Take Hold: When Life Is More Than Living
1 Timothy 6:17-19
October 3, 2016
17 As for those who in the present age are rich, command them not to be haughty, or to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but rather on God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 18 They are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, 19 thus storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life that really is life.
What is the good life? What is the well-lived life? Is it the life that maximizes satisfaction and minimizes regret? Is it a life of security or a life of adventure? A life of comfort or a life of experiences that challenge and mold you?
As a kid, I loved being outside. The good life for me was when I could play out by the creek behind our house, build forts, and explore the outdoors. My mom was fine with that, as long as I didn’t bring the outdoors in. I am a strong believer that kids should have ample pocket space. Where else do you put all of the rocks, the nuts, the frogs, and the insects?
During the recent consignment sale here at the church, Kate was at work, so I was in charge of the shopping. And I got Felder, our 15 month old, a pair of cargo pants. Now, Kate isn’t a fan of cargo pants, which I knew. But, as I explained to her, the boy needs some pocket space. He needs somewhere to put all of the stuff that he collects outside. Because, he’s like me; the good life is being outside, closely followed by snacks and any type of ball. Whenever he wants to go outside, he’ll bring us his shoes–usually two different shoes, both left feet–and points to the door. And, if you try to bring him back inside, he throws a fit. The good life is being outside.
Your notion of the “good life” changes a bit with time, doesn’t it? The outdoors part is still there for me. When I was a little younger, I wanted to move out west. I wanted to move to a place where I could backpack, fly fish on mountain lakes, ski in the winter, do some whitewater rafting in the summer. But, I knew that if I moved somewhere like that, I would do absolutely nothing helpful for the rest of the population. It’d be a good life, but it wouldn’t be “the good life,” as I understand it. A life that makes at least a little bit of a difference in this world.
It wasn’t the “good life” that I felt called to live.
What is “the good life” for you? What is your ideal? What is the life you are pursuing or hope to pursue? Why is that the “good life?” You’ve probably heard Socrates’ famous line while he’s on trial in Plato’s Apology, “the unexamined life is not worth living.” How examined is your “good life?”
As I was thinking about the “good life” this week, I thought about a couple of songs. Some of you might be familiar with “Good Life” by OneRepublic. Others of you are asking, “Who’s OneRepublic?” But, if you know the song, you know it’s almost this cliche about younger generations, about finding the good life in short-term experiences. It talks about this brief window of youth and freedom and, if you don’t immerse yourself in as many experiences as you can, then you’ll miss something. So, you should travel, jump out of airplanes, and not dwell on your complaints because life is short. Now, this idea that the good life is living in the present and focusing on pleasurable experiences isn’t new. It’s actually one of the major questions in the Book of Ecclesiastes in the bible, not to mention a topic of debate in philosophy going back at least to the ancient Greeks. So, is that the good life? Whatever feels best–right here, right now?
The other song I was thinking about is “Helplessness Blues” by Fleet Foxes. Now, I’m showing my unique music tastes, because I’m guessing many of you don’t listen to Fleet Foxes. But, I love the first lines:
I was raised up believing I was somehow unique
Like a snowflake distinct among snowflakes, unique in each way you can see
And now after some thinking, I'd say I'd rather be
A functioning cog in some great machinery serving something beyond me
Now, most people don’t want to be described of as a cog in a machine, but it raises a good question. Is the good life simply about our own experience? Do we live as if the experiences of others don’t matter or the state of humanity as a whole isn’t important? Is the good life about the individual life or is it about contributing something greater than the individual?
The passage that we read comes from Paul’s letter to Timothy. Paul was an accomplished missionary. But, he wasn’t always a missionary. From what we know of Paul’s background, he was well educated under a prominent teacher. He knew classical literature, philosophy, and ethics. He was an intellectual guy. And, he thought he was pursuing the “good life,” until an encounter with God convinced him that true life was found in following Jesus. So, he visited towns and cities throughout the Mediterranean, sharing the message of this “good life” found in Jesus.
He started churches, trained local leaders, and remained in contact with them. But, he hit his ceiling. He was just one person and could only be in one place at a time. So, he began to look for others that he could train up as leaders to send to churches around the region. One of these was Timothy, who was a teenager when Paul came across him and saw great leadership potential. So, Paul began to take Timothy on journeys with him, teaching him, mentoring him. This letter comes as he has sent Timothy out on his own to deal with some problems in a church and, in it, he’s giving Timothy guidance and encouragement.
What we read today comes right at the end of this letter. It’s part of the conclusion of Paul’s message. And, in this section, Paul focuses on a couple of things. First, he encourages Timothy to be a faithful leader, particularly because he was dealing with some competing teachings about what it meant to follow Jesus. There were some that claimed that you couldn’t get married, you could only drink water, and you had to eat vegan. And they were pretty self-righteous about it. But Paul says, “No, no, no. That’s not what it means to follow Christ. Certainly you don’t have to get married, or drink other things, or eat animal products. But, those aren’t prerequisites to being a Christian. It’s about your relationship with God and with each other. It’s about pursuing godliness and being content with what you have.”
The second thing that Paul focuses on is almost the opposite. He talks about the slippery slope of wealth. It’s in this chapter that we get that oft misquoted line: “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.”
He’s warning the church of what can happen when your “good life” becomes all about money or the things that money can get you. He’s says that not only does it draw you away from Christ, but it’s a road that leads to pain and emptiness, not fulfillment. Money is not innately evil, but it’s also not where you find the true “good life.”
So, Paul wraps up this section with what we read today and I want to read it again.
As for those who in the present age are rich, command them not to be haughty, or to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but rather on God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, thus storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life that really is life.
Now, I want you to hear a couple of things here. Paul isn’t saying that if you have money you should feel guilt or anxiety. He’s saying that money is ultimately uncertain and short-lasting. He tells Timothy to encourage the people in the church to put their hope in God, to do good, and to be ready to share. He encourages them to seek the life that God offers, which is both certain and eternal, the true “good life.”
Over the next month, we’re going to be walking through this passage, seeking to unpack the good life that God offers to us. Each week we’ll tackle a different part, as you see in your bulletin, ultimately seeking to take hold of the life that really is life. Make sure you look in your bulletins for more information about things going on during this series. And, I hope you’ll join us over the next month, in worship, in prayer, and in the other ways outlined in your bulletin, as we walk this road together.
Discussion Guide for October 2: When Life Is More Than Living
1. Share some different ideas in our society of what constitutes the good life.
2. Share your thoughts on what it means to live the good life.
3. Share your thoughts on what God sees as the good life.
4. Read 1 Timothy 6:6-19. What does this expanded look at this passage say about the good life?