Enough: Discovering Joy Through Simplicity and Generosity: “Stress”

Enough: Discovering Joy Through Simplicity and Generosity: “Stress”
A Message on 1 Timothy 6:2b-12
For Jacksonville First United Methodist Church
October 1, 2017
By Doug Wintermute

dwinterm@yahoo.com


1 Timothy 6:2b-12

 

Teach and urge these duties. 3 Whoever teaches otherwise and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that is in accordance with godliness, 4 is conceited, understanding nothing, and has a morbid craving for controversy and for disputes about words. From these come envy, dissension, slander, base suspicions, 5 and wrangling among those who are depraved in mind and bereft of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain. 6 Of course, there is great gain in godliness combined with contentment; 7 for we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it; 8 but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these. 9 But those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.
11 But as for you, man of God, shun all this; pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith; take hold of the eternal life, to which you were called and for which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.


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On July 19, 1986, Pam and I got married at Calvary United Methodist Church in Paris, Texas.   We both lived in apartments and one of the first things we did after we got married was buy a house. It was a nice, simple house but was great for us.

 

But when you buy a house you need appliances, too. So after we closed on our house we bought a refrigerator… and a washer and dryer. Because you have to have those, right?

 

Add to those purchases the fact that two days before we got married the crankshaft broke on Pam’s Pontiac T-1000 car her dad had bought her. So what did we do? We went and bought a new car. And the car I was driving wasn’t paid for yet, so that meant two car payments.

 

Of course we had to have insurance on all those things that we had bought.

 

It didn’t seem like very much when we were buying those things on credit. A payment here, a payment there, sure, we could do that. Right?

 

But then all the bills started rolling in. Oh. My. I can still remember those days. We were deeply in debt, and even though we tried real hard it seemed like we never made any progress. We were stressed. Very stressed.

 

Eventually we did get out of debt, but it wasn’t easy. But we learned some good life lessons that we continue to remember and apply even today.

 

Buying things and being in debt is what many people consider to be the “American Way.” But is it?

 

Every now and then Pam will be watching HGTV and those television shows like “House Hunters”  where people interested in buying a house look at several properties and before choosing one to buy.

 

In our house those shows are known as “interactive TV” because we interact with the show. The way that happens is that we find ourselves screaming at the TV screen things like, “ARE YOU CRAZY?” Or “WHY YOU SPOILED ROTTEN LITTLE…” well, I better not finish that sentence. But it frustrates us to the point of vocal outcry when the couple is looking at a spectacularly beautiful house but then they complain about the color of the countertops or some other nit-picky thing.

 

We are also are dumbfounded that so many very young couples (I’m talking 20s and 30s) have budgets in the upper hundreds of thousands of dollars or even millions! For many it will be their first house, and it’s a mansion!

 

Newlyweds are now buying houses bigger and nicer (and more expensive) than their parents and grandparents!

 

We live in an instant gratification society. What used to take couples decades to save and pay for they now have as soon as they get married.

 

I often wonder aloud how they afford to do it. And often the answer I hear back is: “credit.”

 

Credit is big in our culture. Here are some stats I looked up on the Internet:

 

The average credit card debt per family in 2016 per family was $8,377, which is a 6 percent increase over 2015. Americans owe more than $1 trillion in credit card debt.

 

According to debt.com the average interest rates on credit cards nationally was 15.59%, and credit cards for bad credit scores was 23.04%

 

“Payday” and “Title” loans have an annual percentage rate of 300% to 700%! [Source: http://www.texasfairlending.org/resources/faqs/]

 

All of this causes stress, particularly financial stress.

 

How did we get here? How did we get to this point?

 

For many people in our country the “American Dream” has become the “American Nightmare.”

 

Adam Hamilton, in the first chapter of his book, credits two “illnesses” that affects us both socially and spiritually.

 

The first he calls “Affluenza.” which he defines as “the constant need for more and bigger and better stuff.” He points out that the size of the average American home went from about 1,660 square feet in 1973 to 2,400 square feet in 2004. He also points out that Americans today use an estimated 1.9 billion (with a “b”) square feet of self storage space for all our “stuff” that doesn’t fit in our homes.

 

The second illness he labels as “Credit-itis.”  He defines this illness as “the opportunity to buy now and pay later, and it feeds on our desire for instant gratification.” The spread of this “illness” is exhibited in Americans borrowing more for longer periods while at the same time saving less.

 

Both these illnesses are symptoms of a deeper, spiritual problem, according to Hamilton. Instead of desiring God, we desire possessions. Instead of finding security in God, we find it in amassing wealth. Instead of loving people, we compete with them in our efforts to “get ahead.” Instead of being generous and sharing with those in need we selfishly hoard our resources for ourselves.

 

All of this is sin.

 

Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:24 that we can’t love money and God both. Each is exclusive to the other, “No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” (Matthew 6:24)

 

Jesus also says in the parable of the seeds (or soils), “As for what fell among the thorns, these are the ones who hear; but as they go on their way, they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature.” (Luke 8:14)

 

Musician Toby Mac has a song in which the chorus is based on Mark 8:36, “I don’t want to gain the whole world but lose my soul.”

 

And then Paul writes to Timothy what we read in verse 10 today: “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.”

 

Here’s how Eugene Peterson paraphrases it in The Message: “Lust for money brings trouble and nothing but trouble. Going down that path, some lose their footing in the faith completely and live to regret it bitterly ever after.”

 

So what is the solution?

 

Adam Hamilton says it requires two things.

 

The first is a change of heart. If you think about it, everything that motivates us comes from the heart. Now physiologically speaking we know this isn’t so, but emotionally and spiritually it is. Our hearts undergo a change when we accept Christ as our savior, but over time the worldly things, such as the love of money, tug at our hearts and try to reverse that change.

 

The way to keep that from happening is to remember every morning of that change. Lamentations 3:22-23 says, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning…”

 

Hamilton suggests getting on our knees every morning and praying something like this: “Lord, help me to be the person you want me to be today. Take away the desires that shouldn’t be there and help me be single-minded in my focus and pursuit of you.”

 

Besides a change of heart Hamilton says we must allow Christ to work in us. He points out that when we seek God’s kingdom and seek to do his will then Christ works in us. We experience a sense of a higher calling, one of simplicity and faithfulness and generosity. We rearrange our priorities so that we can make a difference with our time and talents and resources.

 

When we pursue good financial practices, we free ourselves from debt which then enables us to be in mission to the world.

 

So here’s my challenge to you this week, which is what Adam Hamilton suggests:

 

With the help of God we can:

 

  1. Simplify our lives and silence the voices constantly telling us we need more
  2. Live counter-culturally by living below, not above, our means
  3. Build into our budgets the money to buy with cash instead of credit
  4. Build into our budgets what we need to be able to live generously and faithfully

 

In the words of the Apostle Paul, “pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith; take hold of the eternal life, to which you were called and for which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.”

 

Let us live with Enough. Let us discover joy through simplicity and generosity.

 

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.

 

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