1 Timothy 6:6-19
September 25, 2016
The Rev. Adele K. Langworthy, preaching

With the power of Christ, we can stand in this world and not succumb to the twisted values and ways of this world. But this is so much easier said than done. We can subtly fall prey. We can be influenced and not even realize that we have been swayed.

Jonathan Chait in a 2012 article in “New York” magazine told the story about a trio of researchers who were trying to solve a sociological mystery. Over the course of 40 years, Brazil had experienced one of the largest drops in average family size in the world, from 6.3 children per woman in 1960 to 2.3 children in 2000. What made the drop so curious is that the Brazilian government never tried to limit family size. As a matter of fact, at some points it was illegal to advertise contraceptives. What could explain such a steep drop? The researchers zeroed in on one factor: television.

“In the mid-60s television spread through Brazil, but it didn’t arrive everywhere at once in the sprawling country. Brazil’s main station, Globo, expanded slowly and unevenly. The researchers found that areas that gained access to Globo saw larger drops in fertility than those that didn’t. But it wasn’t news or educational shows that caused the fertility drop. Instead, it was viewers’ exposure to the popular soap operas, or novelas, that most Brazilians watch every night. The researchers also found that areas with exposure to television were dramatically more likely to give their children names shared by novela characters.

“Novelas almost always center around four or five families, each of which is usually small, so as to limit the number of characters the audience must track. Nearly three quarters of the main female characters of childbearing age in the prime-time novelas had no children, and a fifth had one child. The researchers concluded that exposure to this glamorized and unusual (especially by Brazilian standards) family arrangement ‘led to significantly lower fertility’.”

Knowing we can be influenced unaware, we must raise our consciousness and become alert to images, words, and messages around us. We need to make ourselves aware of the temptations that bombard us: if we drive a Lincoln MKX, we will be cool like Matthew McConaughey, if we wear Nike Zoom Air we will run our fastest mile, if we drink a Coke and share one, we will become good friends with whom we share the Coke. There is nothing wrong with a Lincoln, a pair of Nike Zoom Air and sharing a Coke in and of themselves, but to think that a car, a pair of shoes or a beverage can make us into something misses the mark.

Paul raises this same idea in 1 Timothy regarding money. He says that there is nothing wrong with money, rather it is the ‘love of money’ that is the problem. So, if you happen to be monetarily rich then you must be on guard so as not to fall into temptation and be trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.

The converse is also true, if you have very little money you must be on guard so as not to fall into temptation and be trapped by the dream that acquiring money will save you and bring you lasting comfort and peace.

To maneuver through the world means that you center yourself on Christ and reflect upon what you do and why you do it, what you have and how you use it, and be open to readjust where you discover you have fallen into the twisted values of the world.

Elizabeth Murphy shared this story about her family, “When my two oldest sons were in middle school they started skateboarding at the same time it became possible to post short videos on the internet. Suddenly a huge portion of their free time was spent editing tape, picking music and creating videos of their latest and greatest skate adventures to share with their friends—and the world. Someone in the world saw it and sent an email to my husband and me asking if we knew what our sons were up to and what kinds of music they were using in a video they had posted. We did not. When asked, they told us the name of the song and admitted they chose it for how well it matched the rhythm of the skating and didn’t pay much attention to the words. We found those words on-line, printed them, and had the boys read them to us out loud. The were horrified. They were reminded at a young age that they had the opportunity to use their influence, no matter how limited, for good or bad.”

Our scripture today offers us a game plan to maneuver through the world. It requires training and intentionality. Yes, we need training and a game plan. Dr. Jeremy Pierre offers this story to drive home the point: “Trained instincts — that’s how fighter pilots can react immediately to rapidly changing situations as they operate $27 million war machines. When a threat aircraft is closing in, there’s no time for pilots to reason through what to do. They have to rely on instinct—but not just natural instinct. They need instincts shaped deep within them through years of regiment. The countless little decisions they make in the cockpit are automatic, but that doesn’t mean they’re involuntary. The pilot voluntarily trained for them, and in the cockpit he reaps the instinctive benefits of that training.

“Like the fighter pilot’s hours of training, our hearts are under a regimen of beliefs and values that don’t align with Scripture, drilled into us through what we put in our heads, what we receive as wisdom from other sources, what we accept normal from culture.”

We need to undergo training with our God, so as we are under-fire from twisted world values, we can maneuver through life and stand strong in Christ. Training isn’t completed overnight. It takes time and intentionality.

Training will involve purposefully pursuing righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness. This means:
* developing our ability and desire to give people their due no matter what the situation may be — just because someone is cruel to you doesn’t mean you answer his or her cruelness with cruelty
* carrying out our duty to God —whether we are in the mood or not
* growing in our awareness that all life is lived in the presence of God — God is not just about Sunday mornings and mealtime prayer
* not faltering in our loyalty to God — God is our ‘go to’ no matter what our friends may think
* choosing not to let the hardship of life take hold of our Spirit — we face reality and seek ways to make it through
* striving to treat ourself and others rightly — making sure we don’t get angry just for anger’s sake.

It also involves:
* embracing the eternal life to which we have been called and for which we have been made — pledging allegiance to Christ;
* seeking God’s guidance on how our riches can help others— humbly sharing what we have attained;
* setting hopes on God who richly provides everything for our enjoyment rather than on the uncertainty of riches — keeping the main thing the main thing.

A mark of successful training is maneuvering the twisted values of this world and not falling prey; knowing that it is Christ who is our strength, our path, our prize; laying hold of life instinctively by doing good, offering good words, and sharing the riches God has entrusted to our care.

May we support one another, encourage one another and empower one another as we train to, with the power of Christ, stand in this world and not succumb to the twisted values and ways of this world.

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