When Is Enough Enough? Learning to Live a Life of Contentment

Desiring God 2004 Conference for Pastors

Money, Ministry, and the Magnificence of Christ

Unfortunately, the clip that we just showed is not only the perspective of many people in the world who look at the church, and who look especially as preachers, as no more than shysters and people who are out to rip other people off. But also it’s the perspective, believe it or not, of many people in the church, maybe even your church. Amen? No brothers, I’m a Black Baptist preacher. Amen is a biblical word. I know I’m in Minnesota, but it’s okay. It’ll warm us up.

Our Need for Contentment

It is indeed unfortunate, to be very honest with you, that this not only is the perspective of many people inside the church, it also, to be very honest with you, is the motivation of many of us who are in the clergy. See, if we were to be honest, I mean just real flat-out honest, we are sick and tired of living from paycheck to paycheck. Help me, Holy Ghost. Preach, Pastor Perry, you have to encourage yourself today. I thought I’d get at least a hallelujah on that. We are sick and tired of trying to figure out how to understand how to catch up with the little money we have and the lot of bills we have. Amen?

As a matter of fact, quiet as kept, we really right now are believing that God is leading us to another vineyard, not because we sense the call of God on our lives, not because we sense the completion of God in our lives, but quite simply, because we want to somehow get into a place where we can get a little more bling bling. And I’m sorry, I need to use cross-cultural communication. I mean money. Praise the Lord.

Jim Bakker in his book entitled I Was Wrong, made this very, very profound statement:

All my life I had dreamed of building a center of inspiration that became PTL. Now, however, I honestly wondered if in fact it had not been all a colossal mirage. Was it real or had I merely imagined that I had once been the president of a worldwide ministry known as PTL? Maybe I never implemented any ministry at all. Had I really been the host of a television program, seen in all 50 states and many foreign countries? Perhaps I had never received any divine inspiration to build anything at Heritage. As I struggled in the backseat of the squad car to assemble the pieces of my broken heart, my dreams, and now apparently meaningless life, questions ripped through my mind. How did I get into this mess?

Well, just like Jim Bakker, if we’re not careful, if we don’t understand what’s going on, if we don’t realize how this whole issue of money impacts us, we one day can find ourselves at the same place. Amen?

Take Heed Lest You Fall

I don’t know about you, my brothers and my sisters, but the older I’ve gotten now, the less critical I’ve become of people who have fallen. Help me, Holy Ghost. Because I’ve seen in my life and I’ve seen in my experience over these last 30 years of ministry that, but by the grace of God, there go I. But I’ve come to the conclusion that we as pastors, to be very honest with you, really need to understand the subtlety of the seduction of money.

And that’s why I want us to turn, if you have your Bibles with me, to a passage of Scripture. It’s found in the book of 1 Timothy, specifically 1 Timothy 6:6–10 and 1 Timothy 6:17–20. As we talk about a message that I’ve entitled, “When Is Enough, enough? Learning to Live a Life of Contentment.” Paul was speaking to his son and the faith, Timothy. This was his homeboy. I mean, he had raised him up as a teenager. It was his traveling companion. It was his main man. I mean Timothy, my man. And now Timothy had found himself, brothers and sisters, as the pastor.

That’s how we say it in the Black church, y’all. As the pastor of the largest church in Asia-minor. He was a bad brother. If they had Cadillacs back then, what a stereotype, he would’ve driven one. And Paul in this letter is trying to equip Timothy to help the church in Ephesus to understand, as he says in 1 Timothy 3, how they should act in the house of God. He’s trying to help them in this epistle, in this little short letter, to help them to understand what it means to truly be the saints of God, the people of God, living for the glory of God, doing the will of God in order to advance the kingdom of God. Amen?

Throughout this letter, he gives some practical instructions. Oh, I wish I could preach this letter, but they only gave me an hour and they thought they were being gracious. Oh, I wish I could preach this letter that has so many wonderful, wonderful instructions as to how we might truly live as saints for the glory of God.

