1 Timothy 6: 17 - 19
If you are rich, this message is for you. This is a word from Paul to the rich Christians in Ephesus. Some people will be richer than others. Some people have lots of money. But who are the rich? If someone asked you, “Are you rich?” what would you say? Most of us would deny being rich. But we would be wrong. All of us are rich, and I am not speaking about “spiritual riches” as true as that is. I am speaking of material wealth. All of us are rich. Compared with the people of Sudan or Bangladesh, we’re loaded. Compared to most people in our own country and the surrounding nations, we’re super rich.
If you own your home, you’re rich. If you own your car, you’re rich. If you have enough food to eat, you’re rich. If you have extra clothes in your cupboard, you’re rich. If you’ve got enough to go out to eat occasionally, you’re rich. That includes all of us. Even though there are some people in our church who have very little, those people still have far more in terms of creature comforts than most people around the world.
This is a message by a rich pastor to his rich congregation. It’s not - “It’s a sin to be rich” or “You need to get rid of all your money and become poor.” The issue is not how much money you have, it’s what you do with what God has given you.
3 popular money myths:
Myth #1: Having more things equals more happiness.
Myth #2: Having more things equals more importance.
Myth #3: Having more things equals more security.
Money can do lots of things but it can’t buy happiness, it can’t make you more important, and it can’t guarantee your earthly security. That is critical when you consider the dangerous world in which we live. There is no lasting security anywhere in the world today. In an age of crime and terrorism, there is no front line because we’re all living on the front line. Even those who serve the Lord can’t be sure of what tomorrow may bring. There is no absolute protection from suffering in this world.
Wealth is not necessarily a hindrance to our walk with God. Many rich Christians use their wealth wisely and bring great benefit to the world. There is hardly a church or ministry anywhere that has not benefited from the large gifts of wealthy believers. But if money is not a hindrance, it is definitely a test. The way you spend your money tells the truth about your values. You can come to church and dance in the aisles if you want to, but that doesn’t mean as much as how you spend your money. Money talks, and the story it tells reveals the truth about your walk with God.
Money is not evil; it’s the love of money that gets us into trouble. 1 Timothy 6: 10 - I say, “I don’t love money” then I read “eager for money” and I’m stopped in my tracks. “If money were a woman, I wouldn’t say we were in love, but we’re definitely dating heavily.” Money in the end can’t satisfy. A man on his deathbed doesn’t say, “Thank God for my money.” He gives thanks for family and friends, but doesn’t have time to worry about money. Sometimes we ask about the departed, “How much did he leave?” The answer is always the same: “All of it.”
1. Examine Your Heart v. 17 5 important truths -
A. Some people will be rich. In particular, some Christians will be richer than others. Some will have more, others less. This means it is not a sin to be rich per se. It’s how you made your money and what you do with it that matters.
B. Money makes us feel invincible. Money has a peculiar power to make us feel insulated from the problems of life. We’ve all known rich people who were arrogant in the way they treated others. Money has a way of making you feel set apart so that what happens to others will never happen to you.
C. Wealth truly is uncertain. You can be rich today and broke tomorrow. How many of us lost money in the world wide recession. People lost 30, 50% or more of their investment income. People who planned to retire at age 50 will now have to work until they are 125. That’s the nature of wealth. Just when you think you’ve got it made, your money takes wings and flies away.
D. Putting your hope in God is a choice we all must make. You consciously decide each day that you will not trust in your money to get you through life. “Lord, today I trust you completely with all that I am and all that I have. I take you at your Word and no matter what happens to me, I believe that you are working out your plan in my life.”
E. God gives us everything we need at any given moment. “No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly” (Psalm 84: 11). “If you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him” (Matthew 7: 11). I realise that there are some living every day with a serious illness or a debilitating physical handicap. How can we speak of God’s goodness in situations like that? Perhaps the only possible answer - How can we not speak of God’s goodness in those situations? Paul added a helpful insight when he remarked that in every situation he had “learned” to be content (Philippians 4: 11).
This means on one hand that it is possible to be content no matter where I might find myself. It also means that contentment does not come easily but must be learned over time as we discover God’s grace in the most unlikely places. We can say that at every moment along the way, God gives us whatever we need for that particular moment. If we truly need something else tomorrow that we don’t have today, we can rest assured that somehow, someway, at some point in time, our Heavenly Father will see to it that what we need will be given to us.
Generosity depends on good theology. We will be generous precisely to the extent that we have a proper view of God and his involvement in our daily life. If we separate God from life, then we’ll hoard our wealth because we’re in charge. But if we understand that he is the Lord of all of life, including the details, then we are free from the need to trust in our wealth. We can give knowing that we’ll have everything we need when we really need it. A proper view of God leads to a generous view of life, which is why giving ought to be as natural for the Christian as breathing.
