Money breeds hope. I remember in the movie John Q., when Denzel Washington is near to having his own heart removed, to be surgically transferred to his dying son. His last words to his son are, in part, to make a lot of money. “Life is so much easier,” he says, “if you have money.” The problem, especially for us rich Americans, is that John Q. is right. Life is easier with money.
Just like sin brings pleasure for its season, money brings things to us easily. We can buy food, roofs, beds, pillows, and expensive life-prolonging surgery. It makes it our wealth an easy candidate for our hope.
Such pertains to Paul’s exhortation to Timothy — “Instruct the rich…not to hope upon the uncertainty of riches” (1 Tim 6:17).
The word for “hope” here is the common Greek word elpidzo, which means to “look forward with confidence.” Because riches are uncertain we are not to hope in them.Paul explains the nature of riches here – “uncertain.” Something not worth our hope, because it cannot assure us of what it promises to us.
Proverbs 11:18 says, “Whoever trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will flourish like a green leaf.” And 27:24 – “riches are not forever, Nor does a crown endure to all generations.”
Scripture clearly teaches that we ought not to hope in our riches – that riches are uncertain and the one who hopes in the fleeting and temporal wealth of this age will fall. We will affirm that our hope does not rest upon our uncertain riches. We will say that we know the stock mark might crash, or the economy might crap out.
But we don’t believe it, because our lives reflect our hope in our riches. Mine does. For Laura and me, when money gets tight, I look to our various fallback resources. I hope upon the (small) stock portfolio investments I hold. I think, “We could sell our house.” Or this. Or that.
Sure, I acknowledge that God will supply all my needs. But money sits so much more tangibly and empirically before me. Whether it’s a piece of twenty-dollar paper in my pocket, or pixilated figures on a computer screen. That’s hope I can count. It appears so certain.
That’s why we need instruction, a charge – “Hope not upon the uncertainty of riches!” They will fail. They must fail.
We must change the place of our hope. This is a command, not simply a state. “Do not hope!” is the charge. God requires action from us. “STOP hoping in your wealth!” I hear this command, and I think, “How do just stop feeling something?” Well, that’s where the whole New Covenant, Spirit has been given, sin has been conquered, and we have a new heart thing comes in.
We can STOP our misplaced hope, because God has changed us. The Gospel is power of God unto salvation, in all its facets — including moving our hope toward the worthy and certain God who came to us in Jesus.
We can beg God to change us.
“I hope in you, Oh God — help my lack of hope. I confess my hope upon uncertain riches. Change me! Help me! Let me do with my wealth as you would desire. Let me not love and trust and confide ourselves into that which would cause me to fall like a dry leaf from a tree. Help me God. You broke the back of money-hoping sin at the Cross. Jesus bore the punishment for sin of my money-hoping heart. Thank you. Help me.”