This week we continue in our series called Hope Lives. Throughout this series we are looking at areas of life where we desperately need some hope. This week’s focus is on finding hope in our financial lives, something we can all relate to.
Read 1 Timothy 6.6–19.
This passage provides a balanced and encouraging perspective on money. Many of us are familiar with the caution expressed in verse ten, that “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” However, the Apostle Paul balances this caution with the grateful acknowledgment that God “richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.” Money isn’t evil. The love of money is. God provides our resources, including money and the things money can buy, for our enjoyment.
It is important to note that while this passage addresses its challenges to those who are wealthy, we need to recognize that according to experts, anyone who lives in a household with an annual income greater than roughly $35,000 to $45,000 is in the wealthiest one percent of the world’s population. So, yes, we are the “those who are rich” that this passage addresses. And that’s okay. God doesn’t condemn being wealthy. Some of the great figures of the Bible were wealthy. In the Old Testament, men like Abraham and Job were very wealthy. And in the New Testament wealthy people played a significant role in the support of Jesus’ ministry and that of the early Church.
Question: In light of the above distribution of the world’s wealth, would you be considered wealthy? How does that reality compare to how you feel about your financial situation? What needs in the world move your heart? What sort of frustration do you experience when you see others who have more than you?
Our passage provides a balanced approach to money and wealth. The possession of money is neither good nor bad. What this passage presents is two different heart orientations toward money and wealth. The first, and very dangerous heart orientation is the “money first, God is an afterthought” approach to our financial lives.
Verses nine and ten of our passage talk about those who want to get rich and who are eager to get more money. For these people, money is the driving force. They pursue an ever increasing level of lifestyle through acquiring more and more money. And for those who have this money-first heart orientation there are four dangers that Paul addresses.
Danger #1: A Perpetual State of Dissatisfaction
First in verse nine, Paul points out that people who are too eager to obtain more money step into a trap. Their harmful desires will lead to their destruction. The Greek word translated “desires” carries with it the connotation of an addiction. Just like any other addiction, when we seek after wealth to make us feel good, we will always want more, need more, to obtain the same level of satisfaction with our wealth. Enough will never be enough. This leads to a perpetual state of dissatisfaction and discontent.
Danger #2: Arrogance
In verse seventeen, Paul tells Timothy to command those who are rich not to become arrogant. Paul knew that when a person has more wealth than the person next to them it can lead to a feeling that he or she is somehow better than, stronger than, or even wiser than that other person. Success in one area of our lives can often lead us to think that our opinions in all areas of life are somehow more valuable than those of others.
Danger #3: Anxiety
Verse seventeen goes on to warn us not to put our hope in wealth because it is so uncertain. When we put our hope in wealth we are trusting in our money to provide safety and security. The trouble is; wealth is not secure. Those with the most money often spend the most time worrying about the security of their wealth. Rather than providing the security we think it should, having more money will simply increase our anxiety over the insecurity of our wealth.
Question: Have you known someone who had significant resources that was unwilling to spend practically anything for fear they may not have enough? How was their willingness to give generously to those in need? What do your finances say about your attitude toward giving?
Danger #4: Eternal Poverty
In verse seven, Paul reminds us that “we brought nothing into the world and we can take nothing out of it.” When we spend our lives pursuing a money-first mentality, we may succeed in storing up riches here on earth, but we will have set aside nothing of eternal value. We will end up eternally poor.
Now these are some pretty intimidating dangers that we would do well to heed. However, God doesn’t leave us in this place of despair and fear over the dangers of the wealth He chooses to bless us with. Instead, He offers us a better heart orientation. This is the “God first, money is a byproduct” approach to our financial lives.
Reread 1 Timothy 6.11–12.
Notice that in this instruction on how we are to pursue the life God has called us to, there is no mention of money. This isn’t because God doesn’t think money is important. Rather, He is telling us that if we pursue Him, and pursue our spiritual growth, we can trust Him to take care of the financial needs. It isn’t that God doesn’t care about us being good stewards, or budgeting, or saving, or these types of things. There are many passages throughout the Bible that instruct us in these things. However, He is telling us that if we pursue Him first, the rest will come as a byproduct of that pursuit.
