Desiring God: Chapter Seven

Piper finds in Paul a Christian hedonist when it comes to money. First, I will summarize the content of the chapter. Second, I will comment.

1 Timothy 6:4-19 (New International Version)

http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1%20timothy%206:4-19;&version=31;

4he is conceited and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions 5and constant friction between men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.

 6But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 8But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. 9People 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. 10For 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.

Paul’s Charge to Timothy

 11But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. 12Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 13In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus, who while testifying before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you 14to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15which God will bring about in his own time—God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16who 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. 17Command 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. 18Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 19In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.

 Summary 

1 Timothy 6:9 urges to escape destruction and vv18-19 describes full and lasting pleasure.

 In terms of money, if you seek lasting pleasure (v19) then 1 Timothy 6 instructs you to:

  1. Avoid ruin, destruction, pangs of heart (vv9-10) and,
  2. Seek godly gain (v6)

Here’s how:

Do not desire to be rich (v6)

Some people are in to godliness just for profit. However, Paul does not say to avoid all gain. In fact, he says that Christians whose godliness has freed them from the desire to be rich will find great (spiritual) profit: “godliness with contentment is great gain.” He also does not say to shun success and/or raises at work. If one is content and godly, then one may use extra funds to help others.

No U-Hauls will follow your hearse (v7)

Reason One not to pursue wealth: The things we accumulate stay here. The politician, millionaire, playboy, and missionary kid will stand before God on equal ground before God. The things we keep score with here won’t matter in eternity. “We brought nothing into this world and we can take nothing out of it”

Simplicity is possible and good (v8)

Reason Two not to pursue wealth: We ought to be content with the simple necessities.

  1. When God is near you he gives you security no amount of money can.
  2. The most satisfying delights God gives us are free gifts from nature and relationships with people. Money can actually diminish your capacity to enjoy these things.
  3. We can invest the extra to make a difference. Over 26% of the world’s population live in people groups without indigenous evangelizing churches. One third of the world is evangelized but makes no claim to faith. However, the average Protestant gave 2.6% of his or her income to the church in 1999.

A lot of money could be freed up for missions if more Christians lived more simply.

Piercing yourself with many pangs (vv9-10)

Reason Three not to pursue wealth: No Christian hedonist wants to plunge into ruin, therefore, no Christian hedonist desire to be rich. American merchandising sells luxury. The Christian should say “no” to these riches and “yes” to the great gain of godliness and the simple necessities.

 Put your hope in God (vv17-19)

If you have money here on earth, don’t put your hope in it.

Some people say it is selfish to do the right thing for a reward. However, Jesus taught us to pursue treasure in heaven. More than forty  times in Luke there are promises of reward and threats of punishment.  So we actively seek treasure – treasure in heaven. Generosity confirms that our hope is in God, not in earthly treasure. Two negative and one positive use of money:

  1. Don’t let money produce pride
  2. Don’t let your affections move from God to his gifts
  3. Be rich in good works

One the one hand, God has given us what we need for our enjoyment. The spiritual disciplines of fasting, celibacy, and the like are not the norm. Thanksgiving and worship are the norm. However, the health-and-wealth doctrine that takes what God gives and spends it on self misses the other side of the issue. We are to be happy with what we need and be generous with the rest. What we need is defined by wartime effectiveness. He contrasts the luxurious peacetime use of the ship Queen Mary to the austere wartime conversion of her. Christians are at war. We ought to live a wartime lifestyle. We ought to spend ourselves for the benefit of others, including the terribly needy of underdeveloped societies. God blesses us with abundance so we can live on what we need and help others with the rest.

To sum up: we benefit ourselves to look over the present to eternity. To avoid pangs of heart and get the gain of godliness a) do not desire to be rich, b) be content with wartime necessities, c) set your hope fully on God, d) guard your self from pride, and e) let your joy in God overflow in generosity to others.

My Reaction:

I am once again motivated to seek God and put temporal junk aside. I do question the emphasis on the war metaphor. Much of what this chapter teaches comes right from the passage in question, but the passage itself never uses such a metaphor. I do appreciate the view of spiritual disciplines that they are of benefit but do not render enjoying life ungodly.

 OK – this is too long. I clearly need to work on being more succinct! But here you have it – chapter seven of Desiring God.

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