In chapter six, he’s concluding some of his remarks and he’s telling Timothy some final instructions. Some things had been happening in that place. There had been some brothers who had kind of creeped in unawares, and they were causing all kinds of havoc. They were doing all kinds of things. They were like Steve Martin. They were trying to use their religion. They were trying to use their sense of godliness. They were trying to use their sense of this whole issue of what it means to develop a ministry, not for the glory of God, but for their own selfish ends. And Paul is wanting to instruct Timothy to help not only these people, but also two specific groups in his church about this very, very critical issue of money.

The Impact of Materialism

Now, I got to say something to you all, pastors especially. I think part of the reason why we struggle about preaching on money in our churches — Did y’all hear what I said? Let me say that again. Part of the reason why we struggle about preaching about money in many of our churches, if we do it at all, is during stewardship month, which we cut down now from four Sundays to one Sunday, and we try to sneak something in. Praise the Lord. One of the reasons why we have so much trouble talking about money in our churches is because we, as pastors, have not really come to grips ourselves with the impact and influence of materialism in our own lives.

It’s kind of hard to take somebody to the water when you don’t know how to get there. Amen? So Paul was trying to help Timothy to help these two groups of saints in his church in this whole area of money. One group I know most of us can readily identify. They were the group, to be honest with you, who didn’t have any bling bling, but who wanted some. Praise the Lord.

Now, I’ll be very honest with you all. I wore my best suit for you guys today. Looks sharp, doesn’t it? Praise the Lord. Hallelujah. What did this baby cost me? $100 from Value City. Praise the Lord. I know how to shop. If I ain’t got none, at least I can look like I do. Praise the Lord. Hallelujah. Now, that’s not the homiletical idea of the message, okay? But there was a second group in this church which we’re going to deal with as well in this text because Paul deals with it. It’s those who had a little bling bling and who were tempted to trust in it. Are you hearing me?

Paul sets up his discussion on money, however, by talking about these false teachers. Let me give you the context. It begins in verse three. It says this:

If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions, and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain (1 Timothy 6:3–5, all Scripture references from NASB).

Now, what was happening here in this particular context, is there were some brothers who had sneaked in and who were now propagating false doctrine, who were telling people things like this: “Honey, don’t you know that God is a good God? He is a good God. He is a good God. He wants to bless your life. And all you got to do, all you got to do, all you gotta do is send in that $10 to me, and I’m going to send back to you this prayer cloth. This cloth is going to help you. You put it next to you at night, and you lay it next to you on the table. You can pray, and it’s going to answer all your prayers in Jesus’ name.” And there was a whole lot of $10 flowing into the coffers.

The Impact of Money on Us All

The problem is, the problem is, the problem is, these false teachers were not only leading people astray, these false teachers were communicating a perverted gospel. Are you hearing me? I pray that none of us here at the Bethlehem Pastors Conference teaches such hogwash, amen? But sometimes I think if we compromise on this issue of money, we might not teach the whole counsel of God. Amen? We might be afraid to really challenge our people to understand that not only should we be people that give at least a minimum of a 10 percent, which is the minimum requirement in the New Testament. I know some of you out there are Old Testament scholars, and you’re saying, “Hey, Perry, there’s no such thing as tithing in the New Testament.” You’re right. God wants to give much more than 10 percent in the New Testament. Hallelujah. Praise the Lord.

But we also need to teach our people not just about stuff like that, but also about why they don’t have to have two houses. Why do they have to have three cars? Why do they have to have a million dollars in a bank account for a rainy day that never comes, especially in Minnesota? We need to be communicating to our people the whole counsel of God about this issue of money because it impacts all of us.

True Riches and Our Identity in Christ

Paul, now having set the context of his comments, gives four reasons as to why true riches are not found in what we possess, but true riches, here’s the homiletical idea, is found, my brothers and sisters, in who we are in Christ. Are you hearing what I’m saying?

He says this in 1 TImothy 6:6. He says:

But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment.

Now on teaching homiletics, one of the things that my students at Moody and at Trinity (I teach there as well) hate about my classes is not only all the bad jokes I tell, praise the Lord, but what they hate about my classes is that I have the audacity to focus on training them in biblical exegesis. Lord, have mercy. Help him, Holy Ghost. He’s not supposed to be doing that. He is a homiletician. He’s supposed to be able just to stand up, look pretty, dance a little bit, and make them shout. Praise the Lord. So one of the things that I always try to help my students with in this whole era of exegesis is not to bypass the connecting words. Y’all know that? Amen?

