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«Desiring God DESIRING GOD JOHN PIPER DESIRING GOD published by Multnomah Publishers, Inc. © 1986, 1996, 2003 by Desiring God Foundation ...»

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7. This does not contradict the biblical doctrine of the eternal security of God’s chosen people who are truly born again, a doctrine firmly established by Romans 8:30. But it does imply that there is a change of heart if we have been born of God, and this includes evidences in the way we use our money. Jesus warned repeatedly of the false confidence that bears no fruit and will forfeit life in the end (Matthew 7:15–27; 13:47–50; 22:11–14). For more on eternal security and perseverance of the saints, see Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1994), 788–809 and Thomas R. Schreiner and Ardel B. Caneday, The Race Set before Us: A Biblical Theology of Perseverance and Assurance (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 2001).

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deposit. Money’s chief attractions are the power it gives and the pride it feeds.

Paul says, Don’t let this happen.



Second, he adds in verse 17, don’t set your “hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy.” This is not easy for the rich to do. That’s why Jesus said it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God (Mark 10:23). It is hard to look at all the earthly hope that riches offer and then turn away from that to God and rest all your hope on Him. It is hard not to love the gift instead of the Giver. But this is the only hope for the rich. If they can’t do it, they are lost.

They must remember the warning Moses gave the people of Israel as they

entered the Promised Land:

Beware lest you say in your heart, “My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.” You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day.

(Deuteronomy 8:17–18) The great danger of riches is that our affections will be carried away from God to His gifts.


Before moving on to Paul’s third exhortation for the rich, we must consider a common abuse of verse 17. The verse says that “God…richly provides us with everything to enjoy.” This means, first, that God is usually generous in the provision He makes to meet our needs. He furnishes things “richly.” Second, it means we need not feel guilty for enjoying the things He gives us. They are given “for enjoyment.” Fasting, celibacy, and other forms of self-denial are right and good in the service of God, but they must not be elevated as the spiritual


norm. The provisions of nature are given for our good and, by our Godward joy, can become occasions of thanksgiving and worship (1 Timothy 4:2–5).

But a wealth-and-prosperity doctrine is afoot today, shaped by the halftruth that says, “We glorify God with our money by enjoying thankfully all the things He enables us to buy. Why should a son of the King live like a pauper?” And so on. The true half of this is that we should give thanks for every good thing God enables us to have. That does glorify Him. The false half is the subtle implication that God can be glorified in this way by all kinds of luxurious purchases.

If this were true, Jesus would not have said, “Sell your possessions, and give to the needy” (Luke 12:33). He would not have said, “Do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink” (Luke 12:29). John the Baptist would not have said, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none” (Luke 3:11). The Son of Man would not have walked around with no place to lay his head (Luke 9:58). And Zacchaeus would not have given half his goods to the poor (Luke 19:8).

God is not glorified when we keep for ourselves (no matter how thankfully) what we ought to be using to alleviate the misery of unevangelized, uneducated, unmedicated, and unfed millions. The evidence that many professional Christians have been deceived by this doctrine is how little they give and how much they own. God has prospered them. And by an almost irresistible law of consumer culture (baptized by a doctrine of health, wealth, and prosperity), they have bought bigger (and more) houses, newer (and more) cars, fancier (and more) clothes, better (and more) meat, and all manner of trinkets and gadgets and containers and devices and equipment to make life more fun.


They will object: Does not the Old Testament promise that God will prosper His people? Indeed! God increases our yield so that by giving we can prove that our yield is not our god. God does not prosper a man’s business so he can move from a Ford to a Cadillac. God prospers a business so that thousands of unreached peoples can be reached with the gospel. He prospers a business so MO N EY that 20 percent of the world’s population can move a step back from the precipice of starvation.

I am a pastor, not an economist. Therefore, I see my role today the way James Stewart saw his in Scotland thirty years ago.

It is the function of economists, not the pulpit, to work out plans of reconstruction. But it is emphatically the function of the pulpit to stab men broad awake to the terrible pity of Jesus, to expose their hearts to the constraint of that divine compassion which halos the oppressed and the suffering, and flames in judgment against every social wrong.… There is no room for a preaching devoid of ethical directness and social passion, in a day when heaven’s trumpets sound and the Son of God goes forth to war.8


The mention of “war” is not merely rhetorical. What is specifically called for today is a “wartime lifestyle.” I used the phrase “simple necessities of life” earlier in this chapter because Paul said in 1 Timothy 6:8, “If we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.” But this idea of simplicity can be very misleading.

I mean it to refer to a style of life that is unencumbered with nonessentials—and the criterion for “essential” should not be primitive “simplicity,” but wartime effectiveness.

Ralph Winter illustrates this idea of a wartime lifestyle:

The Queen Mary, lying in repose in the harbor at Long Beach, California, is a fascinating museum of the past. Used both as a luxury liner in peacetime and a troop transport during the Second World War, its present status as a museum the length of three football fields affords a stunning contrast between the lifestyles appropriate in peace and war.

