Section Three: The Lifestyle Characteristics of a Godly Life.
Our current theme: Characteristic Three: Trusting God’s Provision.
Our reading for today: 1st Timothy 6: 17-21 (MsgB)
Tell those rich in this world’s wealth to quit being so full of themselves and so obsessed with money, which is here today and gone tomorrow. Tell them to go after God, who piles on all the riches we could ever manage—to do good, to be rich in helping others, to be extravagantly generous. If they do that, they’ll build a treasury that will last, gaining life that is truly life. And oh, my dear Timothy, guard the treasure you were given! Guard it with your life. Avoid the talk-show religion and the practiced confusion of the so-called experts. People caught up in a lot of talk can miss the whole point of faith. Overwhelming grace keep you!
In recent years, more and more Christians have been exposed to the wisdom of Dave Ramsey. His best-selling book, Total Money Makeover, combined with his excellent coursework found in his Financial Peace University have served many in helping folks gain control of their finances, bringing wisdom and good sense to their often out of control spending. I highly recommend his material in bringing a biblically-sound game plan to your financial matters.
Yet, despite all the great counsel available to us, Americans continue to live on the edge when it comes to money, savings, and financial planning. A May 2016 report from CreditDonkey (a popular financial education website) shows the following statistics:
The number of Americans who have no cash in the bank to fall back on is staggering. Approximately 26% of adults have no savings set aside for emergencies, while another 36% have yet to start socking away money for retirement. While millions of Americans have no savings, many of them have managed to stash a few bucks in their checking account. As of 2013, the average bank account balance hovered around $4,436. The personal savings rate is the average amount of earnings people in the U.S. are putting away for rainy days. Through the end of 2014, the rate was 4.4%, which is a steep decline from the 10.5% rate in 2012. Saving money is tough when you don’t have a place to park it. Approximately 7.7% of American households function without a bank account. That’s close to 10 million households altogether. An estimated 38 million households in the U.S. live hand to mouth, meaning they spend every penny of their paychecks. Surprisingly, two-thirds of them earn a median income of $41,000, which puts them well above the federal poverty level.
Combine these statistics with the very low giving habits of American church-goers…
Only 5 percent of the Christian population in America tithes (10%), with 80 percent only giving 2 percent of their income. Christians are only giving at 2.5 percent per capita, while during the Great Depression they gave at a 3.3 percent rate.
…and we can easily say that for most Christians across the fruited plain of America, we are far from following God’s plan for our finances.
So what’s a dedicated follower of Christ to do in such times as this?
Actually, Paul’s words of encouragement to his young intern, Timothy, written within 30 years of Jesus’ resurrection still hold much truth today for those of us who dare to listen. Let’s take today’s passage apart and break it into digestible segments. First, let’s look at what Paul says we need to stop doing…
Tell those rich in this world’s wealth to quit being so full of themselves and so obsessed with money, which is here today and gone tomorrow.
While you may not feel like you are “rich in this world’s wealth” the truth is that even the poorest American citizen has an abundance when compared with others living around the world. And when we compare the wealth of our current generation with past generations, you and I enjoy the best standard of living ever achieved on planet Earth. So, despite how we might feel, we are, indeed, those who are rich in this world’s wealth! Thus, here is Paul’s two-pronged advice for those who want to live according to God’s desires…
- Quit being so full of ourselves. (i.e. stop allowing ourselves to be so self-centered, self-consumed, and self-infatuated.)
- Quit being obsessed with money. (i.e. there are many other important things in life that have greater lasting power than money…stop worshipping something that has such limited shelf-life!)
Now, as we let go of these two worldly obsessions, Paul turns our attention on what we can do with that extra time we once spent fussing over self and money…
- Go after God. (i.e. turn our attention to being the Christ-centered disciple He desires us to become…that’s what this whole 114-session blog on discipleship is all about!)
- Do good. (i.e. find creative ways to spread good things in a world filled with bad.)
- Be rich in helping others. (i.e. be aware of others and put a good portion of your time, energy & resources toward helping others in need. I love the way one friend of mine tithes not only his money, but his time. What might it look like, for example, to offer 10% of your free time in service to others?)
- Be extravagantly generous. (i.e. generosity is much like a muscle in the human body. Through on-going practice (spiritual discipline), one can actually build that muscle of generosity into Olympic proportions.)
So, now comes the big payoff…
If we do (the above), God, who piles on all the riches we could ever manage, will help us to “build a treasury that will last, gaining life that is truly life.”
Which leads me, finally, to my final question…
So…what kind of treasury are you building today? A treasury filled with self and money? Or a treasury overflowing with God-filled presence, Jesus-directed goodness, and Spirit-filled generosity?
My prayer: Jesus, without a doubt, I’m building a treasury in this lifetime; but Master, please keep me fully aware of what I’m filling my treasury with! As it was with Timothy, empower me to guard the good treasure You are giving me, practicing good and healthy disciplines which will honor You in all I save, all I spend, and all I do with my life’s possessions. For Your name’s sake. Amen.
My questions to ponder: What might it look like to obey Paul’s advice to “avoid the talk-show religion and the practiced confusion of the so-called experts?” Am I listening to “people caught up in a lot of talk,” thus missing “the whole point of faith?” Or am I listening to good, godly advice, allowing God’s “overwhelming grace” to keep me standing on solid ground?
So what is God speaking to you today as we attempt to live the Christ-centered life?
Over a thirty-six week period, you and I will take a deeper look into twelve key characteristics of a godly life. In other words, we’ll take A Journey into Christian Discipleship. In order to keep all the blog sessions organized, we suggest you bookmark our Journey home page for ease of use. ENJOY!
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