That little word in here but is very important. I want to land on that for just a second. Let me read it again. And I’m going to read the text in flow now, beginning in verse three:

If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited (he has a big head) and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions, and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness (or religion) is a means of gain. But . . .

Do you see that? Paul is saying, “But, Timothy, I don’t want you to act like those idiots. But, Timothy, I don’t want you to fall into the same deception. But, Timothy, I don’t want you to think that you’re something special because you have a church of a thousand people now. And instead of hoping for a paycheck as you did early in your ministry, you know you’re going to get a little bling bling every two weeks. For what you need to be shooting for, Timothy, what you need to have as your focus, Timothy, is not religion and using your ministry for profit; you need to have a focus on pursuing what the true wealth is, what the true riches are, what the true sense of fulfillment is. And it’s not in money. The true sense of fulfillment is when you and I allow the character of Jesus Christ to be built in our life. And when you and I are willing to submit to the will of God.” That’s what contentment is.

Submit to the will of God, regardless of if the deacon board is acting like some idiots. Paul is saying, “Timothy, you need to understand that God is calling you to a different way of expressing what ministry is. It’s a high calling. It’s a calling of integrity. Did you hear that?

The Fleeting Nature of Possessions

He goes on now from this point, giving Timothy four reasons why he needs to be a man and why you and I need to be people who pursue the true riches. The true riches are not in what we possess. The true riches indeed are who we are in Christ, and what we are allowing Christ to build in our lives. What’s the first reason? Look at 1 Timothy 6:7–8. The first reason why we need to be careful to not be tricked into the subtlety of pursuing false riches, the riches of this world about pursuing God and the riches of his character, is because of the reality that the things that we see all around us are temporal in nature anyway.

They were here when we got here. They’ll be here when we leave. And to be honest with you, the only legitimate biblical purpose for them as it relates to us, is to meet our current, present needs. Did you hear that brothers? I know some of us want some margin in the bank account. I know some of us are tired of borrowing from savings, borrowing from the money market, and borrowing from credit cards. Don’t do that, that’s sin. You’re borrowing from all those different things to pay the bills. Are you hearing me? I know some of us would like to have one month where we can just have the bills come in and write our check and not worry about it. Hallelujah. Praise the Lord.

But the issue is, which we, especially as evangelicals understand — and let me be specific, Evangelical Anglo Christians don’t seem to understand — is that if God has put food on our table that day, and has put some clothes on our back that day, glory be to God, God has done enough for us. Hallelujah. Look at the text. Look at the text. It says:

For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either.

I love Brother Randy. Oh, man, that brother started preaching man. Man alive. I don’t know about you, but I was just ready to sign over all my money last night. Then he went through his testimony. That’s what we say in the Black church. He has a testimony. I said, “Yes, you do, brother. Praise the Lord.” When he went into that King Tut illustration, I don’t know about y’all, I was checking it out. How that young brother who died at 25 was over there in some garbage dump, and King Tut was over there with some gold. But you know what? Who’s in a better place now? Hallelujah. Praise the Lord. We can’t take it with us. Why are we so worried about it? Are you hearing me?

As a matter of fact, let me give you a secret. I know I look like I’m 35. Now, you’re not supposed to laugh at that, you’re supposed to say amen. What’s up with this Minnesota crowd? But believe it or not, I have grown children. Can you believe that? All of them are grown except for one. I got one who’s 16 who thinks he’s grown. I have grown children. And you know what? I’m trying to figure out how to divest myself with the little wealth I have because I don’t want to leave it to them.

Any of you financial planners out there, see me afterwards, we’ll get the hook up. Paul continues:

If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content (1 Timothy 6:8).

Our Perverted Standard of Plenty

Part of our issue as it relates to this first reason of why we should pursue true wealth, not the wealth of materialism, but the wealth of Godly character with contentment, is that in America we don’t understand how blessed we are.

Tom mentioned that Cynthia and I were ministering over in Ivory Coast about a year and a half ago. And he’s right, I grew up in the hood. I didn’t even know I was poor until I went to college. Praise the Lord. As a matter of fact, I didn’t even know there was grass until I went to college. I’m serious, man. I went down to the University of Illinois. I said, “Man, what’s this grass around here?” And then I saw bikes being left out overnight. Man in my hood, you don’t leave any bike out in the day time, man. I was shocked.

