Text: 1 Timothy 6:17-21
One-fifth of the world’s population is without sustainable food and clean water. So by that measure, most of the people in the US are considered wealthy by comparison.
So, when we read a passage in the Bible referring to “the rich”, I think it means those who have enough to meet their own needs, and enough to share. In other words, from a biblical perspective, you and I are considered wealthy if we have enough to live and enough to give. Here are a few instructions from our text for Christians who have money:
1. Hope in God, not in money. (v. 17)
While being wealthy is not a sin, to have money is to face certain temptations. Paul identifies two:
One is to become haughty, to become conceited. When we have stuff, we can get comfortable with our stuff. We can be tempted to take credit for our accomplishments, and to look down on others who don’t have as much as we do.
The second temptation Paul connects to having money is “setting our hopes on the uncertainty of riches”. Wealth tempts us to be self-sufficient. So the warning here is don’t let your peace or your joy or your identity or your sense of well-being be tied to your bank account or your possessions. That’s hoping in riches. And that’s deadly.
That means we all need to be on guard against the temptation to trust in wealth. This is a matter of worship because when we’re tempted to trust in anything else, we are failing to see God as our source.
So how do we do that? How do we guard our hearts against these temptations to be haughty, or to put our hope in things that will vanish? By remembering that any blessings we have are from God and they are undeserved. That humbles us. And by putting our hope in the One who is eternal. That anchors us. We put our hope in God alone. We entrust our well-being to Him. We worship the Giver, not the gift. We fight the good fight as Paul reminded us in previous verses, daily fighting for joy in Jesus, daily being reminded that Jesus is our treasure.
2. Be generous givers. (v. 18)
Generosity is showing love by giving. And the love we show in giving is a response to the love we have been shown. It is a reflection of the generosity Jesus has shown to me. He has been generous with His mercy, His love, His grace, in saving me. God “lavished on us” the riches of His grace (Eph.1:8).
Because of that, the Christ-follower is generous. He does not hold back, but he gives passionately and joyfully. And that generosity is not only measured by the amount we give, but even more so, by the motive of the heart. Generosity comes from gratitude. If I am grateful and content in Jesus, it will lead to a full heart. And a full heart leads to an open hand. When we’ve truly been affected by His generosity, we will be generous to others.
But who are we to be generous to? Where should we aim our generous giving? Scripture directs us to two main areas: God’s people and God’s mission.
a) We are commanded to give to the poor, especially to Christians who are in need (Gal. 6:10).
b) We are commanded to give to support of the mission of preaching the gospel (2 Cor. 9:6-7). This includes the local church you are a part of, as well as helping to plant other churches around the world.
We are to give to the poor, and we are to give to the church. God’s people and God’s mission.
3. Store up treasure in Heaven. (v. 19)
When we treasure Him, we will reflect Him. And when we glorify God by giving away treasure here on earth, we actually gain treasure in heaven.
Paul is not saying we earn God’s grace, or that we buy blessings from God. The point is that what we do here affects eternity. Being saved from our sins in this life means we are given eternity with Jesus in the next life. Likewise, when we are generous with what God has given to us here, we are storing up treasures, rewards, blessings for ourselves in heaven.
Paul says that’s a “good foundation for the future”. It’s good to have a savings account and investments and a retirement strategy for your future in this life. But your future doesn’t end with death. Christians need to expand our planning beyond this life.
How are you investing for the next life? Are you living your life now with eternity in mind? If you have eternity in view, you won’t cling to stuff here. You’ll be quick to give to the needy, to give to the mission of the gospel, knowing that God promises you we will be rewarded in heaven. And just like everything else in God’s economy, what we receive from God is always more than we give.
4. Guard the gospel deposit (vv. 20-21)
Paul just finished dealing with wealth and what is perceived as valuable to man. Here, he uses similar language to point to what is truly valuable, what is of genuine worth. And he calls it “the deposit”. A deposit is something of value that belongs to another. It is given to another to be kept and protected, so that one day it can be returned to its rightful owner without damage. In a word, that’s stewardship.
And what is this deposit Timothy is supposed to guard and protect? It is the truth of the gospel that has been the focus of this entire letter, and is in fact, the focus of the entire Bible. There is no one more precious to us than Jesus. And there is no gift more valuable than this message of the gospel that we have been given.
Paul is reminding Timothy, keep away from the false teachers and the many false gospels. Guard what is truly valuable. Guard the deposit – guard and protect the truth of who Jesus is and what He’s done for us.
We rejoice that the gospel was given to us for our benefit – Jesus is mine and I am His. But it must not stop there. You and I are given the gospel to generously give it to others. My faith is personal, but it must not be private. Give it to as many as we can. Freely you have been given, freely give.
May God continue to grant His grace – His unmerited favor and mercy, to comfort His church and empower us to live the kind of lives that reflect His generosity, that we may guard and protect and celebrate the precious gospel deposit we have been given.