Of course, there is great gain in godliness combined with contentment; for we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it; but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these. 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. 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. But as for you, man of God, shun all this; pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, gentleness. 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. 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 to keep the commandment without spot or blame until the manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ, 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. 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. 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. 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.
Sermon: “Doing the Right Thing”
This last Thursday, I spend the entire day with a family member who the rest of us have a tendency to try to avoid. Now, I’m not particularly proud to admit this … but I really didn’t want to be with this person for the whole day. In fact, when I got up that morning, it was my intent to pick them up, take care of business, and get them back home so I could at least have some of my day off to do whatever it was I wanted to do for myself. After all, *HEAVY SIGH* I never ACTUALLY get a day off! There’s always someone who needs to be taken to some appointment or another, or some family crisis that needs to be taken care of. That day, there WERE other appointments to get to and other tasks to attend to…and what I REALLY wanted to do was stay home, work on my personal projects, putter about the house, play on Facebook, maybe read a book, and just generally be lazy. The more I think about it, the more I realize I didn’t really even want to be with this person at all.
When Paul wrote this letter to Timothy, it seems he was trying to bring Timothy’s focus in life away from worrying about becoming rich and toward doing the right thing. Maybe Timothy was like me. Maybe he didn’t want to be where he was supposed to be at all, either. While I was worried about how I was going to get some free time to myself, perhaps Timothy was worried about how he was going to feed himself, and hesitated becoming the leader of the church where Paul wanted him at Ephesus. Paul wasn’t really warning Timothy against making a living – after all, he wrote that we must eat and have clothing – but that the great gain is in “godliness and contentment.” Those who want to be rich, Paul tells Timothy, end up falling prey to all kinds of unhealthy temptations. Paul even mentions some who have wandered away from the faith to live wanton and evil lives.
(Now, I posted earlier on Facebook that I was "loosely" basing this message on the scripture, but it does get closer - it really does, I promise!)
Of course, this is the passage that is so often misquoted, for Paul writes that the love of money is the root of evil, yet many declare that “the Bible says that money is the root of all evil.” This phrase – the correct version - is at the crux of the matter at hand today, I think. The central word of the phrase is “Love.” Think about it. We spend a lot of time and energy coming to understand God as Love, as the Loving Creator Who gives us the gift of love. Real Love is so much more than an emotion. It’s a dedication, a connection, an allegiance!
Money – or the love of money – had taken those rich people Paul wrote about off their paths of service to God. They were no longer doing the right thing, because they had lost their love for God and for their lives in God’ service. Paul was afraid that Timothy might do the same if he wasn’t careful. In fact, isn’t it a danger for all of us? We all have the desire to earn enough money to pay the bills, to fill our pantries and our closets. We want to be content. If we were able to reach that point in our financial status, would we know when to stop? Would we know when enough was enough?
There’s more to the story, too. What if we took the word “money” and replaced it with something else that can take us away from the paths that we were called to? Think about the story I told earlier about spending time with a family member. Time I didn’t want to spend. Time I wanted to keep to myself. What if I changed the scripture to read like this: “The love of time is the root of evil?” It works, right? If I had chosen NOT to take my family members to their appointments that day, it would have been a selfish act, an act that would have taken me off the path that God has called me toward, wouldn’t it? It would have been an act of evil, though easily excused because “I deserve a day off.” I would have done the wrong thing.
I suspect that if you think about it, you can come up with something that can be substituted for “money” as the root of evil in your own lives. In fact, I have a feeling we all have more than one. What are those things? Do you always overcome them? I sure don’t. What helps you overcome them? Something to think about.
Sometimes, doing the right thing seems to be a thankless job, done only because it must be done. Paul writes that we “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.” Sometimes, though, we can be surprised. Doing the right thing not only helps others, but it can bring us a kind of joy that we can’t find elsewhere. For instance, I heard some stories from you (members of Primera Iglesia) all about handing out water at Lodestar that brought tears to our eyes. This morning, I happened to pick up my Daily Guideposts reading for today. In it, Brock Kidd writes about a challenge he was given to speak at a retreat for the board members of a large, successful non-profit organization. He was the new chairperson, and he felt he had bitten off more than he could chew. He had no idea what to say to the board members, and he had no idea why he had felt called to chair this board.
There was a lot going on in his life – his new wife was expecting and his young son was just getting ready for his first touch football game. He and the rest of the board members lived in big houses, had fancy cars, lived in nice neighborhoods. The organization helped the “less fortunate” in the community. Everyone on the board knew what they did for the community. What could he say to them at the retreat that could inspire them? What was in it for them? They already had everything they needed. He called a staff member of the non-profit for ideas, and she told him, “Brock, if the board members knew what was here for them, they would run to it.” It seems like it took him a minute, but after a bit, Brock realized what was there for these affluent members of the board, including him.
It was the same thing you find when you label and hand out water bottles, collect shoes, visit a sick friend, or even work an honest day. Happiness. “Happiness,” Brock writes, “isn’t a natural byproduct of wealth or prominence. Happiness comes with serving others.” Brock decided the chairmanship is God’s clever way of giving him a gift.
I have to tell you that last Thursday, I was given a gift as well. The day was well spent. Because certain appointments and meetings took longer than expected, I spent quality time with my family member. When it came time to pick up other family members for appointments, new introductions were made. We had an impromptu shopping trip to a thrift store. It was a long and tiring day, but not only was the business taken care of satisfactorily, but we brought happiness and company to someone who is often lonely. All in all, it was a good day.
In his letter to Timothy, Paul tells him to do the right thing by overcoming the temptation to fall prey to the love of money and the lifestyle of the rich and famous. He tells him how to do the right thing when he writes, “But as for you, man of God, shun all this; pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, gentleness.” Doing the right thing isn’t always the easiest thing to do, of course. And it isn’t something you do for special attention or kudos. You do it because it is necessary. You do it because it is yours to do.
Yet, I don’t think we need to be planning on some future gift, but just do what it says on the front of the bulletin – “Be Calm and Do the Right Thing.” It’s the right thing to do.