Developing Spiritual Riches
            1 Tim. 6:17-19

            By Paul Robison

A Tampa chiropractor had paid alimony to his former wife for a long time. In 1994, he came to his final alimony payment of $182.  He didn't just want to send his money; he wanted to send a message.  So in large scale, he drew a check on the back of a pinstripe shirt.  On the memo line of this check, he wrote: “Here it is—the shirt off my back!”  The bank cashed this unusual check.  So, what's the point?  You see, when there is no love behind our giving, it often leads to bitterness.  As Christians who have been given so much by God, I hope that we'll never feel that embittered about giving to others and to God.
 
We have been studying in the first letter written to Timothy.  As he wraps up this letter, Paul gives much good advice.  In previous sermons, we've seen how Paul gave inspired advice for developing spiritual strength, spiritual direction, and spiritual stamina.  Then we saw in our last sermon how Paul gave Timothy some spiritual assurance as he described Jesus, God, and what the future holds.  In the passage today, Paul returns to the topic of wealth, which he introduced back up in verse 6 and continues to develop down through verse 12.  Someone noted how we go from the heights of praise back down to the material goods of everyday living and the temptations they bring (Kelly).  He tells about developing spiritual riches!  The apostle Paul's teachings were important for the congregation in Ephesus, and they are just as relevant and vital for us today.  So we need to listen to these teachings very carefully.  After all, as Americans, we are all very rich financially when compared to the rest of our world. Let's read our text again, 1 Timothy 6:17-19: “Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, not to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy.  Let them do good, that they may be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.”  Notice how the whole framework for Paul's teachings is the contrast between the present age and the time to come.  As Christians, we should always remember that we live in the age between Christ's first coming and His second coming.  We should not get too attached to this world and its goods for we really are travelers here and not permanent residents.  Our attitude should be like saints described in Hebrews 11:13-14: “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.  For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland.”  We must continue to look beyond our wealthy nation to that heavenly homeland which Jesus is preparing right now.  Now let's look at each of Paul's teachings in this passage more closely.
 
Paul first teaching is this: Don't be haughty or high-minded!  “Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty.”  Look at the prophet Amos' words to the rich in his day in 6:3-6: “Woe to you who put far off the day of doom, who cause the seat of violence to come near; who lie on beds of ivory, stretch out on your couches, eat lambs from the flock and calves from the midst of the stall; who sing idly to the sound of stringed instruments, and invent for yourselves musical instruments like David; who drink wine from bowls, and anoint yourselves with the best ointments [What a luxurious lifestyle these Jews had as they relaxed, ate, drank, and listened to music! But now notice what Amos says next in verse 6:] But are not grieved for the affliction of Joseph.”  These Jews were so busy pampering themselves and so arrogant that they could not feel the pain of their fellow Jews who were living in poverty.  Riches often blind us to others' needs as we focus only on ourselves and the pleasures that wealth will provide.  Don't be high-minded!  Remember a rich man that Jesus described in Luke 12:16ff?  See if you can hear a problem in his words: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully.  And he thought within himself, saying: 'What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?'  So he said, 'I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods.  And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.”'  But God said to him, 'Fool!  This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?'  So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”  The rich man had an “I” problem didn't he?  He thought that he could determine his own future and leave God out of the picture.  Does that sound like anybody you know?  Don't be haughty!  There was a Christian in Florida who was a millionaire.  In his garage, there was the head of a metal bedstead that hung on his wall.  He told me: “I've put that up to remind me that when I started out, someone gave me that bedstead as a gift since I couldn't afford one.  It reminds me that without others' help, I would never have been successful.”  That bedstead was helping him to keep from having “I” problems.  Like that Christian, we need to remember Proverbs 22:4: “By humility and the fear of the Lord are riches and honor and life.”  God is the true Source of all our wealth.  Don't be haughty or high-minded!
 
