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(1 Tim 6:6-10) Freedom from the Trap of Loving Wealth


Freedom from the Trap of Loving Wealth

But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

1 Timothy 6:6-10

How can we be free from the trap of loving wealth?

In 1 Timothy 6:3-5, Paul warns Timothy about false teachers in the church who cause conflict and think godliness is a means of financial gain. In 1 Timothy 6:6-10, he continues that thought by encouraging Timothy to not love money because it is a trap with inherent dangers. Satan uses it to control and rule the world, and even to destroy many Christians.

Throughout Scripture, there are many warnings about the dangers of wealth. Moses warned Israel about the temptation to forget God after they entered the land of Canaan and became wealthy (Deut 6:10-12). Christ said it was easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for the rich to enter the kingdom of God (Matt 19:24). He also taught that the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of riches tend to choke God’s Word and keep people from ever producing fruit (Matt 13:22).

The problem with wealth is that we have a tendency to idolize it and put our trust in it. Paul will later address the wealthy in the church in 1 Timothy 6:17. He says,

Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.

The Bible does not just warn us of the dangers of loving money, it also gives many tragic examples of those who loved it. Lot’s love for wealth led him to Sodom where he lost not only his wealth but his family—his wife turned to a pillar of salt and his daughters raped him. Achan’s love for money brought defeat to Israel and death to his family. Judas betrayed Christ for silver. Demas left Paul because he loved this present world—possibly referring to the wealth of it. Paul says in 1 Timothy 6:9-10 that the love of money is a trap and some even wandered away from the faith because of it.

Now money in itself is not bad, it can be used for good and bad. Abraham was wealthy but his wealth did not have his heart. Joseph and David were wealthy as well. However, they are exceptions. Early in John Wesley’s life, he said that he knew exactly four men whose religion did not decline because of wealth. Later, he corrected that statement and made no exception.[1] Very few can have wealth and not fall in love with it.

In Matthew 6:24, Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” We can’t love both God and money—only one of them can be our master. No doubt, it for this reason that Satan constantly tries to draw people after it through the TV, commercials, social pressure, and the examples of the successful in society. Even with Eve, he essentially drew her away from God by wealth. This is a temptation for us as well.

How can we protect ourselves from the trap of loving wealth that injures so many? In 1 Timothy 6:8-10, we’ll see five principles that, if practiced, will help us gain freedom from the love of wealth.

Big Question: How can one gain freedom from the trap of loving wealth according to 1 Timothy 6:8-10?

To Be Free from the Love of Wealth, We Must Pursue Godliness

But godliness with contentment is great gain.

1 Timothy 6:6

Again, Paul is presenting a contrast with the false teachers who believed that godliness was a means of gain (v. 5). Of course when Paul said godliness—he meant false piety or pretense. False teachers pretend to be godly and profess religion in order to make money. Paul declares that true godliness with contentment is in fact great gain—though normally not financial gain. He essentially was calling Timothy to turn away from pursuing wealth, as the false teachers did, and to instead pursue godliness.

This is echoes Paul’s earlier challenge for Timothy to “discipline himself unto godliness because it has value for this life and the next” (4:7-8, paraphrase). If Timothy was to be kept from the temptation to love and pursue wealth which was dominant not only in the world culture but the church, he must instead pursue godliness. Godliness means “god-likeness.” Where loving wealth tends to draw people into temptation and a snare (6:8), pursuing godliness is true gain. It provides blessing not only for our own life but also our family and peers. In addition, it leads to eternal reward and riches.

How should Timothy pursue godliness? As 1 Timothy 4:7 says, he must make it his constant discipline. He must exercise himself to godliness. He must practice spiritual disciplines like constant prayer, time in the Word, fellowship with the saints, and serving. As he does this, it will deliver him from pursuing wealth and the temptations and traps that come with it.

It is very similar to Romans 12:2: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” If we are not actively fighting against the pattern of this world and seeking to transform our mind, we will be swallowed up in it. We, like many others who once professed Christ, can be turned away from our pursuit of him for the things of this world.

As we consider this, we must ask if our overarching pursuit is “becoming godly” or is it “becoming wealthy”? For many, wealth dictates which school to go to, which neighborhood to live, which job to take, who their friends are, and who they marry instead of God. Christ said that we can only have one master God or Money. If we are going to gain freedom from the trap of loving wealth, we must pursue godliness. We must seek first the kingdom of heaven and its righteousness (Matt 6:33).

Application Question: Why can we not pursue godliness and wealth at the same time?

