Let us pray: Dear Savior, today teach us anew the value of both reliance upon You in all things and the contentment that such faith brings. Teach us to focus on our blessings and not succumb to greed and envy. For only then will joy and true peace reign in our hearts. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE SAVIOR WHO GIVES BLESSINGS!
TEXT: I Timothy 6:6: “But Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.”
Fellow Redeemed Sinners:
You’d think Christianity would be increasingly attractive to the masses who have grown up with a sense of entitlement. After all, God’s love and forgiveness are free to us. They don’t cost us anything. Someone else has paid the bill. And yet, Christianity also proclaims some other truths which don’t fit the entitlement culture. We preach repentance, or taking personal responsibility and not pawning it off on another. We teach human unworthiness—the antithesis of entitlement. And we also preach a work ethic born of love for God’s goodness showered upon us. So, the preacher’s task each Sunday isn’t easy. He has to offend the entitlement side of each of his hearers in order for them to really appreciate and take to heart the depth of God’s love and compassion.
The lesson before us today stands as an antithesis to popular American culture. Today in our country we’re bombarded by ads, columns in magazines, and talking heads on the airways who all preach that the only way to be happy is have more, more, and more. “Stuff” brings happiness. And the accumulation of “stuff” makes for a fulfilled life.—At least that’s what we’re told. I guess it is best summed up by the bumper sticker: “The one that dies with the most toys, wins!”
Well, my friends, entitlement America is wrong! Life isn’t about things. Life is about life! It about hopes, dreams, hard work, disappointments, growing from those disappointments, and ultimately trusting in Someone Who can provide meaning to it all. And of course, that Someone is: Jesus Christ. My generation helped spawn and then perfect the entitlement culture. We thought that just because we were born and exist on planet earth we deserve—everything. That’s childish at best, and stupid at worst. It’s also a set-up for disappointments in life and a huge lack of lasting contentment and satisfaction. Thank God that St. Paul wasn’t childish in his letter to Timothy and to us when he laid out the truth that:
GODLINESS WITH CONTENTMENT IS GREAT GAIN
A while back I had this conversation with a fellow. I asked him: “Are you really happy with your life?” His response was: “Well, I have a new car, a good-sized house in a great neighborhood, a high-profile job that pays better than most, and my family goes on three fabulous vacations a year. You bet I’m happy!” Since he really didn’t answer my question I repeated it. “But are you really happy? If you died tomorrow, would you feel that your life had true meaning?” After a lengthy pause, he said: “I don’t know.”
That fellow was honest. And he was also caught up in the idea that happiness and contentment are synonymous with accumulating things. Probing a bit deeper, I soon discovered that his definition of contentment also included a huge mortgage, a job that was extremely stressful, kids that were out-of-control, and a marriage that just didn’t possess the spark it had when their lifestyle was a bit more modest. It all boiled down to the fact that neither he nor his wife equated Godliness with contentment.
There’s another man I want to tell you about. Right now he’s about 76 years old. He still lives in the same house he bought 50 years ago in a modest suburb. He drives an older car. His favorite drink is cherry coke. His favorite thing to do is come home, watch TV, and eat popcorn. He has no cell phone or Blackberry. He invested in his first stock at age 11 from proceeds from his paper route. At age 14 he bought his first farm. He didn’t believe in entitlement.—He worked. He’s a Christian. He’s also the 2nd richest man in the world, who was named: Warren Buffett, by his parents. And, and, he’s in the process of giving all his money away to help various causes throughout the world. Is he happy? Is he content? Does his life have meaning? He’d answer: yes! And although I cannot read hearts, it appears his answer is truthful.
The fact of the matter is: true contentment has to hand-in-hand with Godliness in order to grow, survive and flourish. And Godliness places God always first, doesn’t it? It doesn’t complain and moan about life by saying: “It just isn’t fair!” It knows life isn’t about fairness, it is about appreciation for God’s goodness. And none of us deserve that goodness, no, we are given it as a free gift through faith in Christ.
Think about that final line of our lesson: “For we brought nothing into this world and we can take nothing out of it. So having food and clothing, we will be content with that.” No human can argue with that fact. It is a truism. We began life with nothing and we leave it with nothing. So, why o why do we get so hung up on things which are not necessities? Why do we buy into the entitlement mentality of: more, more, more just because I’m me? Of course, the answer is: pride, or sin, which fosters greed, which leads to insecurities, which we then try to cover over by impulsive buying, and then the cycle repeats ad infinitum.
God has something better for us in mind. And in pure love He has given us that something better. In pure love He sent Christ to take away our pride and pay for our greedy nature with His life for ours on a cross. In pure love He strips away the idea that life is all about me and tells us that it is really all about Him. He enlarges us. He gets us to look outside our narrow little me-centered world. He informs us that there really is an afterlife where the accoutrements of the modern world are totally unimportant.—So why get so hung up on them right now? And He says: view everything as a blessing, as a gift which is undeserved, and then you will be doubly surprised and doubly satisfied!
More than once in my life I’ve prayed this prayer: “Lord, give me whatever I need to be appreciative and not too much so that I become dissatisfied and take it for granted.” And you know what? God has answered that prayer by giving me the greatest earthly gift any human can possess: contentment with life. Yes, Godliness with contentment is great gain! Amen