So, I was sitting in my office one morning and I was wondering to myself, “Can money buy happiness?” Now, that isn’t a new question, but it was a question that I thought was worth looking into. Especially after, if you remember, Pastor Casmer’s illustration about winning the lottery and having a cool hard 1.6 billion to spend. Personally, buying a few islands is on my bucket list…Thus it was with a flourish I began searching the world wide web for answers and this is what I discovered. Maybe. Maybe money buys happiness.
A couple of the articles online said that studies show to a certain point money buys happiness, but then it drops off—apparently once you’re making more than 200k you no longer get happier. Other studies said money buys happiness if you use it properly, and the focus there was using your money to buy experiences with friends and family—things that you can remember, things that last longer than a few moments. What really interested me in these articles were the comments at the end. It seemed like every person commenting disagreed wholeheartedly, “Of course money buys happiness!” “Are you kidding me!” And so I wondered who is right? Does money buy happiness?
Paul answers that question in our lesson from 1 Timothy. “Godliness with contentment is great gain.” he writes. Paul is writing to his younger coworker and fellow pastor Timothy. He is giving him instruction and advice on how to live and do ministry. It’s kind of like if the two more seasoned, more experienced, and dare I say it, older Pastors here at Christ the Lord would have decided to write a letter to help me get situated as a new pastor in the ministry. And one of the things they wrote to me is that being a pastor, being a minister of the gospel isn’t a job a person gets into to make a lot of money, but instead their advice to me is that godliness with contentment is great gain, but in the end this advice isn’t just for me, it is for all people And so it is that Paul is telling Timothy and us that true godliness, that is faith in Christ Jesus, together with a life that faith produces brings true contentment and great gain to the believer.
Great gain in what way? Not in that it will bring us financial riches. Not in that it will bring us success here on this earth necessarily, a good job, a nice home or things like that. But Paul points out what about those things? He says “For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.” I don’t know if any of you have ever seen a child or you yourself were born with possessions in your hands. I don’t think any of us were born with a smartphone in hand. If you were, that’s a little strange. What’s more I don’t know if any of us, as I mentioned, will die with our possessions in hand. The ancient Egyptians tried to bring their possessions with them into the afterlife, but all those wonderful possessions which they gathered and buried with them are now in museums…so I guess we have them to thank for that, but their possessions are now ours, not theirs
And that’s the point. your earthly possessions in the end don’t gain you anything. So, Paul says be content with what you have “But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that,” he writes. Food and clothing is all a person really needs. Is it basic? Yes. Is it flashy and fun? No. Yet, it is all we need.
Now, please don’t misunderstand Paul, Paul isn’t hinting to us that we need to get rid of all our stuff and learn to live on the bare minimum like a monk or nun. If you have a nice house, enjoy it. If you have extra money to go out to eat or travel, do it. Use the blessings God has given you, but heed Paul’s warning in the next two verses. “People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men 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.” We know this to be true.
When we covet what others have, not only do we show our lack of contentment with what God has given us, but we open the door for a multitude of other sins as we steal, cheat, or lie to gain what belongs to them. This doesn’t only ruin and destroy friendships, but it edges us closer to the cliff that leads to eternal destruction. In our families it is the same. Often we find ourselves seeing money as a safety net for the future or as a way to keep children and spouses happy, but in our desire to provide and care for what do we end up doing? We neglect, we anger, or even abuse the ones whom we love
When we place our trust in our material possessions and look to them for safety and security we stand on the edge of that cliff as we’ve replaced God with an idol. And when we seek wealth and possessions because we are uncontent with what God has given we dangle our feet over that cliff, despising and dishonoring our God who tells us to ask, seek, and knock and he will answer.
If we continue in those sins, if we continue to have a covetous heart and an uncontent spirit we will plunge off that cliff and we will plunge to an eternal ruin and eternal destruction from which there is no return. Paul recognizes the temptation that riches present, he knows that so many people, including us, often see money as something that will gain us happiness, and so he tells us to flee from that temptation. To run far from it and have nothing to do with it. And instead to pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.
Why pursue those things? Because they keep us away from that cliff. They gain us a healthy relationship with our God. When you are studying God’s Word, when you are obeying God’s commands When you are showing love to your friends and your enemies, when you endure patiently sufferings, and when you are gentle and kind to all when you are pursing and living that Godly life you aren’t playing by the cliff of sin.
It’s like when you listen to your parents. Children, when you listen to your parents do they punish you? No, why would they? Parents, what kind of home is your home when your children listen to you? It is a happy one a joyful one. So it is with our God. When we listen to him and shut out those things that tempt us, will he punish us and send consequences? No, instead he promises blessing, In Proverbs we read, “whoever listens to me will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm.” But there is more…
When you pursue a godly life you are doing two things: You are putting yourself in a position where the Holy Spirit can strengthen and grow your faith; A position where you can grow in your knowledge of your Lord and Savior. You are showing thanks to God for what he has given you. You are showing you are content with what God has given you. And what do you gain? Through faith in Christ you gain eternal life. And so as Christians we fight. We fight to take hold of this prize
“Fight the good fight of Faith” Paul writes to Timothy. Not only is Timothy told to continue to flee from those things which pull him over the cliff of sin, he is urged to fight for his faith when necessary. Notice this is a “good” fight. It is a worthwhile fight. It is a fight over a faith that will far outlast all the temporal benefits and riches of this world And that faith consists of this…That we fear love and trust in God above all things. That we recognize that we can trust that Christ came to save sinners, and that our hope is in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe.
Believing this puts us in the good fight of faith. That fight is against the devil who prowls around like a roaring lion. The devil seeks to beat us; to drag us back to the cliff and toss us plunging into the abyss of hell. He has done this too much of the world by creating false doctrine and false religions that call for placing faith in someone or something other than Christ. We might think to ourselves “that is something I will never do.” I will never deny my faith I will never place my trust in something or someone else” Yet, isn’t that exactly what Peter said before he heard that rooster crow, and realized he had denied his Savior.
Fighting the good fight of faith means that we do not trust in ourselves when faced with temptation, doubt, and fear. It means we look to our God who promises us his Spirt and with the sword of the Spirit, with the Word of God we calmly and defiantly stand up to the all those who seek to turn us from Christ. And we respond to their temptations as Jesus did in the wilderness by saying “it is written”
Brothers and Sisters, fight that good fight! Fight it because you know just how important it is, and then take hold of the eternal life to which you were called at your baptism to which you were called through God’s lifesaving Word. Think of your most important possessions, maybe it’s your children, maybe a spouse, a pet, or something of great value. Would you not fight tooth and nail to keep it? To protect it? To hold on to it? Of course you would! Well, that eternal life which you all have through faith in Christ Jesus, that will outlast all those things. It is a gift given freely to you, it is a gift gained through the sacrifice of God’s own son. It is a gift that all of us will take hold of when we join our Father, and all the believers of this world in the kingdom of heaven for all eternity.
So, I ask you, “Does money buy happiness? “Who cares.” Let us put our time and effort into something that will bring us great gain…eternal gain. Instead of focusing on our earthly wants. Let’s pursue our spiritual wants, an unshakable faith rooted in Christ, and a chest of spiritual weapons with which we can fight off the temptations of the devil, the world and our own sinful flesh. And let us take hold of that eternal life which we have gained through faith in Jesus.
Like Paul to Timothy I charge you and also myself…. To keep this command, to flee from all this, that is the love of money and all other evils, to be content, and instead to pursue godliness, fighting the good fight of faith, so as to take hold of eternal life. Keep this command until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ… which God will bring about in his own time—God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen.
He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.