Chapter 5 -- Stewardship Of Possessions

1 Timothy 6:6-12, 17-19

The purpose of this chapter is to encourage the right use of material possessions.

The central thought is that money is a good servant, but a bad master.

The Presentation

One of the crucial tests of the Christian life is how we use our money or our material possessions.
From the first days of the church this is been most important.
Attitudes and actions find expression through the possession and use of money.
Judas betrayed himself by the way in which he set a price on Jesus.
His mind was on material values which prostituted spiritual values.

Ananias and Sapphira lived lives of deceit and lying because they held tightly the money they professed
to haven given away.

In a world which flaunted the luxuries of the rich in Roman society, it was not easy for a Christian
to hold a balance view of life in respect to possessions.
The temptation to covetousness and avarice was always present.
It attacked the poor as well as the rich.
It is not surprising that one of the vital areas of life to be considered by Paul is that which touches
the use of possessions.

Human Resources, 1 Timothy 6: 6-12

The strong ethical stress in these writings is salutory as it reminds the Christian that Christian faith
expresses itself in the moral and material demands of everyday life.

1. Discontent is dangerous. (Verses 6-8)

At the outset a peril to spiritual living is brought into the open.
Paul had already spoken of "godliness is profitable for all things." (cf. 4:8)

Now he speaks of "godliness with contentment is great gain." (Verse 6)
As Christians looked out on their world, they saw the restricted lot of slaves in the luxury of the ruling class.
Many Christians had been or were slaves, and so they had a realistic experience of what this meant.

The upper levels of Roman society afforded many examples of the abuse of wealth and possessions.
From the Emperor to his nobles and social life was so ordered that ostentation and sensual indulgence
was found everywhere.
This meant the spending of money lavishly in banquets, games, and the social round.
Nero's age was one of iniquity, lust, greed, and power.

Some of the things done seem unbelievable.
Fortunes were squandered in debauchery, gluttony, and in unnatural ways.
The Book of Revelation has a revealing chapter 18 in which is noted some of the characteristics of that period.
Millions of slaves were used as "bodies" and had no rights.
Imagine, then, the temptation to a Christian to be discontented with his lot when he witnessed
the flagrant dissipation of that age.

The Christian had a new ethical view of life which was in marked contrast to what has been described.
This was based on godliness.
There were those at Ephesus, for example, who thought of their religious affiliation (with the Temple of Diana)
as a means of trade and gain.
Religion and politics, religion and trade, went hand in hand together to increase wealth.

To the Christian this was wrong, and Paul urges Timothy to teach his people that contentment
is the one thing that keeps life sweet and strong.
This necessitous of life are sufficient without desiring extras or luxuries.
One of the temptations of our affluent society is that we have an abundance of good things when others
in our world are in desperate need.
A Christians conscience has to be considered in this context.

As the old couplet has it:
"We need but little here below,
Nor need that little long."

When the evil of discontent takes over in us, we are undone.
But the spirit of contentment fills our hearts and we are safe.
Earthly possessions come and go.
They are never secure.
We bring nothing into this life, and we leave it as we came.
Death is the great leveler both of poor and rich.

2. Covetousness is corroding.

Like a cliff which is torn down over the years by erosion, so character is affected by the assets of modernity.
This refers to the gradual change which takes place in a life which yields to greed and avarice.
They that are "minded to be rich" are those who have this bent and increasing desire.
They do not handle the things of this life lightly.
They hold them tenaciously, and grip them tightly.

This does not indict those who are rich, but it does to those who make wealth their passion or goal in life.
There is nothing wrong in having wealth when it is accepted as a trust under God.
The danger of riches lies in the all-consuming desire which is a love for money in itself.
The passion for wealth becomes the trap.
It is here where the soul is warped.

One of the sad things in life is to meet those who have much of this world's goods,
and who have become shriveled up in spirit.
They think of their status as one of power and position because of their wealth -- not because
of their character.
The blind spot prevents them giving proper value to the use of their resources even as they do not see
what is happening to their character.

