Cotton Mather, “Religion beget prosperity. And the daughter devoured the mother.”
– Christianity produces wisdom and wealth. But Christianity that is assumed and not intentionally passed down to future generations then that wealth turns into an idol.
– Ephesians was such a church and Paul is warning the church and its pastor. Paul’s final exhortation was that there were at least two areas a strong church can become stained and weakened: false doctrine and fixing hope on wealth.
EXAMINE 1 Timothy 6:3-10, 17-1 Possess Contentment
Christians are not to be motivated by worldly gain.
Paul writes and warns Timothy about teachers of a different doctrine. The aim of Paul’s charge is “love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith (1Tim 1:5). By doctrine, Paul meant that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1Tim 1:15). Paul believed there was only “one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all” (1Tim 4:5-6).
The false teachers were not about God but greed. They were in the ministry for the money – no one said they were smart! Seriously, there were people who viewed religion as a quick cash grab. They use ministry for manipulation of people and marketing products. Even today, Christian chotzkie sells: art, books, cross candles, fish bumper stickers, “Testa-MINTS”, etc. Paul says the false teachers imagine that godliness is a means of gain. And previously, he had warned that elders (1Tim 3:3; Titus 1:7) and deacons (1Tim 3:8) should not be greedy.
In all, the descriptions of these false teachers is arrogant, argumentative. Current example of wealth arrogance is selling shoes for $500 ($495) and mocking those who cannot afford them. Paul not only said they were prideful and unpleasant to be around, but evil. And remember that that evil often has the appearance of good. Satan can masquerade as slick and shiny only leading to doom.
An example evil motivated by worldly gain in Christianity is the prosperity gospel. The prosperity gospel promises forgiveness of sins through Jesus, but also the assurance of divine physical health and earthly prosperity through faith. So, “health and wealth” are part of salvation where the believer is rescued not only from sin, but also from sickness and poverty.
However, the error of the prosperity gospel ignores the promise of financial blessing comes under the old covenant and not the new. In fact, Jesus during His public ministry was a homeless traveler (Mat 8:20), and called His followers blessed if their treasure was in heaven and not earth (Mat 6:19-24), and who are poor and hungry (Luke 6:20-25), and who don’t accumulate surplus possessions (Mat 10:9-10).
Dr. David Jones in his book Health, Wealth, and Happiness: Has The Prosperity Gospel Overshadowed The Gospel Of Christ? (2010), outlines 5 dangerous errors of the prosperity gospel: 1) The Abrahamic covenant is a means to material entitlement. 2) Jesus’s atonement extends to the “sin” of material poverty. 3) Christians give in order to gain material compensation from God. 4) Faith is a self-generated spiritual force that leads to prosperity. 5) Prayer is a tool to force God to grant prosperity. Pastor John Piper outlines 5 keys to detecting the prosperity gospel: 1) The absence of a serious doctrine of the biblical necessity and normalcy of suffering in this world. 2) The absence of a clear and prominent doctrine of self-denial is a tip off that something is amiss. 3) The absence of serious exposition of Scripture. 4) The absence of dealing with tensions in Scripture. 5) Church leaders who have exorbitant lifestyles. 6) A prominence of self and a marginalization of the greatness of God.
Being clear, the Bible does not condemn wealth as many biblical characters had wealth, and there are several examples of using financial gain in generous ways for the glory of God and advancement of His kingdom.
– Multiple Biblical characters had wealth: Abraham, Job at beginning & end, David as King, Solomon, Macedonian Church, Paul at times, and others.
– Nehemiah 8:10 Ezra and Nehemiah encourage the people to celebrate God in a lavish manner.
– John 2:1-12 Jesus makes good wine, not cheap, watered down wine.
– John 12:1-8 Mary anoints Jesus’ feet with expensive (year’s wages) perfume and Jesus says “the poor you always have with you…”
– “When God provides more money, we often think, This is a blessing. Well, yes, but it would be just as scriptural to think, This is a test… God prospers me not to raise my standard of living, but to raise my standard of giving.”
– The point of luxury is understanding how to leverage money, power and position for influence and advancement of God’s kingdom, not our own where moth and rust destroy and thieves break in and steal (Matt 6:19-21). Christians should not be motivated by worldly gain. Wealth is uncertain. Today’s gains are tomorrow’s losses. So, we should not put our hope in money but in God who provides all our needs (1Tim 6:17).
Andy Stanley says wealth should come with a warning label saying: “Warning: May cause arrogance. While taking this medicine, extra precaution should be taken not to offend people. If taken for prolonged periods, may impair perception, causing hope to migrate.” When we take certain medicines that have these warnings we need to take with food to reduce the side effects. Our food is faith in God and contentment in Christ.
Christians are to be motivated by godliness with contentment (1Tim 6:6-10; 17-19).