To Be Free from the Love of Wealth, We Must Learn Contentment

But godliness with contentment is great gain.

1 Timothy 6:6

Where false teachers used religion as a means of gain, Paul again says that true godliness with contentment is great gain. We cannot pursue godliness alone, it must be godliness and contentment. They come together.

Contentment is a virtue that alludes most—including Christians. Like the famous song by the Rolling Stones, people declare, “I can’t get no satisfaction!” How can one develop contentment? First, let us ask ourselves, “Are we content?”

Application Question: How can we know if we are content?

1. We can tell if we are content by our shopping habits. Are we constantly shopping—needing more clothes, electronic gadgets, and things for the house? If so, we are not content.

2. We can tell if we are content by how we respond to material loss. If we have tremendous grief over the loss of a phone, a purse, an electronic device, or a house, then we probably aren’t content.

3. We can tell if we are content by our response to material gain. If we gain an inordinate amount of pleasure by gaining material things, then we probably lack contentment.

Application Question: Why is it so hard to remain content?

1. It’s hard to remain content because society breeds discontent.

Eve had everything in the garden, but Satan approached her with the one thing she didn’t have—the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. He tempted her with the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life until she had to have it. In the same way, the world system, which is ran by Satan, constantly tempts everybody. We need this body, this type of skin, this type of education, this type of job, this type of house, this type of car, etc. It says if we obtain these things we’ll be satisfied, popular, and accepted. For these reasons, people are constantly depressed and discontent. They don’t like their phones, their jobs, their homes, or even their bodies. Plus, when we finally get what the world says we must have, the world comes out with something new or a different standard to feed our discontent. Like Eve, most people in the world are in a constant pursuit of something that they don’t have.

2. It’s hard to remain content because material things can never bring true contentment.

Ecclesiastes 5:10 says, “Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income. This too is meaningless.”

MacArthur adds,

Love of money and contentment are mutually exclusive. As a Roman proverb put it, money is like sea water, the more you drink the thirstier you get (Barclay, The Letters to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon, 132).”[2]

Man has a God-sized gulf in them that only God can satisfy. If we don’t fill it with God, we’ll try to fill it with everything else which can only leave us dry.

Application Question: How can we develop contentment?

1. To be content, we must recognize and rely on God’s sufficiency.

The word for “contentment” Paul chose was used by stoics. It referred to a person who was unaffected by circumstances surrounding him. It can be translated “self-sufficiency.” However, Paul Christianized the word, as he used it in Philippians 4:11-13. He said,

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

Paul could be content in wealth or poverty because of Christ’s strength. Some might think it is easy to be content when having plenty, but this is not true. It is the elite wealthy who are more prone to commit suicide. What do you do when you have everything and yet it doesn’t satisfy you? Only relying on Christ can help the rich and the poor be content.

Something similar is shared in Hebrew 13:5. It says, “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’” How can one stay away from the love of money and be content? By recognizing and relying on God’s presence—he will never leave or forsake us. Again, the temptation with money or things is to rely on them and take comfort in them; however, our real comfort and protection comes from God. Relying on him delivers us from the rat race of more—more of this and more of that.

Are you relying on God or your bank account, job, or some special relationship? Relying on anything or anyone other than God will lead to a life of discontent because they can’t satisfy.

2. To be content, we must trust in God’s sovereignty.

Scripture teaches that God works “all things” according to the purpose of his will (Eph 1:11) and that he works “all things” for our good (Romans 8:28). If we don’t believe this, then we won’t remain content when going through hardship and difficulty. The reason Job didn’t blame God when Satan attacked his wealth, family, and health is because he saw his trials as coming from the gracious hand of God. He said, “The Lord gives and he takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21, paraphrase). He trusted in God’s sovereignty.

If we don’t have trust in God’s sovereignty, we will always be in a state of discontentment. We’ll see evil people, Satan, and even chance working against us and maybe even thwarting God’s plan. It will cause anger, bitterness, and discontent. To be content, we must trust in God’s sovereignty—he is in control of all and working it all for our good.

Do you trust in God’s sovereignty?

3. To be content, we must learn to give thanks to God in everything.

One of our problems is that we often cultivate our own discontentment and others’ by constantly grumbling and complaining. By complaining and grumbling, our discontent grows. However, Scripture commands us to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thess 5:18). This is a discipline that we must practice when going through bad times and good times. Again, we can give thanks because we believe that everything is under the power of an all-powerful and all-wise God who is working everything for our good.

Do you practice giving thanks or complaining?

By relying on God, trusting his sovereignty, and giving thanks to him, we can gain contentment. Are you content?

