A Devout Life: Part 5
The Source of Righteousness
According to 1 Timothy 6:11, righteousness depends upon five sincere, heartfelt, and intentional expressions of the heart, mind and body:
If Paul uses these five expressions to define godly righteousness, and our lives are to live in a manner that is "equitable", to what or to whom are our lives to be equal? What or Whom forms the standards, or the degrees, by which we are to express righteousness?
Upon What or Whom does righteousness depend?
I'm charging you before the life-giving God and before Christ, who took his stand before Pontius Pilate and didn't give an inch: Keep this command to the letter, and don't slack off. Our Master, Jesus Christ, is on his way. He'll show up right on time, his arrival guaranteed by the Blessed and Undisputed Ruler, High King, High God. He's the only one death can't touch, his light so bright no one can get close. He's never been seen by human eyes—human eyes can't take him in! Honor to him, and eternal rule! Oh, yes. (1 Timothy 6:13-16 MSG)
Our ultimate standard of righteousness is best defined by a Person: Jesus Christ, Master of all creation, immortal, glorious, supernatural, with all honor and power.
Perhaps this is the origin of distorted, perverted, unrighteous human standards of success. I've described previously my own tendency to compare myself with others in order to estimate my own personal worth. Perhaps, I am created with an echo of the image of Jesus stamped upon my soul, embossing my heart with an awareness, dim though it is, of the awesome height of perfection of Jesus.
Perhaps we all are created with this shadow of awareness.
However, if my others-based scale of comparison is ultimately due to God's hand in my creation, why does it fail me? Why would the image of God in me create a system of self-worth that brings despair and frustration?
Why might high standards of success be a negative thing?
This is a great paradox. I am created with the stamp of God's glory, yet my life on earth is one of poverty: I entered the world penniless (without a single shred of personal power or influence), and I will leave it penniless, yet a Rich, Boundless God created me.
Perhaps I so greatly desire the joy of heaven that I tend to seek for it here on earth, an earth that is wracked by sin and mortality; an earth that seems on the verge of self-destruction; an earth that cannot possibly, ultimately, provide the success I long for.
Perhaps I am failing to look in the right direction for success and satisfaction.
Go After God
Tell those rich in this world's wealth to quit being so full of themselves and so obsessed with money, which is here today and gone tomorrow. Tell them to go after God, who piles on all the riches we could ever manage— to do good, to be rich in helping others, to be extravagantly generous. If they do that, they'll build a treasury that will last, gaining life that is truly life. (1 Timothy 6:17-19 MSG)
The phrase, "so full of themselves" is contrasted with the phrase "go after God". Going after God is the opposite of being "so full of themselves".
Those who are rich in this world's wealth, or those who are obsessed with gaining wealth are placing themselves sky high, lofty beyond reason, higher even than their Creator.
The obsessively wealthy, or the compulsive dreamer of wealth, are seeking a Heaven of their own making on earth. They are envisioning themselves living apart from God, higher than their impression of God, a Heaven without a meaningful God. In their minds this world is all there is, or all that counts right now, and they are their own savior.
Paul urges the wealthy or wanna-be-wealthy to seek the opposite of personal loftiness, which would place them lower than God, subordinate to God. The opposite of being full of one's self is to be full of another: God.
We must ask God to transform our desire for earthly wealth (which may take the form of time, strength, influence and property) into a desire for God Himself. We must ask God to incline our hearts toward him, open our eyes to the truth of what's he's done, unite our fragmented hearts with his heart, and satisfy us with his goodness, mercy, grace and power.
We must ask God to pile on all the true riches that he has for us:
- To do good
- To be rich in helping others
- To be extravagantly generous
- To build a treasury that will last
- To live a life that is truly life
"To do good" means to act, work or toil as a good effort or occupation.
To be rich in helping others means to become wealthy in good works, especially in things beautiful, good, valuable or virtuous for appearance or use.
To be extravagantly generous means to be good or liberal in imparting or sharing with others, especially in the sense of a community of friends, and especially with common, ordinary-day friends.
To build a treasure that will last means to treasure away, amass or reserve away, again for things beautiful, good, valuable or virtuous for appearance or use. It carries the connotation of something foundational, as in the structure of a building, built with purpose, duty or necessity.
Finally, to live a life that is truly life means to seize life that is perpetual.
God, You are the Source of righteousness. Without Your sacrifice of Your Son on my behalf, I would not be able to even face You, much less hope for eternal life as Your child, forgiven of all sin, cleansed in the guiltless identity of Christ Jesus.
God, this world is breaking up. It's like my heart, torn and fragmented, wanting You yet hiding from You. Please remind me daily that joy and contentment, a devout life that looks upward, inward, outward, downward and all around is a righteous life that brings great wealth, wealth that is measured eternally, with limitless potential.
God, You are my Creator, Master, Savior, Companion, and Lover.
Scripture taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.
Evonne, for "Treasure", https://flic.kr/p/4SpSBW, Creative Commons license, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/