“Just A Little Bit More Would Be Enough”
Matthew 6:19 – 24
1 Timothy 6:6 – 10
Just a Little Bit More Would be Enough
Just a little bit more would be enough,
In 1928, the famed economist John Maynard Keynes spoke to a gathering at Cambridge University, and rather optimistically, though with great conviction, stated that within the lifetime of the students gathered there on that day, the economic problems of the world would be solved.
Per capital wealth would increase to a point where every person’s needs would be met,
No one would go without,
And those in paid employment, would need work no more than 15 hours each week.
Well, in a book entitled How Much is Enough released in 2012, Economic Historian Robert Skidelsky, and his philosopher Son, Eric, ask, “What went wrong?”
Per capita wealth has increased, in almost every country of the world, but for many, people, there’s a feeling that “I still don’t have enough.”
Yes, I have more than a generation ago, but my needs are not being met, and there’s always a desire for more.
And the Skidelskys, writing from a British perspective and with British data, they Skidelskys observe, and you can almost hear them sigh as they say it! “Despite the doubling of UK per capita income, we possess no more of the basic goods than we did in 1974;, in certain respects, we possess less of them."
So how much is enough?
Well, it’s a good question for us to ask, isn’t it?
Because no matter where we think we fit on the scale of personal wealth, we are so easily tempted to think, “just a little bit more would be enough.”
I haven’t been satisfied with what I’ve got up until now, but just that little bit extra would make all the difference.
Now, you might be thinking, “Clayton, that’s not me. I’m not particularly discontent,
I’m quite happy with what I’ve got,
I don’t feel the draw to amass more money or stuff, in order to be happy.”
And if that’s you, I’m very pleased for you. I’m thankful to God that you’re able to look at your life in that way, and be content with what you have, and maybe there are others of us in our church family who should be paying closer attention to your life to see what we can apply in our own, but I do still think that looking at this myth this morning, and thinking about how we might guard against it, is of value to you, for 2 reasons.
The first one is the, just insidious nature , of the temptation to want more.
Certainly my experience, is that discontentment creeps into my life, and it’s easy not to notice it in the beginning.
I think I’m content, but then I see something new, or someone else who has more, and I think, “Oh well, if I could just get that one thing, then I’d be content again.”
And maybe that’s a familiar feeling for you.
‘Cause, of course, we’re not just talking about money, dollars in the bank, or whatever,
The desire for just that little bit more, applies to the stuff that money buys, as much as anything else.
The other reason I think it’s really important for all of us to think about this myth that having more will make us content, even if we don’t feel particularly discontent at the moment, is because the message “You should have a little bit more”, is everywhere.
The researchers tell us that every day, we will see about 5000 advertisements. 5000 billboards and posters, and TV ads, and all the rest, the sole purpose of which, is to make us think, that we need just that little bit more,
That we can only be truly happy, or truly satisfied, if we have what they’re selling.
Even the TV shows we watch,
It’s not Perfectly Adequate Homes and Gardens?, No it’s not, is it?
It’s Better Homes and Gardens.
We can have, we deserve , something better, something bigger, and then we’ll be happy.
That’s the message we’re constantly hearing.
Even the deliberate product placement in movies and TV shows, urges us to be discontent with what we have, and to believe that with just a little bit more, everything would be better.
See even if you think, “well, this isn’t really an issue for me”.
The fact that you’re going to be assaulted 5000 times today, with the message that says “you do need just a little bit more”,
And your brothers and sisters here are going to be assaulted with a similar set of 5000 advertisements, well, isn’t that reason enough, for some serious consideration, as to how we can guard against this?
The good news of Jesus offers an alternative to discontentment (1 Timothy 6:6 – 10)
And so, the first thing that I want us to hear from the Bible today amidst all those messages that fuel discontentment, is that the good news of Jesus offers us an alternative to what we could call the epidemic of discontentment.
The letter of 1 Timothy is written by the Apostle Paul, to his young friend, Timothy, who was a pastor in the city of Ephesus.
Contentment with godliness is great gain (v 6)
And here in chapter 6, Paul has been warning about false teachers who think that you can just get more by being a Christian.
