Gospel tells us to focus on true values

By Judy Brandon: CNJ religion columnist

The word value can be used in two different ways. First, it can be used to denote money or worth attached to something. For instance, we have used car values, value index, commercial property values, housing values, values of expensive and rare art and the value of a good consultant. Then the word values can be used another way to designate significant core held personal beliefs. We think of family values, traditional values, personal core values, and common sense values.

Advice on both of these kinds of values abound. There are scores of books at any bookstore on defining personal values. People attend seminars to sort through and clarify personal values. Then again, there are many books outlining financial steps to become a millionaire, as well as books on how to make more money than last year. People even attend seminars to learn to invest and to make more money.

Yet, the Apostle Paul had a different take on values when he wrote young Timothy. Paul mixed the two core personal beliefs and money. His letter to Timothy is appropriate for all of us, especially as we sift through priorities and make resolutions about the coming New Year.

Paul was writing to young Timothy because Timothy was a fellow worker in the cause of the Gospel. He wanted to explain to him that there were values in life more important than money.

Then Paul mentioned something that we all should keep in mind. Paul started with the beginning of life and reminded Timothy that we can bring nothing into the world and we can take nothing out of the world. Everything accumulated while in the world, all those acquisitions are left behind when we die.

Then Paul talked about values that bring real contentment. He wrote Timothy that people can be content with just food and clothing — imagine that! Paul claimed that when a person is totally focused on getting rich, it leads to temptation and then that temptation is as entrapment that sets off foolish desires. Paul pointed out to Timothy that money is not the root of all evil. Rather, the LOVE of money, the obsession with it is the root of all evil. He wrote that when some people are very eager for more money, they get involved in activities and schemes that lead to their ultimate downfall. As a result, they cause themselves much grief.

But what should we be focused on in this life? Paul’s words here are good for us all. Paul also told Timothy to pursue these types of values: Righteousness, godliness, faith, love endurance, and gentleness. Paul wrote: “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: 17-18

Some more modern day people have had the same idea of sorts that Paul wrote to young Timothy. Mother Teresa said, “Let us not be satisfied with just giving money. Money is not enough, money can be got, but they need your hearts to love them. So spread you love everywhere you go.”

That seems to be the essence of what Paul was writing about and it would benefit us all think about his ideas again.