Just as there are significant dangers to the money first approach, there are great benefits to the God first approach to our finances.
Benefit #1: Contentment
Verse six of our passage tells us that “godliness with contentment is great gain.” The Greek here for “great gain” literally means “mega riches.” Rather than the anxiety that comes from never feeling like you have enough, and just a bit more is needed, the mega riches of godliness brings a state of peace and contentment with what God has already blessed.
Benefit #2: Strong Character
If you can’t look at yourself in the mirror and feel good about that person, it doesn’t matter how much money you have, you are not rich. In verse eleven, when Paul tells us to pursue righteousness and godliness, he is showing us that a God-first approach to our money isn’t as focused on building a great lifestyle as it is on becoming a great person. In great character lies truly great riches.
Benefit #3: Vibrant Relationships
Paul continues by telling us to focus on loving people, treating people kindly and staying faithful when things get hard. It doesn’t matter how much money we acquire. If we run over people, neglect our families, and avoid close friendships to get there, we will live our lives in real poverty, even if we have a fat bank account. However, if we follow the God-first approach of loving others and treating people with patience and gentleness, we will be rich in relationships.
Question: Who are the people around you that you can trust, who love you, and would care for you during your times of greatest need? Are you investing more effort into being rich in relationships or rich in your pocketbook?
Benefit #4: Eternal Flourishing
The final benefit of taking the God-first approach to our financial lives is found in verse nineteen where Paul writes, “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.” Rather than storing up treasure in this life and finding ourselves in eternal poverty, we can lay up eternal treasure and live lives that will flourish in eternity.
It is important to remember the balance of this passage. We shouldn’t feel that somehow this passage is saying that it is bad to have wealth. Remember, God richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Instead, when we keep God first in our pursuits, we can live balanced lives which are successful in every area, not just our finances.
Finally, there are a few essential practices for any of us who want to pursue a “God first, money is a byproduct” lifestyle. These aren’t just suggestions or good ideas for us to consider. Twice in verses seventeen and eighteen Paul tells Timothy to “command” the people to do these three things.
Practice #1: Put Your Hope in God
Each and every day there will be hundreds of things that we will be tempted to put our hope in; money, people, jobs, spouses, you name it. So we need to realize every single day that our deepest joy, hope, and satisfaction can only be found in one place, the loving arms of Jesus Christ. Paul commands us to put our hope in God, and He will bless us with everything we need.
Practice #2: Meet the Needs Around You
Paul commands us to do good and to be rich in good deeds. This isn’t about doing good to look good, or to gain something for ourselves. That would be an us-first approach. Rather, a God-first approach leads us to do good out of our love for others and our love for God. When we expose ourselves to the needs around us it will help us avoid becoming obsessed with our own desires.
Practice #3: Give Generously
We are called by Paul to be “generous and willing to share.” This is critical to a proper perspective on our financial lives because none of us thinks we are greedy, until we are called upon to share generously. And nothing breaks the stranglehold of money on a person’s life like giving it away.
But what does it look like to give generously? God provides us with some basic guidelines on this. First, He says that we should be willing to give our “first-fruits” back to Him. The baseline of this kind of giving in the Bible is referred to as a tithe, or giving the first ten percent of our income back to Him, through supporting His work. But is this baseline the definition of generosity? In the New Testament, God encourages us to be generous beyond tithing. And remember, if we are generous and willing to share, we will lay up treasure for ourselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that we may take hold of the life that is truly life.
Question: Which of these three practices do you feel you do well? Which do you most need to improve in order to best pursue a God-first heart orientation toward your financial life?
When we think about it, these three practices were perfectly modeled in what Jesus did for us. He put His hope in God and knew ultimate joy could only come from His Heavenly Father. Even though Jesus could have used His skills to build His own little empire, He was constantly doing good for others. And when faced with the cross, Jesus didn’t just tithe His blood. He didn’t suffer to the point that ten percent of our sin could be forgiven. He gave generously of His whole life in love. And now He sits at the right hand of God, experiencing life that is truly life.