On first day at Opportunity Camp, I woke up and my phone was unable to connect to WiFi. Unable to check Facebook and see what new pictures of Grumpy Cat had emerged over night, I just knew it was going to be a horrible, rotten, no good day. Not being able to connect to WiFi while at camp, that’s a first world problem.
Here are a few others …
- When the barista puts too much milk in your macchiato.
- When the gym on the cruise doesn’t have a squat rack and it’s leg day.
- When your teenager wants a Kate Spade wallet but can’t decide what color.
Here in the United States, most of us have “rich people” problems. Don’t believe me? Have you ever …
- Stood in closet and thought you didn’t have anything to wear?
- Had one of your kids complain of having “nothing to eat” with plenty of food in pantry?
- Killed time on your cell phone while standing in line to get a newer version of the same phone?
If you answered yes to any of those questions, you’re rich. If you’re still not convinced, that’s because everyone defines the word differently — and none of us think we qualify.
A Gallup poll found that most people define “rich” as double what they themselves earn. For example, a person making $30,000 a year defined “rich” as the person making $60,000. For a person worth $5 million, it was the person worth $10 million who was rich.
The moral of the story is this: Being rich is a moving target.
But not so with how God wants his people to handle their money. Jesus taught more about money than any other subject. The New Testament writers had plenty to say to the church about money.
A good example is found in Paul’s first letter to Timothy. In the last chapter, Paul shares God’s terms and conditions regarding finances.
6 But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 8 But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. 9 Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. [The KJV did generations of Christians a disservice by translating verse 10: “For the love of money is the root of all evil.”] Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. 11 But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. – 1 Timothy 6:6-11
Paul has just warned Timothy about false teachers who see godliness as a way to financial gain. That’s why he tells us that “godliness with contentment is great gain.”
The reference to food and clothing is an echo of what Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount. Don’t worry about food or clothes because God has promised to take care of us.
Two important things to remember:
- Paul is not condemning wealth or affluence.
- Paul is not condemning taking initiative or having ambition.
What is he doing? He is warning us to choose our priorities carefully. It’s why he tells Timothy to pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. What you pursue is a priority to you. Priorities serve as the compass for our lives. It’s important to have them set in the right direction.
If your priority is more stuff, then getting more stuff will consume you.
Consumerism is an infectious lifestyle. Here’s the unfortunate part: most of us are more deeply infected than we realize or want to admit.
What is the antidote to consumerism? It’s generosity …
17 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. 18 Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 19 In this way they will lay up treasure 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 6:17-19
If you live in South Denver, Paul is speaking to you. Most of us do not consider ourselves rich. Why? Because there is always someone else who has more – and that person is the rich person!
What are the dangers we face? Two particular ones stand out:
False pride. If we’re not careful, we’ll find ourselves looking down on people less fortunate than ourselves.
False security. This is when we place our trust in our wealth as opposed to God’s providence.
The truth is, we’re all tempted to place our faith in money. We’re tempted to believe that if we make enough, we’ll be able to control our circumstances and create a better life for ourselves.
The problem with that view is … that the more we place our faith in money, the more it controls us. What’s the answer? Notice the five things Paul tells Timothy to teach to the wealthy:
- Put your hope in God
- Do good
- Be rich in good deeds
- Be generous
- Be willing to share.
This kind of lifestyle doesn’t come natural; it requires supernatural help.