1 Timothy 6:17-21
Concerning the Rich
It is often thought that the Bible condemns wealth as wealth. That is not true. As we saw in the passage just above, it is not money but the LOVE of money which is the root of all kinds of evil. But having said that, Paul already told us that we must learn to be content having the bare necessities, and I have warned in many places that we Americans fool ourselves into thinking that we possess our wealth more than it possesses us. The love of and pursuit of wealth is one of the most insidious of temptations because it is so easy to justify as being sought for the sake of others or as something that does not really affect who we are. We are so gullible about ourselves.
Paul enjoins the following principles for those who are wealthy, which I take to be just about every American and European in the room when compared to just about everyone else in the world. (Please note: Just because you do not have as much as a millionaire or even the man down the street does not mean that you are not wealthy.) In other words, the Apostle here is not speaking to the man next to you in the pew but to you and me. Paul writes these principles: 1) Do not be haughty. Nothing makes one feel superior to someone else as having more money or things than someone else, along with the feeling that they earned their wealth whereas the other person is lazy or not as smart or gifted. And even if there is an element of truth in these sentiments about the other person (of course poverty is sometimes related to sloth, Proverbs 6:6-11), it is not for us to condemn them realizing that though we have worked hard or gained by our wits, it is God who gives the gifts that we may earn our bread (6:17; 1 Corinthians 4:7). 2) Do not set your hopes on the uncertainty of earthly riches. In our interconnected and global economy, any economic meltdown can rob us of our wealth: Money, land, precious metals can all lose their value over night. Or someone can just take our wealth from us—thieves or governments. 3) We are to be rich in good works, which is the true measure of wealth in heaven. And the good work expected of the wealthy (i.e., us) is generosity, giving, and sharing. I grant that we must be discerning when we give so that we do not enable someone’s bad choices, but as John the Baptist said, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none” (Luke 3:11). And Paul is certain that in doing these things we “take hold of that which is truly life,” in this age but mostly in the age to come.
Paul closes again with a charge to Timothy, to us, to “guard the deposit,” that is, the teaching, the faith, the commandment, the gospel—guard it well.