What it means to be rich and what to do about it

There are two classes of people in this world: the rich and those who want to be rich. So said someone, and the division is not far from the mark. We might add a third: those who pretend not to care about riches.

The apostle Paul addressed both groups toward the end of his first letter to Timothy. He has words for those who want to get rich in 1 Timothy 6.9-10. Later, he gives instructions for those who are rich, 1 Timothy 6.17-19.

His words to be passed on to the rich hold three contrasts that are important to note:

Tell those who are rich in this age not to be arrogant and not to place their confidence in anything as uncertain as riches. Instead, let them place their confidence in God, who lavishly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. They are to do good, to be rich in good actions, to be generous, and to share. By doing this they store up a treasure for themselves that is a good foundation for the future, so that they can keep their hold on the life that is real. 1 Timothy 6.17-19 ISV

Here are the three contrasts present in this text:

  • Material riches versus riches of good works
  • This age versus the future
  • Real, or true, life (with God) versus the material life (with Mammon)

These contrasts force us to face several questions:

  • Do you concentrate on getting and collecting or on giving and sharing?
  • Do you concentrate on the now or on the future — on the afterlife?
  • Do you concentrate on riches or on the God who richly provides for his people?
  • Do you concentrate on comparing your wealth with what others have or on enjoying God’s gifts?

Jesus said it was hard for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of heaven. We may not belong to the millionaire or billionaire club, but most of us probably are not (1) slaves; (2) poverty-stricken, or (3) homeless.

Someone once said that if you have more than one pair of shoes, you are rich in comparison to the great majority of the world’s population. Other comparisons can be made to shore up this truth. Here are some others:

  • If you’ve ever taken a vacation or cruise, you are rich.
  • If you have a couple of hours or more of non-working hours a day, you are rich.
  • If you have an automobile or the possibility of owning one, you are rich.

That means the questions given above are real-life spiritual issues that many of us must deal with, or we ignore them to our peril. Overseers and teachers ought to examine themselves and then, like Timothy, pass these warnings on, frequently, to those who possess this world’s goods.

The eternal future of us all depends on it.


One of our great riches is the ability to choose. The editor has written on our wealth of choices in Choose! 13 Choices to Transform your Heart and Soul.

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