Paul tells Timothy that true godliness leads to contentment. The word contentment (αὐτάρκεια) occurs elsewhere in the NT only in 2Cor 9:8, “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency (contentment), you may abound in every good work.” It’s cognate αὐτάρκης, occurs Php 4:11 where Paul says, “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through [Christ] who strengthens me.”
In application, Christians would do well to learn some keys toward contentment.
- Remember earthly wealth is fleeting. Paul says, “we brought nothing into the world and we cannot take anything out of the world” (1Tim 6:7). Someone puts it another way saying, “There are no uhaul’s behind a hearse.” Proverbs 23:4-5 says, “Do not toil to acquire wealth; be discerning enough to desist. When your eyes light on it, it is gone, for suddenly it sprouts wings, flying like an eagle toward heaven.”
- Believe God provides and pleases. Paul says, “if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content… God richly provides us with everything to enjoy” (1Tim 6:8, 17). Our Lord is the Shepherd; and we shall not want, He makes me lie down in green pastures… anoints our head in oil and our cup overflows” (Psalm 23). God is most pleasing to us more than the treasures of the world (Prov 15:16; 24:3-4).
- Understand the meaning of money. Paul says, “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs” (1Tim 6:9-10).
There are several applications for the meaning of money.
3a) View work as worthwhile. A healthy concept of work gives understanding that money doesn’t grow on trees and must be earned. When we work hard to earn the right and responsibility to make purchases then we learn to be content instead of feel entitled to possessions provided on a silver spoon.
3b) Purchase items for usefulness not status. Cars, clothing, and other possessions can be used to establish an identity of prestige rather than the humble reminder God provides all things. Notre Dame sociologist Christian Smith and colleagues conducted a study focused on the spiritual attitudes and moral beliefs of emerging adults (age 18-23). They discovered well over half agreed that their well-being can be measured by what they own, that buying more things would make them happier, and that they get a lot of pleasure simply from shopping and buying things.” We are raising a generation that barely knows the difference between need and greed.
3c) Be very careful of comparisons. Comparisons often tempt and trap us into ruin and destruction. We need to learn God made us uniquely and be content with what we have. When we envy others we are doubting God’s wisdom and care. Further, the greener grass syndrome forgets the grass still needs to be mowed. Proverbs 15:16 “Better is a little with fear of the Lord than great treasure and trouble with it.”
3d) Remember risk can be rewarding or reckless. We should be highly skeptical of get rich quick schemes. We must have prudence in our purchases to avoid impulse buying that is wasteful, or worse accumulating debt. As Dave Ramsey says, “Don’t buy things you don’t need, with money you don’t have, to impress people you don’t like.” Further, our aim for accumulating wealth is never an end in itself but for God’s glory. Proverbs 22:7-9 “The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender. Whoever sows injustice will reap calamity, and the rod of his fury will fail. Whoever has a bountiful eye will be blessed, for he shares his bread with the poor.”
- Cultivate the habit of generosity. Paul says, “the rich in this present age… are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life” (1Tim 6:17-19). Generosity is joyful. Jesus instructs us that it is better to give than to receive (Acts 20:35). Proverbs 14:21 “Whoever despises his neighbor is a sinner, but blessed is he who is generous to the poor.”
Proverbs 14:31 “Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him.”
Richard Foster says, “De-accumulate! Masses of things that are not needed complicate life. They must be sorted and stored and dusted and re-sorted and re-stored ad nauseam. Most of us could get rid of half our possessions without any serious sacrifice. We would do well to follow the counsel of Throeau: ‘Simplify, simplify.’”
- We do not coast to contentment but must daily fight for it. Paul says, “But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith” (1Tim 6:11-12). We must guard our hearts against greed and fight for faith (Prov 4:23; Luke 9:23). We can have cash in our hands but lack peace in our heart… or you can fill in clothes in closet, toys in garage, savings in retirement… Contentment with Christ is the meaning to all life.
– Be rich in God (contentment).
o Christ has provided all we need in the gospel (1Tim 1:15).
o Wealth cannot protect from harm, or the coming wrath of God.
Proverbs 18:11 “The wealth of the rich is their fortified city; they imagine it a wall too high to scale.” While Paul refers to “the rich in this present age” (1Tim 6:17), there is also a world to come. We must not chase after gain the whole world while losing our soul (Mark 8:36).
o Contentment without complacency is the essence of being a good steward before God (Mat 25)
– Be rich in gratitude
o “gratitude truly is the foremost quality of a believing disciple precisely because gratitude is what births trust” @AnnVoskamp #BeRichSP
– Be rich in good deeds and generosity.
o Generous to pray.
o Generous to serve and love.
o Generous to give.
 See Abraham, Job, David, Solomon, Macedonian Church, Paul, and Neh 8:10; Jn 2:1-12; 12:1-8; Acts 2:45; 4:37; 9:36, etc.
 Alcorn, p.75.
 Andy Stanley, Be Rich, p.56-57.
 Celebration of Discipline, p.92.