Money Matters

The Apostle Paul wrote two letters to Timothy, his son in the faith, who was a church leader in the Ephesus congregation. The First Epistle, possibly written from Philippi in 64 A.D. addressed church administration and discipline, principally to counter false teaching. One of the issues that Paul raised with Timothy concerns money, its utility and power (1Tim 6:6-10). Contentment consists of a state of mind and heart that betrays our outlook in our identity and materialism; either way, one may be discontented with having too little or too much! To be contented in whatever circumstances is to particularly discover freedom from an acquisitive desire for material things. After all, we all realise that these objects are transient and their existence is meant to meet certain needs in space and time, as distinguished from a propensity towards extravagance (1Tim 6:7-8; c.f., Job 1:21). Greed is never far from the fallen human heart, and once drawn into its cycle of desiring after wealth this world has to offer, it is characteristically destructive and harmful to our faith; viz., Paul’s conclusion is that the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil (1Tim 6:9-10).

Furthermore, apart from doing whatever is humanly possible on turning one’s back from the lure of money, the Apostle encourages Timothy to pursue after eternal values like righteousness, godliness, faith, love, with perseverance and gentleness. Why were these instructions to Timothy needed? Principally, these were directed towards leadership in the Christian community. The New Testament era had bred its own plethora of itinerant preachers who went from congregation to congregation, charging a fee or eliciting a donation for preaching the gospel or promulgating different doctrines (1Tim 6:3-4; c.f., 3John 5-12). Timothy was exhorted to flee from these temptations, possibly to support himself (1Tim 6:11). Hence, to fight the good fight of the faith does not only mean repudiating the spiritual errors that were being promoted in the churches but also being faithful to his call that started him off in his journey of conviction and commitment to God before many witnesses by following Christ’s sacrificial example. Furthermore, our loving focus and patient expectation of Christ’s second coming will spur us in our desire to faithfully follow Him at all costs, and will quash any tempting exigencies extant in this world, irrespective of ecclesiological or mundane goals (1Tim 6:12-14; c.f., Matt 6:19-21; Col 3:9-10). Where our heart is, there will be our treasure! Alas, Paul’s punch-line concludes for us the intent of our focus – God Himself, the only One who possesses immortality and who dwells in unapproachable light, the King of kings and the Lord of lords, whom no man has seen (1Tim 6:15-16). Either our primary focus in life is God Himself, or it is likely that our faith in Him is being progressively compromised.

Nevertheless, the Apostle had some advice for wealthy believers (1Tim 6:17-19). Income inequality within the church community is as pronounced as it is in the world at large, and Paul charged Timothy to instruct the more well-to-do members to not flaunt their wealth nor despise her poorer members but to be trustworthy stewards of His blessing in their generosity towards others. Quite apart from being pragmatic about their wealth, God, who is the source of their affluence, is to be the centre of their hope. Then Paul said something quite remarkable: “….. and ready to share, storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed.” A casual reading may imply a reward-based practice but it does not imply that. Since God is the giver of life, our generosity reflects His giving nature and the depth of our intimacy and honourable relationship with Him, and through Him our responsible stewardship towards His people whom He inhabits and the needy at large. In Christ, it is always more blessed to give than to receive, and the denying of oneself in service to another is the basis of a dynamic discipleship with Christ, where He oversees our stewardship over our money and resources in all that He has blessed us with in this world (Acts 20:35; Matt 16:24-27; c.f., Matt 11:37-39). “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”