The Desire for Riches
“Those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.”- 1 Timothy 6:9
Discontent is one of the most powerful shaping influences in our society. Advertisers regularly attempt to dissuade us from the things we use everyday in order to sell us their products. Political parties thrive on discontent, stirring up voters to covet things they do not have in order to elect a candidate who will take from one group of people and give to another. Truly, contentment is rare today.
When discontentment is the driving force in a person’s life, all sorts of problems can result. Spouses can rush headlong into extramarital affairs. Households can pile on loads of debt as they try to keep up with the lifestyles of their neighbors. Biblical truth can be distorted in an effort to make the message easier to sell. Timothy faced some kind of doctrinal aberration resulting from teachers who made monetary gain their chief end in life, and that is why Paul urges contentment with one’s own estate (1 Tim. 6:6–8). He expands upon this principle in today’s passage, reminding us that a desire to be rich fueled by discontentment can create senseless desires and result in destruction (v. 9).
Note that Paul does not say that those who are rich are the ones who succumb to temptation, as if having wealth is evil in itself. Many of the saints who lived during the biblical era were wealthy (for example, Gen. 13:2; Luke 8:1–3), so being rich is not in itself sinful. What Paul is warning us against is the desire for wealth, but even here he is not cautioning against the desire to improve one’s estate but the desire that makes money and things the be all and end all of life. The apostle is warning us not to be like the rich fool who stores up possessions only for himself and never thinks about how he can benefit others (Luke 12:13–21). As John Calvin explains, having luxuries is not “to be condemned on its own account, but lusting after them is always sinful.”
Those who love money above all else will do anything to get more of it. They will fall into a “snare” (1 Tim. 6:9), which is the same word used in “snare of the devil” in 3:7. People who worship gold and silver will find that their bank account will not help them escape the same fate reserved for Satan.
Each day we should ask ourselves whether we are content with the gifts God has given us or whether we are coveting (not simply wanting) something else. That something could be money, a relationship, a job, recognition, or any number of things that can be considered good. But when we think that we need these things, we have distrusted God’s provision. We should regularly take a look at our goals to see whether they reflect contentment with His grace.
Passages for Further Study
1 Kings 10:14–11:8
2 Kings 20:12–21