Rich: The person making at least $10,000 a year more than you.

Isn’t that about right for the definition of “rich”?

I know a man who makes over $250,000 a year.  Compared to me, he’s rich.  But to him (who manages the money of millionaires), he feels like me: middle class. 

If you make $35,000 a year, the person making $50,000 seems so wealthy and well off.  To the person making $50,000, they see the person pulling in $70,000 a year and get stars in their eyes.

Politicians have made an art form out of demonizing the “rich”, but from a global point of view, every American is rich.  The vast majority of my readership is American so…welcome to the “Club of the Wealthy”.

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And to us, Scripture has some warnings and encouragement.  In our ongoing study of 1 Timothy we read 1 Timothy 6:17-19

17 Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 18 Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 19 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.

1 Timothy 6:17-19
New International Version

Thinking back through our journey in 1 Timothy, recall Timothy’s struggle with false teachers in the Ephesian churches.  Some of the false teachers promoted poverty as more spiritual and holy.  They argued that you must deny enjoyable things because pleasure isn’t spiritual.  I call it “spiritual sadomasochism”—the idea that if you flog yourself spiritually, God loves you more.

Paul confronts this mindset by reminding Timothy to tell the wealthy to remember where the wealth came from.  By keeping their lives God-centered, they would recognize how He has given them wealth.  And since God provided it for them, there was nothing wrong with enjoying it. 

It’s beyond the point of this passage (and today’s blog) to get into the spiritual limits on pleasure (and there are some).  But the overall timbre of this passage is not “anti-wealth”.  Instead, it’s using wealth as a tool to expand the Kingdom of God in Christ.

Photo by David McBee from Pexels

In Western culture, the acquisition of wealth is a driving force.  Much like Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol, we abhor the idea of being “poor”.  So we do what we can—including extending ourselves through credit—to uphold the appearance of wealth.

Scripture cuts to the heart on this issue and calls us not to put all of our hopes, dreams, and wishes into wealth.  If the recession of 2008 (in the United States) taught us nothing, it reminded us of what Scripture teaches: wealth “is so uncertain” (verse 17).

What are we to do with our hard-earned money?  Enjoy it?  Yes.  But mainly, we’re “to be generous and willing to share” (verse 18).

In the context of our lives, these verses have at least three implications for us:

  1. We support our local church.  First and foremost, we tithe and support the agency God has chosen to reach the world.  Just like we pay at the restaurant where we eat, we support the congregation ministering to us.
  2. We support missionary organizations.  I’ll not get into criteria for this because I trust the Holy Spirit in your life, but we support these agencies taking the Gospel to the world (both near and far).
  3. We cultivate a generous lifestyle.  You know what I’m talking about: a generous person is obvious to spot.  The Lord wants to put that heart in us.

As 2019 is still fresh, let’s work on this in our hearts.  “In this way [we] will lay up treasure for [ourselves] as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that [we] may take hold of the life that is truly life” (verse 19).