This week’s blog post is provided by Kirk Schlabaugh, one of our resident assistants and a senior soon graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Christian Ministries.
Most of us are more economically well-off than we think.
Comparatively, even Americans just above the poverty line are more wealthy than most of the world (see where you stand).
What’s your point? (you ask).
By quoting Paul in 1 Timothy 6, I am implying that you and I (I am making a generalization) fall into the category of “the rich in this present age”. This charge is for us. But with great wealth comes great difficulty as a follower of Jesus, as well as unique opportunity to help others.
The difficulty– The love of money is spiritual cancer. Note, he does not say having money is the problem but that loving money and “the desire to be rich” (6:9) drives a person away from Jesus. Earlier in the chapter, Paul has already warned Timothy of the dangers of loving money (v.9-10). Timothy was located in the city of Ephesus, which was a thriving economic hub of Asia Minor. The desire to use religion as a means for financial gain was tempting, and others were yielding to that greed (6:5).
The hunger for more wealth is an unquenchable desire. It leads people away from Jesus and into pangs of anxiety rather than true security. Jesus also warns that we cannot serve both God and money (Matt 6:24). It would even be easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter God’s kingdom! (Luke 18:25)
It seems we rich Christians are in a “sticky wicket”, as my New Testament professor Gareth Reese would say. Do we need to give up all our wealth? Some people may need to (Luke 18:18-30). Or is it possible to be fully surrendered, obedient, and pleasing to Jesus while being “rich in this present age”? Because of 1 Timothy 6:17-19, I believe that it is possible. This blog will explore how to genuinely follow Jesus while being rich in this present age.
- Remember that your material wealth is only in this present age (1 Tim 6:17)
As followers of Jesus, we need to remember that the money and resources we have are temporal. When we die, we do not take our money with us. We came with nothing into this world, and we will leave with nothing (1 Tim 6:7). This is why Jesus urges us to be “rich toward God” (Luke 12:21). My definition of being rich toward God is loving God and loving others by using our resources to advance God’s kingdom. God is wanting to remind the wealthy in Ephesus (and today) that their possessions won’t last forever, but their relationship with God and their labor for Him will (1 Tim 6:19; 1 Cor 15:58).
When I was in high school, I loved video games. They were my life; I would stay up until 3:00 a.m. on a school night (disobeying my parents) playing them. I would wake up early to play them. I even broke up with several girlfriends because I wanted more time to play video games. My goal was to be the highest “level” I could be on the games I played. What troubled me was I could lose it all. I feared that what I was pursuing was not lasting. It was then that my mom shared a book with me called Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper. He said:
“God created me—and you—to live with a single, all-embracing, all-transforming passion—namely, a passion to glorify God by enjoying and displaying his supreme excellence in all the spheres of life.”
I remember reading Piper’s words that night in my room. I was thrilled and amazed that I could live for what was truly lasting. For the first time, I realized that I had a directive from God, an objective and true purpose which would guide my life’s course.
Read carefully the words of King Solomon, who was up to his ears in gold:
2. Set your hope on the living God, not on the uncertainty of riches.
As I have mentioned already, riches are not helpful when we die. Paul also shows that they are uncertain in this life (1 Tim 6:17).
Do you know anyone who has been let go from a job several years before they planned to retire? Do you know of any families who have been overwhelmed by unexpected medical bills? I’m guessing you do know of such people, or at least you realize and fear that these are possibilities. Money has never been able to provide the security that its lovers have desired. The song Can’t Buy Me Love by the Beatles shows that even those who are not (to my knowledge) followers of Jesus realize money’s limits. It is uncertain.
God is certain and unchanging (James 1:17; Hebrews 13:8). While we may not get the job we are looking for, or a big house, we can be certain that God will deliver on what He has promised. Acquiring “the good life” or the American dream is not guaranteed, but Jesus’ return is.
Disclaimer: Though Jesus’ return is sure, I am not encouraging you to stop saving money, quit your job, and roll around in the dirt. If someone does not provide for those in their own household, they have denied the faith and are worse than an unbeliever (1 Tim 5:8). William Barclay, in his commentary on 1 Timothy, says:
“To seek to be independent and prudently to provide for the future is a Christian duty; but to make the love of money the driving-force of life cannot ever be anything other than the most perilous of sins.”
So far, I have attempted to show that we need to have a correct attitude and mindset about riches that looks to eternity and God’s purposes rather than to amassing wealth. What will it look like if someone has “put all their chips in on Jesus”? How will they live?
3. Be generous and rich in good works.
“instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share.” (1 Tim 6:18)
Being generous and devoted to good works is what it will look like for someone to set their hopes on the certain, living God. It is the behavioral answer of the “how to?” question that this blog post raises.
What we do with our money testifies to who God is and what we value. When we give generously, we testify that God is our provider and true owner of our resources. Our giving also makes it plain that we value the spread of God’s kingdom more than the acquisition of wealth.
If I have convinced you that you are wealthy, I pray that this blog was informative, challenging, and helpful to you as you strive, with whatever wealth you have, to follow Jesus and make Him known. An excerpt from CT Studd’s poem says it best: “Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.”
Keep your eye out for our next post, where we will continue to explore what it looks like to live “richly toward God”.
This post was completed as an assignment for a class at Central Christian College of the Bible. Subscribe today to see more insights into what our students are continuing to learn!