Application Question: How would you rate your level of contentment 1-10 and why? How is God calling you to grow in contentment?

To Be Free from the Love of Wealth, We Must Develop an Eternal Perspective

For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.

1 Timothy 6:7

“Before Alexander the Great died, he said: ‘When I am dead, carry me forth on my bier, with my hands not wrapped in cloth, but laid outside, so that all may see that they are empty.’”[3] The reality is that when we die, we leave everything behind. Sadly, most people store up wealth as though they are taking it with them. Because of this reality, Jesus said this in Matthew 6:19-20:

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.

Christ’s logic was that we shouldn’t store up on this earth because everything we gain is temporary. It will eventually be destroyed or stolen (or left behind). Therefore, we should focus on storing up for eternity.

If we are going to be delivered from the love of wealth, we must recognize how temporary earthly wealth is and focus on eternal wealth. In Luke 16:9-12, Christ said: "I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings."

Instead of storing up wealth on earth to leave behind, we should send our blessings ahead. By using our money to expand the kingdom through giving to church and missions and practicing hospitality, we will not only store up riches in heaven but gain friends there. Christ pictures a great heavenly welcome as those who have benefited from our use of money welcome us home.

What is your focus? Are you storing up wealth in heaven or on earth? Only an eternal focus will deliver you from the trap of living for money.

Application Question: How can we practice the discipline of not storing up on earth—what does it look like? How can we practice the discipline of storing our wealth in heaven—what are some wise ways to do this?

To Be Free from the Love of Wealth, We Must Learn to Live Simply

But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.

1 Timothy 6:8

Observation Question: What does Paul say is necessary for contentment?

Paul says that in order to not love wealth, we must learn to be content with food and clothing. “Clothing” in the Greek simple means “covering” so it probably also refers to housing. With food, clothing, and housing, believers should be content. These are the same things that Christ called the disciples to not worry about in Matthew 6. He said, “Don’t worry about what you will eat, drink, or wear for God knows that you have need of these things. Seek first God’s Kingdom and all these things will be added to you” (paraphrase). God promises to provide our necessities, and therefore, we shouldn’t worry about them. He doesn’t promise us luxuries, only necessities, and we should be content with his provisions, even if they’re humble.

Paul is not establishing the maximum necessary for contentment but the minimum. God provides us with everything for our enjoyment (1 Tim 6:17). He wants us to have good things and many times he gives us those things and we should be thankful for them. It is not God’s will for his people to live in extreme poverty; he promises to always provide our needs as we seek his kingdom first (Matt 6:33). Similarly, David declared that he had never seen the children of the righteous begging for bread (Ps 37:25). However, even when only our basic provisions are met, we must learn to be content and thankful.

Application Question: How can we learn to live simply?

1. We must learn to distinguish between wants and needs.

For many of us, we treat our wants like needs. If we can reasonably survive without them, then they aren’t needs. God has promised to meet our needs not our wants. Living simply starts with asking the question, “What are our needs?”

2. We must practice sacrifice.

As we distinguish between wants and needs, at times we should choose to go without. Christ commanded us not to store up riches in order to guard our hearts—for wherever are treasures are so our hearts will be also (Matt 6:19-21). Instead of getting a new phone or pair of shoes, we must ask the Lord if he would rather us give to missions or support somebody in need. Instead of getting a brand new car, maybe we get a used or cheaper one so we can give more. In order to learn to live simply, we must practice sacrifice.

In what ways are you practicing sacrificial living?

3. We must discipline ourselves to spend less than we earn.

Sadly, this is something that needs to be said. Many people in trying to fulfill their wants, spend more than they make and go into all types of debt. The ease of spending with credit cards or taking on loans (including school and house loans) makes this a difficult temptation. Many who are in debt will never get out of it. If we are going to learn to live simply, we must discipline ourselves to spend less than we make.

Proverbs 30:7-9 says:

“Two things I ask of you, LORD; do not refuse me before I die: Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.

Have you learned to live simply? In order to do so, we must discern our wants, practice sacrifice, and spend less than we make. This will protect us from the trap of loving wealth.

Application Question: How is God challenging you to live simply? In what ways can you practice being more sacrificial?

To Be Free from the Love of Wealth, We Must Recognize the Dangers of Desiring It

Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

1 Timothy 6:9-10

Finally, Paul warns Timothy about the dangers that come with loving money. Love of money actually translates “affection for silver.”[4] Understanding the dangers of this love would help keep Timothy (and us) from following the path of the false teachers who pursued godliness as a means of gain.