That’s the truth. But we in America don’t know how blessed we are. So our standard of what is enough is perverted in my mind. I mean, even my children, my middle-class, Christian-enculturated children who are as Black as Black can be, don’t have a clue as to what’s really going on out here in the world. Are you hearing what I’m saying?

So when we talk about this issue of contentment and being content because of the temporal nature or the passing nature of wealth, we really have a relative standard, don’t we? Are you hearing what I’m saying? We really do. Some of us think that contentment means I have to make $100,000. That’s a lot of bling bling. Some of us think that we are suffering because the church pays us $35,000. Don’t raise your hand.

We don’t understand this whole issue of if you have something to eat and if you have some clothes on your back, God has met your need. See, for us, God hasn’t met our needs until we get that four-bedroom house. Are you hearing what I’m saying? And you know it’s got to have central air. Unless you live in Minnesota, you don’t need it. You only have summer two months out of the year, and everything else is winter. That’s why I didn’t move up here.

We don’t have a clue, to be very honest with you. We don’t have a clue about this whole issue of understanding that this temporal, superficial, limited value of money really is so very temporary. Paul is saying to Timothy, “Pursue true wealth. Don’t get caught up in pursuing the bling bling. Don’t get caught up in pursuing a big church. Don’t get caught up in pursuing getting your name out there. Don’t get caught up in pursuing making contacts. Don’t get caught up in wondering when Dr. Piper is going to ask you to preach at the Bethlehem Pastors’ Conference.” Trust me, it’s nothing but work. I was up to 12 something last night working on the sermon. It ain’t no glory. Praise the Lord.

Set Up for a Great Fall

The first reason that we need to pursue true wealth, which in this text is the development of godly contentment, is because of the passing nature of riches. Secondly, however, not only does Paul say that you and I need to be people who understand what true wealth is about, who understand when enough was enough by understanding the passing nature of riches, that the only, only legitimate use of our wealth for ourselves is to see God meet our needs, brothers and sisters. Are you hearing what I’m saying? But he also says that if you get caught up in pursuing the false wealth of the world, whether you realize it or not, you are setting yourself up and your ministry up for one day, a big, big fall. Look at the text. Look at the text beginning in verse nine. It says this, using another transitional word:

But those who want to get rich fall into temptation . . .

Did you know that word “fall” is only mentioned four times in the entire New Testament? Three of those times are right here in 1 Timothy. There was a lot of falling going on in 1 Timothy. Amen? And Paul is saying right here, “Those who want to get rich, those who are motivated by the bling bling, those who are motivated to be impressive, those who are motivated to get their name out there, those who are motivated to get that book written, are going to fall.” Now, please don’t misunderstand me. There’s nothing wrong with writing books. There’s nothing wrong with preaching at conferences. There’s nothing wrong with making a little bling bling. But when that becomes the pursuit of your life instead of God, it’s all wrong.

That’s the biggest problem, in my opinion, in evangelical Christianity today. We are so concerned about trying to be impressed with ourselves, we’re not concerned enough with trying to be impressive to God. God is looking for pastors. He’s looking for leaders who are not concerned about what people are thinking about them, but are more concerned about what God thinks about them. Hallelujah. Preach, Pastor Perry. I guess you got to encourage yourself.

Plunged into Ruin

Paul says:

But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction.

That word “plunge” in the original Greek language gives the word picture of someone who is being dragged to the bottom. Do you see that word picture? Isn’t that a beautiful word picture? It’s somebody who’s being dragged to the bottom. When I first came across that in this text, that just jumped out at me. Maybe it’s because I didn’t get saved until I was a young man out of Chicago, away from the hood, totally lost. Unfortunately, unlike maybe some of you who come from a Christian home, who were raised in Christian schools, who were homeschooled, like my first child was a little bit, and who had who’d been around a Christian subculture, my earliest memories of family were seeing my father bludgeon my mother when I was 6.

