Faithlife Sermons

A Charge to the Rich

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“As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.” [1]

It was Thanksgiving, 1972 or 1973, I don’t exactly remember. I was in the midst of doctoral studies, responsible for the animals used in my studies. This required daily care; and thus, though it was a holiday, I was compelled to go to the medical school early on Thanksgiving morning to tend to my animals. The cages needed to be cleaned, the animals fed and watered and perform a visual check of their general condition.

When I entered the laboratories, I met two fellows—one a post-doctoral fellow and the other a pre-doctoral fellow. These men were students from a foreign land. Because they spoke the same language, they had become friends despite the disparity in their educational position at that time. I asked them why they were in the laboratories on a holiday. Henry, the older of the two, said, “We have nowhere to go and nothing else to do, so we are just working today.”

I hurried back to my laboratory when all my responsibilities had been fulfilled so that I could phone Lynda. Would she accept me bring home a couple of guests. She hesitated only a moment before agreeing. She cautioned that we didn’t have much, but we would share what we had with these foreign students.

The meal was quite simple, because we were surviving on a pre-doctoral fellow’s income. There were a few potatoes, frozen vegetables and mock-ham salad (from bologna, at that time a staple in our home). Lynda had splurged to buy a small toupee ham—a rare luxury for us, but it was Thanksgiving, after all.

After returning grace and passing the first dish to our guests, I noticed that Henry’s eyes were moist. “Is everything alright, Henry?” I asked.

Looking at what we thought was a rather meagre meal, the young man commented, “I am overwhelmed at how rich you are. We would never see so much food at one time back home.”

His comment definitely took Lynda and me by surprise. He continued by stating that in his home, they saved elastic bands, string, plastic in order to reuse these common packaging items. “We even save the rice sacks,” he stated, “lest we should one day have nothing with which to cover our shame.” His fellow student was vigorously nodding his head in agreement.

“You are so wealthy,” he said. I didn’t detect a hint of envy; only a sense of astonishment at what appeared to him to be overwhelming abundance. “You are so wealthy.”

That shared meal, and the conversation was an eye-opener for me; I was transformed by the discussion that Thanksgiving day. I had grown up in what many would consider poverty. My dad was a blacksmith who had been severely injured in the war. He eked out a meagre income sharpening plowshares, sharpening sickles and shoeing horses and mules. He did some welding. We raised chickens and a few pigs. From about eight years of age onward, I purchased my own clothing for school, and paid for whatever entertainment I might enjoy.

I suppose my family was poor by modern standards, though we didn’t know we were poor. We had a water line that brought water to a single tap in our kitchen. It would need to be thawed several times during the winter because it would freeze. Someone would crawl under the house, wrap paper around the line and set it on fire. Otherwise, there would be no water until spring. We had an outdoor toilet; it didn’t freeze up. Our house had four rooms—two bedrooms, a kitchen and a living room. Nevertheless, we had love and we were content.

I said all this by way of insisting that I am not wealthy, nor have I ever been wealthy! I suspect that each individual to whom I am speaking this day would make similar assertions. We are not wealthy! We don’t think of ourselves as wealthy! However, when compared to those living in the most of the world, we are fabulously wealthy. Even our poor have automobiles, microwave ovens, large-screen televisions and computers. The majority of inhabitants of this fallen world do not enjoy such luxuries. Let’s admit a disconcerting truth—we are wealthy. Perhaps we are not wealthy when comparing ourselves to other Canadians; but when we compare ourselves to the majority of people living in this world, we are wealthy.

In light of this truth, the statements Paul makes about wealth are worthy of our serious consideration. These are not accusations! They are instructions to be obeyed if we treasure the smile of Heaven. If we simply allow what Paul has written to slide off our lives, assuming he is speaking to someone else, we will miss a wonderful opportunity to discover what pleases the Master. Join me, then, in examining the Apostle’s instructions to a rich people.

HAUGHTY? WHO, ME? — “As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty.” I’ve already alluded to the fact that you and I are rich. However, it will be beneficial if we nail down this fact. In order to do that, we need to think about what is necessary in order to be rich. There will always be some argument about the amounts that qualify an individual as rich, but if we can fix in our minds the conditions for richness, we can perhaps see matters from God’s perspective. The poverty line is a moving target for governments, so the wealth line will likely be a moving target for us.