Paul's next teaching is this: Don't trust in earthly wealth.  “Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, not to trust in uncertain riches ...” Notice how Paul calls earthly wealth “uncertain riches.”  As people who have endured economic depressions and recessions, we of all people ought to realize how uncertain riches really are.  An elder gives us this food for thought: “How sad to see [people] give their time, energy, sweat, and tears to a work that can be lost in a moment! … Yet that is exactly what happened to Israel, and that is exactly what is happening to many around us today.”  Don't trust in earthly wealth!  “Too often we are like the little boy building his castles and roads and cities in the sand by the sea.  He is so busy with the affairs of the moment that he does not watch the creeping tide behind him.  In a moment, a sudden wave carries it all away, and he rushes in terror to his father's side.  Woe unto that man who finishes life with no enduring works and who has no Eternal Father to whom he can run when all his earthly labors perish!  What is the use of a thing, even it glitters and shines and thrills us for the moment, if it doesn't last?  Have we forgotten the grand truth: Permanence is the final test of all values. … Will that for which I am giving my life at this moment abide forever?  Will it pass the test of permanence?”  Don't trust in earthly wealth!  Proverbs 23:4-5 admonishes us: “Do not overwork to be rich; because of your own understanding, cease!  Will you set your eyes on that which is not?  For riches certainly make themselves wings; they will fly away like an eagle toward heaven.” Jesus Himself warns us in Luke 12:15: “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.”  President Lincoln was the one who had “In God we trust” printed on our money, just to help us remember that truth.  Don't trust in earthly wealth.
 
Paul's next teachings accentuate the positive: Do trust in God (Who wants to bless, v. 17c)!  “Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, not to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy.”  Our trust should be in the living God, but oh how easily we fail to do this!  We are like the Jews in the last book of the Old Testament.  Malachi challenged his people with these words in 3:8ff: “Will a man rob God?  Yet you have robbed Me!  But you say, 'In what way have we robbed You?'  In tithes and offerings.”  Now if Malachi lived in our day, he would say that we have robbed God through pitiful gifts that we make when the collection plate is passed.  Now listen how God challenges the Jews: “You are cursed with a curse for you have robbed Me, even this whole nation.”  If God made that accusation against you, could you say, “Lord, that's not true.  Just look at my canceled checks, and you can see how much I've given to support Your work!”?  God continues in verse 10: “Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and try Me in this,” says the Lord of hosts, “If I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it.”  God is challenging us to take a test, and here's His test: If you will give generously to finance the work of My kingdom, just see if I will not give back to you more abundantly than the gifts you gave to Me!”   Do trust in God (Who wants to bless)!  Someone might object here: “Well, preacher, that's all Old Testament.  How do we know that God will bless us in the Christian Age like He promised the Jews?”  We have Jesus' word on it! Listen to His promise in Luke 6:38: “Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom.”  Jesus' illustration here “comes from the marketplace where grain was poured out, shaken down, and then filled to overflowing so the buyer received the full amount purchased.  Such is the full measure that will be returned to [the Christian] who has been generous” (NSB).  Do trust in God (Who wants to bless).  Did you notice also that Paul affirms that the living God gives us richly all things to enjoy?  Does that sound like a Heavenly Father who is stingy and desires our misery?  No, our generous God provides so many good things for us to enjoy: the air we breath and the spinning earth upon which we live (both provided at no charge with no labor on our part).  Now what else did you enjoy from God this past week: sunshine, water, fruits, vegetables, clothing, pets, friends, relatives, family members, His forgiveness, His guidance, His strength, His wisdom?   God's intentions run counter to those of the heretics in Timothy's situation.  They were teaching that people should refrain from eating certain foods and from marriage.  Paul affirms that God gave us all things richly to enjoy.  Now if God has been so generous to us, why do we think that we can't trust Him and why offer Him the leftovers of His blessings when the collection plate is put before us?  Do trust in God (Who wants to bless)!
 
Paul’s next teaching is this: Do work good to be rich in good works (v. 18a)!  “Let them do good, that they may be rich in good works...”  We don't need to be rich in dollars; we need to be rich in good works.  “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 6:16).  We have been “created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).  “And let our people learn to maintain good works, to meet urgent needs, that they may not be unfruitful” (Titus 3:14).  Do work good to be rich in good works!  “Thus, also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (James 2:17). “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” 'Yes,' says the Spirit, 'that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them” (Revelation 14:13-14).  You see, good works will pass the permanency test!  Do work good to be rich in good works!
 
