I’d like to return for a moment to a question I’ve asked you already in our study of 1 Timothy. Have you ever wondered what you would do if you suddenly became very wealthy and had more money than you knew what to do with? I think a good indicator of what any one of us would do if we were suddenly to come into a vast sum of money is to look at our checkbook register. Where we spend our money and the kinds of things we spend money on are a good indicator of where our heart is. I’m not talking as much about where you buy your groceries our where you choose to fill your gas tank. But I am talking about the kinds of things you spend your money on for entertainment purposes. The kind of money you spend to maintain a certain lifestyle. Chances are if you hang on tightly to a small amount money, you’ll do the same if given a larger amount and if you’re careless with what you have you’d be careless with a lot of money.
J.D. Rockefeller was known to have said,
“I never would have been able to tithe the first million dollars I ever made if I had not tithed my first salary, which was $1.50 per week.” (W. A. Criswell, A Guidebook for Pastors, p. 154.)
In our study today we are going to continue the instruction from Paul to those believers who are rich. Last week we saw that many of us while not wealthy, are very well off. Our tendency is to tell ourselves, “I’m not rich so this must not apply to me.” But don’t do it. From our study today we can all learn what God expects of us as we use our resources for His honor.
Let’s look at 1 Timothy 6:18-19.
18 Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, 19 storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.
Last week as we examined 1 Timothy 6:17 we learned that there are dangers to avoid in the possession and accumulation of riches.
There is the danger of being arrogant because of wealth and there’s the danger of putting hope in your wealth. We are warned that it is foolishness to put our hope in uncertain riches when it should be in God. We found that it is God who richly provides for us and it’s fine to enjoy what He has blessed us with as long as we do so with the right attitude-as long as we are enjoying what we have with the attitude and purpose of glorifying God in all we do.
Now as we arrive at verses 18 and 19 we find the responsibilities of those followers of Christ who have been blessed with wealth.
Note the first phrase in verse 18 is Let them do good, but remember this is a continuation of the thought started in verse 17 where it says command them. So as we look at the beginning of verse 18 we see Paul instructs Timothy to command them-it’s not a suggestion to those who are rich. There is a great responsibility placed on those who possess wealth
And the command, the first responsibility and the most basic of responsibilities is to do good.
Luke 12:48 emphasizes that along with the blessings we enjoy comes a great responsibility,
48 … For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.
God expects those who have been given more to do more with what they’ve been given. To do good is the most basic of requirements. But let’s be careful not to see this as punishment for being wealthy. It is a wonderful opportunity to honor God with what He’s given us and bless others in the process.
Believers who’ve been blessed with wealth are to use their lives and their wealth to do truly good and decent things. There are many ways we can spend money and God is concerned with how it is spent. Is it your desire to do good with what God has given you? Are you using your wealth to bless others for the glory of God? Or are you only concerned with your own desires?
Gary Inrig shared this story in his book, The Parables; Understanding What Jesus Meant.
“Bill Borden was born a blue blood and brought up with a silver spoon in his mouth. His parents were both descended from British aristocracy, and his father had made a fortune in real estate in Chicago and in silver mining in Colorado. Bill was already worth a million dollars by the age of 21, an amount in 1908 equivalent to about 40 million dollars today. He was also handsome, intelligent, well-educated, and popular.
But in 1912, at the age of 25, Bill Borden did two things that made headlines. First, he gave away his entire fortune, half to God’s work in the United States and half to missions overseas. Second, he chose to set sail for missionary work among the Muslims, first in Egypt to learn Arabic and then, ultimately, to a remote part of China.
To the public and the media, and even to many of his Christian friends, Borden’s actions seemed incredibly wasteful, especially when he died of cerebrospinal meningitis shortly after reaching Cairo. He had apparently thrown away his money, his career, and even his life. To what end?”
Or did he? I believe Bill Borden had a good understanding of what Paul was talking about when he instructed Timothy to command those who are rich to do good with their wealth. People may think us foolish to give to missions, to our church or to those in need, but we know that the only opinion that matters is what God thinks.
Is it your desire to do good with the wealth God has given you? Is it our desire as a church to do good with the what God has so graciously provided? Whatever the amount of money the Lord has entrusted to us, can we say that we are using it to do good or does it only benefit ourselves?
Also notice that Paul instructs Timothy to command the rich to be rich in good works. Ray Stedman commented on this phrase, saying…
“That has a personal element to it. It implies that wealthy people are to be personally involved in things that are good and helpful. They are not merely to give their money to good causes, but to personally do something.”
Bill Borden’s life illustrates that very well. Not only did he give of his resources to do good but he gave of himself. He was rich in good works. You may not have much of this world’s goods-you may not have wealth to share with those in need but you can give of yourself. Maybe you don’t have an abundance of material resources, but you can be rich in good works.
The list of good works we can do to bless the lives of others without spending a dime is limitless. But let me help you for a moment.
Sharing the gospel with a neighbor, praying with someone in need, offering a word of encouragement–those are just a few ways that we can be rich in good deeds. We can visit a shut-in, take a meal to a needy family, send a card to someone who is sick or visit someone in the hospital. These are ways and there are many others in which we can all be rich in good works. Being rich in good works isn’t reserved only for those who are wealthy.
And note the word rich here. It means abounding, or abundantly furnished.
