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Posted: October 4, 2012 9:08 p.m.

Scharf: Love speaks with a focused heart

"The church is all about money." You've heard that said, right? How sad when it's true, when good well-meaning Christians start worrying about the budget more than the Bible, when churches show that lack of focus. More accurately, it's when we focus on the wrong thing.

So Paul, in 1 Timothy 6, snaps us back with the very first word of verse 6: "But." You see, just before our text, Paul was warning young Pastor Timothy about false teachers who saw religion as a means for financial gain, those who acted as if the church was all about money. Paul's first word shatters that: "But." "But" - such is not the case for you. Instead, godliness, religion, a heart that is content in those things...that is great gain.

So today, as we study 1 Timothy 6, we'll witness the battle between love of money and contentment in our own hearts,
the challenge to come down on the right side between using godliness for gain or using gain for godliness.

This is important, because, as we've been talking about this past month - we've got a supremely important goal in front of us: Letting our love speak, sharing the gift of life by sharing our faith. Today, God's word shows us that love speaks with a focused heart. It's a heart filled with love that overcomes the love of money. First Timothy 6 is filled with famous proverbs: "Godliness with contentment is great gain." "You can't take it with you." "The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil." You've heard those truths plenty of times, even if you didn't realize they were scriptural. They are truths that are easy to agree to.

But they are not truths that are easy to live. Because there is so much gray, isn't there? Think about how fine the line is between responsible stewardship and sinful selfishness. How often hasn't a concern to be good stewards so subtly shifted until decisions are made and actions are taken that reveal the selfishness in our own hearts? "We want to take care of what's given to us" becomes wanting to take care of what is ours. Do you see the so subtle shift?

Let's examine a couple of these proverbs. Verse 6: "Godliness with contentment is great gain." Godliness is a word that describes the living of worship - giving glory to God with one's life. That's where gain is, not a going-through-motions, but true daily worship, sacrifice, selflessness, a God-first mentality that is content to give to others. That's where real gain is.

Now contrast that with the love of money that is a root of all kinds of evil. Notice he doesn't say money is a root of evil - it's our attitude toward it. If our attitude is true godliness, we're loving life. But Satan is so good at setting that trap, slowly leading us from seeing money as a means to an end to seeing money as the goal.

And then, no matter how much we repeat these proverbs, it becomes clear. It's been said, "Your actions are so loud, I can't hear what you're saying." Has that ever happened to you? They can hear you say that God comes first, but a quick look at your calendar shows he's somewhere around 12th in your time management; a look at the budget shows he's lucky to get my leftovers; even an objective view of my volunteer time shows me wanting it my way or I won't be happy - that's pride first, not God first.

Now I know none of us sets out to worship money - but, like Paul says, it is a trap. Think of yourself up on a ladder, cleaning the gutters. You don't want to have to climb down and move the ladder one more time. You're sure you can reach. As you stretch out away from the support of the ladder and more and more your center of gravity moves, suddenly, you find yourself in a precarious position, and... If you would have noticed how off balance you were, you wouldn't have fallen, but midair on the way down is too late. Snap - the trap is set.

If you would have noticed how much selfishness was compromising your ability to live a godly life, to be a godly witness, you would have stopped - but it is a trap. If you want your love to speak, your stuff can't be where your focus is.

Now, for all the times you've been trapped, for all the times we've failed - look at the rest of our text.

That "but" still applies. We see it again in verse 11. "But you, man of God, flee from all this and pursue righteousness." You see, love speaks with a focused heart because love sees the one we speak about.

Paul writes in verse 11, "Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness." Really, pursue Jesus. He tells you to "fight the good fight of faith." It is a battle. There are casualties, and maybe those casualties are some of the things this world values so highly. But look at what you're going for. Verse 12: "Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called." That's worth more than everything in the world, and it comes, verse 13:"In the sight of God." As we stand here looking at things from God's angle, through God's lens, we see the one who gives life to everything, who gives us life.

Jesus gave us his life, as he kept his laser focus on the will of God, not the money bag - as he saw people instead of profit. He gave us the perfect example of this focus, not just to show us, but to fulfill it perfectly to give us that perfect record. And then he gave his life. He took the punishment our selfishness deserves and made the payment of his blood to pay our debts.

And now he gives us life, real life, life begun in the waters of baptism, with an eternal inheritance; life lived in view of God the life-giver. So Paul charges us to keep the command, to make the good confession Christ made - right up until he comes to take us home.

So let's keep our focus because the real Church is all about Jesus.
In Christ,
Amen.


Rev. Jonathan Scharf is pastor of Abiding Grace Lutheran Church in Covington. Worship every Sunday is at 10:30 a.m. Full sermons and more information can be found at abidinggrace.com.

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