Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not high minded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy.
— 1 Timothy 6:17
When the rule of communism began to dissipate in the Soviet Union, it left the economy in utter shambles. Nearly every basic commodity was unavailable, including basic items such as sugar, flour, cheese, milk, and eggs. There was a huge deficit of light bulbs, toilet paper, and most household products. Gasoline was so expensive that most people preferred to walk than to pay the kind of money needed to fill the gas tank.
This situation meant that whoever controlled the basic supplies of life had the ability to acquire incredible wealth. Because it was a time of great political and economic confusion, nearly anything was possible. As a result, a large number of scoundrels, bandits, thieves, criminals, lawyers, politicians, and especially bright common people began to think of ways to turn this great disadvantage into their own personal advantage.
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Today’s Russian society now includes a new class of super-rich. To say these people are fabulously wealthy is an understatement. They are what some might call filthy, stinking rich! It is difficult to imagine how this tiny part of Russia’s population could have made this kind of money in such a brief period of time.
In this category are people who arrogantly drive their Rolls Royces, Bentleys, and Mercedes through the streets of Moscow, expecting the whole world to move out of their way as they drive past. As is often true with people who make a lot of money in a short period of time, they are usually very rude. Their newly made wealth goes to their heads, causing them to strut through the stores, restaurants, and shopping centers as if they were the owners of planet earth. Their snobbery is on a world-class level. They are completely consumed with how to frivolously spend the riches they have amassed. However, most of them end up losing their money just as quickly as they made it.
This type of person who makes loads of money quickly and then distastefully flaunts his wealth can be found in every nation of the world. There were even such people in the Roman world of the first century. Paul wrote Timothy and told him to tell the rich, “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” (1 Timothy 6:17).
It is a fact that a small minority of “rich” people came to Christ in the first century and were members of the Church. It was in regard to this group of individuals that Paul told Timothy, “Charge them that are rich in this world.…” The word “charge” is the Greek word parangelo, which means to charge or to command.It is such a strong command that it should actually be received as a requirement — not a negotiable option. Thus, when Timothy deals with the wealthy in his church, he is to give them the strong exhortation that Paul is about to give him with such firmness that they receive it as an order from the Lord!
When Paul calls these people “rich,” he uses the word plousios, a very old Greek word that describes someone who possesses incredible abundance, extreme wealth, and enormous affluence. This word would not describe someone who is moderately wealthy but rather someone who is extremely wealthy. Just as there are people of great influence and enormous wealth who come to Christ today and learn to faithfully attend church, apparently this was also the case in the first century.
It is right that we should pray for the wealth of this world to pass into the hands of the godly who would use it for eternal purposes. God wants His people to be blessed. He wants them to have enough to meet their own needs and to abundantly meet the needs of others. He wants Christians to have enough to finance the preaching of the Gospel to the ends of the earth.
But so often when large sums of money pass into the hands of people for the first time, their wealth goes to their heads and creates in them the “high-minded” attitude I mentioned earlier and to which Paul now refers. This is not the attitude God wants from His people when money passes into their hands.
What exactly does the Greek word for “high-minded” mean? The word “high-minded” in Greek is hupsilophroneo. The first part of this word comes from the Greek word hupslos, meaning exalted, elevated, high, or lofty. The second part of this word is phroneo, which means to think, to consider, to deem, or to be of a certain opinion. When these two words are compounded together, the new word means to think too highly of oneself. It refers to the opinion one has when he thinks he is better than others.
Paul uses a negative in the Greek, which strongly alerts us that one shouldn’t think of himself as better than others simply because he has more money than others. Even if a person is uncommonly financially blessed and operates in exceptional financial circles, he still shouldn’t deem himself better than other people just because he has more money than they do.
