Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Of Dollars and Discipleship

… people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.
(1 Timothy 6:5 – ESV)

Paul tells Timothy of something simple but also something sinister here. We can easily ascertain that we should not believe that being godly is supposed to be our ticket to the big time. We may benefit without being sinful, but our mind and heart should not be in it for the money. Godliness is not to be looked at simply as a means of profit.

Yet the application of this verse is broader than that. The idea that money, status, influence and supposed success are measures of spiritual capital is not a new phenomenon in church history, or limited to Christianity in the western world today. Preferential treatment, inclusion or exclusion based on wealth or perceived status, and such things have always been a problem. Paul speaks of it in 1 Corinthians 11:20-22. James speaks of it also (James 2:1-9).

People think that if they have money they are special to God or that this means they are pleasing God and doing “it” right. Others who haven’t yet “arrived” think that if they are “doing things right” that they will receive money, status, or influence. Other people think that those with money are to be listened to as leaders, because it must mean that they are more spiritual or doing better in their relationship with God. Many have been taught that if their life situation is more stable that this somehow means they are doing it right, as if upward mobility was the goal. In many circles it is like the goal of godliness or the measure of godliness is to go from “struggling” to “stable” to “successful” to “significant”, as if money was the manifestation of this. However, notice it is not given in the list of qualifications for leadership in the Pastoral Epistles.

It is as if the progress in dollars is the progress in discipleship. Now a case could be made for believing that your spiritual growth can be measured in dollars. That is, in a sense, perhaps by the percentage of dollars you give but never the amount of dollars you have. The New Testament doesn’t talk of gaining money it talks of gaining godliness. Yes, we should strive to gain financially so that we can provide for our family, our church, and our missionaries and for emergencies, etc. That is good stewardship of our resources and making good use of our time and talent for the glory of God. If you can be an entrepreneur and make millions legitimately, ethically, and morally, then that can be good. If you have the intelligence to make money as a medical doctor, great, use that brain and go as far as it will take you. Just be sure not to look down on those with less intellect or skill, or those with less desire to read and learn than you.

Yes, it should be true that as you grow in biblical wisdom you will be making better choices which in turn should result in decreasing debt and increasing productivity and probable financial benefit. As this happens your biblically informed conscience will guide you to be a giver, and under normal circumstances you will probably see blessings from that, as you become a better steward of your substance. So stewardship is a big yes, but spirituality isn’t the direct instrument of financial gain. Otherwise, when rich or famous men and women become Christians they should get an instant platform. Unfortunately that happens all too often anyway.

When you see someone who is “doing well” and also has some spirituality or biblical knowledge, don’t assume they are a leader or are supposed to be one or are automatically a good one. “Oh”, you say, “but God is blessing them!” Don’t be so sure.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©


MrsEvenSo... said...

Great post!

1Timothy 6:6 But godliness with contentment is great gain.

This has always been one of my favorite verses. :D

Even So... said...


Anonymous said...

Great post! I think the tendency to associate worldly wealth with riches in Christ is a testament to the corruption of our flesh. There are so many goat herders pretending to be shepherds today who actually think they are blessed by God because they have a lot of money. They seem to believe that the lack of wealth is evidence of spiritual poverty as well. Yet Paul wrote to the Philippians:

Php 4:11 Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.
Php 4:12 I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.
Php 4:13 I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
Php 4:14 Nevertheless, you have done well to share with me in my affliction.
Php 4:15 You yourselves also know, Philippians, that at the first preaching of the gospel, after I left Macedonia, no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving but you alone;
Php 4:16 for even in Thessalonica you sent a gift more than once for my needs.
Php 4:17 Not that I seek the gift itself, but I seek for the profit which increases to your account.

In fact, most of the Apostles and early church fathers were far from wealthy by the worlds standards. But then again, that was far from important to them, as well. What wealth they did have, they gladly shared within the church to promote the gospel of our Lord. They didn't buy huge private boats and large houses and decked out chariots to ride around in. They took care of the sick, the poor and the needy. And they took care of the gospel-bearers.

Again, in his second letter to Corinthians, we see Paul exhorting them, and stating that it does NOT matter HOW MUCH you have, but what you are doing with what you have been given:

2Co 8:1 Now, brethren, we wish to make known to you the grace of God which has been given in the churches of Macedonia,
2Co 8:2 that in a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality.
2Co 8:3 For I testify that according to their ability, and beyond their ability, they gave of their own accord,
2Co 8:4 begging us with much urging for the favor of participation in the support of the saints,
2Co 8:5 and this, not as we had expected, but they first gave themselves to the Lord and to us by the will of God.

And, of course, there is the parable of the talents...

Peace & Blessings,
Simple Mann

Even So... said...

Good words from the Word, looking forward to reading some at your site...