Here in this country we are obsessed with money. Money is a huge part of how we value ourselves and how we value each other. Since World War II it has been how we gauge how well we are doing as a nation. We are doing well when our GDP grows. It is vitally important for the stability of our nation for us to buy more and more stuff.
Everything revolves around money, but we cannot talk about it. How much each of us spends is important to our vitality as a nation, but we cannot actually tell anyone how much we spent on anything. This can be seen in the fact that when we buy gifts, we take off the price tag before giving it. To not do so is seen as rude. We do not like talking about how much we make, or how much we spend or how much we give to others, to charity or even to the government. This is so much so that this election season, whether or not the political candidates reveal their tax information to the voting public is a big deal. And we really do care about it.
Whether we like to talk about it or not, our relationship with money is an important part of our lives. Paul agrees. We do not like to talk about money and our relationship with money, but here in 1st Timothy, that is exactly what Paul does. Paul addresses the unspeakable and not only talks about money, but talks to us about our relationship with money. Our relationship with money matters, and it not only matters in how it affects the GDP, or how it effects the growth of our economy, but it matters to God. Our relationship with money affects our relationship with God.
Paul begins to talk about “gain.” What we gain; in what ways we profit, in this world matters, and the only profit, which matters is that we profit in is godliness. When it comes to the “Rules of Acquisition”, what we gain and how we gain it is the primary focal point in godliness. These “Rules of Acquisition” govern our relationship with money when we live by them our relationship with Jesus Christ is strengthened. When we do not live by them, wealth, money, riches, things become things which hinder and tear apart our relationship with our God, and lead us away from all that really matters in this world.
According to the “rules of godly acquisition,” the only gain that is substantial is gain that does not rust or fade. The only gain that matters is that which will last. Any gain that is not godliness is no gain at all. It is worthless and unsubstantial. The first rule of which we should be aware, is: we enter this world with nothing and we will leave this world likewise with nothing. So anything which we gain in between that does not and cannot transcend the barrier of death is worthless. All the stuff we care so much about; all the things, all the objects which money buys for us here in this world, reside wholly, solely and only in this world. The only gain which we can acquire in-between entering and leaving is godliness, righteousness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. These are the things which we are to pursue. These are the things which hold value in the life eternal.
Since we enter with absolutely nothing, we have nothing which commends us to acquire the love, the care, and all that we gain while we are here, all these things are provided for us. They is given to us and we gain them not on our own accord. For what can we, being the tiny helpless creatures, which we are upon our entry, do to gain the things we need for our very survival. All is given; all is gifted to us. It is gifted to us freely, and is ultimately given and gifted to us by God. All that is provided, given and gained, from our first breath to our last, which allows for our very survival, is not ours, it is the provision of God at work in our lives.
The second rule of acquisition therefore, is that we should be content with that which is provided, given, gifted to us. In fact when it comes to contentment, although it is not the first rule of acquisition (being dependent upon understanding the first), it is the most important rule. Godliness cannot be gained, unless we are content with that which God has provided for us.
If we have food and clothing, which was is a sort of ancient shorthand of saying all that is needed to survive. This includes food, shelter, clothing, water and warmth, all the basic necessities of life. Once provided with all that is needed to survive, we are to find contentment in simply having those things. Being grateful and content for all that we have is the root of godly acquisition.
The third rule is this, “Do not want to be rich.” Our desire in this life should not be for riches, wealth, money or things. Just as contentment is the root of the acquisition of godliness, the love of money, (and all that goes with that) is the root of evil. Our desire in this the life, the things for which we long, is to be righteousness, godliness, faith, love and endurance – the things that set our sights on God and God alone.
Our desire is not for be for money and all that it can provide. This seems implicit in being content, but when we look at the world around us and we see all that can be had. When we see all that which money can buy, when we see the things which those who have more than us acquire, it is hard to not want, to not desire, that which we do not have, to strive to gain more things, thinking that they will make our lives better, easier, that there is profit in their gain. But there is no profit in the desire to gain that which is not needed. To want to be rich, to have more, is a trap. It’s a trap which is a sinking hole continuing to suck us in, causing us bit by bit, one more thing at a time to want more and more. There is no end to this kind of desire, it is insatiable and unending. There is always more to be had, always something else to gain. There always another item which we can acquire. In this unending circle of want, and gain; desire and acquisition, the focus on the gain of material things and riches leads to ruin and destruction. There is truly no real profit in.