Then I saw my father in the arms of another woman when I was age seven. Family memories. I grew up in a subculture of violence. I grew up in a subculture of drugs and alcohol addiction. And therefore, growing up in that subculture, guess what? That’s what I became. To be very honest with you, 35 or 40 years ago, if I had seen some of y’all in my hood, you wouldn’t have made it out. And that ain’t a joke because I hated white people with a passion. Praise the Lord that I used to. Y’all thought, “Oh, he hates white people. Why did John have him here? We’re all white. We’re in Minnesota. What’s this about? I have to write him an email.”

As I saw my life, as I saw my life being dragged step by step toward the bottom through the deception of alcoholism and the deception of drug abuse, I thank God that at the bottom Jesus was right there. So when I saw this, I said, “Oh, Lord have mercy. I had already been there and done that. I don’t want to go back there any more.” Paul continues:

For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with a pang.

Now, notice it didn’t say that money causes destruction. You all know this. You’re preachers. The text says, “The love of money causes destruction.” I’m sure, I’m sure that when Reverend Jim Bakker started out in his ministry, he didn’t plan an adulterous affair. He didn’t plan on being indicted on criminal charges. I’m sure that that wasn’t in his strategic plan. How do we get to that place in our lives? How do we get to that place in our ministries? How does that happen to good and godly people who start out loving Jesus with all of their hearts? It happens one compromise at a time. Are you hearing me this morning?

The Gradual Slip of Compromise

It starts out one decision at a time. Are you hearing me this morning? I don’t know about you, but there are two things that I fear in life. First, I fear coming before that great Bema Seat, and I don’t know what your theology is, but my theology tells me that there will be a judgment for the believers. It’s not a judgment in terms of damnation, but a judgment in terms of eternal rewards. And my fear in coming before the Bema Seat is that Jesus will say to me, “You know, Dwight, you preached all over America, but man, you wasted a whole lot of time, brother. And let me show you what you could have been instead of what you were.” Whoa. Talk about a DVD player. Everybody all over heaven is going to know your stuff. You know that, don’t you? It ain’t going to be a private conversation at the Bema Seat, where he says, “Come over here, let me judge you.”

But my second fear, and my second fear is to do something stupid like immorality and disappoint my wife. My father was married four times that I know of. I have a sister that I’ve never seen who’s born not out of a marriage relationship, but some other relationship. I know the devastation of divorce and separation. I’ll just be very honest with you, that is just a deep, deep fear in my life. Not only because of that, but because of the fact that I married a southern, short African American woman who knows how to fish and shoot a gun. She might seem sweet to y’all, but trust me, as my daughter said two weeks ago over dinner, “Yeah, that’s mama. She’s the one that runs the house.”

I don’t want to find myself, because of choices to pursue false wealth, at a place five years from now destroyed in my life and my ministry. Are you hearing what I’m saying? I don’t want to find myself with a longing and a yearning to somehow get a little more bling bling, to find myself caught in doing things that are not things of integrity, to compromise my values, to compromise my decisions, to compromise what I’m saying, to begin to say little half-truths, or to preach half the gospel. I never want to get to a place where Jesus says to me, “Dwight, you can say what you need to say, be who you want to be, I don’t care if you preach at the Bethlehem Pastors’ Conference, because I’ve called you, boy. Don’t be compromising the word of God.”

I don’t want to find myself at that place and neither do you. The second reason why we need to understand that true wealth is not the pursuit of money but the pursuit of godly character is because of the fact that if we fall into the subtle deception of loving money more than God, it will bring us to a place of destruction.

The Instability of Money

He continues in 1 Timothy 6:11–16 with a little change of thought. In this particular section, he encourages Timothy to not be like that kind of person, but to pursue righteousness so that he might fulfill his ministry. He picks up this theme of contentment again in 1 Timothy 6:17. And here’s the third reason. The third reason why you and I need to be people that understand that true wealth is not in what we possess, but in who we are in Christ is because the reality is, no matter how good that money looks, it is something that is uncertain, it is something that is unstable, and it is something that ultimately we can’t put our trust in anyway. God wants us to understand who our real focus needs to be, not the money we think we can make or should be making, but on the God who is indeed the one who will richly supply all our needs. Look at the text:

Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy (1 Timothy 6:17).

