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10.16.11 Saving Christmas, 1 Timothy 6:1-19 Sermon Outline

by on October 17, 2011

If we will do our part to save this Christmas, we’ll be doing God a favor. For at stake in our behavior is nothing less than God’s reputation.

Summary Points

  • The good confession of Jesus Christ
  • What it means to be content
  • Why most of us are not content, and three things we can do about it

Our passage comes from a letter written in Paul’s name to a pastor named Timothy. The foundation of this letter, of all pastoral ministries, and of the church in general is found in verses 12-15: the good confession of Jesus Christ. Before the most powerful religions and political authorities of his day, Jesus confessed the Kingdom of God. It is a kingdom of service to others in love, a dominion where the king is none other than God himself, and a kingdom revealed by Christ who will come again.

This is the confession that Timothy, his church, and the church today is commissioned to make. But a good confession is more than just what we say with our lips when we gather for worship on Sunday morning. Our good confession, like Christ’s, must be made by how we live.

In the words of 1 Timothy, we must practice “godliness with contentment.” We might define “contentment” as godliness made real. Anyone can say they believe in God or follow Christ, but as long as we allow discontent to rule our lives, our confession is less than good.

The criterion for contentment presented in 1 Timothy is quite austere indeed: the provision of food and clothing. It reminds me of the story of Adam and Eve, the biblical type of humanity. After their failure to be content with the food God provided them—by eating fruit from a forbidden tree—they fashioned coverings for themselves out of leaves. But God in his grace provided animal skins for them. Before and after the so-called “Fall,” God was faithful to provide food and clothing. And today God calls us to be content with what he has provided.

In the subsequent generation of humanity, represented by Cain and Abel, we observe what happens when we refuse to be content. Cain and Abel make an offering to God, but only Abel’s is commended. Incapable of accepting God’s decision, Cain rises up and kills his brother.

First Timothy illuminates these foundational stories of the biblical tradition, noting that people who are not content compare themselves with others, compete with them, become quarrelsome and divisive, and unless these destructive attitudes are checked, risk becoming murderous like Cain.

For 1 Timothy, the major factor distracting us from contentment, and thus having godliness with contentment, is riches. And one doesn’t have to actually be rich to be distracted: simply desiring to be rich is a distraction. Here we find the famous verse, “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” It doesn’t matter if you have money, or just love it in its absence; that distraction from contentment produces evil in our lives.

In verses 17-18, 1 Timothy 6 offers some guidelines to those of us who are rich, or desire to be rich, for how to add contentment to our godliness. First, we must locate our hope in the right place. As represented by Adam and Eve, our human nature is to locate our hope in places other than God. It may be in technology, in professional advancement, in our hobbies and interests, or in a romantic relationship. Many of us place our hope in financial well-being. First Timothy calls us to put our hope in God.

Second, 1 Timothy reminds us that God has provided everything we need for enjoyment in this life. The one thing rich and poor have alike is the relationships we have with people in our lives. The Beatles sang that money can’t buy you love; Prince offered the assurance that you don’t have to be rich to be his girl. Crosby, Stills, and Nash advised us to love the one we’re with. They’re all right. Contentment isn’t a matter of riches. It’s a matter of enjoying your Eve, your Abel, and the other people God has surrounded you with.

A third remedy 1 Timothy prescribes is generosity. We who are rich or desire to be so can experience more contentment in our lives by giving generously—of our finances and our time—to good works.

What does any of this have to do with saving Christmas? Christmas is the time when we remember that Christ has come. The Kingdom of God is among us. It’s also a time when we can offer the good confession that Christ is coming again. But if we conduct ourselves in a way that shows how discontent we are, our confession won’t be as good.

And at stake is God’s reputation. The opening verses of 1 Timothy 6 urges slaves who belong to Christian owners not to slack off because others might see this and infer that the Christian God doesn’t care about quality. Since God’s reputation is at stake, such slaves are to work even harder.

We need to save this Christmas and protect God’s reputation. We need to locate our hope in the right place. We need to give relational gifts that value people and demonstrate that we are content. Then our confession will be as good as it can be.

Questions for Reflection or Discussion

  • In what ways are you not content? Follow these feelings to their root. How are they related to the love of money? Do they suggest your hope is placed in the wrong location?
  • Make a list of the people you intend to give to this Christmas. What gifts can you give that are relational? How can you avoid giving gifts that generate discontentment?

If you’re not rich, but you desire to be rich, pray not to be distracted so you can add contentment to godliness. And give thanks for what you have so that you can be more content in your life right now.

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From → Sermon Summaries

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