8. James Stewart, Heralds of God (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker, 1972), 97.

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On one side of a partition you see the dining room reconstructed to depict the peacetime table setting that was appropriate to the wealthy patrons of high culture for whom a dazzling array of knives and forks and spoons held no mysteries. On the other side of the partition the evidences of wartime austerities are in sharp contrast. One metal tray with indentations replaces fifteen plates and saucers. Bunks, not just double but eight tiers high, explain why the peace-time complement of 3000 gave way to 15,000 people on board in wartime. How repugnant to the peacetime masters this transformation must have been! To do it took a national emergency, of course. The survival of a nation depended on it. The essence of the Great Commission today is that the survival of many millions of people depends on its fulfillment.9 There is a war going on. All talk of a Christian’s right to live luxuriantly “as a child of the King” in this atmosphere sounds hollow—especially since the King Himself is stripped for battle. It is more helpful to think of a wartime lifestyle than a merely simple lifestyle. Simplicity can be very inwardly directed and may benefit no one else. A wartime lifestyle implies that there is a great and worthy cause for which to spend and be spent (2 Corinthians 12:15).

Winter continues:

America today is a “save yourself” society if there ever was one. But does it really work? The underdeveloped societies suffer from one set of diseases: tuberculosis, malnutrition, pneumonia, parasites, typhoid, cholera, typhus, etc. Affluent America has virtually invented a whole new set of diseases: obesity, arteriosclerosis, heart disease, strokes, lung cancer, venereal disease, cirrhosis of the liver, drug addiction, alcoholism, divorce, battered children, suicide, murder. Take your choice.

Labor-saving machines have turned out to be body-killing devices. Our

9. Ralph Winter, “Reconsecration to a Wartime, Not a Peacetime, Lifestyle,” in Perspectives on the World Christian Movement, 3rd ed., ed. Ralph Winter and Steven Hawthorne (Pasadena, Calif.: William Carey, 1999), 705.

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affluence has allowed both mobility and isolation of the nuclear family, and as a result, our divorce courts, our prisons and our mental institutions are flooded. In saving ourselves we have nearly lost ourselves.

How hard have we tried to save others? Consider the fact that the U.S. evangelical slogan, “Pray, give or go” allows people merely to pray, if that is their choice! By contrast the Friends Missionary Prayer Band of South India numbers 8,000 people in their prayer bands and supports 80 full-time missionaries in North India. If my denomination (with its unbelievably greater wealth per person) were to do that well, we would not be sending 500 missionaries, but 26,000. In spite of their true poverty, those poor people in South India are sending 50 times as many cross-cultural missionaries as we are!10 The point here is to show that those who encourage Christians to pursue a luxuriant peacetime lifestyle are missing the point of all Jesus taught about money. He called us to lose our lives in order that we might gain them again (and the context is indeed money): “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?” (Mark 8:36). And the way He means for us to lose our lives is in fulfilling the mission of love He gave us.

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every day and mission agencies cannot evangelize more unreached people for lack of funds? First, he may quote Amos 3:15: “I will strike the winter house along with the summer house, and the houses of ivory shall perish, and the great houses shall come to an end.” Then he may read Luke 3:11, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none.” Then he might tell about the family in St. Petersburg, Florida, who caught a vision for the housing needs of the poor. They sold their second home in Ohio and used the funds to build houses for several families in Immokalee, Florida.

Then he will ask, “Is it wrong to own a second home that sits empty part of the year?” And he will answer, “Maybe and maybe not.” He will not make it easy by creating a law. Laws can be obeyed under constraint with no change of heart; prophets want new hearts for God, not just new real estate arrangements.

He will empathize with their uncertainty and share his own struggle to discover the way of love. He will not presume to have a simple answer to every lifestyle question.

But he will help them decide. He will say, “Does your house signify or encourage a level of luxury enjoyed in heedless unconcern of the needs of others? Or is it a simple, oft-used retreat for needed rest and prayer and meditation that sends people back to the city with a passion to deny themselves for the evangelization of the unreached and the pursuit of justice?” He will leave the arrow lodged in their conscience and challenge them to seek a lifestyle in sync with the teaching and life of the Lord Jesus.


In Ephesians 4:28, Paul says, “Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.” In other words, there are three levels of how to live with things: (1) you can steal to get; (2) or you can work to get; (3) or you can work to get in order to give.

Too many professing Christians live on level two. Almost all the forces of our culture urge them to live on level two. But the Bible pushes us relentlessly to level three. “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufM O N EY ficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8). Why does God bless us with abundance? So we can have enough to live on, and then use the rest for all manner of good works that alleviate spiritual and physical misery. Enough for us; abundance for others.

The issue is not how much a person makes. Big industry and big salaries are a fact of our times, and they are not necessarily evil. The evil is in being deceived into thinking a six-digit salary must be accompanied by a six-digit lifestyle. God has made us to be conduits of His grace. The danger is in thinking the conduit should be lined with gold. It shouldn’t. Copper will do.


ON THE OF Our final summary emphasis should be this: In 1 Timothy 6, Paul’s purpose is to help us lay hold of eternal life and not lose it. Paul never dabbles in unessentials. He lives on the brink of eternity. That’s why he sees things so clearly. He stands there like God’s gatekeeper and treats us like reasonable Christian Hedonists: You want life that is life indeed, don’t you (v. 19)? You don’t want ruin, destruction, and pangs of heart, do you (vv. 9–10)? You want all the gain that godliness can bring, don’t you (v. 6)? Then use the currency of Christian Hedonism wisely: Do not desire to be rich, be content with the wartime necessities of life, set your hope fully on God, guard yourself from pride, and let your joy in God overflow in a wealth of liberality to a lost and needy world.

He who loves his wife loves himself.


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T he reason there is so much misery in marriage is not that husbands and wives seek their own pleasure, but that they do not seek it in the pleasure of their spouses. The biblical mandate to husbands and wives is to seek your own joy in the joy of your spouse. Make marriage a matrix for Christian Hedonism.

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