Chapter 4

We Must Focus on the Centrality of Character

Having directed Timothy away from covetousness and toward contentment, Paul then directed him to his prime consideration. The false teachers might be absorbed with the pursuit of wealth, but Paul wanted Timothy (and us) to be engaged in the pursuit of godly character. The materialists plaguing the congregation in Ephesus had a model of success, the person who single-mindedly pursued the goal of present financial wealth. “But you, man of God, flee from all this” (1 Tim. 6:11a). Money is a great resource but a terribly inadequate goal. In fact, it is an extremely dangerous goal. So dangerous that we are called to flee the desire to get rich, to flee the love of money. This sounds strange in a society that has sanctified the pursuit of wealth and in a Christian community that often sounds more capitalist than Christian. The seduction of “prosperity theology” attempts to sanctify what God has called us to flee, a consumerist, materialistic philosophy of life. I find this a lot easier to preach than to practice.

We are not merely to flee, however. The call of the Christ-follower is to do just that, to follow the Lord. “Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness” (v.11b). Notice here that we are to replace the pursuit of things with the pursuit of character. Pursue is a significant word. It reminds us that character is forged over time, not found in an instant. While there may be instant wealth, there is never instant character. The word also reminds us that while these qualities may be the product of God’s work in our lives, we also play a critical part. Character must be developed and pursued with vigorous energy. Pursue also reminds us that this is intentional activity, pursued in the daily experiences of life.

We are not just to flee and to follow. We are also to “fight the good fight of the faith” (v.12). For while the Christian life is always personal, it is never private. A Christfollower is called to promote the cause of the kingdom of Christ and of the glory of Christ in the world. A covetous life is a selfish life. A kingdom life is a sacrificial life. In a time of warfare, we view financial resources differently. So a third phrase needs to be added to the way a Christian views money. We reject covetousness. We cultivate contentment. And we practice commitment in the use of our resources to further the cause of Christ in the world. Giving is the way we flee covetousness, because generosity builds our immunity against greed. Giving is the way we develop contentment, as we make a deliberate choice to employ our resources for others, not just for ourselves. And giving is the way we demonstrate and develop commitment in the fight of faith.

Our concern in this section has been to think about load limits, about the Plimsoll line we need to draw in our lives to prevent dangerous overloading with things. Here are four suggestions to help us focus our thinking about personal load limits.

1. Develop a lifestyle of limits, not luxury. Go countercultural. Underbuy or do without. As an act of self-discipline and as a means to loosen the hold of covetousness, choose to do with less than you can afford.

2. Cultivate generosity, not greed. Compassion and generosity are the drainplugs for covetousness. Give more than you think you can to a cause the Lord has laid on your heart. Take a kingdom risk!

3. Emphasize personal worth rather than net worth. Determine to spend more time thinking and working on your future character than on your financial future. If your financial retirement plan is in place, what about your character retirement plan? You are determining your future financial assets now. The same is true of your future character assets. What kind of an older person are you choosing to be?

4. Invest in the eternal, not just the temporal. Pray for a kingdom project that will capture your passion, challenge your giftedness, and inspire the investment of your treasure.