Yeah, right. I wouldn’t mind strengthening my grip on a briefcase of money,” you say. But lest the title make a promise it can’t deliver on, the lesson today is not about money grabbing! It offers no get-rich-quick formulas. It won’t help you get your hands on a low-interest mortgage. And it won’t help you understand APRs or ATMs, IRAs or the IRS.
What it will help you with, however, is getting a firm grasp on what the Bible says about money. And it says a lot. Surprisingly, giving is only one of the subjects it addresses. It talks about the nature of money as well as the nature of man in relation to money. It talks of spending, saving, and investing.
No matter how greatly monetary systems have changed since the Bible was penned, God’s principles regarding money are still applicable. Today, we want to try on some of those ancient principles to see just how well they fit in today’s ever-changing world of yen and francs, of dollar signs and decimal points. Read 1 Timothy 6:3-10, 17-19.
A Reminder to Those Who Are Not Rich — From a biblical point of view, money is amoral-neither moral nor immoral. It’s the human heart and our attitude toward money that determines the issue of morality or immorality. Godliness is validated neither by wealth nor poverty. The Bible is replete with godly people who were poor-for example, John the Baptist (Matt. 3:4) and the widow who gave her last penny to the temple treasury (Mark 12:42). The Bible is also full of godly people who were rich, Abraham (Gen. 24:34-35) and Job (Job 1:1-3), for instance.
Paul is quick to show in verse 6 that gaining godliness is a higher goal than gaining anything of material merit. But godliness actually is a means of great gain, when accompanied by contentment. Godliness + Contentment = Great Gain. So, to those who are not rich, the advice is clear. First, we need an eternal perspective (v. 7), and second, we need a simple acceptance of the essentials (v. 8). And what are these essentials? Food and coverings! With these we should be content, as Paul says in Philippians 4:11-13.
What, then, is necessary to help us quit striving for more and be contented and at peace with what we have? The first half of the answer is found in 1 Timothy 6:7. Babies are born empty-handed, and who ever saw a hearse pulling a U-Haul? That’s why Paul tells us in Colossians 3:2 to “set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.” We are to have an eternal perspective.
Having our sights telescoped on things above will cause our material longings to blur into the periphery. That’s when we can relax-when our real needs are brought into focus: (1 Tim. 6:8).
Warning to Those Who Want to Get Rich — In verses 9-10, the pronoun shifts from “we” to “those.” Paul is addressing those who have made it their ambition to follow the rainbow’s end in a frenzied search for that elusive, often illusory, pot of gold. The term want seems tame enough in verse 9, but in the original Greek it indicates “resolve” or “determination.” So for this person, the pursuit of money is not a passing fancy but a passionate obsession. For those possessed individuals, this verse offers a series of stern warnings: First: They fall into temptation and a snare. Second: They fall into many foolish and harmful desires. Third: Those things plunge them into ruin and destruction.
Verse 10 tells us that it is not money itself that is the problem, but the intimacy of our relationship with it. Notice this verse carefully-it does not say money is the root of all evil. Nor that the love of money is the root of evil. Love of money is a root, not the root, of all sorts of evil.
Instructions for Those Who Are Rich — Paul now turns his attention away from the frustrated have-nots to the financially endowed. In doing so, he offers three pieces of advice in verses 17 -19: two negative and one positive. First: Don’t be conceited. Conceit is the first temptation money throws across our path, to become highbrowed and look down our nose at others who are not so well-heeled. Second: Don’t trust in your wealth for security. Third: Become a generous person.
What the whole world really longs for is not an abundance of things but an abundant life. So often, however, that longing drives us to all the wrong places, off the right road to wander somewhere in the tall weeds and tangled overgrowth.
John 10:10b: “I came that they might have life, and might have it abundantly.”