The next teaching is this: Do be ready to give!  “Let them do good, that they may be rich in good works, ready to give ...” One commentator said: “A kind heart as well as a generous hand is demanded of the rich” (Gablein).  Another said that rich Christians are to be open-handed and generous, just as God is.  A third observed: “The wealthy have many opportunities to do good, but how often such opportunities are allowed to go unnoticed or neglected” (Coffman).  Do be ready to give!  Let's be like the Philippian congregation.  Note what Paul says about them in Philippians 4:15: “Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only.  For even in Thessalonica you sent aid once and again for my necessities.”  Do you remember, on Paul's second missionary journey how he left Philippi and then went to Thessalonica in Acts 16-17?  Well, Paul says that the Philippian congregation sent help to him at least twice while he was working in Thessalonica.  They were ready to give!  And now, Paul was in prison in Rome, and Ephaphroditus had made the long trip from Philippi to Rome to bring Paul another gift from the Philippian church!  We see again how the church in Philippi was ready to give.  And Paul blessed the Philippian church with this assurance: “And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).  This is a faithful saying that has been proven time and time again: “You can never give more than God!”  He WILL supply, and His supply will not skimpy!  “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10). Do be ready to give!
 
The next teaching is this: Do be willing to share (v. 18c)!  “Let them do good, that they may be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share...”  “George lived in a rented room at a YMCA in Chicago.  He had one set of clothes, shoes wrapped with rubber bands to keep the soles from flopping, and a threadbare black overcoat.  He spent his mornings napping in old metal chair by the heater in the back of the 18th District police station.  Two officers, Kitowski and Mitch, took an interest in the old man, occasionally slipping him a few bucks.  They found out that Billy the Greek over at the G&W Grill gave him a hot breakfast each morning, no charge.  The two policemen and their families decided to have George as their guest for Christmas dinner.  They gave him presents, which he unwrapped carefully.  As they drove back to the Y, George asked, 'Are these presents really mine to keep?'  They assured him they were.  'Then we must stop at the G&W Grill before I go home,' he said.  With that, George also began rewrapping the presents.  When they walked into the restaurant, Billy the Greek was there as always.  'You've been good to me, Billy,' said George.  'Now I can be good to you.  Merry Christmas.'  George gave all his presents away on the spot.  Moral: Generosity is natural when a grateful attitude prevails” (Keegan in Rowell, 272).  Do be willing to share!
 
The next teaching is this: Do prepare for eternity and eternal life (v. 19)! You see this life is NOT the totality of reality.  “Let them do good, that they may be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.”  As was mentioned earlier, Christians in the present age must be generous so they will be ready for the time to come! Listen to Jesus’ promise in Luke 12:32-33: “Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.  Sell what you have and give alms; provide yourselves money bags which do not grow old, a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches or moth destroys.”  We lay a good foundation in heaven through the gifts we give down here.  “Lay hold on eternal life” is that same expression found in 1 Timothy 6:12.  It means to grab with your hands and hold on to something tightly.  We are not to be clutching money, no, we don't hold on tightly to it at all.  We are giving our money generously so that we clutch tightly to eternal life.  Now there's real permanence!  Do prepare for eternity and eternal life!
 
To develop spiritual riches, you just heard Paul's two don'ts and five do's that you need to put into practice.  “'Those who are rich in this present world' must flee the besetting sins of arrogance and faith in wealth.  They must do a difficult thing—place all their hope in God.  And they must give, [and share, and keep preparing for eternity].  And we must remember that they are us” (Hughes)!  “Satan used to say he'd make one poor, that used to be his pitch.  But now he tempts with just six little words: “Hey, I can make you rich!”  Don't let Satan get your attention. Don't let your possessions possess you!  Use them to God's glory!  Lay hold of eternal life!