Contentment: something we humans don’t exactly strive for anymore. We can always do better, after all. That’s what drives us day-to-day. And that makes us better workers, better citizens, better friends, better family. We could always find ways to maximize the hours we clock in for every work day. We could always volunteer more. We could make more phone calls to check in on our loved ones. We could stop by more to help around their house. We’re just not wired to be content with our life, and most especially not with money. We could always do better with that!
And so the last thing we need is for God, and the church for that matter, to somehow make their voice heard in regards to what we have earned. We already feel guilty enough. We are not content with how we carry ourselves, decisions we’ve made, how we’ve acted from time to time. God and the church, whether they mean to or not, make us feel guilty enough. There’s no need to talk about the money! Nevertheless, we have to. We have to talk about money, and most especially in regards to God, because, in case you haven’t noticed, money tends to take over our life more often than we care to admit.
How much money we have determines so much about us: what kind of house we can live in, what kind of transportation we can afford, if any at all, how far exactly you can use that transportation to not only see loved ones but go on vacations with them. Money determines what kind of education we can get, unless we can convince other institutions to use their money for us in college and beyond. It will shape our food purchases, our retirement, and the list goes on for a lifetime. That reality begs the question, “Does it ever get to a point where money becomes a god for how much it controls our life, how much we obsess over it, how much more time we spend looking at accounts than praying to the living, eternal life-saving, God?”
We heard it said this morning that “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” It’s not money in of itself; it’s the love of it. It’s the passion that plagues us. It’s the obsession with it that takes us over to embarrassing behaviors we don’t even realize because it has become so normal now, how we’ll completely overlook the needs of others in order to increase our own riches. We have reached the point where contentment is not even possible anymore!
If that line, “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil,” doesn’t sting us enough, then earlier in the passage should. “Of course there is great gain in godliness combined with contentment; for we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it; but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these.” Can we really be satisfied just with food and clothing, the bare necessities, if you will? Would that be enough for us in our mind? But it’s not just we want other things in addition, it’s that we want better of those other things all the time. We want better cars, better houses, better landscaping, better return on our investments, and on and on it goes. And even if we don’t actually pull any of that off, it’s still there in our mind, it still takes over our heart, overlooking the reality that before all of those other things, and even before the food and clothing, was this God Who made it all possible.
We most certainly “brought nothing into the world.” We human beings didn’t even bring in the world to begin with. And we most definitely can’t take the world, including all our possessions, with us beyond this life. And when we do face that mortal reality, there will be that living God from the beginning of existence, still trying to bring new life to the world long after we’re gone. Unfortunately we human beings do an incredible job of getting in the way, keeping not just our money, but our other gifts and talents to ourselves; all the while taking for granted just how much this God can pull off miracles with what we have to give.
How many children can go to bed at night confident they will have something to eat the next day? How many homes can we help rebuild after natural disasters annihilated them? Or how about the number of smiles we can unleash by a simple hug for a sister or brother in Christ? How many tears of joy can we make stream down by a card in the mail? How many lives can we shape for the better when we realize all we have to give is from God for the sake of our neighbors and beyond?
This isn’t about making us feel guilty. That’s not how God operates. This is simply raising our awareness of the God Who’s already alive, already loving us at a rate well beyond how much we love our money. This is about the God Who will refuse to stop convincing us how much we’re truly capable of not just with our finances, but with our not so tangible gifts. This God has blessed us far too much to think we are anywhere near finished with our service to the world. This God is far from done with us, with our gifts, and with the entire Creation. And for that sacred honor to be part of that ministry for the sake of the world, we give thanks to God indeed! Amen.
St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
Rev. Nan Dehnke, Pastor
Office: Mon - Thu: 9 a.m. - Noon