The corollary to this rule is that the ultimate result of the desire for wealth and the acquisition of things is that we will wander away from the faith. Since the ultimate goal is godliness, the point toward which we are aiming is God, the center of our life is Jesus Christ. This is not only seen when our goal or our aim is godliness, but in other things in life as well. This drifting toward where our focus is, can be seen when driving. Our focus is forward toward where we are going and as long as we continue looking forward we will move in that direction. When we shift our focus, when we look at something off to the side, we will find that we will shift our direction and begin to drift toward where our focus is. This is the same when we are walking or running. If you move your focus from where you are heading, you will begin to move in the direction you are looking. When it comes to our lives as Christians, if our focus is shifted off of God onto anything else, we will begin to head toward that that which we are focusing. If our desire is for riches, wealth, or the things which they can provide, our focus no longer remains on God and we will move away from the acquisition of godliness, we will wander from the faith, and we will find ourselves lost when it comes to the things of God.
The rules of Acquisition go on to discuss how we should think about the money and riches that we do have. The first rule of which we should be aware when it comes to owning, having wealth, is that we are to not be haughty. That is that we are to never think of ourselves as better than someone else because of the things which we have gained here on earth. We are not to find pride in the material things which we possess, we are not to see what we have, as making us superior to those around us who do not have what we have. Our money, our wealth, our things, and our possession of them does not make us better than those who do not have what we have. To ever come to believe that those who do not possess the things which our wealth affords us is due to moral failure or ultimate character flaw in another is the kind of haughty thinking which is to be avoided.
Since we know that our wealth, and all that we acquire here on earth is ultimately of no value, to then to believe that simply in the having of it, results in our possessing more value than another or that we possess these things because we are morally superior or more righteous in anyway, is to conflate our wealth with godliness. The only thing which adds value to ourselves is godliness, as seen in righteousness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness, which is what we are to pursue because these are the only things which endure beyond this world.
The next rule, for those who know the riches which having can bring, is that we are not to put our hope in these things. They are not that which will bring us joy or peace, or happiness. Finding hope in these things will not bring contentment. We are to be content with that which we have, not find hope in them. Seeking hope in wealth is seeking something in it, which it cannot ultimately provide. Hope can truly only be found in Jesus Christ. Setting our hope on money, creates in us the same down falls as setting our desires on acquiring the things which money can provide, it is an empty hole which will never be filled and always require more and more, until it has taken all, creating in us more and more discontentment, restlessness and it results in a joyless hopeless life. Seeking hope in the things which we have acquired in this world will ultimately lead to nothing more and nothing less than hope-less-ness.
All that we own beyond that which is needed to survive, food, shelter, clothing, water and warmth, are things which we have that for our enjoyment and even (perhaps especially) that which brings enjoyment is given, is provided to us by God. These things are not ours of which to be proud. And again when we pass from this world, like all else, they will remain. As a rule these things are not for us and for us alone, these are things which are given to us for a purpose.
These things of enjoyment are given to us, so that we might afford to do good; so that we are able to be rich in good works, and that we might be generous and ready to share. We are to be seeking to help those around us. This is the opposite of being haughty, and comes from finding hope in that ONE who gave all, so that we might live. Realizing that our prosperity is given so that we may work to bring enjoyment to those around us, who might not have more than what is necessary in life, to raise them up and allow them the small enjoyments of life, of which we are familiar. These are not ours to keep and to hoard, they are ours with which to be generous, to share and to give so that our blessings may be the blessings of others, that through us God can give to others.
Finally the last rule of acquisition is the most important, that is that we are to at all times, “take hold of the life that is really life.” (I love that phrase – take hold of life that is really life). Live the life that is worth living. A life of working to gain all the things that can be gained and are worth gaining, that is righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. The life that is really life is what we truly gain when we live by the “Rules of Acquisition” as spelled out in this passage.
When we live by these rules which govern our relationship with money, our relationship with money will enhance our relationship with God instead of being a hindrance to our faith and will lead to godliness.