17 Tell people who are rich at this time not to become egotistical and not to place their hope on their finances, which are uncertain. Instead, they need to hope in God, who richly provides everything for our enjoyment. 18 Tell them to do good, to be rich in the good things they do, to be generous, and to share with others. 19 When they do these things, they will save a treasure for themselves that is a good foundation for the future. That way they can take hold of what is truly life.
The apostle Paul saw people lose their ways from the faith when money was their life’s highest goal (cf. 1 Timothy 6:9-10). He urged Timothy to “run away” from a life that based its primary hope on finances. Instead, he called Timothy and the members of his congregation to a different view of what we today call “retirement planning.” He said to actively “do good, to be rich in the good things they do, to be generous, and to share with others” was the best way to lay a good foundation for the future. Those choices would enable them to take hold of “what is truly life.”
Lord Jesus, thank you for being my ultimate mentor, guide, and accountability partner. Teach me to value what you value, to take hold of what is truly life. Amen.
Create a family generosity chain. Cut several sheets of colored construction paper into strips. Every week give each family member one strip of paper. Have each person write his or her name on the paper strip and one way he or she served or gave to others that week. In addition to giving of time and energy, also include ways your family is giving money to church and others. Form the first slip into a circle and staple or tape the ends together, then add to that circle by connecting the strips together to create a chain. At the end of each month, review the acts of giving your family has shared in. Thank God for the privilege of being generous with God and others.
* N. T. Wright, Paul for Everyone: The Pastoral Letters. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2004, p. 71.
Where do you find your worth? In what or whom do you put your trust?
Consider this excerpt from a 2018 article from “Collectable Wheels”: “Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah has a staggering $20 billion net worth and the largest royal palace in the world with diamond and gold gilded bathrooms. It’s no wonder that he’s able to amass
some 7000 cars consisting of 209 BMWs, 574 Benz, 452 Ferraris, 179 Jaguars, 382 Bentleys, 134 Koenigseggs, a slew of Lamborghinis, Aston Martin, SSC, Cicero BDB Maestro, and so on. His limited edition and concept cars made only for him like the Ferrari Mythos, Pininfarina-designed Jaguar, Bentley Java and 4×4 Dominator, a Koenigsegg Agera CC GT and a Porsche Carma are definitely a sight to behold. Definitely, this is one person who sees collecting top-rated cars as child’s play.”
And according to a 2018 article in “MoneyWise” titled, “The Incredibly Wealthy People Who Lost Everything”:
“German industrialist Adolf Merckle took over his family’s company and within a few decades turned the 100-worker firm into over 120 companies employing 100,000. His massive success earned him a $9 billion fortune and made him one of the richest men in the world. But then, his company lost $6 billion in the 2008 financial crisis—and he made a series of risky investments that lost him hundreds of millions more. Merckle took his own life in 2009. His family said he was racked by a sense of "powerlessness" over his situation.”
In this article were 9 additional men and women who had risen to the top of the financial world only to lose it all and face prison or suicide.
Of course, we could also see this type of wealth in the Bible. I’m teaching a Disciple 1 class this year and this week we’ve been studying King Solomon. Much of his story is told in the book of 1 Kings. We read about how much wealth he acquired, not to mention the 700 wives and 300 concubines he had. Did you know it took him twice as long to build his own palace as it did to build the Temple for God—AND his palace was nearly twice as big? The Common English Bible says: “Solomon had forty thousand horse stalls for his chariots and twelve thousand additional horses” (1 Kings 4:26). Kind of makes the 7000 cars look like child’s play indeed.
What is going on? We recognize that this type of lifestyle whether from hundreds of years ago, or today isn’t where most of us live. You may even be tempted right now to click out of this Insights blog because you think this information doesn’t apply to you—after all, you’re not in the top 1%. But you’d be wrong. This passage applies to all of us.
Wealth can also be a matter of perspective. I don’t consider my husband and I to be wealthy, but my pastor friends from Cuba who recently visited us certainly see it that way. We live in a nice neighborhood, drive nice cars, have enough food to eat and can afford to go on vacation each year. While that hasn’t always been true in my life it is true right now.
My Cuban friends live at the poverty level, yet they embody Paul's words here: "Tell them to do good, to be rich in the good things they do, to be generous, and to share with others." On their recent visit to the US (paid for by a supporter) they were taken shopping to get some basic items for their family. We asked them what the family needs were, and their answer shouldn’t have surprised us. They quickly began listing things the people in their church needed. Though they have plenty of needs themselves, their first thought was how they could help get resources to their church.
They have figured out that God, not what they have, defines their worth. They put their trust in Him to provide what is needed for their families and recognize that God has put them in a place where they can and do help others. Their hearts have been reshaped by the Holy Spirit—sensitive to the needs of those around them. They’re able to stretch the very limited resources they have to help those who are without. One of the things they’ve started is a meal program for children in their neighborhood. It’s a tangible way that they can show the love of Christ in a country where it’s difficult and dangerous to vocalize the gospel message.
But I also want to add that having wealth isn’t wrong. Having wealth is never the issue. How we use it is what we want to consider. Do we use God’s gifts to build ourselves up (“Tell people who are rich at this time not to become egotistical and not to place their hope on their finances, which are uncertain”) or do we recognize that all we have comes from God (“…hope in God, who richly provides everything for our enjoyment”)?
I have several friends who are quite wealthy. One couple, who could spend the rest of their lives traveling or doing whatever they pleased, use their resources in ways that help literally thousands of people. But they aren’t just generous with their money—they spend their time serving in multiple ways. They have figured out, like my Cuban friends, that their true worth is defined by God, not their tax return. They realize that though they could own 7000 cars, for them it makes more sense to use their resources helping others eat, to have diapers for their babies, to go on mission trips to build, bring medical care and teach the gospel.
Putting our hope and finding our worth in God is what brings true and eternal joy. Generosity is good for others and it’s good for the soul. As the Apostle Paul puts it, “When they do these things, they will save a treasure for themselves that is a good foundation for the future. That way they can take hold of what is truly life.”
I’m grateful for the examples of my friends from both ends of the economic spectrum. They have all taught me the meaning of generosity. I don’t need to have millions of dollars before I can be of help to people in need. And they’ve taught me that my worth and trust is found in God, and what I have is from Him and can be used to bring about His Kingdom. I get to participate in the work that God is doing in the world. I only have to say yes.
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