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26th August 2012
When we expire on Earth, we can take nothing with us. We arrived naked and we leave with nothing – not even a carry-on case! But, as Christians, we can invest in eternity and store up treasure in heaven (see 1 Timothy 6:19 and Matthew 6:20). This isn't like treasure here on Earth, which can be lost in a moment; it's unseen treasure that can never be spoiled or lost.
The greatest treasure we can have it to be with Jesus for all eternity, seeing him face-to-face. But the Bible also talks of an inheritance for those who are in Christ and rewards for work done in faith (see 1 Peter 1:3-4, 1 Corinthians 3:12-15 and 2 Corinthians 5:10). Some of the ways in which we store up this eternal treasure are outlined in this passage in 1 Timothy, where the apostle Paul writes that we are "to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share" (v18).
The good news of Jesus is spread through word and deed: God is good and has been good to us, so now we reflect that goodness in our actions to others. Every kind action expresses the gospel, and as a church we want to find multiple ways to help and bless our community, such as the foodbank. We don't want to just tell people of God's love (though that is important); we want to demonstrate it through actions, or as Paul writes here, by being "rich in good deeds".
Just as God has been very good to us, he has also been incredibly generous to us: Jesus gave himself for us, laying down his life for each one of us. His generosity cost him everything! Since God is so generous, we need to be the same. Being generous can be costly and inconvenient, but is part of investing in eternity and, as it says in Proverbs, those who are generous will be blessed – it really is better to give than to receive!
Linked to generosity, we should also be willing to share. It can be easy to give away old stuff that we no longer need or want, but how good are we at sharing the possessions we value, or our time?
The only way we can be rich in good deeds, generous and willing to share, is by God's grace, and this is what the apostle Paul brings us back to at the end of this letter, writing: "Grace be with you." (v21) As John Stott says, "They would not be able in their own strength to reject error and fight for truth, to run from evil and pursue goodness, to renounce covetousness and cultivate contentment and generosity, and in these Christian responsibilities to remain faithful to the end. Only divine grace could keep them. So at the letter's conclusion, as at its beginning (1:2), the apostle wishes for them above all else an experience of the transforming and sustaining grace of God."
Verses: 1 Timothy 6:17-21
Food for thought:
Posted by Santino Hamberis
19th August 2012
In the 21st century, it's easier than ever to believe that we need to accumulate possessions to be happy and that what we have determines our worth. Writing to Timothy, the apostle Paul declares that "godliness with contentment is great gain", reflecting what he has said elsewhere: that he has "learned to be content whatever the circumstances" (Philippians 4:11).
The truth is: it is possible to be content without wealth and possessions – we can have no car, no TV, no computer, no iPad, no holidays! We are not consumers; we are human beings made in the image of God – for his glory! Our value is not defined by how much we have or how much we've consumed. The high street doesn't want us to know this, but we don't need more stuff to be happy!
The apostle Paul isn't saying that we should be content even if we're destitute; he says that if we have food, clothing, the essentials of life, we can be content with that. And when we have the right perspective – in the context of eternity – we do indeed become content regardless of how much we have. We mustn't be short-sighted; if we are only thinking about today, tomorrow, next week or even next year, we are not thinking far enough into the future!
Contentment is found in God and in our future with him in eternity. If we want to get rich, Paul writes that we are likely to "fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction" – he uses pretty hard-hitting language! It's not that there's anything wrong with being rich per se – in fact wealthy people have the resources to do much good, and Paul doesn't tell them to give up all they have, but to hope in God, not their riches, and to avoid arrogance. But Paul does condemn greed and a focus on 'getting more'. The antidote is to flee from the love of money and instead to "pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness".
When thinking about money and eternity, it's a question of perspective and proportion – which is more valuable: to be rich in this age or in the age to come? Is it to accumulate treasure here on Earth or in heaven? Is it to make a lot of money now, or to "take hold of the life that is truly life", as John Stott puts it? Nothing grounds my faith more than how I handle my money. As Jesus said, "Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
Verses: 1 Timothy 6:3-12 and 17-19 (see also Philippians 4:11-13 and Matthew 6:19-21)
Food for thought:
Posted by Paul Mann
12th August 2012
When the apostle Paul wrote to Timothy about honouring widows (1 Timothy 5), he wasn't just providing instructions for caring for those whose husbands had died, but he was also outlining some principles that had practical implications for churches at the time, and also for us today.
