Advice for the Rich (and Poor)
1 Timothy 6:17-19 (ESV)
17 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 us with everything to enjoy. 18 They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, 19 thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.
How can I measure whether I am rich or poor in this present world? It is a hard measurement to make, because it requires comparing my wealth to someone else’s wealth. If I compare my wealth to that of Bill Gates or Warren Buffet I am just a pauper, but if I compare myself to the homeless I am immensely wealthy. So, do I think I am rich or poor?
In 1 Timothy 6:17-19 Paul gives me two ways to measure my wealth in terms that does not require comparing myself to others. If I am thinking along the lines of these two indicators, then I am thinking myself to be rich in this present age. First, if I am haughty or conceited about my wealth then I am considering myself to be wealthy. That is, if my wealth gives me reason to look down on others or judge myself better, then I am thinking like a rich man. James 2:1-7 gives us a picture of someone who is haughty. If he shows partiality because of wealth by giving the best seats to the wealthy and forcing the poor to stand at the back, then he is one who is haughty. Second, if I fix my hope on money rather than God, then I am thinking like a rich man. If I am trusting in the size of my bank account for security rather than God who richly supplies us all things to enjoy, then I am thinking like a rich man.
How can these two problems be fixed? Paul answers this question by giving four commands to the rich, which in the end are to the rich man’s benefit. First, do good; second, be rich in good works; thirdly, be generous; and finally, be ready to share. Carrying out these four commands requires me to let go of my focus on money, thereby freeing me to see needs and be generous in meeting the needs of others. A man who engages in these four things has ceased thinking that he is either rich or poor, rather he is thinking about building a good foundation for his real future.
I wrote this article as if it applies to me, because it does apply! I am constantly struggling with the size of the retirement account. Is it enough according to good financial planning? Is it safely invested according to good financial wisdom? These questions smack of thinking like I am rich because I am looking to wealth for security rather than to God who richly supplies. These four little commands “do good, be rich in good works, be generous and be ready to share” encourage me to live for the coming kingdom of God. In my case part of living for the coming kingdom is to be generous with the retirement account rather than to horde it.
How are you doing? Are you measuring your wealth or are you living for the coming kingdom?