Observation Question: What are the dangers of loving money?

1. Love of money causes people to fall into a temptation and trap.

The present tense of “fall” means a continual falling.[5] The desire to gain more wealth causes people to continually fall into temptations. The trap metaphor pictures a person as an animal being caught and controlled. In the same way, the love of money tempts and traps people—controlling their lives.

MacArthur elaborates on this:

Desiring to be rich leads a man into temptation. In order to achieve his goal, he is enticed to use dishonest and often violent methods. Such methods include gambling, speculation, fraud, perjury, theft, and even murder. Such a man also falls into a snare or a trap. The desire becomes so strong that he cannot deliver himself from it. Perhaps he promises himself that when he reaches a certain figure in the bank account he will stop.

2. The love of money leads people into many foolish and harmful desires.

People fall into foolish lust like trying to keep up with the “Joneses.” If their friend gets a new phone, they must have one. If their neighbor gets a new car, so must they. This foolish desire often leads to harm as people fall into debt, jealousy, and even conflict.

How foolish is it for a person to purchase tons of clothes or shoes that rarely or never get worn? How foolish is it for a person to have garages and attics full of stuff that never gets used and yet still be purchasing new stuff? How foolish is it for a person to work so hard that they neglect their family—leading to their children resenting them? And yet, this happens all the time. The love of money blinds and leads people into foolish and harmful desires.

3. The love of money plunges people into ruin and destruction.

When he says “ruin and destruction,” he probably refers to ruin in this life and eternal destruction in the next. The consequences of loving money are damning. Jesus asked, “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?” (Mark 8:36).

To reinforce the dangers of money he quotes a famous ancient proverb: “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” (10a). It has been found in varying forms in both Greek and Jewish literature.[6]

It must be remembered that one can choose the “root” but not the fruit. If we choose the root of loving money over God, since we can’t love both, it will produce hazardous fruits in our lives. Pastor Steve Cole illustrates this by showing how the root of coveting, as seen in the tenth commandment, can make us break the other the nine (cf. Ex 20:13-17). Consider:

Commandment 1: “You shall have no other gods before Me.” Jesus said, “You cannot serve God and mammon.” Either money is your god, or God is your God.

Commandment 2: “You shall not make for yourself an idol ...” Colossians 3:5, “Greed, which amounts to idolatry.”

Commandment 3: “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.” How many people have cursed when they have lost a lot of money?

Commandment 4: “Keep the sabbath day holy.” Many are too busy pursuing riches to set aside one day each week for the Lord.

Commandment 5: “Honor your father and mother.” It is common for the love of money to set children against their parents, or even to kill them to get their money.

Commandment 6: “You shall not murder.” How often murder is because of money!

Commandment 7: “You shall not commit adultery.” How often a woman goes after another woman’s husband because she wants his money!

Commandment 8: “You shall not steal.” Robbery, theft, and fraud wouldn’t exist if people did not love money.

Commandment 9: “You shall not bear false witness.” How many lie in order to make money!

So the tenth commandment, “You shall not covet,” is, indeed, a root sin that can lead to many other sins. The first step toward destruction is when we don’t root out of our hearts the weed called “the love of money.”[7]

What root will you choose—the love of God or the love of money? Loving God will cause you to fulfill the rest of the commandments. The root of loving money will cause you to break them. The root you choose predicts the fruit—either life or death. What will you choose?

Application Question: Why is the love of money so dangerous? How have you seen or experienced the negative fruits of loving wealth?

Conclusion

How can we be free from the trap of loving wealth?

  1. To Be Free from the Love of Wealth, We Must Pursue Godliness

  2. To Be Free from the Love of Wealth, We Must Learn Contentment

  3. To Be Free from the Love of Wealth, We Must Develop an Eternal Perspective

  4. To Be Free from the Love of Wealth, We Must Learn to Live Simply

  5. To Be Free from the Love of Wealth, We Must Recognize the Dangers of Desiring It

[1] Accessed 9/10/2016 from https://bible.org/seriespage/lesson-22-love-money-1-timothy-69-10

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1995). 1 Timothy (p. 251). Chicago: Moody Press.

[3] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 2100). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[4] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1995). 1 Timothy (p. 256). Chicago: Moody Press.

[5] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1995). 1 Timothy (p. 254). Chicago: Moody Press.

[6] Stott, J. R. W. (1996). Guard the truth: the message of 1 Timothy & Titus (p. 152). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[7] Accessed 9/10/16 from https://bible.org/seriespage/lesson-22-love-money-1-timothy-69-10

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