John MacArthur says,
God does not intend for material wealth to be hoarded or doled out sparingly. Material wealth is to be used to perform good works on behalf of others. Believers’ resources are to be used to support their own families (5:8), especially needy widows (5:4). The leaders of the church (5:17), and any believer in need (Acts 4:34-35), must also be provided for. And all such sharing is not to be minimal, but to fully cover the need and more.1
Paul also instructs Timothy to command the rich to be ready to give, willing to share.
We often measure generosity by the wrong standard. George Mueller said it well when he made the following comment…
“God judges what we give by what we keep.”
That is a principle straight out of Scripture. Look at Mark 12:41-44,
41 Now Jesus sat opposite the treasury and saw how the people put money into the treasury. And many who were rich put in much. 42 Then one poor widow came and threw in two mites, which make a quadrans. 43 So He called His disciples to Himself and said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all those who have given to the treasury; 44 “for they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood.”
Here was a woman that understood what it was to be generous in her giving. She had meager resources but instead of keeping them for herself she freely gave all she had.
Are we generous in our giving? Or does the amount we keep for ourselves make our giving pale in comparison? If someone were to place ten $100 bills in today’s offering plate we’d probably consider that a rather generous gift. But let’s say a billionaire placed that amount in the offering. It doesn’t seem quite as generous when given by him as it would for a family living in humble circumstances to give the same amount does it?
Larry Pennings shared from a publication of the Wycliffe Bible Translators called In Other Words a story about Sadie Sieker
“[She] served for many years as a house-parent for missionaries’ children in the Philippines. Sadie loved books. Though she gladly loaned out some, others she treasured in a footlocker under her bed. Once, in the quiet of the night, Sadie heard a faint gnawing sound. After searching all around her room, she discovered that the noise was coming from her footlocker. When she opened it, she found nothing but an enormous pile of dust. All the books she had kept to herself had been lost to termites. What we give away, we keep. What we hoard, we lose”.
That statement may seem foolish—but godly wisdom often contradicts man’s wisdom.
Note also in verse 18 that the rich ought to be willing to share. As believers we should all be willing to share with others what God has given to us. Matthew 10:8 is a good reminder, “freely you have received, freely give.”
Are we willing to share with others what we’ve been given?
With eight children in our home it is often clear to me that we have to teach what it is to share. One of the first words each of my children have learned is “mine”.
It often goes against our human nature to willingly share what we have with others. But I’ve learned from experience that children can be taught to share. Even while they are young they can learn that sharing can be a blessing.
Sometimes I think we don’t understand what it is to share willingly.
Soviet Pastor Richard Wurmbrand, the author of Tortured for Christ, suffered terribly for the Lord. Yet he said that even while in prison, he saw fellow Soviet believers practice generous giving. “When we were given one slice of bread a week and dirty soap every day, we decided we would faithfully ‘tithe’ even that. Every tenth week we took the slice of bread and gave it to the weaker brethren as our ‘tithe’ to the Master.”
Maybe we don’t find it natural to share or we aren’t in the habit of sharing with others but it’s never too late for us to learn to share willingly with those in need.
After commanding the rich to do good, to be rich in good works, to be ready to give and willing to share, Paul points out in verse 19, that they should consider the results.
19 storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.
In other words, the investment we make with our resources should be done with eternity in mind–we are to have a vision for eternity. This same idea is expressed 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.
We need to keep an eternity perspective in the way we handle our money. If we use our resources to invest in the lives of others and to advance the gospel, we are storing up treasures in heaven. Someday we’ll no longer live on this earth and it won’t matter when we’re gone how much stuff we accumulated. What will matter is how we invested our resources to advance the cause of Christ.
Not only will we store up for ourselves a good foundation for the time to come by following God’s guidelines on how we use what we’ve been given but we will also lay hold on eternal life according to the last part of verse 19.
What does Paul mean when he says, that they may lay hold on eternal life?
When we use our resources to honor the Lord, not only are we laying up treasures in heaven for ourselves, but we also point others to Christ. In the process we experience a more rewarding and fulfilling life on this earth. Nothing will make your life more satisfying than following the guidelines clearly laid out in God’s Word. If you are a follower of Christ and you live by God’s Word you’ll be investing your wealth in the souls of people who will greet you and thank you when you arrive in heaven.
Maybe you realize today that you aren’t doing the good you should be-you’re not ready to give or willing to share. You may find it’s hard to part with what the Lord has given you and you feel you have no time for others. And to top it all off you realize you aren’t too happy with your life and you’re afraid giving won’t help.
Or maybe you realize you need to make a few changes to become more obedient to God in this area of your life.
If any of this describes you I want you to do two things that can be summed up in the words prayer and service.
First commit yourself to prayer in this area of your life. Commit yourself to praying about your specific area of weakness when it comes to your giving. In your time of prayer submit yourself to God’s authority and ask Him to teach you from His Word. And pray that God will give you a Christ-like attitude about your wealth and possessions. Pray.
Second, look for opportunities to give of yourself and your wealth. Look for someone that has a need and meet the need. Commit yourself to giving to the work of your church whether it’s of your wealth or your time or both. Look for opportunities to share the Gospel in a way the Lord has prepared you to do so. Commit yourself to honoring God in every area of your life. Serve.
If you commit yourself to praying and serving I believe that God will show you wonderful opportunities to honor Him with your life and your possessions and as a result you’ll point others to Christ, you’ll find your purpose for life and you’ll have a peace no amount of wealth can provide.
1 MacArthur, J. F. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: 1 Timothy (electronic ed.).