Hope in God, Not in Riches

As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life. (1 Timothy 6:17-19)

Paul will often address specific groups of people in his letters with instruction that is pertinent to them. He will single out a certain group of people and then he will give instruction that is particularly relevant to them, instruct them regarding specific temptation that they may face due to their circumstances. We have that in our text this morning. Paul is addressing the rich, or I should say, he is instructing Timothy as to how he should address the rich in the congregation of the church.

Now, one question for us will be how are we each to take this as individuals? Speaking to the rich…is this me, is this you? Who are the rich? How do we define rich? Should we take all in our congregation and consider their income and take say the top 10% of earners and call them rich? Or do we compare our incomes to the average incomes across the country and take some percentage? Do we compare our income and assets with an average of the world’s income and assets? The question is, who are the rich?

It’s funny, I have met several people who I would say are rich, and yet none of them think they are rich. My point is that almost no one would say they are rich and so almost no one would say this passage applies directly to them. But, I would contend that it applies to all of us. Here is why. First, all of us at least from time to time have disposable income, by that I mean we have money that we can decide how to spend, money beyond what it takes to meet only our need of food and shelter. In that sense we are rich. Also, compared to the world, we are all rich. We, even the poorest among us, are rich compared to most in our world today. And lastly I would say it applies to all of us in the sense that the passage deals with attitudes that any of us can have regarding money and tells us how to think rightly about money. We all need that. So, don’t tune out this morning thinking that this is not for you. Instead, let’s work together to see what God has for us today.

As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life. (1 Timothy 6:17-19)

We are all, and we all will be, accountable for how we handle earthly things. We have all been given goods to manage. All that we have has come to us from God. The Lord gives and He takes away, He can do that because He is God. He apportions out what we have. We are to be stewards of what God has given to us. There is a temptation among the rich, that is those who have more than what they simply need for necessity, there is a temptation for those to be haughty, or you could say conceited. To be haughty or to be conceited is to have an exalted opinion of ourselves. Think about that. The idea is that one who has more than he or she needs for simple necessities may, because he or she has more, they may think highly of themselves.

Now, why would this be? Why would someone who has more money than what is just needed to cover their necessities, why would they think highly of themselves? Well, it must be because they believe that what they have came from where? From God, given to them? No, from themselves. Excess money is seen as coming from themselves, from their own hard work, or their own ingenuity, or their own intelligence, or they have more because they deserve more, they have more because, well, they are better people. In other words more money means higher status and greater worth as a person. That is the thinking, and that is why Paul warns about haughtiness. This is a very worldly way of thinking, though any of us can fall into it.

But what if we all believed that all that we have comes to us from God and is apportioned by Him according to His wisdom and what is best for us? What if we are all equally hard workers, because we believe we should work hard as unto the Lord, we are all hard workers, none of us are slothful and we simply work hard because it is pleasing to God and whatever our income is, we see that as not tied to our hard work but tied to, simply tied to what God wants to give us. If that is how it works then where is the place for haughtiness? If it is all of God, then God is to be exalted, not ourselves! The truth is, the hardest worker, the smartest worker is not always the richest.

1 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. 2 After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. 3 And going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, 4 and to them he said, ‘You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.’ 5 So they went. Going out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour, he did the same. 6 And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing. And he said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ 7 They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too.’ 8 And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.’ 9 And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius. 10 Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more, but each of them also received a denarius. 11 And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house, 12 saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ 13 But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? 14 Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. 15 Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’ 16 So the last will be first, and the first last.” (Matthew 20:1-16)

This parable has all sorts of spiritual implications, but the one thing I want you to notice from it this morning is that God determines how He gives to His people. His grace abounds. From a practical standpoint, He gives to us not what we deserve but according to His grace. For some of us He may give many possessions, but why? Because it is what is best for us, it is what we need to grow in Christ. For others we may have less than most around us, but why? Because it is what is best for us, it is what we need in our lives to grow in Christ.

We have no right to call into question God’s design for giving to us on this earth, but instead we can rest in His wisdom and in His never ending love for us. He is interested in growing us in Christ and He will use the best means possible to achieve that goal. Will He use money? Absolutely He will.

