Last night I wasn’t far from the convenience store that sold the over $400 million dollar lottery ticket to a guy who was on an errand to buy some hotdog buns. Without finding any, he decided to purchase $20 in lottery tickets instead. He won and has chosen to remain anonymous. I surveyed the charge conference members last night to see if anyone had an especially big grin on his face, hoping to spot the big winner. I know the UMC is against gambling, but, you know, the devil has had the money long enough. It’s time for Jesus to get his due! Without observing anyone with a rags-to-riches look on their face, I dared to press the issue and outright ask if anyone wanted to come forward and let us know they won. No takers!
But when reading the epistle text from I Timothy 6 for this coming Sunday, I see that we’re already rich enough: “Godliness with contentment is great gain (I Tim. 6:6).” There’s nothing wrong with money but loving it is “a,” not “the” root of all kinds of evil (6:10). There’s plenty of ways for money to lure us away from faith. I Timothy 6:10b says, “Some people people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” It’s not that life or poverty has attacked them with problems. They have “pierced themselves.” It’s fascinating, but true. We can want and want and want, and let our faith be replaced by fret, and pretty quickly we’re sunk spiritually and our financial condition is no better either. Our griefs are compounded.
In contrasting worry with faith, Jesus promoted the life of faith over an incessant desire for what we think that we need. He says in Matthew 6:33 “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” In essence Jesus is stating the same words that Paul so beautifully writes in I Timothy 6:17 Paul says, “Command those who are rich in this present age not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God…” and a moment later he really gives every church stewardship campaign a boost, “Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure… for the coming age,” and here’s the part that really lights me up – the “so that” at the end of verse 19: “so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.”
Wow, if I give generously and quit worrying about money and spotting lottery ticket winners to solve all the world’s ills then I will “take hold of the life that is truly life.” That is one of the greatest promises in the Bible! Who wouldn’t want the life that is truly life?
The best formula to gaining riches isn’t hitting the jackpot but giving what you have away. Listen to Luke 12:32-34 where Jesus says “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted…” Listen also to Jesus’ words in Luke 6:38, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Now, that’s a great formula for Godly gain!
Of course there was someone else with a different formula. They said the sure-fire way to get rich is to get 50 female pigs and put them together with 50 male deer. If you do it you’ll have 100 sows and bucks! Ouch! So sorry! No, the only certain formula to be content and blessed is not in the worrying or hoarding, but in the giving to and for God to a hurting world. Simple as that.
Someone was offered an option if they wanted to go to heaven or hell. First they visited hell. There were throngs of people sitting across from each other at banquet tables loaded with mounds of sumptuous food. Each person had 4-foot-long chopsticks in their hands. Everyone was emaciated, gaunt and starving even though the table was loaded down with a feast. Then the person went to visit heaven and, guess what, it was a nearly identical scene: throngs of people at banquet tables loaded with food with 4-foot-long chopsticks in their hands. The only difference is that all the people in heaven were well fed, happy, full to their heart’s content. The visitor asked why things were so different for the people in heaven than they were for the people in hell especially since the circumstances appeared the same. The answer was pretty simple. The people in hell were trying to feed themselves with their 4-foot-long chopsticks and physically couldn’t get the food in their mouths. The people in heaven used the same chopsticks to feed each other and were as happy as could be.
Where would you rather go – heaven or hell? If heaven, you’d better start practicing here! Taking hold of life that is truly life – giving is more important than getting! Amen!?!