Sermon May 30, 2004 : Material possessions - Hold on lightly (1 Timothy 6:6)

Posted in Sermons
  • Presenter: Dr. Roberto Miranda | Translator: Dr. Roberto Miranda
  • Length: 50:49
  • Date: May 30, 2004
  • Location: Congregation Lion of Judah, Boston MA

Last Sunday we studied the parable of the foolish rich man, the man who put all his hopes in his riches. This man shows us in a very negative way what not to do, how not to relate to money and to riches. We studied this text in the light of the idea of stewardship. This idea that all belongs to God, He’s the creator of everything, he’s the sustainer of everything and therefore nothing really belongs to us. Everything originates on him, when we give our time, our money, our talents, we’re really giving to the Lord what belongs to him. We saw a lot of mistakes that this man made and in the interest of summary I’ll mention some of these errors that this man made.

1. He doesn’t acknowledge God. Everything he does is simply me, I’m going to make my own decisions, I’m going to do whatever I want with my riches.

2. He has no sense of stewardship.

3. He had a purely lateral, horizontal vision. He had no eternal perspective, he had no spiritual outlook. Everything was simply moving things around, he had big barns and he wanted to build bigger ones to just move his riches from one to the other. Many people live that way, without purpose in life, simply shifting things from place to place and wasting the time away until death arrives.

4. He makes the foolish mistake to think that his soul will be satisfied with purely material things. We know that the soul can only be satisfied with spiritual nourishment but he makes that mistake. He says “soul you have all this money, all these riches. Now enjoy, be happy, be merry.”

5. He plans for the future but he doesn’t take God into account. He never asked God what do you want me to do with my riches? He simply plans for the future and he is certain that he’s got a long life ahead and he can do whatever he pleases, but he doesn’t ask God for his opinion or his commandment as to what to do with his life. Whenever you do anything, please put your life in the hands of the Lord first. Plan in the light of what does God want of me? Never dare to do anything small or large without considering what is God’s will for this matter.

6. This rich man doesn’t acknowledge the fragility the frailty of life. He doesn’t recognize that life is ephemeral, it’s passing. The Bible says that “man is like a flower of the field”, that the wind comes and for a moment it might shine beautifully and adorn the field but when the wind comes and blows upon it, it spreads those beautiful petals all over the field and then you just can find where it was originally. He doesn’t prepare himself for eternity. All he does is prepare himself for the now and that is foolish because eternity is so much longer than this time. So that’s some of what we discussed last time.

And here in Timothy 6, we have a kind of more positive and more prescriptive attitude or expression as to what should be our attitude towards riches and to possessions. Here apostle Paul gives Timothy, a young pastor, some thoughts on how, teaches congregation about the money and about material things.

I like where it says “it’s a great gain, a great advantage when piousness or holiness is accompanied by contentment”. It’s a very powerful statement, very illuminating. I’ve always been intrigued by that expression. You know there are lots of people in the church who love the Lord, are holy, are pious but they don’t have contentment in their souls. You know that it is possible to be holy but utterly depressed and even suicidal. As a matter of fact holiness if not tempered by balance can be neurotic and compulsive and can be very destructive as far as nature. There has to be balance. Holiness without an understanding of the grace of God that we reside upon can be very, very sharp and cutting and abrasive.

There’s always a struggle in the soul between those two things but we know that ultimately mercy triumphs over justice, praise the Lord.

The context of this passage, I think that what the apostle Paul is saying is referring to people who love God, or are in church but they have not addressed their attitude towards material things and they live in anxiety and they also work too hard perhaps, and they also lust too much for material things, so there’s this competition in their soul between the love for God and the love for spiritual things and there’s a crushing, asphyxiating kind of tension there that is not good. The rich young ruler in scripture illustrates how a person can be yearning for God this young man had. He obeyed the commandments since a very young age and he had deep desires for God but when Jesus told him, well what you’ve got to do is take your money and your possessions, give them away to the poor, free yourself from your dependency from material things and follow me. And the young man loved the money and possessions too much and he preferred his position in life to peace that comes from having Jesus and he revealed then that his love was more for money than for spiritual things.

You know I keep asking the Lord in my life to help me be satisfied with small things. If he gives me a Toyota, that’s fine, I don’t have to be lusting for a BMW. I’d love to have a BMW and if the Lord wants to give it to me well, that’s fine, that’s great. But why will I look at that car, as I saw one yesterday and have your day ruined because you can’t have it. Enjoy your 1995 Toyota with 68.000 miles, it gets you where you’re going and be happy with it. Now if the Lord wants to give you that later on, praise God for it.