Now if the rich are tempted to be haughty, we need to know that the opposite would be humility. We are called to humility. Instead of exalting ourselves we are to think little of ourselves. We are to think of others as more important than ourselves, right? We also need to be careful that we don’t look at the rich and think too highly of them. James warns the church of this:

1 My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. 2 For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, 3 and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” 4 have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? 5 Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? (James 2:1-4)

Paul gives more warning to the rich in the second half of verse 17: “nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy.” He talks about hope, about misplaced hope. Those who set their hope on riches.

Have you ever had more money than you have today? Have you ever been in a better place financially than you are today? Or, maybe you have more money today than you have ever had before. No matter where we fall, none of us have the exact same amount of money and goods as we had, say, five years ago, do we? What we have fluctuates, it goes up and it can go down, but it never stays exactly the same. What is the point? The point is whatever you have now, you can be sure it will change and it may change drastically. Money, riches, they are very volatile. Individuals face financial collapse. Whole nations have endured financial collapse. Things change, and if we are thinking rightly we can all see that putting our hope, our hope for happiness, joy, peace, mental stability and such in something that can be so volatile, that can change and shift so quickly, is, well, it is foolish. If we were to do that we would be like the man in Luke 12:

16 And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, 17 and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ 18 And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.” ’ 20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21 So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:16-21)

In Proverbs 11:28 we also read sobering words: “Whoever trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will flourish like a green leaf.” So rather than hope in riches, in money which can so easily wither away, our hope is to be fixed on our God who never changes and on His promises given to us. If you want security, it is not found in money, it is found in our unmovable God. Here is who our God is:

10 For every beast of the forest is mine,
the cattle on a thousand hills.
11 I know all the birds of the hills,
and all that moves in the field is mine.
12 “If I were hungry, I would not tell you,
for the world and its fullness are mine. (Psalm 50:10-12)

All belongs to God and He gives, again, according to His grace and measures it out according to His wisdom. And not only that, but He gives for our enjoyment!

Do you ever wonder why there is color in our world? Color instead of just black and white? Do you wonder why there are so many different tastes in the food we eat? Why the incredible terrains of the earth and the beauty of the ocean? Why are there so many different kinds of people with different personalities, some of which delight us? Why do we have emotions that lift our spirits and pleasures that excite our senses? Where do these things come from? They come from God, He created them. But why? Well certainly for His glory, certainly to show us His creativeness. But also we see that He does so for our enjoyment! “God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy.”

There is a sense in which we should be enjoying what God has given to us, not lamenting over what we don’t have or saddened because we want more, but enjoying what He by His grace has given to us for our enjoyment. This is a way to live a contented life. Putting all our hope in our Lord, grateful for all that He gives.

Paul goes on to say what the rich ought to be dong:

18 They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, 19 thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life. (1 Timothy 6:18-19)

How are the rich to respond to the riches that God has given? They are to richly bless others with their God-given resources. This is what we are to do. We are to be generous, we are to share.

Doing this shows, doesn’t it, that one’s hope is not in riches? No, it’s not in riches, not if those riches are being shared. This shows a person who believes that giving to others is a blessing, that giving to others is storing up far greater riches in heaven. This is not having a heart that is earthly minded but having a heart and mind that says, “Heaven is greater, my future is greater, pleasing God is greater than money I may have.” This is what we read about in Matthew 6:19-21:

19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19-21)

This is a looking past what is only temporary and looking ahead to what is lasting. Refusing to hope only in what we now see but hoping in God who is our permanent provider.

Paul ends with: “so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.” What Paul is saying is that living this way, living generously, living hoping in God and not in riches, these are ways that evidence true eternal life. Those who are investing in eternity by not hoarding now, they are experiencing real life. They are experiencing eternal abundant life.

I am thankful for examples that God has put around us of people who love to share their earthly goods. I am speaking of many of you here. I see that and I am so encouraged. It is a mark of faith, it shows a reliance and trust in God and it is glorifying to Him.

Think this week, think about how God would have you handle your money. Think about whether you are possibly hoping in your riches. Ask God to help you give freely and lay up treasures in heaven.

As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life. (1 Timothy 6:17-19)