Paul writes in 1 Timothy 6:17-19, “Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; that they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.”
It is not forbidden to be rich. It does not say, “Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not rich”! But it does show us that riches can be dangerous. Therefore, the rich are told to give the right things priority. “Honour the Lord with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase,” it says in Proverbs 3:9.
Many of us are “rich” and have no needs. We can afford things today that you would need to have been a nobleman to possess previously. We are in danger of putting our trust in these things and not completely in the living God. These verses call upon us to put our whole trust in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is worth trusting completely in the Almighty God described in the previous verses (1 Timothy 6:15-16), and following Him alone. It is often only visible how really rich a person is when they are on their deathbed.
The present age will pass away, but those who do the will of God will remain in eternity. The present is in contrast to the future. As the present will pass away, but the future will remain, it is well worth working for the future, having it before our eyes and concentrating on it.
“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever” (1 John 2:15-17).
The Bible gives us Moses as an example of the right spiritual attitude in Hebrews 11:25-26, “Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward.” It may sound like a platitude, but it is true: material things can never produce what God can and wants to give us as the source of life and joy.
In contrast to the stability of God, all material things are unstable. We must never lose sight of the fact that our Lord offers us greater security than this world. The living, immortal God stands far above all that is mortal, passing and transitory. Paul does not emphasize here the living nature of God for nothing. He wants to say to us that the Lord is watchful, that He sees our needs, and that He reacts and intervenes. When all else fails, He is still there and He remains the same.
“My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth. He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber. Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep” (Psalm 121:2-4).
Our Lord is not miserly. He not only gives us what we need to survive, but also gives us all things richly to enjoy (cf. 1 Timothy 4:3). This statement could also be understood as a criticism of asceticism. We do not have to starve ourselves. We may enjoy what the Lord gives us, but in complete gratitude, humility and dependency on Him, for He is the Giver of all good and perfect gifts (James 1:17).
There is a sinful kind of pleasure which God condemns (1 Timothy 5:6), but there is also pleasure which may be enjoyed with thanks and responsibility and comes from the Lord, spiritual as well as natural, i.e. material gifts (1 Timothy 4:3). But the wealthy are especially in danger of forgetting to trust in the Lord and building on their own power and opportunity. This is why they are warned in 1 Timothy 6:17 not to be highminded or proud. The rich can be tempted to boast of their riches and attribute their wealth to their own skill.
Instead of this, the rich, and all others too, of course, should do good, be rich in good works, generous and prepared to share with others according to their wealth.
“How can I do good today?” should be our continual question and motivation for our actions. To be rich in good works means not just doing what is absolutely necessary. Just as we can strive after riches, we should also strive to do good works. To be generous is the opposite of being miserly or selfish. We should not only think of ourselves, but also have the fundamental readiness to give.
The first Church is a great example of this, “And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common. And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all. Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, and laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need” (Acts 4:32-35).
Is the working of the Holy Spirit lacking in our midst, perhaps because unity is lacking, the team spirit, the bearing of one another’s burdens? John Wesley’s motto was said to be, “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the places you can, at all times you can, to all the people you can, as long as you ever can.”
“Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life” (1 Timothy 6:19). To lay hold on eternal life means in practical terms, to put into practice the eternal life that we have as born-again believers.
Having eternal life is something that we should learn to enjoy in faith. We should experience what it means; we should use it, apply it, and put it into practice. Christians can possess eternal life per se, and yet not experience in their daily lives what is connected with it; what blessing, salvation and transformation it brings. This is in my opinion why laying hold on eternal life is the same as seeking and striving after that which is above (Colossians 3:1-4). I would like to quote in addition 2 Peter 1:10 at this point, “Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall.”
When we put the Word of God into practice, “…if ye do these things,” we make our calling and election sure, and are firm and secure in it. Much insecurity comes from not applying the Word of God to our lives.
Notice the words, “laying up in store for themselves.” Those who lay up in store for themselves do it for their own personal lives, which are transformed and blessed. Those who selfishly think of themselves can lose much, but those who seek the good of others will ultimately gain.
The “good foundation against the time to come” is surely about the future judgment by the Lord. “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10).
Of this “good foundation against the time to come,” Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 3 the following, “According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work shall abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire” (verses 10-15).
The “laying up in store” of a “good foundation against the time to come,” is like a store of treasures. The NIV translates this verse, “In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.” This is in accordance with the statement of our Lord Jesus, who said in Matthew 6:19-20, “Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven….”
Are we “collectors” of a good foundation for the future? Do we let ourselves be used, driven by the Holy Spirit, to be doers of the Word of God in every way?
Just how these words can be a blessing in our lives today, and how much the Bible is shown to be practical and reliable, can be seen from the following report:
“According to the theory of evolution, the stronger is always the winner. Psychologists have been doubting this for some time now. At the University of California, Berkeley, students proved the opposite: kindness prevails! ‘The fundamental task for human survival is to take care of others,’ Dacher Keltner, leader of the project, “Survival of the kindest” explained. As proof for their thesis, the scientists presented the results of various studies. The result was: where nature forms care and compassion, it leads to success. In a study, social psychologist and sociologist, Robb Willer and his team gave participants each a modest amount of cash and directed them to play games of varying complexity that would benefit ‘the public good.’ The results, published in the journal The American Sociological Review, showed that participants who acted more generously received more gifts, respect and cooperation from their peers and wielded more influence over them. ‘Those who behave generously with others are held in high esteem by their peers and thus rise in status.’ Other studies proved that parents who start consciously cultivating gratitude and generosity in their children quickly see how much happier and more resilient their children become, and that students who for the sake of racial understanding met with foreign colleagues produced less stress hormones….”
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