Rich, in New Testament terms, is a spiritual condition. A matter of a paragraph before our text for this day, the Apostle had penned a blunt statement of fact and a warning to readers. It will be beneficial to refresh our memories of what he wrote. “Godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs” [1 TIMOTHY 6:6-10]. You will remember that we explored this passage in an earlier message. [2]

The Greek term translated into English as “contentment” (autárkeia) conveys the meaning of “sufficiency” or “adequacy,” and thus came to mean “contentment.” It describes a state of one who supports himself without aid from others. [3] It speaks of satisfaction in one’s circumstance or position in life. This is truly wealth!

As Christians, we are to find our sufficiency in Christ, though we are attracted by the baubles of this dying world. In the Second Corinthian Letter, the Apostle has written, “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. As it is written,

“He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor;

his righteousness endures forever.”

“He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God” [2 CORINTHIANS 9:8-12].

Some professed ministers of the Gospel of Christ misapply this rich promise, twisting it to transform it into a promise of personal enrichment in this life—they are focused on the accumulation of worldly wealth. In recent times, some presumed preachers of the Word spoke of “seed faith,” as they encouraged followers to send money as though planting for a harvest. However, it should be evident that the enrichment is to permit generosity—generosity that permits the congregation to reach beyond itself.

Take note of a point that is easily overlooked when reading from an English translation. Throughout, Paul uses the second person plural pronoun emphasising his focus on the congregation. Was I speaking in a church located in the southern United States, I would read, “God is able to make all grace abound to you-all.” Then, in verse ten, I would read, “He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply you-all’s seed for sowing and to increase you-all’s harvest of righteousness.” This is a congregational promise. Beyond this, the verbs in verses eight and eleven are second person plural, indicating that the promise is that the congregation will abound in every good work and that the congregation will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way; there is no promise of personal enrichment.

Elsewhere, Paul thanks the Philippians for providing moneys for his team, “I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

“Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble. And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again. Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit. I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen” [PHILIPPIANS 4:10-19],

Contrast two churches among the seven churches in the Province of Asia. The congregation in Smyrna heard these comforting words from the Risen Saviour, “I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich) and the slander of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan” [REVELATION 2:9].

Compare this commendation to the censure received by another church. “You say, I am rich, I have prospered and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see” [REVELATION 3:17, 18].

The church that we would be inclined to say is poor is commended by Christ as rich! The congregation we imagine to be rich is condemned by the Lord Jesus as impoverished. It is a matter of perspective. Beyond this, in terms of world holdings, we are a wealthy people. Wealth is not a measure of income; it is a measure of net worth. Wealth is equal to assets minus liabilities. For instance, an individual may have a large income but also have large expenses, in which case her or his wealth could be quite small or even negative. However, if the individual has assets boosting her into high net worth, she is considered wealthy.

If you have assets worth as little as $2500 Canadian per person, you are within the top half of world wealth distribution. If your family assets are as little as $70,000 Canadian, you are among the richest ten percent of all people living in the world. Remember, assets include all that you own—house, household goods, automobiles and trucks, clothing and so forth. [4] Few of us can claim that our net worth is less than $70,000.

Here is some humbling information. If your wealth is $100,000—remember, this is the value of your house, all household goods, transportation, toys, you are among the wealthiest 0.4% of people in the world. There are 6,573,722,720 people less wealthy than you are. You are 124 times wealthier than a billion people are. A billion people earn less that $759 a year. [5] In 2011, the median income for Canadians was $41,666. If this were the sum of your wealth, you would still be among the wealthiest 3.6% of people in the world; there would still be 6.3 billion people less wealthy than you. The average gross income for Canadians is $51,439. Should you earn just the median gross income, you are among the wealthiest 2.3% of people in the world. [6]

Now, I’m not trying to convince you, as do some ads for a Canadian bank that, “You’re Richer Than You Think”: I am simply emphasising an uncomfortable truth. We are wealthy when compared to most of the world. The reason this truth is uncomfortable is that with great wealth goes great responsibility. More about that in a bit.

We Canadians do qualify as “rich” on a world scale. The second issue is to look at the apostolic charge to turn from haughtiness. “Haughty” is not a word that will be found frequently in our vocabulary. Perhaps we will use the word “arrogant” or “proud,” but the word Paul used had a broader connotation than arrogance or pride. This word, occurring only here in the New Testament, conveys the idea of thinking of oneself as better than others. [7] Hence, the use by some translations of the phrase “Do not be conceited.” [8] Paul conveys a similar idea when he cautions the Roman Christians, “Do not become proud” [ROMANS 11:20 b]. Here, he is warning them not to be haughty toward Jews whom God appears to have bypassed in favour of Gentiles.

Wealth does not confer character on an individual; character is developed through trials and the choices made during those times of testing. This is the thrust of Peter’s instruction to believers in the Diaspora. “Make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” [2 PETER 1:5-11]. One must exert himself to obtain character; character must be a goal, not a by-product.

