Sunday, September 23, 2007

What Really Matters

1 Timothy 6.6-19
Jeremiah is happy to assert that there is a link between trust in God and material well-being. He encourages us to trust that God is working for social justice and for an end to oppression. In the world order that God will one day establish, land will be bought and sold freely, and people will get a fair wage for the work that they do.

The writer of the letters to Timothy is not so convinced. When he talks about trusting God for the future, he's not thinking about the promise of heaven on earth but of a pure spiritual union with God beyond this life. To him, therefore, worldly wealth is at best irrelevant, and at worst a distraction from what really matters. So he argues that we should only worry about having enough material wealth to be content.

In saying this, I think he is being true to the teaching of Jesus, who said that we should imitate the wildflowers and the wild birds, which do not worry about tomorrow or about doing better for themselves, but simply are what they are, as God intended them to be. In contrast, the eagerness to make ourselves better off is the root of all evil.

People have sometimes misunderstood the writer. They have thought that money itself is the root of all evil, forgetting that he says it is the love of money which is wrong. Instead of setting their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, wealthy people are to use their money to do good works, being generous and ready to share. This is how we can really store up treasure for ourselves, in a place where neither moth nor rust can destroy it, and thus ensure that we are laying a good foundation for our future. For it is our spiritual life that is the most real thing about our existence, not our material well-being.

However,
despite the difference in emphasis this is not in conflict with Jeremiah's teaching about social justice. The writer of these letters does say that by sitting light to worldly prosperity, and sharing what we don't need, we are keeping the commandment of Jesus to love one another as much as we love ourselves.

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