Command the rich

Who likes being ordered around? If anybody is used to ordering others, it’s the rich. In the church of God, however, the rich have to take some orders.

Command those who are rich in this world’s goods not to be haughty or to set their hope on riches, which are uncertain, but on God who richly provides us with all things for our enjoyment,
1 Timothy 6.17 NET.

In some places, elders and preachers (and missionary fundraisers!) tiptoe around the rich, for fear of offending them and, ahem, losing their contribution. Shades of James 2! They ought, however, to be fearful of offending the Lord and losing their own souls.

Paul uses the word “command,” and it is a strong word, meaning to give orders. (See C. Spicq’s article in TLNT 3:9-11.) He tells Timothy to command them. So here we have a teacher being commanded to command something of others. So much for the laid-back Joel-Osteen style! Here is apostolic authority at its finest and clearest.

Paul charges Timothy to preach to a select group within the congregation. When was he supposed to command the rich about these things? In a specially called meeting of the rich? Certainly not, but in the meeting of the whole church! Everybody needed to hear what each group’s responsibilities and temptations were. How else could they edify and warn one another?

The command has to do with both attitude (humility and not haughtiness) and hope (on God and not riches). Both of these are to a degree identifiable and measurable. Both lead one to make choices that are definite and to actions that may be commended or condemned.

This was not to be a pet peeve or hobby horse of Timothy’s, but one subject of teaching among many others. Perhaps Paul wrote strongly about it because of the tendency to pay special respect to the rich and because of Timothy’s general lack of courage.

In the church, nobody’s sin or temptation is ignored. The challenges of each one are dealt with openly. The dangers of each one are faced solidly.

Only in this way will we have a chance to win against the devil.

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