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1 Timothy 5:8 Leviticus 20:7 1 Peter 1:16 Galatians 2:20, 5:24 Romans 12:1-2 Galatians 5:19-23 Romans 8:12-13 1 Corinthians 6:12, 10:23
The words of 1 Timothy 5:8 are very clear. We almost do not need to have a discussion on this verse. Failing to provide for yourself and your own family is an unacceptable practice before God.
We could take this lesson in a number of different directions. There are probably even some ideas you have in mind on what this might look like.
The focus of this lesson is going to be on personal responsibility.
Before we go any further, let’s acknowledge together that we sometimes end up in undesirable situations because of circumstances beyond our control. Job loss, house fire, death of a primary breadwinner, natural disaster, health crisis, and other serious problems sometimes make it difficult to provide for ourselves and our families.
1 Timothy 5:8 is not speaking to those who are caught between a rock and a hard place because something happened that they could not control.
1 Timothy 5:8 is talking about cases in which people abdicate personal responsibility.
What does it mean to “abdicate” personal responsibility? When I did an Internet search for “abdicate,” the main search hits were for a king abdicating the throne. Not all abdications by royalty were meant to avoid responsibility. Sometimes, abdicating the throne is the best way to advance the kingdom. Emperor Diocletian in AD305 is a notable abdication. Though his government was effective under his leadership, it collapsed because of the power vacuum left in his absence.
Abdicate is simply a failure or refusal to fulfill or undertake a responsibility. The king is responsible for governing, and abdicating is a refusal or failure to fulfill the responsibility to govern. Among royalty, abdication is somewhat like treason.
This is Paul’s take in 1 Timothy 5:8. It is akin to treason not just against your family but against God if we fail to fulfill our personal responsibility.
Let’s go back for a moment to Matthew 6 with the example of the birds. The bird cannot know when leaving the nest in the morning whether there will be enough food to eat that day. All the bird knows is to get up and start hunting. God fills in the gaps and fulfills His promise.
This is like meeting God half way. God expects us to play a part in providing for ourselves and the needs of our families. If we never look for God to do anything and do not leave room for God to work, He has no reason to show up in our circumstances.
The danger we face, especially in today’s culture, is that many things can crowd God out. We leave little room for God through insurance, retirement savings, the credit card, student loans, unemployment compensation, and even supplemental assistance programs.
Where do we need God?
Supplemental assistance programs by the government, charitable distributions by churches and non-profits, and other “safety nets” are great for people who need temporary assistance or are physicially unable to work. The risk is that these programs take our focus off of God and replace His promises.
When we look to others, such as the government, for financial support, we give up both personal freedoms and personal responsibility. A safety net is important, and for some, supplemental assistance is an important safety net. However, there is a real danger that we rely on the government and trust that they will always be there. When that happens, we have no need for God. If the government, or someone else, is always going to bail us out or serve as our safety net, then God plays a much smaller role in our life.
Relying on the government or someone else also reduces our personal responsibility. If you know that the government will always be there as a safety net, then you develop a sense of immunity from personal choices. I am not opposed to help when it is needed. But know that this can be a very fine line.
If you rush to make sure you qualify for or receive the government’s assistance as soon as you hear about it, then it is reasonably safe to assume government plays a bigger role in your life than God.
For the government to take a bigger role in our lives and cover more of our needs, we must give up personal freedoms. If you are willing to give up personal freedom for the government, why would you be unwilling to give up personal freedom for God to have a bigger role in your life?
It is just as true that we give up personal freedoms when we trust in God to keep His promises. To receive His promises, we have a role to play. Our part is to be holy. Leviticus 20:7, 1 Peter 1:16 This involves reducing sin until it is gone and allowing/inviting God’s Holy Spirit to transform our hearts. Galatians 2:20, 5:24 If we love God, truly love Him, then our role is to seek to get to a point where we do not want to sin and instead desire to please Him. Romans 12:1-2 His role is to remove the carnal or sinful nature from our hearts and replace it with the fruit of the Spirit. Galatians 5:19-23
We give up the freedom to sin and choose as we please. We give up the freedom to live against God’s will. We give up the freedom to rebel against God. The beautiful part of this is that, when we are in Christ, we are not bound by sin, and we are not under any obligation to sin. Romans 8:12-13 If we sin, it is by willful choice rather than by nature, and all these Scriptures just mentioned teach us that the willful choice to sin must be reduced until we willfully and joyfully choose God and choose to live holy lives which please Him.
One other comment before we leave this is that the Christian life comes with incredible freedom. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 6:12 and 10:23 that everything is rightfully and lawfully ours. The choices we make, however, mean we will limit that freedom to act within God’s will. We choose not to allow anything to have mastery over us, and we choose to edify, or build up, both our own life and the body of Christ.
Let me carefully suggest that, if we are abdicating personal responsibility or if we are depending on the government or someone else, we do not have mastery over our own lives. We have given mastery over to someone or something else.
If God called us in that moment to trust Him, or to go into ministry, we wouldn’t do it because we could not bring ourselves to trust Him.
We choose to take personal responsibility in providing for our family and for ourselves, as it says in 1 Timothy 5:8, because we want to please God, because we are not allowing anything to have mastery over us, because we want to both build ourselves up and be a blessing to the body of Christ, and because we want to please God by being faithful stewards of what God has entrusted to us.
With God, we give up a sinful lifestyle that seeks to rebel against Him and in exchange receive:
• His promise to provide for our needs
• Pardon for sin
• Freedom from the guilt of sin
• Freedom from the bondage of sin
• Meaning and significance in life – we can find our purpose
• Assurance of a heavenly home
With the government, giving up personal freedoms may support us financially, as long as the government is viable, but we also give up our purpose in life. When we are restricted by the government’s mandates, it becomes harder to obey God and follow His will. When we are afraid to lose government support, we become unwilling to step out in faith to follow God.
Providing for our own needs and the needs of our family involves reliance on God to help us with the gaps. It also involves a level of stewardship. In stewardship, we recognize that what we have is not our own, therefore, we desire to faithfully manage what is given to us. We are stewards of:
• The gospel message of Jesus Christ
• Our time
• Our talents, skills and abilities
• Natural resources
• Our body and health
• Our mind
• Our children
• Our money
Remember the history of money? Having a correct theology of creation is important because we recognize that God is the creator of all that is in the world. This means, nothing is really ours. It belongs to God, and He allows us to enjoy it. Because all that is in the world is not ours – we did not even create our own bodies and God gave us the ability and health to work and earn a living – our responsibility is to serve as faithful stewards, to love God, and to love our neighbor. Abdicating personal responsibility, in that context, is not an offering we can expect God to accept.