And today, countless churches, even in Adelaide, preach a message that is an echo of this false gospel Paul takes aim at here, saying that a relationship with God through Jesus is a means to financial gain.
And so Paul flips this false gospel on its head, and says it’s not that wealth brings gain, that if you have a bit more, you’ll be truly happy, but that godliness with contentment is great gain, 1 Timothy 6 verse 6.
Now, if we glance through those earlier verses in chapter 6, where Paul lays bare the lives and message of these false teachers, we see that their brand of godliness was really only just for show.
“Godliness” here is kind of Paul’s short-hand for quite a complex concept. In Pauls’ language the word “godliness” doesn’t actually have the word “God” in it.
It’s a word that summaries an attitude and behaviour, that starts with God and who he is, and what he’s done for us in sending Jesus into the world.
And so responding to God, for who he is and what he’s done for us,
Responding with reverent and, and marvelled awe, that’s godliness.
To appreciate the gospel of Jesus, and to let that seep down into every part of your being, and every part of your life, public and private, that’s godliness.
For your life to be shaped by your gratitude at the gift of Jesus’ death in your place, for your rebellion against God, that’s godliness.
So you can see why Paul uses the shorthand!
But if that’s what godliness is, then that is very great gain, because it shows us that we’ve been given so much, and so it allows us to be , truly content,
It allows us to see past the myth of “If I had that little bit extra, that would make all the difference to my life.”
If I’m truly thankful for what I’ve been given in Christ, well compared to that, what those advertisements offer me, well, I’m not going to say it immediately pales into insignificance, not for me anyway,
But the finished work of Christ, what he accomplished for me and the world, gives me an anchor, high ground, not moral high ground, but a vantage point to see things as they truly are.
And see Paul’s point is that godliness, that whole package of true and appropriate worship, must be coupled with contentment if there is to be great gain.
That is, only those who are content with what God has done for them in Christ Jesus,
Only those who aren’t off looking to supplement what Jesus offers, and what Jesus has done, only those people, gain from what God has done.
Friends, please don’t search out something to add to Christ’s work,
Don’t think that there is a gap that needs to be filled up,
Something else that needs to be done to bring you to God.
That Christ is withholding from you, things you ought to have, that maybe he’s, just too cheap to give you.
Defeating for ourselves this myth “just a little bit more would be enough”, starts with being content with what God has accomplished for us in the cross of Christ.
If you trust in Jesus’ death in your place you lack nothing in your spiritual state.
Paul’s word for contentment there in verse 6, and its variation down in verse 8, was a word that was a favourite with the Stoic philosophers of ancient times.
To the Stoics, someone who was content was someone independent of their circumstances.
It was all about self-sufficiency, and in fact the whole Stoic ideal was to be entirely self-sufficient, and if ever a person could accomplish that, cut themselves off entirely, the Stoics would have considered them greater even than the gods. That’s how highly they valued this idea of not being dependent on anybody!
But, as you’ve probably realised, Paul kind of redefines the term in exactly the opposite direction. Contentment for the Christian person, contentment according to God, is not independence, but dependence,
Christian contentment, is being dependent on the grace of God shown to us in Jesus.
If we’ve understood the vastness of what God has done for us,
There’s no need to try and supplement that with anything else.
There’s no feeling of being ripped off, and denied something that we really ought to have.
If what God has done for you, is enough for you, then that’s great gain.
But if we keep looking for a little bit more,
If our happiness is determined by our circumstances, by what we’ve got, it will never be enough.
“Just a little bit more would be enough, ” - It’s a myth.
But even as Christian people, which I imagine most of us are, I think we often believe something like 1 Timothy 6:6, but with a twist. I think we believe something like “godliness, with a little but more than I currently have, is great contentment.”
There’s a story about an ancient king, who fell ill, and his wise men him that he could only be cured, if he could wear the shirt of a contented man. It’s always so obscure what these wise men come up with, isn’t it?!
But the king sends his army out across the kingdom, to find a truly contented man, in order that his shirt could be brought to the king.
And eventually a truly contented man was found, but he was so poor, that he didn’t even own a shirt.
Cute story, maybe, but Clive Hamilton, the well-known Australian sociologist has observed that there is effectively no difference in the level of contentedness reported by people with incomes of $20,000 a year, and incomes of $80,000 a year.
