Teach those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which is so unreliable. Their trust should be in God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment. Tell them to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and generous to those in need, always being ready to share with others. By doing this they will be storing up their treasure as a good foundation for the future so that they may experience true life. (1 Timothy 6:17-19)
If you’ve ever visited another country, particularly one that is quite different from our own, you’ll know that there are certain cultural ways of acting that are quite foreign to you.
I recall trying to cross a busy street in Kathmandu, Nepal. I stood at a pedestrian crossing and waited for the cars and bikes to stop, but it was as though I was invisible. I started to take a few hesitant steps out onto the crossing, expecting the vehicles would slow and stop but it made no difference.
Clearly, their understanding of a pedestrian crossing was different from mine!
At that moment I had a choice. I could ever act as though I was back home and keep crossing, risking my life in the process, or I could adapt and live by the local customs and wait for a break in the traffic. Not surprisingly I chose the latter!
The verses we are looking at here remind us that there are two cultures we as Christians can live in; not independently but simultaneously.
On the one hand, we live in the physical secular world which has a cultural message that tells us that success = worldly possessions. One the other hand we live in a spiritual realm – the Kingdom of Heaven – where success = heavenly wealth.
As believers, and especially as leaders, we are faced with a choice regarding which
culture we want to live according to. Will we seek financial wealth and lots of
possessions? Or will we value spiritual wealth more highly?
We saw earlier in this chapter that having money is not a sin in itself – it is the love of money that Paul warns against. In particular, he says here not to let money make us proud nor to trust in it.
The global financial crisis and the Covid-19 pandemic have been good reminders in our lifetime of how foolish it can be to trust in wealth which can be so quickly lost. The pride we may feel over possessions bought on hire purchase or having a good job. quickly disappears when we are laid off work and no longer have the financial means to pay off our debt.
Instead of trusting in material wealth, Paul firstly says “trust in God who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment.” You’ve probably learnt by now through looking at the lives of the rich and famous that money doesn’t buy happiness. True happiness is not based on outward circumstance but in devoting ourselves to God and experiencing satisfying relationships and a meaningful sense of purpose.
It’s interesting to reflect on how Christian leadership can provide you with both those things!
He goes on to exhort Timothy to “be rich in good works and generous to those in need, always
being ready to share with others.”
Why? Because it truly is more blessed and more satisfying to give rather than to receive. Yes, leadership will be tough at times, but it will also be incredibly fulfilling, especially when you are conscious of the privilege you have in partnering with God in what He’s doing in people’s lives.
Leadership probably won’t give you worldly riches but Paul has faith in the promises of God. Serving Him means, “storing up treasure as a good foundation for the future so that [we] may experience true life.”
And that’s an investment that will never be lost.
Examine your heart and ask yourself where your focus is in accumulating “wealth” – earthly vs. heavenly. What changes might you make?