The novelist, Boris Pasternak touched on the issue of character when he portrays Doctor Zhivago as saying of “the Russian aristocracy that wealth ‘could itself create an illusion of genuine character and originality.’” [9] Wealth deludes people into imagining they are superior to others. The delusion runs along these lines, “I have more than others, so I am superior.” [10]

Attitudes such as this are seen among citizens of a nation. I don’t suggest we should be unpatriotic or that we should not be grateful that we live in a free nation. I do say that we must not think that before God we have greater worth or merit because we are Canadian.

The rich and famous imagine that because of their wealth their thoughts are superior to the hoi polloi. They are feted and their pronouncements are sought on multiple subjects as though they actually know what they are talking about.

Such attitudes are witnessed among churches. We imagine we are superior to others because we are Baptist. “Those Pentecostals are all wet; they don’t know what we know.” Often, I have witnessed Charismatics boasting of their ability to get money, as though it was the proof of God’s pleasure with them. Such thinking is folly-wide-the-mark.

It has become tragically normal among the churches of our Lord to appoint to leadership those chosen because of personal wealth. In modern western culture, wealth is equated with power; and that attitude has infiltrated even the churches of our Lord. Therefore, such actions are not in the least surprising, though they are still disappointing. However, when I say that wealth imposes an obligation, I am not referring to mere noblesse oblige; this is a spiritual obligation before the Lord.

A wealthy young man approached Jesus, and though the Master did not specifically impose such spiritual obligation on the young man, He did expose a dreadful void in his life. “As [Jesus] was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, ‘Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: “Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.”’ And he said to him, ‘Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.’ And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, ‘You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.’ Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

“And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, ‘How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!’ And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, ‘Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.’ And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, ‘Then who can be saved?’ Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.’ Peter began to say to him, ‘See, we have left everything and followed you.’ Jesus said, ‘Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first’” [MARK 10:17-31].

One grave concern I have concerning the contemporary pulpit is that we preachers have mastered the art of explaining away Scripture. I don’t want to explain away what Jesus said; I want us to ponder His words! His disciples understood that He was not making suggestions to this young man—He was giving commands. “You lack one thing: go, sell, give and follow.” Surely His words have application in our lives today. Can it be that the Master speaks to us, saying, “Go, sell, give and follow?”

As we look on a lost world, do we deem them unworthy of salvation because we think ourselves superior? Would you invest your moneys to deliver the message of life to Muslims who were impressing Christians into servitude, who in the name of their perverted god were selling Christian women into slavery, who at the insistence of the degraded book they believe to be holy were beheading those they deemed unworthy of life? I have no love for the actions of Islamists; and I struggle to love these debased religious fanatics enough to want to see them saved. However, I am commanded to love them as God loved me; and that gives me pause. My wealth imposes responsibility on me—responsibility to do all possible to deliver the message of life. My wealth must be seen as given by God in order to enable me to advance His Kingdom.

You may recall a recent message on stewardship. [11] That sermon explored a portion of Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians. “The person who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the person who sows generously will also reap generously. Each one of you should give just as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, because God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace overflow to you so that because you have enough of everything in every way at all times, you will overflow in every good work. Just as it is written, ‘He has scattered widely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness remains forever.’ Now God who provides seed for the sower and bread for food will provide and multiply your supply of seed and will cause the harvest of your righteousness to grow. You will be enriched in every way so that you may be generous on every occasion, which is producing through us thanksgiving to God, because the service of this ministry is not only providing for the needs of the saints but is also overflowing with many thanks to God. Through the evidence of this service they will glorify God because of your obedience to your confession in the gospel of Christ and the generosity of your sharing with them and with everyone. And in their prayers on your behalf they long for you because of the extraordinary grace God has shown to you. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift [2 CORINTHIANS 9:6-15 NET BIBLE]!”

For the purpose of the message today, focus on the first part of VERSE ELEVEN: “You will be enriched in every way so that you may be generous on every occasion.” God is pledged to provide for His people in community in order that they will be able to glorify Him and advance His cause. The point to take home is that God blesses in order that we may be a blessing. And such blessing precludes haughtiness toward a lost world!

WHERE MY HOPE LIES — “As for the rich in this present age, charge them not … to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches.” This is the second negative aspects of Paul’s charge. If we realise we are rich, we must not set our hopes on the uncertainty of riches. The Puritan divine, Cotton Mather, is quoted as saying, “Religion begat prosperity and the daughter devoured the mother.” [12]

It is a common effect of Christianity—though it is by no means universal—that the Faith of Christ the Lord results in prosperity for adherents. Conversion to Christ the Lord so transforms people that bad habits are discarded; and when wickedness is renounced, it results in more faithful labour and greater thrift as the followers of the Master live out the Word. The practical result is economic prosperity. God blesses those who are obedient.