Cynthia and I have been in full-time ministry now for almost 25 years. I’ve been in ministry longer than that. But in terms of being in full-time vocational ministry, we’ve been in full-time vocational ministry now going on 25 years. And I can remember when we first started in full-time ministry I made $6,413, and $2,400 went to rent a little two-bedroom apartment that I shared with a gentleman who was like my associate staff person. We are newly married and all that and I had a man living with me in my apartment. We had a lot of fellowship in that apartment with some rats and some roaches. As a matter of fact, every time we’d open the door, there’d be a lot of activity. It was really a warm kumbaya kind of experience. And $1,500 went to a health plan. And then we lived on the rest for that entire year. And I’ll never ever, ever forget that year.

The reason why we were in that condition, and this is a story that I’ve only told in a few places, but I’m going to go ahead and venture and tell it now. The reason why we were in that condition is because I had just gotten fired. I had just gotten fired by a leading evangelical Christian organization. They had brought me up to their headquarters. And I walked in a room with all Caucasian men and one person of color who wasn’t African American. And they fired me for unjust reasons.

Not only did they fire me, but they slandered me all over America. I mean, it’s bad enough to lose your job, but also to start losing your reputation. And you know what? I had some brother in the hood in me back then. I had some of the brothers say, “Man, you should defend yourself.” But the Lord gave me peace. He said, “Dwight, you know who you’re pleasing. Don’t utter a word against them.” And so for two years or more, we were living on the edge financially, and not only living on the edge, but living in disgrace.

My wife was pregnant with our first child, and we have four wonderful children, at least we did when they were children. Now that they’re adults, I’m not sure. If anyone needs a husband for their daughters, I’ll give you my oldest one. I will not put my second oldest boy in any family because I’m a godly man. However, if you want to take a chance and you’re a person of faith, we can negotiate something.

My oldest boy was in the womb, so my wife obviously was a little nervous. She said, “Dwight, negotiate with them. Talk to them so we can keep our insurance at least until the baby comes.” So I talked with them and they said, “Yeah, we’ll be able to work it out.” But unbeknownst to me, they cut our insurance off. These were Christians. By the way, several years later, some of those same people ended up serving in a ministry under my authority. They still hadn’t said anything, but my reputation had been totally absolved. Praise the Lord, because what they were saying was false.

Every Gift from Above

What did that teach me and Cynthia? That taught us a very valuable lesson that set the pace for our ministry, even to this day. Yes, I am a professor at Moody Bible Institute. Yes, I get a paycheck from Moody Bible Institute. It ain’t a lot, trust me. But it is a paycheck. But my resources do not come from Moody Bible Institute. Are you hearing what I’m saying? My resources do not come from the churches that I preach at. Are you hearing me? My resources don’t come from me being a pastor. Are you hearing me? The resources that God continues to provide for me and Cynthia, the resources that God continues to bring into our lives, to help us to meet the needs of our children and those around us, those resources come from God and him alone.

It taught me, my brothers and my sisters, to never, ever put my focus, put my trust, put everything I have on an organization, but to always keep my trust, to always keep my focus on a God who will richly supply all that I need.

Some of you are afraid to speak the truth from the pulpit, helping Jesus who you think is about to get in trouble, because you are afraid that the deacon boy is going to call a special meeting. And you know good and well you’ve been skating around an issue for 10 years. Are you hearing me? Now, I ain’t talking about some of you young pastors. You just got there and want to destroy the church all in one day. Don’t misapply the principle. You have been there for 10 years, saying, “I’m just praying. I’m just praying. I’m just praying that the Lord would open up a door for me to talk about how homosexuality is wrong, even though I know my choir director is a homosexual.” Now we laugh, but that really goes on in a lot of our churches.

You’re saying, “I’m just praying that God would open up a door for me to talk about shacking up. I know I got a young church, it’s a seeker, targeted church, so I don’t even care if they know Jesus. I don’t even care if they even profess to know Jesus, I just want them to be there seeking.” Don’t take offense. Write the email to Dr. Piper. Maybe you say, “Let me see if I can pull down Hybel or Warren’s message to see if they ever talked about shacking up. You need to get a life. Life is too short for you to be fooling around. If God has called you to preach the gospel, you better preach the whole truth of the gospel. Now, you need to build credibility. You need to build authenticity. You need to be a servant. You need to lay the foundation. Don’t go in there guns blazing. Don’t take it out of context. Don’t ever preach your text without understanding the context. Be careful that you preach pretext. I’m sure you got that. Praise the Lord.