And in fact, although average income has increased by over 300% in the past 50 years, the sense that I need just a little bit more is the same now as it was back then.
The version of verse 6 that we’d like to believe, a little bit more is great gain, oh yeah, and godliness, too! That’s not true.
A little bit more, is not great gain, is not enough to make us think that we have enough.
But for the Christian person, to understand what God has done for us in Christ,
To live in the light of that,
And to be content with that, that is great gain.
Contentment is great gain because greed is irrational (v 7)
And Paul tells us why,
Why our preferred version of verse 6 can never be true.
To want more stuff, is irrational, since verse 7, we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.
This is an echo of Job 1:21, and it’s picked up elsewhere in the Old Testament, but Job reflects of his life, and the fact that everything he had enjoyed in his life came from God’s hand, but none of it was going with him into the next life.
According to the research, most Australians believe in heaven, or some kind of life after death. The figure is about 74 to 76 percent depending on who you ask.
If you ever doubt that, have a read through the death notices in the paper one day, where the hope of a good life beyond the grave, runs at nearly 100%!
The Bible teaches us that if we trust in Jesus’ life and death and resurrection for forgiveness and reconciliation with God, then we get to enjoy God and all his blessings forever.
That’s the hope that we as Christians hold dear.
And so if that’s what we believe, and we know we can’t take our money or stuff with us when we die, then it would seem completely irrational to expend too much energy at all, in the getting of more and more.
You’ve probably heard the story of the two friends standing at the graveside of a very wealthy man.
One turns to the other and asks, “So how much did he leave behind?”
And his friend answers, “All of it!”
All of it!
I read an article on the Sydney Morning Herald website that began like this,
Simon Mordant, the Sydney financier and leading philanthropist, plans to take none of his fortune with him when he dies.
It doesn’t matter whether he plans to, or not! He can’t!
If you’re a Christian person and looking forward to spending eternity with God,
Or even if you’re not a Christian but you’re here today to try and find out about Christian things, you will realise, that the insatiable desire, , or , let’s call it what it is, the greed, for more money and stuff now is irrational.
When we look at the way that our relationship with God for eternity is described in the Scriptures, when we see, for example, how heaven itself is pictured in the Bible, the Apostle John, in Revelation resorts to saying the streets are paved with gold.
If we have a true sense of that, then thinking that having more stuff now is going to make much of a difference to our lives is utter foolishness.
You know about the rich man who insisted his family bury him with a briefcase full of gold bullion so he could spend it in the afterlife.
And when he gets to the Pearly Gates, Saint Peter says “Can I see what’s in the case?” You know this isn’t what it’s actually like, don’t you?!
So the man proudly opens the case to show off his blocks of gold, and Saint Peter looks at him dumbfounded, and says, “Pavers?! Why did you bring pavers?!”
For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.
The desire for more is irrational.
What a waste, to spend so much of your life, pursuing something that is of no value on the other side of death?
Be content with enough for our daily needs (v 8)
But did you notice that for Paul, being content even without that little bit more, content regardless of circumstances, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t seek to meet our own physical needs.
Verse 8, But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.
If we have our basic needs, we’ll be content with that.
Of course the tricky bit is, working out, “What do we need?”
But the temptation for many of us, I think, is to covet more than we really do need.
Paul’s language here, covers just the basics.
food and clothing, really are symbolic of the very least we need to get by. Who is it, Baloo from “The Jungle Book” The bare necessities, the simple bare necessities, that’s what Paul’s got in mind.
You may have heard the news this week that former model Christina Estrada was granted a divorce settlement by a London court from Saudi billionaire husband.
She told the court her “needs” included 40 thousand pounds for fur coats,
109 thousand pounds for dresses,
And 21 thousand pounds for shoes, every year.
Obviously different people need different amounts!
That extreme case perhaps not withstanding, it is true that what people need varies, which is why there’s a danger when Christians try and lay down rules about this kind of thing, “If we have food and clothes, and a car no more flashy than a Commodore or a Falcon, we will be content.”
Be wary of Christians who try and force you to follow rules.
But sit down, work it out, what are the bare necessities?
And dwell on that, drum that into your mind, “I don’t need more than, whatever.”
