In a way one would think that Paul really was finished with this epistle when he came to the end of verse 16 of this chapter. Did he not end with that grand and sublime description of what is to take place in the “manifestation” of our Lord Jesus Christ? Would it then not become evident that Christ as the Son of God in the flesh and as He is the glorified Savior is the only Potentate, the Lord of lords and the King of kings? Will He not be exhibited as only having immortality? Will it then not be exhibited that in His Divinity He dwells in the light which is unapproachable; that He is hidden within the glory of the Godhead which dwells in Him bodily? Surely this glory per se, without being manifested in Christ’s human nature, none can see! Yes, to Him be honor and power forever!
However, Paul is not making this the main subject here. He introduces this as a strong incentive for a godly walk; he would have the believers keep the commandment to flee all avarice and love for money, and to pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience and meekness. Really Paul cannot end his letter to Timothy on the subordinately introduced thought of the greatness of Christ, even though he ends it with the word “‘Amen.” He must complete the admonition and the charge, concerning the proper walk of the children of God in this world, to the end.
Hence, Paul further pursues this subject of the keeping of this commandment blamelessly and without spot in these verses under consideration. “Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not high-minded, nor trust the uncertainty of 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.” vss. 17-19.
Paul has a special admonition to those who are “rich in this world.” Evidently Paul would emphasize by using the words “this world” the present existence of all things prior to the coming age which will be ushered in by the appearance of Jesus Christ when He shall be revealed in the last day. It then further refers to the order of society as one finds it at any given time; at the time of Paul it referred to the social order of slave and master. See vss. 1, 2. Generally speaking, one might conclude that the rich would be found in the class of men who were the free-men, the masters of the slaves, or to those without slaves, yet free-men. It is not impossible that even amongst the free-men there were found also the poor and the indigent. Those who are rich in this world are therefore contrasted with the poor in this world, that is, those who have a lack of the things of this world. Thus James and John speak of such poor in relationship to the rich in their respective letters to the church. See James 2:14-26, 5:1-6; I John 3:16-20.
Nowhere does the Bible say that it is sinful to possess goods, lands, money in this world. Fact is that every creature of God is good, and that nothing is to be rejected as being evil, since it is sanctified by the Word of God and prayer. Nevertheless, Scripture does often emphasize that there is a peculiar temptation connected with riches. Does not Christ point out the deceit of riches in the parable of the sower; riches in this world with its deceitfulness is always joined with the “cares” of this world. The rich are careful—they are full of cares! And does not Jesus, in connection with the rich young ruler, say that it is hard for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven; that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for the rich to enter into the kingdom of heaven?! Matthew 19:23, 24, 13:22; Mark 4:19; Luke 8:14. The fact that Scripture says that Abraham, the father of believers, was rich, does not in the least mitigate the dangers wherewith riches is fraught!
Evidently, the Lord Jesus from heaven inspired Paul to pen these words, giving this charge to the rich. It must be passed along by Paul to Timothy, and Timothy must pass this charge on to the rich in this world. The great danger for the rich is that they will become “high-minded,” proud, act the part of owners, while they are only stewards in God’s creation as believers. For riches has this effect upon the flesh of God’s children that they will become boastful having this world’s goods. Such easily lose the deep sense of their dependency upon God, their maker and Redeemer, and therewith also the sense of their obligation and calling of being stewards, who with their goods are to make these the means of expressing love for the brother, and thus exhibiting a living faith! Did not Agur pray fervently: “Remove far from me vanity and lies; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me: lest I be full and deny thee, and say, Who is the Lord? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of God in vain.” Prov. 30:8, 9. For the term “high-minded” is the opposite of “lowly-minded.” In Scripture this term of lowly-mindedness is connected with meekness and longsuffering. It refers to a profound and constant and fundamental attitude which a Christian has toward God. God alone is “high” in the estimation of the lowliminded. The term lowly-mindedness was not known in the vocabulary of the proud, cultured Graeco-Roman world. It was the great-mindedness that counted. To be lowliminded was a groveling in the dust, unworthy of the free citizen. That was good for slaves, under the feet of a master! The greatest free-born Son, however, Christ Himself, says: “Learn from me that I am meek and lowly in heart and ye shall find rest for your souls.” It is the gospel, the new relationship to Christ, the Lord of lords and the King of kings, which introduces the sublimity of being lowliminded. That is the new dimension in the oldworld, dead in trespasses and sins! Hence, say unto the rich in the church, who are under my spiritual dominion and Lordship, that they be not high-minded, and say in their heart: who is the Lord?!
