17 Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 18 Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 19 In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.
1 Timothy 6: 17-19
Many stories, letters and prophecies in the Bible are set in cultures that are a million miles away from the culture we live in today, that doesn’t mean they are irrelevant, but that we have to work extra hard to understand their correct meaning ‘back then’, and how we are to apply them to our lives today. Let me show you what I mean…
If in 5 years time, if I was to say to you ‘London 2012’, you would know exactly what I mean, you would be able to tell me, where it is, what major events took place there that year and the stories behind them, the rulers, the state of economy and also the ‘mood’ of the nation at that time. You would also know the world events that were taking place at the same time, and the impact some of those were having on ‘London 2012’!
However, if I was to say to you ‘Jerusalem 70’, I’m guessing you might not do quite so well! You might know it was the year of the siege of Jerusalem, and that this climaxed with the sacking of the city and the destruction of the Second Temple, but could you say who the rulers were at that time, or what was going on in other nations and the impact that was having on Jerusalem?
That is hard enough and that was not even two thousand years ago! The further we go back in time and the further from our ‘western’ worldview & culture, the harder the task becomes.
The reason for saying all that is that although Paul wrote this letter to Timothy almost two thousand years ago, the good news for us about these verses (17-19) at the end of his letter is that it is not at all hard to understand what Paul meant in either their context or ours… Money is pretty much a universal language that in the world speaks power and security, across cultures, languages, decades, centuries and even millennia, we get it without having to perform mental gymnastics first!
The not so good news, is that although we might ‘get it’ easily, the truth is when it comes to money, ‘getting it’ in a way that transforms our heart and attitude is a bit more challenging.
So, why does Paul close his letter by deciding to suddenly drop a note to the rich here (verse 17)? After all, he has already spent some time talking about the same theme of money in this chapter (verses 5b – 10) where he addressed the poor ‘who want to get rich’, why not put it there?
The answer is that in putting it here after verses 14-16, he makes his point incredibly effectively… Remember, he has just powerfully reminded believers of the real and anticipated hope they have in the return of Jesus; that we will each stand before him; and also of God’s awesome nature. So those who are rich, and tempted to put their hope, security and identity in their wealth, would be utterly foolish to do such a thing in light of who God is!
- Wealth is uncertain (as we well know!), but God is the immortal Lord & King, and richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.
- Wealth cannot be taken into the next life, but it can be invested forward to lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, by doing good, being rich in good deeds, and being generous and willing to share.
- Wealth may buy you many things in this life, except true life if you hope in it. But instead hope in God and you will ‘take hold of the life that is truly life’!
Paul’s point is that one of the main ways those who are rich can demonstrate genuine faith in God and that they trust Him over their bank account, is that they are to be hugely generous in giving money to those in need (orphans & widows!).
Remember that Jesus said ‘it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of heaven than ‘ (Matthew 19:24)! I think that is why the Bible is so clear on how we are to handle money and wealth, God knows our tendancy to love it, so he made the dangers of doing so as clear as day, likewise he made the benefits of trusting him over money as clear as day too.
As we have already seen from Paul, money is not evil itself, but it can lead to all kinds of evil (for both rich & poor alike). Ask God to show you your hearts attitude toward money, how does Paul’s instruction on the issue make you feel? How might you practically act on what he says? What are the benefits to you of doing so?
- Thank God for His new mercies to you today, take time to tell Him that you love Him
- Thank God for all His provision in your life, whether plenty or lacking
- Ask God to show you how you should use your wealth to bless others!