Sermon for September 25, 2022, Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost

1 Timothy 6:6-10 (Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost—Series C)

“We Find Our Contentment in Christ”

Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT

September 25, 2022

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Our journey through 1 Timothy concludes this week as we give our attention to chapter 6. But before we jump into the final chapter of Paul’s First Letter to Timothy, you might be wondering, what about chapters three, four, and five? Well, those who set up the lectionary readings moved us through the book very quickly. But for some context, in chapter three Paul tells Timothy what God’s qualifications are for pastors and church elders. In chapter four, Timothy is warned that “in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons,through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared,who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth” (1 Tim. 4:1–3 ESV). In light of this, Paul encourages Timothy to devote himself to “the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching” (4:13). Finally, chapter five gives instructions for the Church—honor widows and care for them, support your pastor in Christ, and beginning in chapter six, let slaves honor their masters so that the name of God and the teaching may not be reviled (6:1).

This brings us, then, to these words in our Epistle text: “But godliness with contentment is a great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and neither can we take anything out of it, but having food and clothing, we will be content with these. But those who want to be rich fall into temptation and a trap and many senseless and harmful desires which plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all the evils, which some, by striving for it, have wandered from the faith and have pierced themselves with many pains.” What does God have in store for us as we unpack these words? Let me begin to answer that question by directing you to Martin Luther’s Large Catechism on the Fourth Petition, “Give us this day our daily bread.”

“Here, now, we consider the poor breadbasket, the necessities of our body and of the temporal life. It is a brief and simple word, but it has a very wide scope. For when you mention and pray for daily bread, you pray for everything that is necessary in order to have and enjoy daily bread. On the other hand, you also pray against everything that interferes with it. Therefore, you must open wide and extend your thoughts not only to the oven or the flour bin, but also to the distant field and the entire land, which bears and brings to us daily bread and every sort of nourishment. For if God did not cause food to grow and He did not bless and preserve it in the field, we could never take bread from the oven or have any to set upon the table. To sum things up, this petition includes everything that belongs to our entire life in the world, for we need daily bread because of life alone.”[1]

“Give us this day our daily bread.” “Lord, give us everything that we need for this body and earthly life. And lead us to remember and give thanks to you for all of it.” When we pray this petition, we look to God for what we need each day so that we don’t worry about the future. We pray that we would find contentment with what we have received. Are you always content with what God has given to you for this life? Are you always satisfied with what you already have? In Star Wars, Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, Anakin Skywalker is struggling. He says, “Something’s happening. I’m not the Jedi I should be. I want more. And I know I shouldn’t.” Whether intended or not, this fictional character demonstrates the very desires of our sinful nature. As a fallen creature, you and I are always inclined to want more than God has lavishly given to us. Adam and Eve in the garden were tempted to want more. They literally had it all, a pristine paradise with all their physical needs completely met and abundantly satisfied. God was present with them, in communion and harmony with them. But the lure of the serpent was for more: “You can be like God.” Not content to be God’s crown of creation, His beloved creatures, Adam and Eve wanted God’s position. They were not satisfied with what God had given them, full and abundant life with all their physical needs met without the back-breaking labors that we know now in our fallen state.

Like our first parents, and all who have come before us, we too lack contentment with what we have. We are not always satisfied with what God has given. We are not always content because we don’t have what we think we should. There has been a cultural shift over the decades and so we find ourselves in a society in which the norm is entitlement. Rather than humbly receiving from God that which He is more than pleased to give to us—everything we need to support this body and life—we wrongly believe that we deserve it. We’re owed it. We’re entitled to it. Like Anakin Skywalker, we’re not the people God wants us to be. We want more. More money, more pleasure, more popularity, more power over others, more glorification, more stuff. More, more, always more. In the end, we would each just as soon as be our own god. O how we are linked in our fallen condition to the sin of Adam and Eve!

