“You are so blessed!” Those were the words said to the lady who had just gotten a big raise at work! And, it was true.
But there is a danger here. In many cultures and even religions, the idea that to be rich is to be favored by God is a popular belief. This notion says that if someone is blessed with great wealth then God has given this wealth to them because they are somehow favored by Him. This was certainly the belief of some of the Lord’s disciples when they wondered at who could be saved after the Lord said it would be easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a rich man to go to heaven! Turns out there is a way to see wealth but only through contentment!
Look at our lesson today in 1 Timothy 5:22-25; 6:1-11:
TIMOTHY, my son, do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, nor participate in another man’s sins; keep yourself pure. No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments. The sins of some men are conspicuous, pointing to judgment, but the sins of others appear later. So also good deeds are conspicuous; and even when they are not, they cannot remain hidden. Let all who are under the yoke of slavery regard their masters as worthy of all honor, so that the name of God and the teaching may not be defamed. Those who have believing masters must not be disrespectful on the ground that they are brethren; rather they must serve all the better since those who benefit by their service are believers and beloved. Teach and urge these duties. If any one teaches otherwise and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching which accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit, he knows nothing; he has a morbid craving for controversy and for disputes about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, base suspicions, and wrangling among men who are depraved in mind and bereft of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain. There is great gain in godliness with contentment; for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world; but if we have food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and hurtful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all evils; it is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced their hearts with many pangs. But as for you, man of God, shun all this.
The challenge many of us face on a regular basis is the “so what” challenge. Why does it matter how I live or what my priorities are? Why shouldn’t I focus on the accumulation of money or success at work or stature in the community? Why should any of that be a problem? And the truth is any and all of those choices don’t have to be a problem, but they usually are!
Here’s why. When a person structures his or her life around the accumulation of money or prestige or fame or even fulfillment, they usually make wrong or dangerous choices because they don’t know what being a real person, or a happy person, or a fulfilled person really is in the first place. So, they fill in their less than full understanding of what it means to be a complete person with all kinds of ideas and perspectives that eventually let them down.
So, what’s the answer? The answer is to get your vision of being truly human from Someone who knows what that means. And, the path to that Someone is through Contentment. Look at all the advice our precious St. Paul gives Timothy. He tells him to take care of his physical ailment. He tells him about how slaves and masters who believe should behave. He warns about the dangers of misunderstanding temporary wealth with godliness. And then he reveals the KEY: Contentment. Contentment gives me the peace to discover all that God wishes to teach me in the moment I’m in, instead of missing the now for what was or what might be.
So, today, are you content? I didn’t ask if you were satisfied; that’s not the standard. I asked if you were content. Are you willing to be where you are right now, look around you, and see all that God has to teach you in this very moment, or are you driving yourself to distraction with diversions? Contentment, my dearest, is the invitation to be present in this moment and know God has treasures for you here that can’t be stolen or lost. Are you willing to be content, to be Orthodox on Purpose?
P.S. “I pray that Lord God bless you and your ministry and guide you in 2017.” This is just a short excerpt of a note we received at Faith Encouraged Ministries from a seeker looking to convert to Orthodoxy. I can’t tell you how blessed I am to read the heartfelt messages from those who are just now discovering the beauties of the Timeless Christian Faith. Will you help me grow this effort for 2017? Just go to our secure PayPal donation link at www.faithencouraged.org and make that gift today! Click Here to Give!