We noted last week that by almost any measure, past or present, a majority of Americans (probably including you) could be considered rich. But whether or not we are rich, or consider ourselves to be so, the charge that Paul gives to the rich is applicable to all: “Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; that they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate” (I Tim. 6:17, 18). We will briefly examine what the Lord expects of those whom He has redeemed.
1) Do not be “highminded.” The adjective here translates two Greek words meaning lofty and to think. Those who have more than they need are not to succumb to “lofty thoughts” about their net worth, about the security that financial success suggests, or about what such success says about their value as individuals. Clearly, the attainder of any level of financial success may encourage dangerous and sinful thoughts of self-righteousness and complacency. Paul warns us to avoid such thoughts.
2) Do not trust in the uncertainty of riches. When we do not know where our next house payment is coming from or whether we will have something to eat for our next meal, we find ourselves looking to the Lord for help. But what happens almost invariably the moment we have more than we need? Do we not find some measure of security in the fact that we are in such a state? Paul warns us to trust in the Lord alone. For wealth provides no security whatsoever—it merely gives the appearance of doing so.
3) Trust in God. We all trust in something. But there is only one proper place—one Person, actually—who deserves our trust. What does it say about the wandering nature of our hearts that Paul must remind us—believers—to trust in the Lord alone? And are we?
4) Do good. Simple. Basic. Fundamental. Necessary. The problem with acquiring riches is that the riches tend to take on a life of their own. Rather than doing good, pretty soon we find ourselves unwittingly serving our stuff. It owns us rather than our owning it. We are not to live to accumulate things; we should allow the Lord to provide as He will, and do good with the time and material things that God gives us.
5) Be rich in good works. Here is the wealth that we are to accumulate, namely, good works. Let unbelievers build up their earthly bank accounts. We are to be rich in good works. We should not be satisfied with doing occasional services for others. Our lives should be characterized by good works: we should be serving continually.
6) Be generous. “Ready to distribute” is how the KJV translates the command. In other words, our good works should involve not only our time and our energy but also our possessions. The Lord enriches us not in order to make us fat and sassy but in order that we might be distribution centers for His grace. We should look on our lives as clearing houses for the manifold goodnesses of God.
7) Be ready to share. The KJV translates this command as “willing to communicate.” We should not be dragged kicking and screaming or pouting and petulant to the place of service. We should come with hearts made bountiful by love and thankfulness and hands made full by the abundant goodness of God. Freely we have received; freely we should give.
This sevenfold exhortation concludes with a promise of purpose (I Tim. 6:19). But I will leave that for you to read on your own.
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