Can't Take It with You (1 Timothy 6)
- Order of Service: Matins
- Hymns: LSB #802, 730, 781, 708
But godliness with contentment is great gain, 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 will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. (1 Timothy 6:6-10)
Kristian Bush recorded the 2014 hit song, “Trailer Hitch”. The song's chorus ends with the wonderful line: “You can't take it with you when you go. Never seen a hearse with a trailer hitch.” Not once has Totzke pulled a U-Haul trailer to the cemetery. There's no need for it. You can't take anything with you when you die. “We brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world.” Or as the patriarch Job said, “Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return.”
No matter what the bumper stickers say, life is not about possessions. The person who dies with the most toys doesn't win. They just die. And their stuff goes to someone else. Solomon said, “I hated all my toil in which I toil under the sun, seeing that I must leave it to the man who will come after me, and who knows whether he will be wise or a fool?” None of your possessions stay with you. When you leave this world, you leave everything behind. Your possessions become someone else's blessing or burden. God's words to the rich fool bear great weight: “Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have prepared?”
Many have a sinful desire to be rich. To have a comfortable living isn't sinful, but our definition of “comfortable” becomes an issue. “If we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.” Food and clothing are two of the most basic needs every person has. With food in your belly and clothes on your body, you can go and do what you need to do in this life. While permanent shelter and stable finances are wonderful, they are not necessary. Many people who have made a big name for themselves were once homeless. They limped along with the basic necessities until they made their big break.
But the desire to amass great riches is a big problem. For both the poor and the rich. Both are tempted with envy. God gives two commandments about envy. The Seventh and Ninth Commandments are based around envy over possession. “You shall not steal. What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not take our neighbor's money or possessions, or get them in any dishonest way, but help him to improve and protect his possessions and income.” “You shall not covet your neighbor's house. What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not scheme to get our neighbor's inheritance or house, or get it in a way which only appears right, but help and be of service to him in keeping it.”
The poor shouldn't expect the rich to take care of them. The poor shouldn't expect an equal share for unequal work. But the poor are tempted to expect these things. This is the background behind the outcry that the “one percent” needs to share their wealth with the other ninety-nine.
On the other side of the coin, the rich should not be haughty in their wealth. The rich are prone to the temptation of setting their hopes on the uncertainty of wealth. “He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income.” Why are the rich never satisfied? They never see themselves as having enough. There is always something more that they want. The love of money puts this craving for more in them.
But the craving goes both ways. To want more, but also to lord it over the poor. This is the essence of haughtiness. The more they have, the more they rub their inferiors' noses in it. These things plunge them into ruin and destruction. The rich man in Jesus' parable lorded his wealth over Lazarus at his doorstep. He dined sumptuously while Lazarus begged for the rich man's crumbs. But Lazarus received nothing. Even while he was suffering in Hell, the rich man tried to lord his wealth and importance over Lazarus and even over Abraham. He was not content with what God had given him. He ruined himself in his discontentment.
Why was he not content? Contentment is God's gift. God's gift that He wants to give to everyone. Not everyone wants to receive this gift. Adam and Eve weren't content with God in the Garden. The children of Israel weren't content with God in the Wilderness or in the Promised Land. You aren't content with God in your life.
You may have what is necessary for your life. But you think you could always have more. But you have everything you could possibly ever want. Everything that is important in this life. Because you have been through the water. You have been delivered from your sins. What more could you ask for? Your Baptism gives you every blessing you could possibly want.
So St. Paul tells Timothy, “Be rich in good works.” A Christian's contentment comes in the good works with which they are blessed. The primary good work of salvation worked in you through the Holy Spirit. The one He will work in you until it is complete when Jesus comes back. That work is the “good confession” Jesus made before Pontius Pilate. Which you make before all those who ask for a reason for your contentment and hope. Because your hope is the basis for your contentment.
Hope that is not a wish. Hope founded on the truth of the Gospel. Your confession of Christ as your Savior. From this hope, you can “fight the good fight” against anything that would disown its Creator. With this hope, you can “pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.” None of these things require material wealth. They require contentment. St. Paul also says, “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.” Paul says this after so many calamities had befallen him for following Christ: “Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.” In each of these situations, Paul was content. And he says you can also be content in everything. Because you have everything in Christ.
His is the “righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, [and] gentleness.” His is the “good confession” given “to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach.” And He will display all this when He comes back to judge the living and the dead. Those who have hoped in Him. Who have fought the good fight of faith. Who have taken hold of eternal life to which they were called in their Baptism.
Being content, you know you can't take anything with you when you go. Not anything from this world. But you can take the “righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, [and] gentleness” He gives you from Himself. These are not from this world. They are heavenly. And so is your contentment. Amen.