You know man will never be satisfied, whenever we achieve a certain goal in life our mind immediately adjusts to want the next thing. We will never be satisfied by material things, it’s an itch that the more you scratch it the more it itches. You know the devil always invents something to keep human kind restless, wanting more, desiring more and there’s a common point in life when we say: No more, this is it, I’m going to enjoy what I have and I will strive but I will do so without anxiety and without compulsion. If the Lord wants to give it to me, fine but if not I’ll be satisfied with what I have. And whatever God wants to give me will be added. That’s a great understanding. You know we can strive for good things, we can strive for excellence, we can strive for comfort, praise God for it, but we should do so without a sense of compulsion, without attaching our identity and our peace to material objects.

Somebody said that they never saw a hearse dragging a cart with objects, with possessions. When you go to the grave you go as is and you leave everything here in this world, everything, your spirit has no contact with any material thing. There is a sense or disense depending on whether you’ve made peace with God. We haven’t brought anything to this world and certainly, he says, we will not be able to extract, take anything out of this world.

I want to go over some indications that we have a good stewardship of our possessions, that we have a good attitude towards material things.

How can I know whether I’m well orientated with respect to material things?

If you agree with me that these things are distinctive in your attitude, it’s a good thing.

1. I acknowledge that God is the origin and the owner of my life and my possessions. “The earth is the Lord’s and everything therein” and that should be a governing attitude. The man or the woman who has acknowledged that everything belongs to God does not feel a sense of possession of anything, holds everything very lightly in his hand because he knows God has a right to take that away from him if He wants to. We should always live our lives in that sense, that the owner of our title, of all of our possessions is God, not us.

2. I dedicate a significant part of my time and my energies to the things of God. Some people think well I give the Lord two hours of my time and they feel very righteous. Many Christians in New England give the Lord one hour, so one hour service and if the service goes beyond one hour they’re already restless and if the pastor goes beyond 20’ they’ll let him know about it. The week has 168 hours, we should give the Lord fully, freely. Whenever you have time, whenever you have the urge or even if you don’t have the urge, give the Lord time to search the scriptures, to have your devotional time, to pray, to serve the Lord, to be in the house of the Lord, to have communion with brothers and sisters. The Bible says that “the spiritual being is mindful of the spiritual things”, now the carnal being is mindful of the things of the flesh.

3. I give the Lord part of my money for his work (at least the tithe), one tenth of my income. The tithe is a biblical concept, it’s both in the Old Testament and in the New Testament. What’s more, the New Testament is really much more demanding and so much more encompassing and sophisticated in it’s understanding of what we owe God. I think for a primitive society as the Israeli society, the Hebrew society, God in his understanding at that time of human development assigned a mechanical tithe but I think that in the New Testament the light of Jesus Christ and it’s more full revelation, we understand we have to give Jesus all and more. And God expects a more sophisticated sense of holiness from us and therefore I think that the New Testament is actually more demanding in reference to the tithe and what we give to the Lord than the Old Testament. You can’t just say I gave the Lord my tithe, I accomplished what I need and goodbye, and then you see somebody in need and you sort of let them go because you already fulfilled your commitment and your dues. The man, the woman who loves God passionately has no sense of boundaries between him and God. Everything is God. We lose ourselves, we lose our identity in God and His Kingdom and all that we do is holly and we live within that concept of holiness. So there’s no barrier, what God asks of me, I give to him.

4. I’m generous with my money vis-à-vis those who are in need. God expects us to be generous with our relatives, with our friends, with those in the family of the faith and we should use our money generously for the Kingdom of God. I’d like to add a little caveat here, we should give generously but at the same time that doesn’t mean that we’re going to be stupid. Let’s put it bluntly. There are people who are abusive, who are oppressive, who need to be told: Hey, you’ve got to work. Generosity but with wisdom as well. We do not want to encourage people to be dependant and to be abusive and oppressive, because then that’s not love. We should encourage them to work, to fend for themselves. But there are people who are in genuine need and when we see need we should extend ourselves freely and give without pain. The person who gives generously, who gives openly, who gives abundantly is happy generally. We must give of ourselves, and we sometimes need to practice actively being generous. Sometimes we need to divest ourselves of things that are precious to us in order to exercise that attitude of giving because when we give, we receive more, don’t you know that? When you give to others it becomes magnetic, you know. Make yourself a channel of God’s grace. Make yourself an instrument of God’s love and loving kindness and you will become then a channel, that God will give you things that will rest on you for a moment so that you might enjoy them and then they’ll flow from you to others. You will be continuously receiving and enjoying for a moment and then transferring on to others. What a beautiful concept! Rather than simply receiving things and storing them and then they become old and useless and meaningless because they have been stuck inside of you. Let them flow and then God will give you new things, more beautiful things, things that are more adequate for who you are at a particular time of life. That’s such a beautiful concept.

