Kevin A. Pierpont
Higgins Lake Baptist Church
17 Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy.
When you think of wealthy people, who comes to mind? Bill Gates? Warren Buffett? Maybe Mel Gibson?—who’s movie the Passion of the Christ took in $23.6M1 on opening day and is selling out in theaters everywhere this week.
Forbes magazine published an article in its latest issue listing the world’s richest people.2 In a poll Forbes Magazine took over 46% of the respondents wanted to be billionaires. The Forbes issue also has articles about things like How To Spend $1 Billion, The World's Most Expensive Cars and The World's Most Expensive Hotels, Homes and Household Items. It’s safe to say that our society is absorbed with the desire for riches. But not many people if asked would say they think they are rich.
How about yourself? Do you consider yourself to be rich? Let's take a moment and do a little mental exercise.
"From the standpoint of material wealth, Americans have difficulty realizing how rich we are. Going through a little mental exercise suggested by Robert Heilbroner can help us to count our blessings, however. Imagine doing the following, and you will see how daily life is for as many as a billion people in the world.
1. Take out all the furniture in your home except for one table and a couple of chairs. Use blanket and pads for beds.
2. Take away all of your clothing except for your oldest dress or suit, shirt or blouse. Leave only one pair of shoes.
3. Empty the pantry and the refrigerator except for a small bag of flour, some sugar and salt, a few potatoes, some onions, and a dish of dried beans.
4. Dismantle the bathroom, shut off the running water, and remove all the electrical wiring in your house.
5. Take away the house itself and move the family into the tool shed.
6. Place your “house’ in a shantytown.
7. Cancel all subscriptions to newspapers, magazines, and book clubs. This is no great loss because now none of you can read anyway.
8. Leave only one radio for the whole shantytown.
9. Move the nearest hospital or clinic ten miles away and put a midwife in charge instead of a doctor.
10. Throw away your bankbooks, stock certificates, pension plans, and insurance policies. Leave the family a cash hoard of ten dollars.
11. Give the head of the family a few acres to cultivate on which he can raise a few hundred dollars of cash crops, of which one third will go to the landlord and one tenth to the money lenders.
12. Lop off twenty-five or more years in life expectancy.
By comparison how rich we are! And with our wealth comes responsibility to use it wisely, not to be wasteful, and to help others. Think on these things."
This places how well off we are in America into perspective, doesn't it? In 1 Timothy 6:17 Paul tells Timothy to "command those who are rich…not to be haughty (or arrogant) nor to put their hope in uncertain riches". It would be easy for us to say, “Oh this doesn't apply to me, I'm not rich.” But we enjoy such an amazing standard of living in our country, that compared to most of the world's population and compared to most throughout history, we are very blessed.
Look with me at a familiar example in the Bible of a rich man Jesus spoke to. Matthew 19:16-24,
16 Now behold, one came and said to Him, "Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?"
17 So He said to him, "Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments."
18 He said to Him, "Which ones?" Jesus said, " 'You shall not murder,' 'You shall not commit adultery,' 'You shall not steal,' 'You shall not bear false witness,'
19 'Honor your father and your mother,' and, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'"
20 The young man said to Him, "All these things I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?"
21 Jesus said to him, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me."
22 But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
23 Then Jesus said to His disciples, "Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.
24 "And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."
Here is an example of a wealthy man who allowed his riches to get in the way of following Christ. He could follow the rules but he couldn’t give all to follow Christ. Now we may place him in a category that’s different than our own, but let's compare our lives to that of this rich man.
No matter how much wealth he had, he could not do these things suggested by an unknown author who said the rich man of Matthew 19 couldn’t —
ride in a car. have any surgery, turn on a light, buy penicillin, hear a pipe organ, watch TV, wash dishes in running water, type a letter, mow a lawn, fly in an airplane, sleep on an innerspring mattress, or talk on the phone, If he was rich, then what am I?" – source unknown
Once again, we’re reminded that while there are many who are much wealthier than we are, most of us enjoy a good deal of wealth in our lives.
Earlier in our study of 1 Timothy 6:10 we learned there is danger in the love of money—there is a danger in the desire to be rich. But in our passage today Paul addresses the topic of money in regard to those are already rich. Look at 1 Timothy 6:17 again,
Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy.
