This devotional was originally posted on April 18, 2014.
Imagine the apostle Paul walking the streets of Ephesus, passing beggars in the street and sharing the gospel message. Picture him engaging the wealthy elite in the libraries and temples of the city regarding the teachings of Jesus, arguing for the cause of the Gospel.
Now visualize some of those same people, poor and rich, having heard and believed the Gospel. They are sitting side by side, listening to Pastor Timothy preach in a home in Ephesus. A letter arrives from Paul to Timothy. The final sentences in the letter address the attitude that every believer, both rich and poor, should have toward their money and possessions.
But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.
But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.
— 1 Timothy 6:6-11
As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share,
— 1 Timothy 6:17-18
Paul instructs the believers, no matter their wealth, to be godly and content. In verse 11, he tells them to pursue a righteous and godly life, filled with love and gentleness, which will impact the manner in which they steward their money and possessions. He warns all believers that the route to riches can be filled with temptation and damaging desires, which lead to great harm and destruction.
He tells the rich to be humble and kind. This is in contrast to the arrogance and rudeness we sometimes see in wealthy people. He instructs them not to be rich in money alone, but rich in good works and ready to share. This is yet another prodding to control their money and not let it control them.
I have used the same barber, Gary, for 30 years. During the two and a half years that our son, Parker, was overseas as a journeyman missionary, Gary would hand me a $20 bill each visit and tell me to put it in Parker’s account. Initially, I was reluctant to accept it and told him that Parker had all he needed. He’d say, “I‘m not able to travel and help people the way Parker is doing, so this is my way to support the work of the Lord through him.” Actually, he would whisper the words to me, as Gary was fighting cancer in four places in his body and undergoing periodic radiation and chemotherapy treatments that harmed his vocal cords.
While not rich with money, Gary is one of the wealthiest people I know. You see, Gary’s barber chair is not a place just to cut hair. It is his pulpit and prayer corner, and when I schedule a haircut, I know I’m going to church. I have told him that often. He simply smiles, retrieves his King James Bible from the counter, and shares whatever thoughts are on his heart. Gary exemplifies generosity and humility. He has no love of money, but uses his money for the work of the Kingdom.
As of two days ago, I learned that Gary is now at home on hospice care. Over the past few years, with tears in his eyes, he has reminded me often that his broken down body will be restored, and he will get to see his Heavenly Father and be reunited with his earthly father who led him to Christ. Gary is content, and his hope is fixed on God. Gary understands the futility of earthly possessions.
As I think about Gary and Paul’s teachings, I ask myself:
Is God happy with my generosity? Do I reflect the spirit of someone who is content? Does my attitude reflect not just contentment, but gratitude, for what God has provided for me? On what, or whom, is my hope fixed? Am I striving for godliness?
What are your answers to these questions?