Because it is as easy as anything, to convince yourself, or to be convinced, that you need something more.
You might have noticed that Paul’s language projects his intention into the future;, if we have food and clothing, we , will be , content with that.
He’s saying “Once you’ve got the necessities of life, practice being content with that.”
We make a decision to be content, and we keep making the decision to be content.
Contentment is gain because earthly treasure doesn’t last
But there’s another flaw in that line of thinking, “Just a little bit more would be enough.” See, even if, just for a moment, we put aside that eternal perspective and think about life here and now,
The great danger in thinking that if I had just a little bit more that would be enough,
That would solve my problems,
That would ease the pressure,
That great danger in that line of thinking, is that the “little bit more” that we hope for, doesn’t even last , in this life.
If you have your Bible there, please flick back to that first passage we read, Jesus words in Matthew 6, starting at verse 19,
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.
Now Jesus is not saying that money is bad. Just like in 1 Timothy 6 Paul didn’t say, as that passage is often misquoted, “money is the root of all evil”, that’s not what Paul said at all.
It’s not that money is bad, that we all need to cut up our credit cards and shut down our bank accounts.
There were teachers in Jesus’ day who taught that exactly, except the cutting up your credit card bit, and Jesus very deliberately doesn’t go down that path of saying “money is bad, have nothing to do with it.”
And he’s also not saying that we shouldn’t use money to provide for ourselves and our families. Jesus and Paul are in complete agreement, “Yes, provide for yourself, for those in your care,
If you don’t do that you’re worse than the pagans,
Buy the food and clothing and necessities.”
But Jesus is saying, that all of us, every single person has treasure. The things we value.
The things we value above all else,
The things that influence us, and shape the decisions that we make.
And as verse 19 explains, earthly treasures are things we value and desire on earth.
Of course, this isn’t just limited to money and possessions. Jesus’ word for money down at the end of verse 24 was the word “mammon” which originally meant something that can be depended upon. Position, status, influence, all these things could be considered earthly treasures that people come to depend on, but I think money and possessions are on the top of the list of likely risks for us, and they’re certainly front and centre in Jesus’ mind here.
And Jesus’ point is, earthly treasure doesn’t last.
It looks dependable,
It looks secure, But it’s not.
This week I was watching some footage of the tsunami in Sendai, Japan, in 2011. Cars being swept away like corks bobbing on the surface. A stretch of the city 8 kilometres wide was just literally swept away.
Now, cars and houses, don’t they account for a big part of how we choose to spend our money?
And most of the time, they look sturdy, dependable, reliable.
And yet these treasures can be reduced to worthless rubble in an instant, and we are powerless to stop.
It is in the very nature of earthly treasures, to be destroyed and taken from us.
That little bit more, that promises so much, cannot deliver on its promises.
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.
The word translated “vermin” there, literally means “to eat away”, and some of the English Bible versions follow the 16th Century Bible translator William Tyndale, who used the word “rust” to capture that sense of eating away.
The point is, there’s any number of things that will eat away at earthly treasures, that make our treasures less valuable.
And here’s the thing, it could even be our desire for more, that makes the treasure we already have seem less valuable.
That’s how it works, isn’t it?
Your brand new shiny , whatever, all of a sudden seems a little , less brand new, and a little , less shiny, when your neighbour gets the new model.
Even someone else’s earthly treasure, can eat away at your treasure.
Earthly treasures do not last.
So how do we guard against the myth?
So how do we guard against the myth that all we need in life is just a little bit more?
A little bit more money,
Or a little bit more stuff?
The newer model?
The upgraded edition?
How do we guard ourselves against believing the myth foisted on us by those thousands and thousands of advertisements?
Well Jesus gives us the antidote, doesn’t he?
I’ve had a little bit of experience of diagnosis and antidotes in the last couple of months!
Jesus straight away, writes the prescription!
And in doing so, he takes us back to where we started, thinking about godliness,
And about what God has done,
And what God thinks is right and important.
““Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, But, verse 20, store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy,
and where thieves do not break in and steal.
21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
If you want to be content with what you have,
If you want to, let’s keep the medical jargon! inoculate yourself against the temptation to acquire more and more,
If you want to guard your heart against the prevailing myth in our society that just a little bit more would be enough, then Jesus says, store up, treasures in heaven.