On the other hand, it is always refreshing to meet those who have been given wealth,
and they recognize it as a stewardship of God.
In early years there have been tithers of their income, and they have learned the secret of counteracting greed.
If God has prospered them (as some have been “ not all) they still keep up the good habit of tithing
and more so, that they are enabled to do more for the Kingdom of God to their more abundant stewardship.

Covetousness eats away at character, slowly and subtly.
Those who seek money or material ends at any cost pay a terrible price.
Some Christians have been caught here.
They justify their workload and their time and strength in seeking more and more because of their families.
At the same time it is noted they begin to neglect the house of God and their share of God's work.

Their families think more of the social status opened through wealth and drift away from their earlier standards
of rectitude until they become soft and flabby in relation to Christian standards.
Often this is the tragedy of "getting on."
Many "foolish and hurtful lusts" arise to drown the soul.

"The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil."

Money in itself is non-moral, but its use makes it moral or immoral.
This is not now covetousness in itself, but the love of money.
Covetousness seeks to grasp what it lacks in order to possess more.
Avarice endeavors to retain and by inordinate love or desire increase this.

Hoarding and miserliness blight the soul.
There is no joy and no reward in character for the soul which never gives.
Crimes are committed for love of money.
Within the church the majority of members are caught up in this temptation.
Think of the release of money which would accrue to the church if everyone was free from this sin.

3. Temptation is revealing. (Verses 11-12)

When temptation comes, character is tested as to its worth and strength.
How revealing this is in the church when Christians are shown to have yielded and given in
to the pressure of evil.
Our human resources are such that no one is exempt from the hour of testing.
It comes to everyone.
It pierces through so that conscience is pricked and sensitive.
It lays a snare for the unwary and careless.
It leads astray those who do not watch and guard well their lives.

All kinds of evil result from this temptation in the handling of our money and our material possessions.
How much sorrow has resulted, and how much heartache has come to those who set their minds on riches
before Christ; on selfish desires before stewardship.
So Paul reminds Timothy but at this point he should remember his Christian status and his position as a leader
in the church.

He now addresses him as "O man of God."
This is a personal appeal with much persuasion behind it.
This is not because of the office as a pastor or leader, but because of his character.
Many men in the Bible have been addressed as a man of God.
So a strong appeal is made through this.

(1) Flee these things.
The counsel to turn away or turn back is not always good, but here it is right and necessary.
In renunciation there lies strength.
The temptation to immorality is best met by fleeing from the would-be seducer.
Some temptations cannot be played with.
They are too strong for us.

(2) Follow after.

There are things in the spiritual life which are of more value than material things.
The material will pass away, but the other will endure forever.
Think of the traits of godly character which makes for a good life.
When early possessions are no more, what have we left to take with us?

(3) Fight the good fight.

Fleeing seems negative in meeting the trials and tests of life, but fighting is positive.
From the Olympic Games, Paul knew that an athlete must take part in order to prove himself.
He knew that in the Christian life a person must have faith and courageously take his place wholeheartedly.

(4) Fashion your life.

To "lay hold" on the life eternal (verse 12) and to "keep" the commandment (verse 14) implied that the life
should be fashioned after a high ideal and a holy pattern.
This conformity was urged for the Christian leader among his people.
This was a "charge" (verse 13) and was inspired by the highest motives (verses 15:16).

Temptation is revealing as it unmasks a man in an hour of crisis.
Character is shown for what it really is.
Paul taught that a Christian leader should demonstrate how the grace of God could prove sufficient.
The major temptation lay in the realm of how a Christian used his possessions, especially his money.

Our Lord had discussed this problem in the Sermon on the Mount (cf. Matthew 6:19-34) where it was shown
that covetousness was a persistent evil always tempting the Christian disciple.
Mammon or the love of power through material resources was found to be over against God.
No man can have two masters, and he cannot serve both.
Only as a Christian disciple learns to use mammon for the service of God is he safe.