The temptation led to the trap and the trap to the desires for more, to be like God, not satisfied with what God gives according to His grace and mercy. And those desires, that lack of contentment with our daily bread, “plunges” us into “ruin and destruction.” The ultimate of which is eternal death. Listen to God’s Word carefully here, “But those who want to be rich fall into temptation and a trap and many senseless and harmful desires which plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all the evils, which some, by striving for it, have wandered from the faith and have pierced themselves with many pains.” Look at the graphic language the apostle uses here. Our lack of contentment, our desires for more, our lack of trust in God providing our daily bread is said to effect a “piercing” with many pains. Paul likens this to impalement, to being pierced through, perhaps with a spear. Those who become obsessed with gaining more and more of life’s riches as they chase after their dream of wealth encounter many pains—personal emotional torments of unfulfilled dreams of wealth, damaged reputations to the relationships destroyed when desire for wealth overrules brotherly love.

This is not God’s desire for people. He promises to give us daily bread, even as He invites us to pray for the things that we need to support this body and life. What do we enter the world with? Nothing. What do we take out of this world? Nothing. Everything for this world is gifted to us by God in this world. “Having food and clothing, we will be content with these.” But we’re not always content and satisfied. We want more of the things of the world and seek after it with all our might. Job said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. Yahweh gave, and Yahweh has taken away; blessed be the name of Yahweh” (Job 1:21). Doesn’t this put life into an earthly perspective? Our desires and wants for more wealth, more things, more popularity, more contentment on this side of heaven ends at the grave. You can’t take it with you. As I watched clips from Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral and burial, I was struck by the removal of the crown, the scepter, and the orb from her casket. These earthly symbols of Her Majesty were not hers to keep. They were removed and placed on the chapel altar. She no longer needs them. Rather, she has received through faith in Jesus a better crown, a heavenly one. For like all of us, our sister in Christ Elizabeth is an eternal person. We are eternal people. Human life begins in a temporal or earthly mode, but we are destined for eternity.

You and I can be content with our daily bread, all that we need to support this body and life, as we look forward to life forever with God in a new paradise, a new Eden. We set our hopes not on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy (1 Tim. 6:17). We are eternal people destined for eternal, heavenly things. God has promised to restore to us what was lost in the Fall into sin—a perfect life with Him forevermore.

“Godliness with contentment is a great gain,” the apostle writes. Godliness is not about acquiring better and more material things. It is an active life of faith, a living out of this faith in relationship to God, which finds contentment in Christ alone, no matter what our earthly circumstances might be. 2 Corinthians 8:9, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.” Your wealth is in the eternal life you have now through the very forgiveness of your sins. Your riches are in the forgiveness for your lack of contentment in what God freely gives. Your treasure is in the restoration of your relationship to Him as your Father in heaven and you as His dear child. Jesus Christ, God’s Son, endured being pierced through for you so that you might be rescued from the pains of sin and death. Jesus died your death, suffered your condemnation, and rose victorious from death and the grave so that you have eternal life in the very presence of the God who also provides your daily bread. Left to our sinful natures, we plunge ourselves into ruin and destruction. But Christ takes us and plunges us into Baptismal waters, washing us clean of our love of money, cleansing us from our senseless and harmful desires. He presents us to our heavenly Father spotless, wearing Jesus’ own righteousness like a robe. And it is this heavenly Father, through His Son, who invites us to pray to Him and ask as dear children ask their dear fathers, “Give us this day our daily bread.”

With faith in Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit, you and I are enabled to “keep [our lives] free from love of money, and be content with what [we] have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’” (Heb. 13:5 ESV). Like the apostle Paul, we are able to learn contentment in earthly things. Writing to the Philippian Christians, he said, “For I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:11–13 ESV). Through the Gospel and the Sacrament of Christ’s Body and Blood, Jesus does strengthen you in faith so that you can be content with the great gifts God does give you every day. You can be satisfied with the basics, if need be, because you have Christ and the assurance that God is working for you according to His grace here and now even as He has a place prepared for you in His new creation, Eden restored.

Your heavenly Father’s mercies are new to you every morning. In Christ and through Christ, He received you as His dear children and provides for all your needs of body and soul. By the power and grace of the Holy Spirit, we find our contentment in Jesus, in the gifts of God that He gives us every day. In faith, you and I heartily acknowledge His merciful goodness, give thanks for all His benefits, and serve Him in willing obedience until that day with are with Him who is our God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

     [1] Paul Timothy McCain, ed., Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions (St. Louis: Concordia, 2005), 417.

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