For such high-mindedness is vanity. They who speak thus, looking into the uncertain future as it is unpredictable by man and under the providence and the control of God, place their hope and expectation upon that which must needs deceive them and put them to shame. Paul calls this “uncertainty” of riches. Nothing is so uncertain as riches. That is the lesson of history. We have reflected upon this in an earlier essay and will not here elaborate. We will here state that all such “‘hoping” upon uncertainty of riches is at bottom idolatry! He who places his hope upon God, waits for Him in season and out of season, understands that God is the One who is the life-giver. He sees reality. Such a man lives in certainty of the faithful providence of God. The rich too are to do that. The rich often are those who give least liberally. Why is such often true in the church? It is because he counts the pennies he has left, and fears that unless there be a great deal left he will not have enough for tomorrow. He does not place his trust in God. He does not walk as seeing the unseen God. Such are not rich in God, but are like the rich farmer who built greater barns and said: Soul, take thine ease; thou hast laid away for many days! Luke 12:13-21.
For God is He who giveth life. The cattle upon a thousand hills are His, yea, all the beasts of the forests belong to Him, and proclaim the greatness of His glory and name. Ps. 29. Our God is not stingy with His gifts. He provides richly. The term in the Greek for “giveth” is a present active participle, indicating that God is the One giving and that the fountain keeps on flowing abundantly. God is good in His giving. The term is as one puts it: “a lavish emphasis to the generosity of God.” That God gives thus “richly” the rich, who places his trust in riches, does not understand. He really fears that God might shut up the fountains of heaven. That is an insult to God.
Besides, we should not overlook the fact that the purpose of God in thus giving richly and lavishly is that we should enjoy these gifts. We should not insult the Lord by not enjoying them with sanctified hearts. The rich, who is high-minded, cannot even enjoy what he has. He calls his fear of using what God gives with the term “thrift.” He doesn’t enjoy them himself, and he doesn’t want others to enjoy them too, and share in his joy. He has no joy to share, and, therefore, has no earthly riches to impart. He cannot give liberally. He has no joy and blessing in giving to those who have need.
In passing let it be said that the poor man who steals is afflicted with the same sin as the rich who will not give; neither one understands the calling. That the admonition here is to the rich in this world is because they alone are in a position to give, to pass on these gifts of God to be enjoyed. They have it in their control. They have the possibility of being truly rich. For it is more blessed to give than to receive.
The apostle Paul points out the following particulars in which those who are rich in this world should richly enjoy their “riches” together with others, and thus lay hold on eternal life, or, as another reading has it; “truly life!”
In general the rich are to be admonished to “work good.” They must be intent upon doing ethical good toward their neighbor, loving their neighbor as themselves. This may imply more than merely sharing the good gifts of God who bestoweth richly. It may refer to all kinds of acts of kindness, such as to pray for their neighbor, forgive their neighbor, and love them fervently with pure hearts. They must be good works in which the advantage of the neighbor is enhanced, even his eternal salvation.
When the rich in this world thus do good, they will be truly “rich.” They will be rich “in good works”; that is, in the sphere of these good works and in their performance they will seek and find their riches. Thus they will use the riches which are theirs, in the form of material things, and make friends by so doing; or as Jesus says, they “will make them friends from the unrighteous Mammon.” What the unjust steward did, being prudent in the worldly generation and involving evil men in his own fraud, so that presently they might receive him in their houses, that the righteous does in the righteous use of his gifts, so that he may be received into eternal habitations.Luke 16:9.
Such is the true conduct of a man who walks in his Christian stewardship. He has a delight in giving; that is the most pleasant task for him. The terms employed here by Paul in the Greek and translated “to be” (einai) underscores that such the rich are to be; it must not be an act which is once performed, and then one is tired from so doing and weary. Nay, such much be his constant disposition of heart, the real manifestation of his pure heart as a steward!
Then he will truly be such that is inclined to share with others the things which he has, because he desires to share the joy of God with him. Then there is a double harvest: first the joy of receiving from God, then the joy of imparting to others, and then this same joy duplicated in the hearts and lives of a thankful recipient. Truly then one experiences what Paul writes of in II Cor. 8, 9, which great exposition concerning giving is concluded with the words: “Thanks be to God for his unspeakable gift.” II Cor. 5:15.
Thus the rich shall lay away a truly good treasure against the time to come; they will in their riches lay hold. on the true riches and the life that is really life, eternal, life, knowing God in their riches through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Then the camel passes through the eye of the needle!
For what is impossible with man is possible withGod!