that he has a “problem” of figuring out what to do with the excess or overflow.  Instead of asking why has God blessed him and figuring out what God’s purpose is, his solution is to build bigger barns and amass the increase for himself.  Even though he doesn’t need more, he heaps it up.  Today we would call this hoarding.  Now here is a problem.  It is one thing when Jesus calls us out on our hoarding.  We know that he has no ulterior motive.  But, often those who point out the sin of hoarding only want to have what they have.  We see a big pile of money or possessions and the wickedness of our heart covets it.  This reminds me of the movie that just came out, The Hobbit.  In it we see how the amassed gold and riches ate into the heart of all who saw it and obtained it.  So we will be judged on both accounts: a greedy amassing for self and a greed desire to take from others.

In verse 19 we notice that his soul is at ease.  Godly people in every generation have spoken of the need for a holy discomfort with our life and the world around us.  When Christ is our focus then this world causes us trouble and discomfort at least.  Too often Christians stop at being uneasy about the world, yet refuse to walk with the Lord seriously enough to become uncomfortable with their own sin.  Our rest is to be found in trusting Jesus and His teachings.  This man is trying to find rest in material abundance outside of Christ.  We need to refresh ourselves in Him and rest, but we should never rest in being vigilant over our soul against sin.

Similar to the handwriting on the wall before Belshazzar, a message from God comes to the man.  He is about to die and he has been judged as a fool by God.  He is a fool because he focused his life on what couldn't save him, nor could go with him.  He lived without a sense of accountability to God.  This life is a gift and how we go about living it determines our judgment.  Will you live for the Lord Jesus or will you continue as master?  His judgment comes without warning and the man will die that very night.  Although some of us are given fair warning that our time is coming, many will go into eternity without the ability to "make quick amends."  We need to live so that nothing is left undone between us and the Lord.  

In Matthew 19:21 Jesus says to the rich young man, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come follow me."  This idea of putting treasure in heaven by helping others is explained there.  Here the phrase is called, "being rich toward God."  It is interesting that it clearly means to help people, but the emphasis is on God.  When we help others simply because it makes us feel good, we need to be careful.  This is not what saves us.  In fact such giving often cuts God out of the picture.  It is purely about bringing pleasure to one's self.  But, when God becomes the Lord of all our possessions and money, we will truly become a free person.  We are free to bless others as he enables and directs.  You are under no compulsion by the people who covet your money and hold the words of Jesus over your head.  Their greed will continue to destroy them unless they repent.  But you are free to give and help under the compulsion of the Spirit of God.  Lest this seem like a cop-out, know this: you will give account to God for all you have done or not done on this earth and He is not mocked.  James lays out a warning for those who either have riches or desire to get them.  James 5:1-7  , "Come now you rich, weep and howl for your miseries that are coming upon you!  Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten.  Your gold and silver are corroded, and their corrosion will be a witness against you and will eat your flesh like fire.  You have heaped up treasure in the last days.  Indeed the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out; and the cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth.  You have lived on the earth in pleasure and luxury; you have fattened your hearts as in a day of slaughter.  You have condemned, you have murdered the just; he does not resist you.  Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord."

 

Time is up audio