So what is the value of godliness? Will it make you rich and famous? Will it insure that you will never suffer in this life? Will it give you the ability to pick winning stocks, horses and lottery numbers? Recently you may have heard the commercial for a stock market trading calendar. We are told that with this calendar we will know when to buy and when to sell stocks. We are assured that our stocks would outperform the market. Sometimes even in the church we hear about get rich quick schemes. One somewhat infamous TV evangelist ended up going to prison because of his schemes.
Do Christians have an inside track on how to become rich? Jesus had told us that His Kingdom was not of this world. The great tragedy in all of this is that people can indeed gain the whole world, but as Jesus also said, lose their own soul in the process. That is what happens when people think that the value of godliness can be measured in dollars and cents.
So what then is the value of godliness? The Bible says in 1 Timothy 4:8, “…godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” The Apostle seems to be refuting the idea that the Christian faith only has value for the great by and by. Karl Marx gave us the words, “Religion is the opiate of the people.” He also said, “The first requisite for the happiness of the people is the abolition of religion.” His basic idea is that religion makes people so heavenly minded that they are no earthly good. But is this true? Does godliness make someone impotent?
Godliness does begin with the realization that I am impotent when it comes to changing the sinful, selfish and self-righteous bent of my own heart, that I need a higher power, but not just any higher power. I need the One who is God of God, Light of Light and Very God of Very God, who came to be the sacrificial Lamb, to take away the sins of the world and therefore my sins. Such faith is more than being born into a Christian family or a Christian society or giving lip service to the Creeds. It is the understanding of the heart that I recognize my own need for a Savior and trust in Jesus Christ to be that Savior. But with that faith comes godliness which promises a life of value even in this present world.
Karl Marx might agree with some of our own politicians who believe that it is government that is the solution to all our problems. I do not wish to become political here and I would not say that government has no role to play in our society or that the government shouldn’t be concerned for the less fortunate. But government is a human institution and it is flawed at best. When it has tried to take care of all our human problems it finds itself sinking into a mire of its own problems. Most of us of a certain age appreciate the government programs put in place to provide us an income and take care of our medical needs in old age. But we also know that government entitlements are breaking the bank. So what can the Christian faith offer in this present life? I would mention just one example. A Christian high school teacher, named Jonathan Miles packed up his family in the middle of the first Iraq war and went to Israel. God worked through him to develop a ministry to bring Arab children to Israeli hospitals to receive free life-saving operations. He is building trust between Israelis and Arabs and he is doing it in the name of Jesus Christ so that both Arabs and Jews are seeing and hearing about the love that Jesus has for them. This is indeed godliness that has value in this life.
You see, when Jesus comes into a person’s life He changes them. The Bible puts it this way in Ezekiel 36:27, “And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.” Those statutes and rules were summed up by Jesus as loving God and loving our neighbor. So if we want to change the world we need only put Christ into the hearts of the people of this world. If you want to get rid of Wall Street corruption put Christ into the hearts of our financiers. If you want to see corporations run with integrity put Christ into the hearts of business people. If you want to see education build up and benefit our young people with something more than godless agnosticism put Christ into the hearts of our educators. If you want to end the miscarriage of justice in our land put Christ into the hearts of our judges and lawyers. If you want to see government work together for the good of our society put Christ into the hearts of our politicians. If you want to become a better parent, grandparent or human being put Christ into your own heart. Indeed godliness does have value for this present life.
But our Scripture does not end there. It goes on to say that godliness also has value for the life to come. We know that death is inevitable. In fact the older we become the faster life seems to pass us by. When I was a child it seemed like eternity between Christmases but now it seems like a blink of the eye. I put away our Christmas decorations and before I know it it seems like it is time to pull them out again. I have wondered if the orbit of the earth around the sun is picking up speed. But seriously life is passing us by quickly. We all know that we will not live here forever. Even with the modern advances in medicine and scientific breakthroughs in aging, we are only forestalling the inevitable.
Some skeptics will tell us that life has no meaning beyond this present existence. One poet asked the question:
Is this the whole sad story of creation,
Told by its toiling millions o’er and o’er?
One glimpse of day, then black annihilation,
A sunlit passage to a sunless shore?
The answer to such skepticism is “I believe in the resurrection of the body and life everlasting.” If someone asks you to prove that there is life beyond the grave, ask them to prove that there is not. If they challenge you to explain how a decomposed body or cremated remains can be resurrected to a new life, ask them to explain how a seed of a mighty oak tree can fall into the ground and die and then come forth as a new seedling that grows up to produce millions of new seeds. If they call your faith a childish hope or a flattering delusion just point them to the words of Christ in John 11:26, “everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.”
And what can we say of that life to come? Simply it is beyond our wildest imagination. The Bible says in Revelation 21:4, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Paul, who suffered a great deal for his faith, said, “the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom. 8:18).
When faced with imminent death courageously ask these questions and hear these answers:
What is the cause of death? Sin.
What removes sin? The blood of Jesus Christ.
How can I have this blessing of His saving redemption? Through a penitent faith.
But this is something that we must do now. We cannot wait for no one knows the day or hour of their last breath. Admit your need for forgiveness. Turn away from all that you know is ungodly and put your trust in Christ. He will give you a life of value now and in the world to come.