Our resources of money and possessions are of such a nature that the Christian church should not have to beg
for a budget to be subscribed for the year.
If only half the membership pledges to give and usually underwrites that budget, what of the other half?
They might say that they give also without pledging, but the answer is in the loose offering on the plate.
That is most revealing when it is counted, for it averages so little in most churches.
No church can survive on that kind of giving.

The pledgers and tithers carry the church today.
What about the rest?
Are they caught by this temptation to hoard, and give only miserly?
Do they think that God is blind to this?

What a tragedy when so-called Christians do not give as they might; what spiritual impoverishment they find.
Have to use money is crucial today.
What value do we place on our material possessions and our regular income?
Do we set these as we do our gifts at Christmas time?

Then we ask what will please her or him?
What shall I give to show my love to him or her?
Why not this same spirit when we decide to give to the church?
Why are many so stingy?
Is it that temptation has called to them, and they love money more than Christ?

Divine Riches, 1 Timothy 6:17-19

A final admonition is given by Paul as he speaks of the one thing worth keeping.
The stewardship of possessions is related to our human resources, first of all what shall we do with our money
and material things?
Then it is related to the divine riches which are given by God to us to use -- what spirit must we have
in this responsibility?

1. The Right Attitude (verse 17)

Those who have riches are counseled not to be high-minded, nor set their hope on the uncertainty of wealth.
When we compare the lives of people we readily see how some have a distorted view of true values.

John Milton wrote Paradise Lost, and received a nominal sum of a few dollars.
Beethoven was given about one hundred dollars for the production of the Ninth Symphony.
Once we read of a movie star being paid millions of dollars for acting in something which can be questioned
about its standards of morality, which causes us to wonder about true riches.

Is true riches the money or the spiritual investment?
Money for the bank is perishable and passing, whereas the message of literature and music is imperishable.
That is why we should set our mind on God first.
He gives us all things for our enjoyment, but not upon which to set our hopes.
How tragic to have everything material we need, and yet lose God!

2. The Right Action (verse 18)

To "do good" is the hallmark of value in using possessions as a steward of God's grace.
First of all, it is possible to be rich in good works.
Kindness is one of the ways in which we can share in stewardship.
People are needing to be helped by Christians.
Ready to distribute is another way of sharing what we have to our benevolences and missionary outreach.
Willing to communicate suggests a readiness to sympathize.

The word for "communicate" has its root in fellowship, communion, sharing, and is related
to the actions of a Barnabas helping a Mark.
The actions of the Christian and the church are inter-related here.
Think of all the giving for relief, hospitals, schools, places of worship, and the physical needs of people
at home and overseas.
The record is overwhelming and staggering when added up.
This is one way to counteract the miserly spirit “ cultivate the benevolent act.

3. The Right Aspiration (verse 19)

As the Christian takes stewardship of possessions seriously there is a good motive and a right perspective
 before him.
"Laying up in store" is not laying away some money in the bank, but investing earthly possessions
in the spiritual depository for the future recompense.
By giving money here for the service of God, we invest in the eternal treasury.
This is at once the counteraction against greed, and at the same time, a means of spiritual investment.

Paul's final word to Timothy is to "guard the deposit." (Verse 20)

Here in the language of investment, attention is called again to the use of divine riches over against
human wealth.
While there is the promise of reward and approval for our service here, this is not the inspiration of that work.
Rather the work is something we do out of loyalty to Christ and we invest our possessions because we recognize
 is Lordship over us.

So we learned that we store up by giving away.
We gain what we lose.
If a Christian hoards what God gives him, he is tempted to lose everything in the future.
By recognizing Christ's Lordship, we may tithe our income now, and give at least that basic amount to God.
If God allows us larger sums of money, we are given greater opportunities to do good by continuing tithing
and giving.
What about sacrificial giving?
Is that something over and above the tithe?

"We lose what on ourselves we spend
We have as treasure without end
Whatever to the Lord we lend
Who givest all.
“ Archbishop Trench

According to Proverbs 8, wisdom is better than material possessions.
Here is the true wealth.
Without this, we are poor.
With this “Wisdom is Christ first of all” we are wealthy, and can use our means to serve God.

This concludes chapter 5 of 1 Timothy

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