Of course, the first question then is, “well, what are the treasures we can store up in heaven, pretty sure we’re not still talking about that guy with his briefcase full of gold!”
Well, if earthly treasures are things that we have and value on earth, the things we can’t take with us when we die, then the treasures we store up in heaven will be the things that we will have in heaven, things we can take with us.
Craig Blomberg, a leading New Testament scholar, says at this point, “Spiritual treasures should be defined as broadly as possible”, but specifically he says, the focus here is on people.
Because people go to heaven, don’t they?
We can, in a sense, take people to heaven with us, through our use of our money and possessions.
We can invest in other people, so that they get to share in the blessings of heaven with us.
And so Christians who have godliness and contentment, that is, an awe-inspired satisfaction with what God has done for us in Christ Jesus,
Christians who have godliness and contentment, will invest their time, and energy, and their dollars, in ensuring that other people hear the good news of Jesus,
In ensuring that other people are grown in holiness,
In ensuring that brothers and sisters in Christ aren’t just left on their own to believe the myths of our age, but are discipled and built to maturity in Christ, so they can stand confidently before him on that last day and enjoy eternity with God.
People who live out godliness and contentment, don’t say, I’m too busy to lead a Bible study group, or to come to the prayer meeting, or to invest in our kids’ church.
The contented person can say, “Well that’s obviously what’s important, so that’s what will get my time and energy.”
And truly contented people, will invest their time, and their energy, and their dollars, into developing their own relationship with God, their own godliness and holiness, and Christ-like-ness. That’s a heavenly treasure to be invested in,
And that’s treasure that will last,
I was speaking with someone recently, whose family came to Australia on a ship in 1912. Of course, that was the year the Titanic sank, and we were chatting about that. I was reminded of the story of a woman travelling first class, who before she climbed into a lifeboat, ran back into her stateroom, and filled her pockets, not with the jewellery still spread across her dressing table, but with the fruit that was in a bowl on the table.
She knew that, where she was going, into a life-boat, fruit is valuable than jewellery.
So let me ask you, and you should ask me, what is the treasure that you’ll take with you?
Where is your heart?
And so there’s a diagnostic question for us.
Where is your treasure?
Because where your treasure is, Jesus says, is where you’ll find your heart.
And where your heart is, is where you’ll look for happiness, contentment, value.
John Stott, the British pastor, described the desire for money and possessions as “tethering our hearts to the world.”
Is your heart tethered to the world?
Find your treasure and you’ll find where your heart is.
I think I’ve told the story before, about the farmer who announced to his wife one day that their prize-winning cow had just given birth to twin calves, one brown and one white.
And he says, we’ll dedicate one of these calves to God. And when the time comes to sell them in the market, we’ll keep the money from one, and we’ll put the money from the other towards God’s work.
His wife asks, “Which is ours and which is God’s?” And her husband replies, “Don’t worry about that now, when we sell them, one will be God’s and one will be ours”
A few months later, the farmer comes into the house, long face. “One of the calves has died, he said. The white one. Oh and, by the way, I decided back at the beginning that God’s calf would be the white one. God’s calf is dead!”
And you know what? It’s almost always God’s calf that dies!
It’s so often our giving to God’s work that dries up first when finances get tight.
It’s our contribution into the lives of others that often suffers first when we’re pressed for time.
It’s the investment in our own personal Christlikeness and godliness, our time spent reading the Bible and in prayer, that all too often falls by the wayside when our diary gets crowded.
Or if you’re not a Christian, it’s often the time spent figuring out who God is, what’s he done for me?, What does the cross of Jesus mean for me?, it’s those questions that often we think “Ah, I’ll come back to them later,
There’s just too much going on for me now, to wrestle with those questions.”
What gets dropped, and what gets kept, will show you where your heart is.
C S Lewis, author of Mere Christianity, The Chronicles of Narnia, once said he who has God, and everything else, has no more than he who has God only.
Again, he’s not thinking about whether you’ve even got the bare necessities, but he’s asking “is your whole life about getting “everything else”?”, which really, is no more.
he who has God and everything else, has no more than he who has God only.
So what do you have?