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. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 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 NIV)
What do we do when we get rich?
Please, don’t leave me because you don’t see yourself ever getting rich. I think you will see Paul’s words apply to all of us. In fact, I believe this is one of the most helpful passages in the Bible when it comes to defining wealth in the believer’s life.
Notice Paul doesn’t tell Timothy to command rich people to give away all of their money. They could have done that had they chosen to, but that wasn’t Paul’s point. Rather, he said, “Command (them) not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God.” The danger in wealth is that it can consume us, and over-inflate our egos. But, rightly used, it can be a great blessing. How does wealth bless our lives?
First, it “provides us with everything for our enjoyment.” That’s right. We should not feel guilty when we have enough money to use it for our enjoyment, as long as the forms of enjoyment we choose don’t violate the instructions God has given us in His Word. Even Jesus’ life was filled with joyful events that required funding. I feel certain the wedding feast He attended in Cana (where He turned water into wine), wasn’t cheap. Neither was the feast Matthew arranged in Jesus’ honor. And who can forget the moment when Mary anointed Jesus with expensive perfume worth a year’s wages?
But secondly, if we are blessed with wealth we should “do good…be rich in good deeds, and …be generous and willing to share.” This means wealth isn’t just about us. Wealth isn’t given to us so we can build a bubble around our lives and create a fantasy world that ignores the needs of those around us. Real wealth is found, not in the dollars we put in the bank, but in the good we are able to do with what we are given.
I don’t think there is an exact formula for how much of our wealth we should enjoy for ourselves, and how much we should share with others. Certainly, if a wealthy business owner sells the infrastructure of his empire and gives the money to the poor, he can be considered noble. But a case can also be made for keeping his business intact so he can give even more money to the poor over the course of a lifetime.
On the other hand, some people live in a world of “someday” and “when” and never get around to sharing, with the exception of an occasional benevolent act to salve their conscious or boost their self-esteem.
How we use our wealth really is a personal matter of the heart. But one thing is for certain: the treasures we lay up in sharing are more permanent than the ones we keep for ourselves. And unfortunately, for many, this doesn’t become evident until it is too late to change the price tags.
Dear God, teach me to move up my “someday.” In Jesus’ name, Amen.