1 Timothy
by Francis Foulkes ©


'As for the rich in this world, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on uncertain riches but on God who richly furnishes us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good deeds, liberal and generous, thus laying up for them selves a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life which is life indeed' ( 6:17-19).

Paul returns now to the subject of riches. Already he has warned Timothy of the danger of the love of money, whether in himself or in anyone else. Now he speaks about the difference between 'uncertain riches' and the lasting riches, about riches that should be found in the Christian's life and riches that bring temptation with them.

a. The riches of the world

There are two dangers in the possession of the riches of this world, and when Timothy sees people face to face with these dangers, it is his duty to warn them. In the first place, wealth may make a person 'haughty'. When we have plenty of this world's goods, we can very easily begin to think that we can do without God, and we can quickly forget that all that we have is from Him alone (see 1 Corinthians 4:7). We should read often the warning that God gave to the people of Israel in Deuteronomy 8:7-18, when He brought them from the desert, where they had to depend on Him for their daily needs, to a productive land whose rich resources they would enjoy. Secondly, all the riches of the world are 'uncertain'. As Jesus reminded people in His teaching in Matthew 6: 19-21, material possessions may perish through 'moth and rust', or be stolen by thieves. It is better to rely on the Giver than on the gifts. Rather than seek as many of His gifts as we can get, we should trust and serve the unchanging Giver. He is able and willing to give us all that we need, and more; for He 'richly furnishes us with everything to enjoy'.

b. Eternal riches

Instead of laying up treasures on earth 'where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal', Jesus calls us to 'lay up ... treasures in heaven'. Paul says the same thing here. We do this as we 'take hold of the life which is life indeed' - when we 'take hold of the eternal life' (verse 12) to which Christ has called us. This is 'a good foundation', the only good and lasting foundation. If we build on Jesus Christ and not on our possessions, we build on an eternal foundation. No storms in this world can shake us then (Hebrews 12:28); and we have a home and a possession which will endure not only for this world, but into the life to come.

c. Rich in good deeds

We should certainly desire our true riches to be not the 'uncertain riches' of this world, but the eternal gifts of God. We are also called to live here and now a life that is rich and full - 'rich in good deeds'. How full and how rich are our lives in this way? In this world's goods Christ's servants may be poor, but they can be 'making many rich' (2 Corinthians 6:10). If we think only of gaining for ourselves, doing things for ourselves, living for ourselves, then we are poor. We only truly possess what we freely use for God and for others - whether it is our time, our talents, or our possessions (see Mark 8:35). We can look down the pages of history, and see men and women who had true riches. The Bible often shows us examples. Who was richer, Lot who tried to choose the best and most fertile land for himself (Genesis 13:10-13), or Abraham who left the choice with God, and desired only 'a better country, that is, a heavenly one' (Hebrews 11:8-16) ? Who had greater wealth in the end, the 'rich man, who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day' or the beggar Lazarus at his gate (Luke 16:19-31)? Who found the riches of the life 'which is life indeed'? Matthew and Zacchaeus, who responded in repentance and faith to the call of Christ, or the rich young ruler who 'went away sorrowful; for he had great possessions' (Mark 10:22)? Who received the wealth of God's blessing, the woman who poured her costly ointment in sacrificial love over the feet of Jesus, or Judas who kept for himself all that he could of his own and other people's money (John 12:1-8)? We may not have to choose between riches and poverty; but we all have to choose between love for Christ and love for possessions.


Lord, help us to desire to be rich, not in the things of this world, but in the things of eternity; not in the things that we have, but in the things that we do; not in ourselves, but in Thee. So help us also by prayer and witness and loving service to make others truly rich in Jesus Christ our eternal Saviour and Master. AMEN.

Note. Notice at the end of verse 17 that God gives us His gifts richly, and gives us them for our enjoyment. We are intended to rejoice in God's gifts, and take pleasure in all His creation. We have this emphasis also in chapter 4:1-5 which gives the condition for our enjoyment of the gifts of God - they must be received with thanksgiving and 'consecrated by the word of God and prayer'. See notes on those verses.

Further Study. Study further the ways in which the New Testament epistles use the words 'rich' or 'riches' and their teaching about true and false riches - e.g. see Romans 2:4; 10:12; 11:33; 2 Corinthians 6:10; 8:2,9; Ephesians 1:7, 18; 2:4; 3:8,16; Philippians 4:19; Colossians 1:27; 2:2; Hebrews 11: 26; James 1: 9-11; 2;5,6; 5:l-3.