But the bottom line is you are at that church not because of the deacon board, not because of the elder board, not because of the congregation, you are at that church because God put you there. And when God wants to take you away, he is going to take you away. And it doesn’t matter how much politicking you do, how much hobnobbing you do, how much this or that you do, God is in control of this thing. Praise the Lord. The third reason we need to pursue the true riches of a godly life and not the false riches of materialism, is because we need to be people who focus not only on the certainty of those riches, but we need to be people who focus on the certainty of a God who will richly supply our needs. Amen.

Making Good Use of Our Resources

Last but not least, not only do we need to pursue true riches, the riches of a godly and contented life because of the passing nature of these temporal things that we’re pursuing, because of the fact that if we long for these temporal things more than God, we will fall into destruction, because of the fact that riches, no matter how good they might seem, are truly uncertain, but also, the last reason why we need to be men and women who pursue true riches, the riches of a godly contented life, is because of the fact that God wants us to be people who are not hoarding the resources that he has given to us. He wants us to be people who are sending the resources on to eternity. Did you hear that?

Look at the text as we close. It says this:

Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed (1 Timothy 6:18–19).

Once again, we see what I call a paradox in Scripture. What are we taught from the smallest little child? Take it in for yourself. Take it in for yourself. Take it in for yourself. Protect yourself. Guard yourself. Make sure yourself is taken care of. Make sure your thing is together. Make sure you have it together. Okay, you can give a little money, but make sure you have it together. What does the Bible teach us?. Give it away. Give it away. Give it away. You say, “But I ain’t got nothing.” Give that away. Give that away. Give that away. You say, “But I got even less. Give that away. Give that away. Give that away.”

The Sin of Materialism

I really believe with all my heart that if racism is the number one sin in the American evangelical church, and I believe that, the number two sin is the sin of materialism. Are you hearing me? And neither one of them have been dealt with well by evangelicals in my opinion. We skirt around the issue. We feel good about ourselves because we gave $5,000 to the children in Haiti when we have 15 pastors on staff at our church. Are you hearing what I’m saying?

We’re building millions and millions of dollars of facilities. Why? So that more people can come to hear us. But yet our culture is becoming increasingly secular. Why? Because we are marginalizing ourselves from the culture unlike the New Testament church who didn’t have all this fancy stuff. They didn’t have PowerPoint, they didn’t have all these buildings, they didn’t have anything. What they had was care for one another.

And they shared with one another, and they gave to one another. And they did it sacrificially. Now, some of you right now need to bind the enemy in your life. Because even as I speak, anger is coming up in your spirit. I’m sorry, you have a Black Baptist preacher right now. He talks about things in the spirit. Write the email to Dr. Piper. Some of you need to be careful right now, even as I speak, that you stop putting up the wall of resistance right now and that you listen to the still small voice of the Holy Spirit.

Why do you need to add that seventh staff person? Why? I know you have all kinds of reasons, but why? When for many of the churches, not just overseas, but in my hood, when we call a staff meeting, it is us and us. Are you hearing me? Why not hire a staff person for an inner city church? Glory. I’m talking heresy now. You mean we should take our money and not get something for our people, little Johnny and Jill? We need a junior high children’s pastor.

Now, please, I’m not putting that down if the Lord’s led you to do that. But the reality is there is more to the world than your little church. And I’m convinced that we can have all kinds of conferences, all kinds of prayer summons, all kinds of hugging and kissing, but until we deal with the sin of materialism in the evangelical church, we’re going to be a sterile church that the world is going to look down on and think we’re like Steve Martin and not like the godly believers of the New Testament. The question this morning quite simply is this, what are you pursuing? Amen.

Are you pursuing the true riches, a life of godly contentment, a life that is built on seeing Christ formed in your life regardless of what’s going on around you? Or are you pursuing the things of this world? I can’t be accountable for you. All I can do is be accountable for myself. As Brother Randy was sharing last night, and I’m looking forward to him sharing today, I’m listening carefully as to what the Lord wants me to do to truly reflect in my own life, when is enough enough? God bless you all.

is professor of homiletics and leadership at North Park University in Chicago.