Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world.

1 Timothy 6: 6

There is a moment or so in this letter during which Paul seems to be particularly harsh on people who are wealthy. For he will very shortly make the often misquoted statement saying, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils.” He also expends some ink on the fact that having wealth does not equate to contentment in this life. Yet, money, the possession or the lack of it, and even the processes that are involved in earning it are not really what the Apostle is concerned about. He cares greatly about the state of his reader’s souls and the condition of their hearts. Everything else is secondary, and all of the rest of it falls into order behind the primary issues of orientation, focus, and the application of the skills and energy that we have been given by God.

According to Paul, if we wish to be truly wealthy in this world, we need to seek after the sorts of riches that are eternal in nature. None of these eternal riches involve gold, silver, bank accounts, or investment portfolios. Yet, the lasting may be influenced by the manner in which we hold and use those perishable forms of wealth. Everything is influenced by perspective, and the net result of what we do is brought about by virtue of the motivation for our actions. Gain for the sake of personal glory, notoriety, or power is never going to bring about satisfaction for the soul. This worldly form of achievement will always fall away at some point along the journey of life. True contentment is found in giving ourselves fully to Christ. That is, we find the sort of heart and soul deep satisfaction in our lives most readily when we lay down our personal goals, wishes, and desires before Christ and yield all of our being to following Him and to service to God’s kingdom as He calls upon us to give it.

So, as we do this, the nothingness that we brought with us into this life is made into the greatest of riches imaginable. The emptiness of this world is enriched with the presence of the glory of heaven, and the vast storehouse of God’s bounty is opened up for us to use in bringing the love and the care of the Eternal Father into direct contact with the impoverished people of this world. It is in serving the needy that we find the true contentment that comes from walking in close proximity to God’s heartbeat for humanity. Those needs might be physical, financial, or spiritual in nature. In fact, they often include several elements of what it means to survive and to thrive in life; yet, all of these needs are things that Christ can deal with through the labor of our hands and the care of our hearts for others. Wealth is obtained through service, and contentment is found through serving Christ. The form of riches that does go with us beyond this world is granted to us by the Lord as we enter into His calling for the use of all that He has granted to us by way of resources, talents, and gifts.    

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You shall walk after the Lord your God and fear Him and keep His commandments and obey His voice, and you shall serve Him and hold fast to Him.

Deuteronomy 13: 4

 

When I think about the idea of a servant in a story from a time long ago I have an image of a sort of submission that is both total in its scope and oppressive in its nature. My mental image involves the servant walking an appropriate distance behind the master with eyes looking down and the servant’s spirit doing the same. This is a life without honor, dignity, and satisfaction. In this world the only reward that faithfulness brings is another day of the same life. There will inevitably come a time when the heart either becomes numb to it all or the person is compelled to escape by any means available. This is exactly the kind of service from which God seeks rescue everyone.

 

The sort of service that denies value and worth and that holds the one so committed under the harsh thumb of his master is the nature of the relationship that Satan engages in with us. Sin is a relentless and a harsh master. It doesn’t allow room for us to find peace and to enjoy a life that is filled with God’s perfect love and grace. However, no one needs to live a life that is ruled by this sort of servitude. Christ gives us the way to move out from under the thumb of obedience to evil as He grants us the opportunity to follow in His steps through life. The Lord calls to people and offers us forgiveness and grants us a new home where truth is the air we breath. When we yield to Christ and enter into the service of the Lord, He becomes the master who we follow behind.

 

Christ, Himself, is an easy master to follow. He never asks anything of us that is not possible, and He never sends us anywhere where He will not go. Perhaps the hardest part of it all comes from the fact that Christ does demand that we yield our will totally to Him and that we surrender ourselves completely to His service. He does not allow room for us to serve Him and to hold onto other gods. Christ calls us to go with Him exclusively and at all times. There are no vacations or leaves from serving Him, and there is no corner of life where He is fine with our tasting of evil or dabbling in sin. However, as Christ demands us in total, He also gives us the blessing of new life absolutely. He brings us into the joy of heaven as we engage in serving Creation’s King.