Before you begin please read the parable of the unjust steward from Luke 16:1-13. And then 1 Timothy 6:17-19.
After spending time on the heretical false teachers’ love of money in the Ephesian Church Paul has to shift away from the problem of lusting after wealth to the proper use of it. There is definitely sin in greed, but merely having wealth isn’t sinful. In fact, God has blessed us to such an incredible extent that in comparison to the rest of the world we are all quite wealthy – regardless of how we line up against our neighbors’ checkbook. So what does God have to say about the proper use of money? Properly used we can use the money of this world to actively grab on to the next. Look at the last phrase of Verse 19 where he says, “…so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed.”
Verses 17-19 contain a series of six commands both binding and then releasing behavior in God’s people concerning money. The first of which is aimed at our pride.
Do not be haughty
Nothing produces arrogance so quickly as wealth, particularly a feeling of self importance over others who do not have the wealth that you do. This is the sort of monetary elitism which the apostle James rails against in James 5:5 when he warns, “You have lived luxuriously on the earth and led a life of wanton pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter.”
If money is allowed to become your god on this earth, judgment is coming in which your god will be stripped away from you and you will be left godless to fend for yourself against the One True God.
Timothy’s first task is to protect the rich not from their money but from their attitude. As mentioned before, money is not sinful – but the inordinate love of it is an inferno. Next he says not to set your hopes on it.
Do not set your hope on riches but on God
The word hope here doesn’t mean pie in the sky wishful thinking but rather it means confident anticipation. If the current portents of economic upheaval don’t teach you that the value of money is fleeting, than nothing perhaps will. Yet despite the fact that we know that money’s value in the short term is volatile; money’s value in eternity is downright immaterial.
In fact here’s a great exercise to keep us firmly rooted in the value of money: As quickly as you can – try to give an estimate of your net worth. Make a mental note of what it is unless you want to write it down on your bulletin so that others here can find it and laugh at you. Now, take your net worth and just round it upwards to some kind of nice round value. For instance if you’re net-worth were $156,000 go ahead and round it up to $160,000.
Now the current price of gold is somewhere around $870 an ounce. But it’s supposed to be a good market for gold and we’re going to keep our holdings for a few years so let’s round it up to $1000 per ounce just to make the math easy. If your net worth is $160,000 than you’re current net worth maths out to about (160,000 / 1000 per ounce =160 ounces. –> 160 ounces/ 16ozper pound=10) ten pounds … of paving material in heaven. Now go outside and scoop up as large a handful of rocks as you can and revel and the wealth of holding all that paving material in your hands. Talk about putting your wealth in perspective. I don’t know how you feel about this but that’s hardly anything to get excited about.
Do not fix your hope on the uncertainty of riches. It’s not going to be enough to deliver you to heaven – and the way things are going it may not be enough to take care of you here. Instead you must fix your hope on the living God. Look at what he says as we also look at the interplay in the various meanings of “rich” as well.
“Command those rich [have a lot] in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches [lots to have] but on God who richly supplies [lots to give] us with all things to enjoy.”
In other words Don’t get arrogant because you have something to enjoy, become grateful to the God who gave to you that which you enjoy.
In fact if we honestly take to heart that it is God who provides all things for us the next three exhortations will come easy. Look down at 1Timothy 6:18 where he next commands us to do good.
Going back to the parable of the unjust steward in Luke 16 Jesus exhorts the people listening to, “…make friends for yourselves by means of the wealth of unrighteousness, so that when it fails, they will receive you into the eternal dwellings. …” (Luke 16:9) Which simply means take the money you have now to buy treasure in heaven – by doing good with it.
Sticking to the theme of wealth we shift away from what not to do and we move into what we should do with it. Money is a tool. Even though I’ve been known to collect tools I always buy the tools that will help me complete some project, not just so I can polish them and set them gingerly in my toolbox where they can look nice.
As a tool money is to be used to enable you to do good. How much good is answered with the next phrase. “Be rich in good works.”
Be rich in good works
As in the prior verse, Paul uses the word rich one more time to finalize his thought. Looking at the first and last usage of the word you can see the contrast in wealth according to the world and wealth according to the kingdom of God. The worldly system of selfishness sees riches as an end in itself bent on self sufficiency. But true riches according to the kingdom of God means giving.
Be rich in good works, is the simple command. Don’t focus on the riches of money but on thousands of instances of doing the right thing as a servant to others. Those of us that are rich in this age are to use the tool of the money which God has granted us that we might do good, and that we might abound in good works. And finally that we might be generous as he continues.
Be generous and ready to share
At the end of Dicken’s “A Christmas Carol” – Ebenezer Scrooge is a man transformed from irrepressible greed to uncontainable generosity. It’s a good lesson and one which Jesus touched on in Luke 16:9, “make friends for yourselves by means of the wealth of unrighteousness, so that when it fails, they will receive you into the eternal dwellings. ” The purpose of money is preparing for the kingdom of God, not building your own kingdom.
I don’t know how many of you ever use online banking. I’ve actually grown rather fond of it. For instance if I have a bill to pay I can simply type in the amount and click a few buttons and the funds are transfered from my bank account to the bill holder. Or if I want to move money from one account to another I simply type into a simple transfer form on the computer and it doesn’t matter what time of day or night, when I click send the money is transferred from one account to another. It’s the very definition of simplicity!
The same principle is at work in our generosity. By using the riches God has given you to do good and be generous you click the button which transfers your riches from temporal volatility to eternal rewards.
It also effects a change of heart. Treating money as a tool to expand the kingdom instead of a resource to hoard transfers your passion from this world to heaven itself. The result of such a transformation is demonstrated in the nineteenth verse. (Read 1 Timothy 6:19)
This is a principle Jesus taught about several times (Luke 12:33; 16:9; 18:22; cf. Matt 6:20)
Finally he says “that they may take hold of that which is life indeed.” Freed from the burden of loving the world we become free to enjoy the life to the full that Jesus came to give us. In effect, by letting go of this present world we take hold of the world to come and begin to live in it.
Now it’s time for a simple financial audit. If your net worth on earth isn’t being transferred to the bank vaults of heaven, your portfolio is sadly out of balance. The principles here are clear, the question is are you willing to live by them?