1 Timothy 6:17 and the “Rich”

1 Timothy 6:17-19
Instruct those who are rich in the present age not to be arrogant or to set their hope on the uncertainty of wealth, but on God, who richly provides us with all things to enjoy. 18 Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous, willing to share, 19 storing up for themselves a good foundation for the age to come, so that they may take hold of life that is real.

I wonder how many times I’ve glossed over this passage. After all, I’m not rich, am I?

According to some statistics I’ve seen, people who earn the median income in the USA are in the top 6% of income earners in the world. If I’m lower middle class I could still be considered rich.

In the last few years there have been times when I have felt poor when income has gone down, health problems have come up and car and cat repairs multiplied along with inflation. At the same time, I have been realizing my spiritual poverty more and more (Matthew 5:3). Although I can’t say I’ve been truly poor materially, I’ve felt like it and I wish everyone in this country could have a taste of what that feels like because it helps to develop a humble perspective and dependence on God (with always much room for improvement).

That said, aside from any caveats we could try to build from the income statistics, and not knowing exactly what constituted a rich person in Ephesus at the time (comments?), many of us reading this blog in the Western world are rich materially. This really stuck out to me the other day while reading this passage. It is indeed easy “to be arrogant or to set [our] hope on the uncertainty of wealth”. My surroundings and narrow worldview can deceive me into thinking I’m not rich.

Those of us who are rich, even if we are lower middle class, need to realize it and heed the warnings given in this passage.

We can of course thank God “who richly provides us with all things to enjoy” with what he has blessed us with materially as long as we are following the instruction “to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous, willing to share, storing up for [ourselves] a good foundation for the age to come, so that [we] may take hold of life that is real” realizing this is a gift from Him and that we are godly in acting similarly.

God, he [Paul] says, richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment (cf. 1 Timothy 4:3-4; see also Ecclesiastes 5:19-20). Enjoyment, however, does not mean self-indulgent living (1 Timothy 5:6). The reason everything may be enjoyed lies in the recognition that everything, including one’s wealth, is a gift, the expression of God’s gracious generosity.

Gordon Fee, 1-2 Timothy, Titus

In the seemingly upside down world of the Kingdom of God, we are blessed when we are poor in spirit and we lay up treasure (true riches) for ourselves by giving away.

How great it is to be blessed when we are spiritually poor and to be strengthened to be content whatever our temporal circumstances.

Philippians 4:11-13
I don’t say this out of need, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. 12 I know both how to have a little, and I know how to have a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content—whether well-fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. 13 I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me.

3 Responses to “1 Timothy 6:17 and the “Rich””

  1. 1 Nathan Stitt

    You bring up some really valid concerns. How is it that we are some of the most financially blessed citizens on the planet, but we live with so much debt that we can’t even use our advantage to help others? Instead we spend too much on ourselves and feel like we are poor, definitely not rich. We’ve been doing pretty good to stay out of credit card debt and also pay off both vehicles. However we still owe tens of thousands on both our house and student loans. Once you toss in the price of gas, food, and baby supplies it seems like there is no money left. I know there has to be a better way, but it is really hard to wrap my head around the details.

  2. 2 Scripture Zealot

    You bring up some valid concerns too.

    Not that you are doing this but many people buy more house, car etc. than they need and there’s all sorts of stuff we think we can’t do without.

    But in any case, even if we are living paycheck to paycheck, because of our “wealth” many tend to trust in that wealth and rely on it instead of God.

  3. 3 Nathan Stitt

    I must confess that I probably put too much trust in my paycheck. We are much more frugal with our money now though, but I’d like to think that if I lost my job that we would not give up hope or something. Our ability to bless others is what is the most limited however and something I hope to rectify in the future. I try to give small gifts to friends when I can. One way I do this is to give extra coffee or bibles that I have to my good friend who deserves a pay raise or three.

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