2. Consider Your Actions v. 18
First look at your heart (what you believe as the foundation for everything you do), then consider your actions. 3 things are mentioned in this verse: Doing good, being rich in good deeds, a generous spirit that gladly shares with others. All are really one and the same thing. You could say that doing good is general, being rich in good deeds is more specific and being generous and willing to share is a pointed application. These commands rise beyond the level of what you do with your money. They touch the deeper issue of how you spend your time. Today, for many people, time has become more important than money. Time has become so precious that we would rather give R100 to a charity if we can avoid going to a function. We will write a cheque to avoid getting personally involved. We have all sorts of electronic gizmos to help us save time and manage life effectively. As a result, we are in danger of losing personal contact with a hurting world. The answer - Be generous in the way you spend your time. Get involved with others. Go face to face with people in crisis. Spend an extra 10 minutes talking to a friend who is searching for the Lord. Think of ways you can make a difference in a child’s life. Are you bothered by too many interruptions during the day? Perhaps those interruptions are sent by the Lord to keep you from making your job the focus of your life. What a difference if we thought of each interruption as being sent by the Lord. What if Jesus wanted to interrupt you today? Would you have time to talk to him? Would you put him on hold? “Sorry, Lord, I love you but I’m tied up right now.” If we could take that perspective regarding all our “ordinary” interruptions, it would drain the irritation we feel when “our” plans are interrupted. Didn’t Jesus say something about visiting him in prison, giving him clothes to wear, and giving him food to eat? (Matthew 25: 31 – 45)
3. Enjoy Your Reward v. 19
Here’s a promise for all of us to embrace, but it has special relevance to the rich. Jesus’ Investment Advice -
A. Generous living leads to an enhanced life in heaven. When we take these words seriously, we are laying a foundation for the future that will last for all eternity. To “lay up treasure” means to live in such a way now that our future experience in heaven is enriched. We all understand the concept of investing for the future. Most of you have made some plans for the future - saving for education, or a new car, or a new home or you’re putting money into a pension or a retirement fund. If you are planning for your retirement that means the money you invest now won’t be yours to enjoy until many years in the future. But you do it now so that when your retirement comes, there will be sufficient funds available. The same is true in our Christian life. As we live a generous life toward others, we are making payments into our heavenly retirement account. But this verse is not just about the distant future, it also promises “life that is truly life.” Life that goes beyond mere existence. Life as God intended it to be.
B. Generous Christians discover a quality of life that stingy Christians never know. Those who dare to become generous givers end up enjoying life on a level that those who hoard their wealth never experience. The happiest people on earth are those who have learned the joy of generous living. They give and give and give. They give their time, their money, their advice, their counsel, their talents and their commitment. They are not content to be spectators while life rushes by. They get off the bench and get into the game. They truly enjoy giving to others. They have learned the secret that you can’t out-give God. “I shovel it out and God shovels it in. And God’s got a bigger shovel than I do.”
We must reflect on the values of the kingdom of God. Some people may wonder about 25 years spent and a church with only 200 people attending. But God’s economy is quite different from ours. The One who owns the cattle on a thousand hills is not impressed by numbers. The Lord of the universe is not more glorified by 10000 than by 100.
Now the challenge is to you and to me. We are so rich—and I mean that literally. We have been given so much. Compared to the rest of the world, we’re at the top of the pile. I do not think we need to feel guilty about that, but we ought to feel a sense of profound obligation. God never wastes his blessings and he doesn’t pour them out so that we can use them on ourselves. Blessings are meant to be shared. Money is for giving away. Material wealth is given so that we can bless others as God has blessed us.
If you are in the grip of materialism, what do you do? The oldest answer is the best. The best way to break the stranglehold of money is to give it away. If your bicycle has been a snare to you, give it away. If that new boat is a problem, give it away. If your clothes have become an obsession, give all the new stuff away. If your home has become an idol, give it away. If you worry too much about your investments, start giving that money away to the Lord’s work. Find some worthy cause and invest in it. Find a need and meet it. Find a hurt and heal it. It doesn’t need to be something big and flashy. The world doesn’t need to know what you’ve done. As you give to help others, you will help yourself, and in the process the stranglehold of money will be broken in your heart. That’s a win-win solution. Help others, help yourself. Bless others and you will be blessed along the way.
One of these days we will all stand before the Lord. The danger we face is that we will hear the Lord say, “You fool! You spent your life building a fortune but were not generous toward the Lord or his people.” (Luke 12: 13 - 21) The Lord will not ask how much money we had at the end of our life. But he will certainly ask, “What did you do with what I gave you? Did you use it all for your own enjoyment? Or did you use your money for the sake of my kingdom?”
What you keep for yourself, you eventually lose. What you give away, you gain eternally. So may God cause us—the richest people in the world—to become generous givers and so enter into the blessing that comes to those who aren’t afraid to take God at his Word. Amen.