Trusting in Uncertain Riches

“Paul’s counsel on how to be rich”

Intro: Why was Jesus so hard on Rich people? It is not hard to see. Jesus did not have very many good things to say about material wealth or those who were wealthy.

  • Matt 19:23-24 – Then Jesus said to His disciples, “Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
  • In Luke 16:11 he calls money “unrighteousness wealth”
  • In many of Jesus’ parables, the rich man is the bad guy (Lazarus, foolish farmer in Luke 12)
  • In the parable of the sower, He calls riches deceitful and identifies money as a hindrance to hearing and obeying the word of God. (Luke 8:14)
  • Yes there are a few rich disciples who are good and do hood, but much of their good comes when they get rid of their wealth (Zacchaeus– Luke 19). Jesus commends the disciple who give away his wealth – Luke 14:33In the same way, therefore, every one of you who does not say good-bye to all his possessions cannot be My disciple. (HCSB)

This same approach is found in the apostolic teaching as well.

  • James 2:5-6 –Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor man. Do not the rich oppress you and drag you into the courts? 7 Do they not blaspheme that noble name by which you are called? James later describes the rich as those who defraud those who work for them, and murder the just! (James 5:1-6)

Was Jesus and his apostles biased against rich people? Was it a political thing designed to pit the poor man against the rich man (1%), fueled by envy? No not at all. Jesus’ was not being political. His words were not as much about social justice, as about the reality of a very present spiritual danger.

  • I am convinced that the negative approach taken to wealth in scripture is mainly because money poses such a threat to godly living from both directions, and none of us can ignore it. Whether you are rich or poor money is a spiritual concern.
  • This leads me to where we are supposed to be this month… 1 Timothy 6. Earlier in chapter 6 the apostle warned those who desire to be rich (v. 9), and defined the love of money as the root of all evil ( 10) Striving to get more money and things it can buy will bring upon us spiritual destruction – drown men in destruction and perdition(v.9). We studied these passages a few weeks ago. But in the last words of 1 Timothy, the apostle helps us see the other side of this very present spiritual danger. What if I already have money and things? What is Paul’s counsel to the rich?

Read 1 Tim 6:17-19– 17 Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. 18 Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, 19 storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life. (nkjv)If we analyze and diagram these 3 verses we find a common “Not…But” structure comprised of 2 negative commands, and 5 positive commands, followed by a promised result or goal. (The word for charge here is also translated as command – not just suggestions, but what the rich person MUST and MUST NOT do.) This morning I want to consider the negative commands… What the rich person is NOT to do – v. 17

I. Command those who are rich in this present age: Note: did you just tune me out? It is easy for us to assume that Paul is not talking to us here. “I might have a moderate problem with wanting more, but it is obvious to me that I am not rich” And yet if there is any part of this discussion that does apply to 21st century Christians living in the USA, it is this part. We are a prosperous people any way we measure it, but especially if we compare ourselves to Paul’s original audience. We are far richer in material possessions than the majority of the rest of the world today. So Paul’s words are for us.

A. To Not be Haughty (arrogant, high-minded) We must not misread this. Paul is not saying that it is alright for poor people to be arrogant. All of us must guard against arrogance, but this can be especially problematic for those who are wealthy. Money has an associated attitude that often comes with it. Having money can tempt us to look down on others, or feel that they are less than us, because they have less. We tend to judge the worth of others by how much they possess. Money can create a value system that contradicts the unity and humility of God’s people.Rom 12:16Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion. I like the NIV rendering – “Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.”

1. As Jesus described it, money is deceitful in that it claims to give us value and identity, but this is a deception. We judge the value of others and ourselves by how much money we make, or how “successful” we become. James warned Christians against adopting this human value system by offering the best seat to your rich brother, while moving the poorer brother to the cheap seats. He tells us that when we show such partiality, we become judges with evil thoughts, commit sin and are transgressors of the law. (James 2:1-9)

a. We need to protect our children from this deceptive value system. An education is good and making a comfortable salary is a blessing, but it cannot define them. Their identity must be in Christ.

b. It is difficult to be rich and humble if your pursuit of money was fueled selfishness. Many people seek more money SO they can think of themselves differently than others – drive a better car, own a bigger house – go on more elaborate vacations. The world’s value system supports this thinking… If you are rich, then display the symbols of being rich – You deserve it. Your possessions say something about you.

B. “Nor Trust in Uncertain Riches…” The word “trust” here is elpizo (el-pid’-zo); and comes from a word that means to expect and is also translated as hope. What doe you expect from your money? What do you hope it will do for you? Let me ask a question. Why shouldn’t we trust in uncertain riches? Let me give you two reasons from this text.

1. First the obvious. Because they are uncertain. They will fail you. Luke 12:16-21 – He spoke a parable to them, saying: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. 17 And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’ 18 So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.”‘ 20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’ 21 “So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” This successful man was not a fool because he failed to look to the future, but rather because he trusted his future to that which could not secure it. He thought if he had many goods laid up for many years, he was secure.

a. We easily, and almost naturally buy into the deception that money provides security. We even call them that, “securities”. If you win the lottery you can have FINANCIAL SECURITY for the rest of your life Proverbs 11:28:Whoever trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will thrive like a green leaf.” Proverbs 23:5Cast but a glance at riches and they are gone. For they will certainly sprout wings and fly off like an eagle.” Jesus Christ says, treasures on earth are destroyed by moth and rust, and thieves break in and steal it. (hide your jewelry, coin collection and your guns because somebody wants to steal it)

C. But in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy..The second reason we should not trust in riches because God is the One who gave them to us. This is where Paul’s counsel to rich people becomes practical. If we have wealth, we soon learn to rely upon it, rather than relying upon God who gave it to us. To put our trust in the gift, rather than the Giver is to corrupt the whole process. It is the error of the idolater. This was what Israel was supposed to learn in the wilderness… “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God”

1. It is powerful to see Paul’s argument from the words of the text. He uses the word “rich” (or riches) 3 times in this verse. (He will use it one more time in v. 18) The word is plousios (ploo-see’-oce) which literally means abundantly, copiously. V. 17– Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. The rich (wealthy) have riches that have been richly given by God. Paul’s point is that we should not trust in the riches (unreliable as they are) because God is the true source of what we have, and He is what is truly reliable.

2. The implication is that you cannot put your trust in the both at the same time. If you trust in God, then you are not one who fills his barns and builds bigger barns. You are not one who accepts the value system of the world he lives in. If you rely on God, you cannot put your confidence in what you possess. You cannot serve God and mammon at the same time.

3. We might also notice that Paul says we should trust in the “living God”. This terminology is rooted in OT scripture, where the true God, who is living, is contrasted with false gods, who are dead inanimate objects. But this language also refers to God as the One who gives life. God is the only source of life. When Jesus’ followers were clamoring for more physical bread, and were ready to put their confidence in one who could provide it, Jesus said, “Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him.”.. I AM the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst. (John 6:27,35)

Conclusion: Don’t allow the riches you have get in the way of being truly rich. Luke 16:9Therefore if you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? Those things that you hold in your hand will fail you. But the spiritual riches God provides through Christ will never fail you. 2 Cor. 8:9For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich. Paul was not talking about unreliable physical riches, but the spiritual blessings of being a child of God and a fellow heir with Christ.

Eph 1:7In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace

Eph 2:5-75 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.


Taken from an article by David McClister

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