Paul instructs that there is a danger in having riches. Note that Paul instructs Timothy to command those who are rich not to be haughty—don’t be arrogant, conceited, proud, or full of yourselves because you have these riches. Warren Wiersbe comments on this by saying…
"If wealth makes a person proud, then he understands neither himself nor his wealth. 'But thou shalt remember the Lord thy God; for it is He that gives thee power to get wealth' (Deut. 8:18). We are not owners; we are stewards. If we have wealth, it is by the goodness of God and not because of any special merits on our part. The possessing of material wealth ought to humble a person and cause him to glorify God, not himself."
Arrogance results when we take credit for what we have instead of acknowledging that it is only the goodness of God that has allowed us what we have. Proverbs 28:11 warns that a rich man is wise in his own eyes—he thinks he knows it all. Those who have plenty could be guilty of looking down on those who have little.
So Timothy was to instruct the rich to have a humble attitude about their possessions. That was contrary to the thinking of his time as it is ours. The Greek culture of Timothy’s day rejected the virtue of humility and our culture is no different.
But we should never allow ourselves to get puffed up with our wealth, our bank account or possessions. Apart from God's blessing we would enjoy none of the riches of this present world.
The second danger that Paul warns about those who are rich is that they are not to trust in uncertainty of riches.
Solomon, one of the wealthiest men who ever lived, understood the uncertainty of riches. Listen to Solomon's counsel in Proverbs 23:4-5, in the NIV it says,
4 Do not wear yourself out to get rich; have the wisdom to show restraint. 5 Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle.
He also warns in Proverbs 11:28 that He who trusts in his riches will fall. There’s a danger in the natural tendency to depend on the things you have rather than trusting in God to supply all your needs.
In Luke 12:16-21, Jesus shared a parable that reminds us of the uncertainty of riches and the futility of placing our trust in them.
16 Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: "The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully.
17 "And he thought within himself, saying, 'What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?'
18 "So he said, 'I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods.
19 'And I will say to my soul, "Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry."'
20 "But God said to him, 'Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?'
21 "So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God."
Here was a man who thought he had it made. This rich man had acquired much wealth and having done so thought he could take it easy and enjoy life. But what he failed to realize was that his wealth was soon going to be worthless because he was going to lose his life.
Have you heard the saying that "there are no U-Hauls behind hearses"? There is no eternal hope in riches and there is no hope for today in riches. But if this is true where can we place our hope?
In the latter half of 1 Timothy 6:17 we see that we need to place our hope in God instead of riches. When our hope is in God then we’ll have the right perspective on the blessings He’s granted us. Our priorities will be straight and the way we handle our resources will be done in a way that’s pleasing to God. But if we place our hope in the accumulation of wealth and things we we’re in danger of having misdirected priorities and wrong attitudes.
The blessing of placing our hope in the living God is that He will never fail to provide for our needs. There’s the blessing of the peace that passes all understanding.
Notice in verse 17 that our heavenly father is the "God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy."
Let’s be careful here. It would be very easy for us to become unbalanced in our application of the Word of God. We may emphasize this area of Scripture and think that we are never to enjoy anything in this life. But the last word in 1 Timothy 6:17 in the original language is a compound word that suggests that physical pleasure is in itself not sinful, but divinely ordained when sought within the structure of God's will. (Expositor's Bible Commentary)
Warren Wiersbe puts it this way…
"Yes, the word enjoy is in the Bible! In fact, one of the recurring themes in Ecclesiastes is, 'Enjoy the blessings of life now, because life will end one day' (Ecc. 2:24; 3:12-15, 22; 5:15-20; 9:7-10; 11:9-10). This is not sinful "hedonism," living for the pleasures of life. It is simply enjoying all that God gives us for His glory."
It’s acceptable to enjoy what God in His goodness has given us—but this is the most important part—as long as we do it in a way that honors and glorifies Him.
As John MacArthur has said,
The highest form of joy for the believer is to bring glory to the Lord. True gladness, then, comes when believers give heed to Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:19–21:
19 "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal;
20 "but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.
21 "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Where is your treasure? Is it in the here and now or is it in heaven? Is it your deepest desire to please God with what He’s given you to use for His glory today or are you only thinking about how you can profit tomorrow?
It is only when you realize your need for a Savior and it is only when we give to Him all you have, for His honor and glory, that you will find true joy and contentment in this life.