Instruct the ones rich in this age:not to be haughty,
nor to hope on the uncertainty of riches,
but to hope on God who supplies to us all things richly to enjoy,
to do good,
to be rich in good works,
to generous and sharing what they have,
laying up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation into the future,
so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.
1 Timothy 6:17-19
This morning I was listening to message, and the point brought up was that to “the rich in this age” could be added in contemporary times, “i.e., the Americans.” If you are an American you are rich. I am rich. We’re all rich and we can’t do anything about it. It is our lot from the Lord. We can vow no poverty, or make ourselves un-rich. Even if we tried to, we would still have rich families, who would constantly give us stuff, and make us rich again.
I feel guilty, often, about how much I have. I know it’s grace, because I didn’t ask for all of the manifold material blessings that rain down upon me constantly. Sometimes, honestly, I wish I had been born into poverty — to avoid the responsibility of the great wealth that plagues every American.
That’s me. I am richer than 99% of the history of the world population.
That weighs upon me, often.
It encourages me, though, that Paul knows there are rich people “in this age.” That’s the way it is — some people, in this age, before eternity’s dawning, are rich. And he instructed Timothy in what to charge such people.
I (and you) would do well to contemplate these instructions carefully.
Because we are the riches people in the world’s history.
What, then, are our instructions?
1. We are not to be haughty. That is, not to look down on those with less. Man, I’ve already felt this one, just in having bought a house. I have caught myself in my own thoughts lording my home-ownership over those who don’t own a home. How much do we do this, do I do this, and never recognize it?
2. We are not to hope on the uncertainty of riches. Scripture, throughout, shows and warns of the peril of trusting in stuff we have when we have it. I easily hope in my bank numbers, or stock performance, or ___________. It seems tangible, and so much easier to touch or understand or rely upon than the invisible God.
3. We ARE to trust in God, who supplies to us all things to enjoy. “Us” here includes the “non-rich”. Paul is speaking of the “rich” as “them”. Therefore, when he says “us” it must include those who do not qualify as rich. God supplies his people with the things needed to enjoy, and these things are not exclusive to rich folks.
4. We are to do good. Here this relates directly to our wealth, that is, to do good with what we have. How can we be better using our vast wealth “to do good”?
5. We are to be rich in good works. I think this differs somewhat from #4, because Paul seems to be saying that the most important richness is that of being rich in good works. We are not to only be rich in dollars but also to be rich in deeds.
6. We are to be generous and sharing with what we have. Again, a similar concept, yet nuanced. How can we, of all people, ever be miserly with what we have? We have so much, and God calls us to generosity.
Modifying all of these infinitives is the participial clause “storing up for [our]selves the treasure of a good foundation for the future.” This tells us what happens when we do numbers one through six above. We store up a true treasure that last into the future. True wealth exists in heaven only. And the purpose of this storing is “so that [we] may take hold that which is truly life.”
These concepts indicate the eternal nature of our true treasure. Rich people can be fooled by their riches — fooled into thinking they have what they need, and when they need it. We must caution ourselves with these words.
We must follow and learn the directives for the “rich in this age”.
So that we might take hold of that which is truly life.
I hope to offer a few more meditations on this passage soon.