Sermon Options: September 29, 2019

August 20th, 2019


1 TIMOTHY 6:6-19

"Let me give you a little advice." That phrase gets directed toward us from time to time. Sometimes we listen, sometimes we don't. Sometimes the advice is good, at other times it is tired and tedious. Several months before Linda and I were married some friends gave us a shower and as a part of the festivities of the night, each guest was to write out on a card some advice for a happy marriage. Of all the advice given, the only thing I remember was what one friend wrote, "Never join a record club." He wrote with the air of experience.

Advice. That is exactly what the aging missionary Paul offered to young preacher Timothy. In these letters, Paul offers advice on a lot of subjects that deal with church business and personal growth. In these verses, Paul addresses the subject of contentment, where it is found and where it is not found. In the midst of a society that was driven by wealth and greed, Paul's advice to Timothy was to learn the lesson of true contentment. He begins with a reminder that we do not bring anything into the world, and we will not take anything from it. If we have food and clothing we should be content. In other words, if we have the necessities of life we ought to rejoice.

His advice turns to a warning in verses 9 and 10. He warns that those who want to be rich—those who fail to find contentment— will fall into temptation. They will be trapped by senseless and harmful desires. Consider for a moment how much time and energy is spent on things that don't last. How truly senseless a number of our pursuits become when we view them in the context of God's universe and God's time. One of our greatest sins has to be the sin of wasting time. We focus on the unimportant, we major on the minors. We toil and labor and sweat and strain over things that have no eternal value.

Paul's warning continues. "The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich, some have wandered away from the faith" (v. 10). Have you ever known someone like that? Someone who will place their wealth over their faith? Someone who would make any sacrifice for business but no commitment to the church? We often talk of going from rags to riches, but to those who make money their God, just the opposite is true. They exchange the riches of glory for mere earthbound rags.

To young Timothy, Paul writes, "You, man of God, shun all this; pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, gentleness" (v. 11). Pursue the things that last. How do we do it? How can we discover contentment, and keep our wealth in perspective? I want to offer three ways to establish the right priorities, to balance your life.

I. Be Concerned with People More Than Things (vv. 6-8)
Go back and read the Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Underline every single verse that describes Jesus' love for things. Go ahead. Every time his wealth is mentioned, underscore it. Each time his love for fine clothing is discussed, circle it. You don't even need to borrow a pen, there is nothing to underscore. Look instead where Jesus invested his life: it was in the lives of others. You won't read about Jesus' bank account, or his home, or his clothing. You will read about people whose lives became intertwined with his. People like blind Bartimaeus, or little man Zacchaeus, or the woman caught in adultery. Jesus was concerned first and foremost with people.

Where do you invest your life? Examine the created order, plants, animals, fish, birds. God placed them all carefully on our planet and yet he chose humankind at the height of his creation. If God placed people above all things, and if Christ valued people more than life itself, doesn't it make sense that people should be important to us too?

II. Focus on the Eternal and Not the Temporary (v. 11)
Sometimes we fail to see the big picture. We forget that there is more to life than just this existence. Whenever we fail to consider the eternal, our priorities get out of balance. We focus on this temporary life and forget that we need to spend time preparing for all of eternity.

Every day we spend some time in front of the mirror. We comb hair, check clothing, brush teeth to a pearly white. We fuss over makeup, nail color, and neckties. We spend a lot of time on these earthly bodies. Don't you wish we had the wisdom to spend as much time on our spiritual bodies, which will last forever? We tend to focus on the temporary rather than the eternal.

Notice the language of Paul's warning. Flee from the senseless and harmful desires that keep your focus on the mortal. Instead, pursue (run after) the eternal. Remember the auction of items that once belonged to Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis? For three days, everything from diamond rings to reading books went on the auction block and sold for an absolute fortune. People spent millions of dollars to own a piece of Camelot. But in the end it's all stuff—temporary, can't-take-it-with-you stuff. It doesn't belong to Jackie anymore and some day it won't belong to the people who now own it.

Why not make investments that last forever? Spend time in prayer. Spend time with a little child who needs to hear the story of Jesus. Read the Word of God. Get involved in missions. Give away a few of your things so that some needy people will have the necessities of life and will rejoice. Focus on the eternal, each day, every day.

III. Filter the Voices in Your Life
We set priorities by listening to the right voices in our lives. It's like tuning a radio as you search for a clear station. As you turn the dial there will be some static, a few weak stations, a couple of country music stations, maybe you'll even pass over a couple of radio preachers, but finally you will tune in the one you want to hear.

There are many voices in our world. Every one of them wants your attention, each wants to control you. Some are good and positive, others are full of static, some speak about things you don't want to hear. Yet you must decide which voice will control your life, and focus on it. Ask some questions about the things you hear: Does it proclaim Jesus as Lord? Does it speak well of every person? Is it fair, truthful, honest? Will I be a better person for listening, or will what is said begin to erode my character?

A lot of the voices out there will tell you to be selfish. To look out for number one, to make more, have more, possess more. The voice of our Lord is quite different. It says, feed the poor, clothe the naked, visit the sick, serve humanity. Until we learn true contentment with the blessings of Christ in our lives, we will keep searching and desiring more, never quenching our thirst. Decide whose voice will get your attention: The world's or the Savior of the world. (Jon R. Roebuck)


LUKE 16:19-31

There are always disparities between the rich and the poor. Recent statistics reveal the growing gulf between the wealth of corporate executives and the wages of their company employees. Today's Gospel story could easily be updated to show the rich man as a corporate executive. Lazarus could be one of his former employees, a victim of downsizing whose hard times just kept getting harder. Anyone acquainted with contemporary city life has seen images of both protagonists and most of us have yearned for a more equitable distribution of wealth.

We also see the inequities played out on a global scale with the developed countries as the rich man and Lazarus as the Third World. Recurring famine and the plight of Lazarus asking for the crumbs that fall only serve to sharpen this analogy. Albert Schweitzer was moved to set up his hospital in Africa after reading this parable.

This story itself is a kind of triptych, showing us three scenes. The first shows the situation of the two on earth where the rich man lives luxuriously and Lazarus suffers miserably. The second scene offers a kind of justice by showing a view of the future when the rewards are reversed. We see the rich man in hell and Lazarus in heaven. An impassable chasm is placed between them. In the third scene the rich man sees the error of his ways and begs to help his brothers avoid a similar fate. But he is told that his siblings were given adequate opportunities and no more spectacular revelation would be sent.

The purpose of this parable is to warn people to change before it is too late. It is evidently an old story and is not unique to Jesus. Variants of it have been found in other ancient cultures. But it is unique among Jesus' stories because it is the only one he told in which the protagonist is named. Lazarus is the Greek form of Eleazar, which means "one whom God has helped," and it is the name of the man Jesus raised from the dead, the brother of Martha and Mary in the Gospel of John. Scholars disagree about the relationship between the two figures but the issue of resurrection is clear in both stories.

The story tells us clearly that worldly success is not indicative of God's favor. We have heard it in the Beatitudes and it is graphically shown in this parable. No amount of wealth or security will guarantee salvation.

The issue in this story is simply one of wealth versus poverty. There are no moral judgments given. If the rich man is guilty of sins, they are the sins of omission and self-indulgence. And nothing is said of Lazarus to indicate any moral heroism. Their ultimate fates come as a result of the lives they led on earth. The haves and the have-nots are reversed. The corporate executive and the former employee will switch situations in the world to come. The story tells us to change the disparities now or they will be changed for us later. (Penelope Duckworth)

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