Paul tells the wealthy people in the Church that they are not to “…trust in uncertain riches….” The word “uncertain” is the word adelotes. This is the only time that this exact word appears in the New Testament. It means uncertain, inconsistent, or something so unstable that it can go as easily as it came. The word “trust” is the Greek word elpidzo, the most common word for hope in the New Testament. As used in this verse, it means not to place one’s hope on one certain thing. The particular Greek tense used here carries the idea of one who places his hope in something and then keeps his hope there.
Paul says the rich are not to set their hope “in” riches. The word “in” is the Greek word epi, which would be better translated upon. A more accurate rendering of this entire phrase would be that the rich are “…not to fix their hope upon uncertain riches….”
Riches are uncertain. Just ask those who thought they were financially set for life but then lost almost all their fortunes through a sudden change in the stock market. There are many people who wake up in the morning rich but go to bed that same night financially insolvent. Therefore, Paul tells the rich that instead of putting their hope in finances that are uncertain, they are to fix their hope “…in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy.”
If your sense of security rests in your financial portfolio and then your portfolio diminishes or disappears, you could be thrown into an enormous identity crisis that results in great fear, anxiety, and insecurity. But when your trust is in the Lord, you are never shaken no matter what happens in the material realm. Why? Because your identity is not in what you possess but in who you are in Jesus Christ.
If you know others who are being financially blessed, rejoice with them. Pray for such people to have the necessary wisdom to use their finances the way God wishes them to use it.
And if you are financially blessed yourself, praise God for it! However, be careful to keep separate who you are from what you own. Don’t let your identity get all wrapped up in what you own so that your sense of security becomes deeply shaken by any material loss. Never forget that who you are is much more important than what you own, and your relationships in this life are much more important than your possessions.
Financial prosperity is a blessing from Heaven and a great honor from the Lord. But if God has trusted you with riches, remember to keep your head on straight. Don’t ever think you are better than others just because you possess a lot of wealth. God blessed you so that you could be a blessing. Therefore, learn to see yourself as a servant of God whose job is to manage and distribute the funds you have amassed as He desires!
Today I urge you not to fall into the category of those who think too highly of themselves just because they have more money than others. God certainly didn’t give you wealth so that you could develop a pride problem!
Go to the Lord regularly and ask Him how He wants you to use those funds. As you keep your heart open to the Holy Spirit and stay willing to hear what He has to say, He will direct you on how to use the resources at your disposal. And if you ever get into pride, He will gently correct you and bring you back to the attitude He desires you to possess.
My Prayer for Today
Lord, thank You for the blessings You have given to my family and me. You have abundantly blessed me, and I am so grateful for everything You have done. I ask You to help me keep the right attitude toward others who have less than I do; to refrain from a false attitude of pride or haughtiness; and to see myself as the manager of divinely assigned funds. I want to trust in You, Lord — not in the things You have placed at my disposal. Possessions and material things are fleeting, but You are always the same. Therefore, I choose to fix my hope on You and not on the financial increase with which You have blessed me.
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
My Confession for Today
I confess that because my trust is in the Lord, I am never shaken. My identity is not in what I own but in who I am in Jesus Christ! Even though I am financially blessed, I keep WHO I AM separate from WHAT I OWN. Who I am is much more important than what I own, and my relationships are much more important than the material things I possess! I will not let my prosperity go to my head and make me think that I am better than others. God has blessed me so I can be a blessing. Therefore, I see myself as the servant of God, called to manage and distribute the funds at my disposal as He desires!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
Questions to Answer
1. What is the largest amount of money that God has ever entrusted to you? How was your attitude about yourself and others affected by your possessing such a large amount of resources?
2. Have you ever known someone whose attitude about others changed when money came into their hands? Did they flaunt their wealth and act so differently that it was obnoxious? After seeing how they acted, did their behavior make you inwardly decide how you will or will not act when money comes into your hands?
3. If God has found you faithful and has placed a large amount of financial resources at your disposal, are you regularly asking Him how He wants you to use that money? What is He telling you to do with that money right now?