19th August 2012

Money and eternity

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:

  • Do you believe you can be content with few possessions?
  • Why/why not? How can we be sure that we're not greedy, but generous?
  • Do you need to change any beliefs or behaviours in order to pursue godliness rather than money?

Paul Mann

Posted by Paul Mann










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