5. I trust that if I am generous with respect to God, He will bless me and he will give me much more than what I give to him. You know when you give knowing that God will bless you, that to me is the root, the very essence of a generous behavior. That understanding that as you give in Christ, because of Christ, God says “I will bless you and I will give you more.” Every time you sacrifice something for the Lord, every time you invest something, every time you painfully give something that is precious to you in Christ, God says “You shall not lack that” or “you shall not feel the lack of that for I will give you something equal or better”. When you give something in the Lord, God says “You know, I’m going to give you something in return, it might not be exactly the equivalent of what you’re giving but it will be different perhaps, but it will be more. And it will be such that it is exactly what you need and maybe you don’t even know it and perhaps you may not even be aware that I have given it to you in relationship with that which you gave initially, but it is my gift to you and my sign, of my pleasure in your attitude”. That’s a wonderful, wonderful concept.

6. Eternal life is a reality for me and I make my financial decisions in the light of the coming Kingdom. I would add also of the present Kingdom. The key concept here is “eternal life is a reality”. I can smell it, I can taste it, it has become such a part of me that it’s real, it is no longer a distant concept that I kind of consider as part of my theology. No, I can relate to it viscerally. My emotions understand about the coming Kingdom and I yearn for it, I can see it, I can read it as the writer of Hebrews says. How real is life? How real is the spirit? How real are the concepts of the Kingdom of God for you? Are they merely objective, theoretical, theological truths or are they things that consume you, that govern your life, that penetrate your consciousness and your sub consciousness, I might add, that form your sensibility, that are the ground that you walk on, that have become so part of you that you no longer even think of them because they are as much a part of you as the blood that runs through your veins and you’re not even aware of it.

You know when you’re a citizen of the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of God is powerful and real to you then you understand that all the things of this world are mere fictions. In contrast with the passion that you feel for the Kingdom of God, the things of this world they pale by comparison. They don’t have the intensity that a person feels that this is it. When they die they stay here. When you know that your life belongs to eternity, that you are a spirit within a convenient body to interact with the material realm, then life no longer has that controlling hold on you and you can dispense of things so much more easily and you can make all kind of spiritual transactions so much more naturally because you are a pilgrim, you are on a journey, you are in this world simply a passing spirit that God has placed here to resolve some things that only God knows what they really are. But your eternal domain is in heaven and therefore life doesn’t have that much of a hold on you. I make my decision regarding money in the light of that matter.

7. The things of the spirit are a priority, the key word here is priority. There are priorities for me and if I have to chose between spiritual and material things, I will gladly chose the spiritual things. One of the most interesting passages that illustrates this very clear is Daniel’s that we discussed a couple of Sundays ago and I’ll just use it for the purpose of you being familiar with it. You remember that in the text of Daniel, when Daniel was confronted with the choice between eating food, which is a symbol of the essence of the material, eating the food at the king’s table that had been probably consecrated to idols, Daniel shows his spiritual purity and his relationship with God over the food but also over his future, professionally and his reputation and comfortable life.

I want to ask you this question just for the sake of it, this is free, I won’t charge you for this one. If you had to chose between your professional future and your physical comfort and honoring God, are you sure, am I sure that I would choose God, that I would choose to honor the Lord? I mean that’s a difficult question, I’m not sure about my own answer to tell you the truth. It’s a hard choice. You all the time we’re being asked to make that choice between material things and spiritual things. Sometimes it’s not so dramatic either. It’s choosing between the soap opera to delight yourself and coming to church on Wednesday night for prayer. You know when we give to the Lord and when we give of our life to bless others in the name of the Lord, God will always bless us and that’s the way of choosing. Sometimes we are pressed to study because we have an exam, or we are pressed to complete a paper or a report for our job here’s somebody who needs our attention and needs our counseling and needs our company, and how are you going to choose. God is saying “take care of my sheep” and you’re saying: yes, but I’m a sheep too and if I don’t take care of myself… but you’ve got to choose the Kingdom, you’ve got to choose what would Jesus do and you do it in the name of the Lord and know that God will bless you because you are a child of the spirit and you must choose in the spirit.

8. It doesn’t hurt me to let go of my possessions especially if it is for a noble cause, particularly for the advancement of the Kingdom of God. You know many times we can do certain things for God and we complain and we don’t do it really with a glad heart but God wants us to serve him with a glad heart. God wants us to serve him with joy and we go back to our initial reading “a great thing is to be pious and to be contempt”.

We should thank the Lord for his allowing us to serve him and to work in his Kingdom, we should never complain and never feel how heroic in giving the Lord something that is a privilege for us, he chooses us. He could choose anybody else if he wanted but He allows us to be used for his glory. We should be thankful, we should be joyful that He has chosen us. Let us be good stewards, brothers and sisters, of God and His possessions.

If you want to be happy, give all to the Lord. Break away from the sense of possession and ownership and let the Lord give you back whatever he wants and you will be happy.

Lord may I love you above all things. May I be a sacrifice burning for you, illuminating this world with my light and working for your Kingdom. May I not be so obsessed with material things that I lose the perspective that you want of me.

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