Paul's apostolic command to "continue to remember the poor" (Galatians 2:10) points us to the fact that churches are to care for the most vulnerable members of our community as part of everyday life. The early Church cared for the neediest in the community, and the leaders gave themselves not only to prayer and the Bible (which are vital), but also to the poor (see Acts 61-4).
Whether it's as individuals or as a church, we mustn't neglect the needs of the poor. We know from both teaching and example in the Bible that the gospel isn't limited to a verbal proclamation of good news (though that is essential), but there is also a demonstration of the good news, whether that's in power, healings or acts of kindness. It is right for the church to support the poor – it's a reflection of the very heart of God! This can be the economically poor (those with no food, shelter or clothing, or in debt), the oppressed poor (the powerless, those with no voice) or the spiritually poor (those who don't know Christ).
As Paul writes to Timothy in this passage, if we have immediate family in need we must support them. We are called to honour our parents. We are blessed with welfare provision in this country, but that doesn't mean that we lose our responsibility to care for our families and for others in our communities too. Interestingly, though we have a responsibility to provide for people's essential needs, those who are poor are not to look to the church, but to God (verse 5).
Jesus was frequently moved by compassion – we need that compassion to flood our hearts as well.
Verses: 1 Timothy 5:3-16
Food for thought:
Posted by Paul Mann
29th July 2012
The first two verses of 1 Timothy 6 can be difficult for us to understand, because when we see the word 'slaves', we are likely to think immediately of the African slave trade and/or people trafficked against their will and forced into unpaid labour or prostitution. But this text – and the Bible as a whole – does not advocate this type of slavery at all!
Andrew Wilson, who is based at King's Church Eastbourne and spoke here in Hastings recently, has written about how we can easily see from the Bible that forced slavery is wrong. (Click here to read his post.) Jesus said that he came to preach the good news and release the captives (see Luke 4 and Isaiah 61), so we know that he was against forced entrapment. But in contrast to our understanding of slavery, in Jesus' day and culture, it was a choice (like working as a servant or butler is today), it was temporary and it came with significant legal protections. (For an interesting debate on the word 'slavery' in the Bible, click here.)
But in the opening verses of 1 Timothy 6, Paul is not addressing which form of slavery is right or wrong – rather he is addressing how we, as followers of Jesus, are to respond to those in authority over us ('masters', in the passage, but today we can apply this to our bosses and group/team leaders).
In one sense we are all slaves: the Bible tells us that we were once slaves to sin, but now we are slaves to righteousness and to God (see Romans 6). Instead of being 'yoked' to sin – pulled along with it, following its direction – we are now 'yoked' to Christ. We have a new identity, a new security, and an inheritance to come. We belong to a loving master, our Father in heaven, who says, "…you are no longer a slave, but a son" (John 15:15).
The purpose of the apostle Paul's instructions in 1 Timothy 6 is to speak into the attitudes that we can so easily develop. We can often decide how to respect and respond to our bosses and those in authority over us by how they treat us, but we are called to a higher standard: we are called to respect them and work for them as if we are working for Jesus (Ephesians 6:5-8). Of course, we are also called to stand up against injustice (Micah 6:8), so this isn't saying we turn a blind eye to mistreatment. But we also don't fight fire with fire. We value all people. Regardless of who they are and what they have done, our responsibility is to reflect Jesus and be 'salt and light'.
Jesus has set us an example so that we can follow in his footsteps: "'He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.' When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly…" (1 Peter 2:22-25). Whatever we face – whether it's being honoured or mistreated, whether it's joyful or difficult – let's always ask ourselves, 'What would Jesus do?'
Verses: 1 Timothy 6:1-2
Food for thought:
Posted by Santino Hamberis