Is it a Sin to Be Rich? #306
Happy Wednesday to you, friends and welcome! Our Scriptures for the day begin with 2nd Kings 9, then Psalms 119:73-96, Hosea 1 and finish with 1 Timothy 6. Today we are talking about wealth, which is a controversial subject. Don’t worry though, I’m not going to ask you to get your wallets out! One thing I’ve noticed as a pastor is that God will sometimes allow you to experience what you are preaching about during the week prior to preaching. For instance, I’ve planned to preach on healing before, and had around five or six members of our household get sick the week before that message. I’ve preached on overcoming trials and adversity during weeks with extreme and unforeseen trials and adversity. One time I preached on the power of weakness in 2nd Cor 12 and had a ridiculous day physically in which, though I wasn’t sick, I felt as run-down and unhealthy as I had in a long time…completely bounced back on Monday – very, very weird. So it was with some anticipation last month when it came time to preach about Solomon and how his great wealth and many wives seemed to turn his heart away from God at the end of his life. I waited that week to see if I might experience some Solomnic situations, but the number of my wives remained at a steady 1, and I didn’t notice a massive bank-account uptick, nor did silver and gold start appearing everywhere. Alas. So today, in discussing the dangers and proper use of wealth, I don’t expect to be suddenly made rich, but if the podcast doesn’t air tomorrow for the first time this year, you might check and see if some rando in Salinas has all of the sudden become a multi-billionaire overnight. I wont’ be holding my breath.
“The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil,” is a phrase from today’s focus chapter in 1 Timothy 6, one of the most well known and quoted Bible verses – almost as well known as John 3:16. Paul will give us some very strong warnings today about the love of money, warnings that are echoed throughout the Bible – but is it a sin to be rich? Let’s read the passage and try to discern the answer:
Lots of wisdom in the Bible about money, and lots of discussion of riches, and most of that discussion is quite cautionary in tune. For instance:
Anyone trusting in his riches will fall, but the righteous will flourish like foliage. Proverbs 11:28
Don’t wear yourself out to get rich; because you know better, stop! Proverbs 23:4
A faithful person will have many blessings, but one in a hurry to get rich will not go unpunished. Proverbs 28:20
Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it will be hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 19:23
But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your comfort. Luke 6:24
Come now, you rich people, weep and wail over the miseries that are coming on you. 2 Your wealth has rotted and your clothes are moth-eaten. 3 Your gold and silver are corroded, and their corrosion will be a witness against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have stored up treasure in the last days. James 5:1-3
And those are just a smattering of the Bible passages warning against the danger and allure of riches. You are probably familiar with the rich young ruler, whom Jesus instructed to sell all of his things, and give them to the poor. Upon hearing this, the rich young ruler went away sad, because he had a lot of things, and because he apparently wasn’t too keen to give them up. So – given the danger of wealth, and Jesus’ instruction to the rich young ruler, then all of you who are wealthy should immediately give away your money, right? And yes, that’s correct – just send it to Chase Thompson at 1019…oh wait…I’m just kidding. Don’t send me your money. The testimony of the Bible is very clear that great wealth and riches CAN be dangerous – very dangerous, and it is true that Jesus told the RYR to give his money away, but that is NOT the Bible counsel to everybody with wealth. Sometimes the Bible speaks in a more positive way about money:
Idle hands make one poor, but diligent hands bring riches. Proverbs 10:4
and remember that it was God Himself who gave Solomon wealth:
In addition, I will give you what you did not ask for: both riches and honor, so that no king will be your equal during your entire life. 1 Kings 3:13 Would God give something to somebody that was inherently evil? I don’t believe so – God gives good gifts. Thus money isn’t inherently evil, it is the idolatrous or all-consuming love of money and pursuit of wealth that is the root of all sorts of evils. Jesus gives us an excellent parable about this issue:
“16 Then he told them a parable: “A rich man’s land was very productive. 17 He thought to himself, ‘What should I do, since I don’t have anywhere to store my crops? 18 I will do this,’ he said. ‘I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones and store all my grain and my goods there. 19 Then I’ll say to myself, “You have many goods stored up for many years. Take it easy; eat, drink, and enjoy yourself.”’ 20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life is demanded of you. And the things you have prepared—whose will they be?’21 “That’s how it is with the one who stores up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.” Luke 12:21
The man was not judged a fool by God for being wealthy, but for his attitude about his wealth – Jesus warns that the problem is storing up treasure for yourself and NOT being rich towards God. Practically, what does this look like? A millionaire giving big checks to his church in a way that doesn’t really affect his own bottom line, but is a big help to the church? Maybe that is a beginning, but Paul gives us more than a beginning in our focus passage today:
17 Instruct those who are rich in the present age not to be arrogant or to set their hope on the uncertainty of wealth, but on God, who richly provides us with all things to enjoy. 18 Instruct them to do what is good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and willing to share, 19 storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of what is truly life.
1 Timothy 6:17-19
Every rich person out there – and that is probably a surprisingly high percentage of Americans and Westerners – should have this verse framed on the walls of their house. It is not a sin to be rich. It is a sin to be rich and arrogant. It is sinful to have your hope set on wealth, rather than God. It dangerously sinful to be rich in money but poor in giving, poor in generosity and poor in good works. It is a great danger to the soul of one who stores up treasure on earth, but has no interest or focus on storing up treasures in Heaven. Let’s close with some wisdom and challenge from dear Spurgeon:
Having spoken to those who seek riches, he now admonishes those who possess them, that they must not hoard for themselves, but lay up treasure in heaven by generously distributing their goods on earth. Have we property? Let us hold it as stewards of the Lord. It is both our duty and our happiness to use all that we have to glorify him who, though he was rich, yet became poor for our sakes. Is he truly ours? Then let all ours be truly his
C. H. Spurgeon, The Interpreter: Spurgeon’s Devotional Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1964), 726.
To prosper in business with the sincere desire of using everything for the honour and glory of God is laudable and proper; but to make this the end rather than the means is a horrible prostitution and debasement of our energies. To live for this world is to be dead to the world to come. The apostle bids us “lay hold on eternal life” rather than on this life: to gain riches of grace rather than riches of gold. Furthermore, he has a word for us if we become rich—for he supposes that such a thing may be, and that it did happen in his own day. He says:—“Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; that they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.” As the alchemist was said to transmute brass and copper into gold (though he did no such thing), so there is a real alchemy which can sublime gold and silver into everlasting treasure. These talents are not to be despised, but put out to interest for the Lord. They can be laid by where no rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through and steal; they can be traded with in a heavenly market, and turned to everlasting gains. We can use them for helping on the work of the Lord, and by distribution to the poor and needy. I would that all men at this hour abounded in almsgiving, but specially those who are followers of the loving Jesus. Regard your transactions from the standpoint of eternity. Weigh what you do, not as it may be thought of by men of the world, but as it will be judged by yourself when you behold in the heavenly country the face of him you love. I do not want you to have to say when you come to die, “I have had large possessions, but I have been a bad steward. I have had a competence, and I have wasted my Master’s goods. All I have done with my wealth was to furnish my house well, perhaps to buy expensive pictures, and to allow myself luxuries which did me more harm than good.” I hope, on the contrary, you will have to say, “I am saved by grace alone; but that grace enabled me to consecrate my substance, and put it to the best uses. I can render up my stewardship without fear. I did not live for the fleeting life which is now over, but for the life everlasting.”
C. H. Spurgeon, “Eternal Life within Present Grasp,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 33 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1887), 81–82.