The Rich Person’s True Hope
“As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides” (v. 17).- 1 Timothy 6:17-19
Lest there be any misunderstanding regarding his view of wealthy people, Paul in today’s passage gives some final guidelines for how rich Christians are to work out their salvation. His warnings against the love of money in 1 Timothy 6:2b–10, we can see in verses 17–19, are not a condemnation of the possession of money. The apostle assumes that there will be rich people in the covenant community, so he does not scold them for being rich, nor does he order them to get rid of their wealth. Instead, he explains what Christ would have them do with their money for their benefit and for the sake of the kingdom.
Paul begins with a warning for wealthy believers “not to be haughty” (v. 17). With riches comes the temptation to view oneself as inherently better than others, as if having wealth necessarily means that one works harder or is smarter than others. While this might be true in some cases, it is not true in all instances, and wealthy people must always recognize their fortune for what it is — a blessing from the Lord Himself. As wealthy people remember this, they will find themselves putting their hopes on God and not “the uncertainty of riches.” The unreliability of wealth is a common theme in Scripture (Luke 12:13–33; James 4:13–17) and is also a lesson we should learn from experience, as the recent worldwide financial problems have shown us. Those who trust in wealth, not the wealth-giver, will be disappointed in this world and the world to come.
Wealthy Christians, Paul tells us, show their hope in God through good works of generosity. Certainly, our Father wants us to enjoy what He has given to us (Eccl. 5:18–20; 1 Tim. 6:17), but His blessing is not only for our comfort but for His kingdom as well. Note that Paul’s encouragement for the wealthy to share with those who have little is not for the rich alone but for all of us, even if it might be especially applicable to those with many possessions (v. 18). In any case, Dr. John MacArthur says, “Those believers who have money must use it in meeting the needs of others, unselfishly and generously” (The MacArthur Bible Commentary p. 1,799). As they do this they earn for themselves treasures in heaven, ensuring that they will also be rich in the new heavens and earth (1 Tim. 6:19).
The temptation to trust in our savings accounts affects us all, whether or not we would be considered rich by society’s measure. We must be good stewards of what God has given to us, and part of this involves realizing that all we have is His anyway and that He has the right to take it from us at any time. Money is uncertain, but the Lord will provide for our every need even in ways we do not expect. Where do you put your trust?
Passages for Further Study
Proverbs 19:17; 21:13; 22:2, 9; 28:27; 29:14