The great tragedy of increased wealth is that the new prosperity and wealth devours the very Faith that gave birth to the culture. Is this not the warning that Moses delivered to Israel? “Take care lest you forget the LORD your God by not keeping his commandments and his rules and his statutes, which I command you today, lest, when you have eaten and are full and have built good houses and live in them, and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied and all that you have is multiplied, then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, who led you through the great and terrifying wilderness, with its fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty ground where there was no water, who brought you water out of the flinty rock, who fed you in the wilderness with manna that your fathers did not know, that he might humble you and test you, to do you good in the end. Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’ You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day” [DEUTERONOMY 8:11-18].

Let the words of verses twelve through fourteen weigh on your mind for a short moment—“lest, when you have eaten and are full and have built good houses and live in them, and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied and all that you have is multiplied, then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery” [DEUTERONOMY 8:12-14]. God’s blessing can actually destroy those so blessed!

God knew that wealth and the concomitant ease that accompanies wealth, destroys obedience to Him. Consider a few other instances of divine warnings to Israel. Earlier, God had said, “When the LORD your God brings you into the land that he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give you—with great and good cities that you did not build, and houses full of all good things that you did not fill, and cisterns that you did not dig, and vineyards and olive trees that you did not plant—and when you eat and are full, then take care lest you forget the LORD, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery” [DEUTERONOMY 6:10-12].

Moses pronounced some terrible curses on Israel if they ever forgot who they were. After pronouncing these dark curses, the man of God gave the reason God would curse Israel. “Because you did not serve the LORD your God with joyfulness and gladness of heart, because of the abundance of all things, therefore you shall serve your enemies whom the LORD will send against you, in hunger and thirst, in nakedness, and lacking everything. And he will put a yoke of iron on your neck until he has destroyed you” [DEUTERONOMY 28:47, 48].

Permit me to cite one further example as warning. The LORD God is speaking; He says,

“It was I who knew you in the wilderness,

in the land of drought;

but when they had grazed, they became full,

they were filled, and their heart was lifted up;

therefore they forgot me.”

[HOSEA 13:5, 6]

Can anything be more dreadful than this? God blessed His people; then, when they had been enriched through His blessing they forgot Him and no longer served Him! Is this not an indictment of our own nation? Is this not an indictment of contemporary Christianity? Is this not true of churches especially in the western world?

The hope of a Christian is in God—not God’s blessing. Underscore this vital truth in your mind—we hope in God and not in His blessing. Tragically, many within contemporary Christendom—at least in Canada—serve and worship the Lord God for what they imagine they can get, rather than serving Him because He is God. The theme of serving for blessing is the basis for a major movement within Christendom—the ministry of such luminaries as Joel Osteen and Joyce Meyer are built on the concept of service in exchange for tangible forms of blessing. Those who serve for that purpose need to hear that they are to set their hope on God.

To be certain, what has been given is provided for our enjoyment. However, when the gift becomes more important than the Giver, we have drifted into a dangerous situation. Focused on things to the neglect of Him who “richly provides us with everything to enjoy,” we stand opposed to grace. When anyone drifts into such wickedness, she has ceased to be a servant of God, and is endeavouring to become a ruler.

All such people will do well to heed the warning delivered by Jesus on one occasion. Speaking to the crowds that surrounded Him, Jesus warned, “‘Take care and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.’ And he told them a parable, saying, ‘The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, “What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?” And he said, “I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ ‘But God said to him, “Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God’” [LUKE 12:15-21]. Let the wise hear and apply what the Master has said.

MY RESPONSIBILITY WITH MY WEALTH — “The rich in this present age … are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.”

When our younger daughter, Rochelle, was serving as a missionary in Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo), she was robbed at gunpoint. It was disconcerting to say the least. When we spoke with her about the experience, she made a thought-provoking statement. She commented that the man who robbed her was so very poor, that she wasn’t angry about losing some “things.”

“Dad,” Rochelle said, “most of the people in this village have one shirt, and it is often torn. Perhaps they have a pair of shorts. They don’t have shoes. They barely have enough to eat.” Despite a terrifying experience, she was very forgiving in light of their evident poverty.

Wealth is dangerous precisely because it blinds us to our responsibility before God. Richard Baxter, noted Puritan, was of the opinion that “when men prosper in the world, their minds are lifted up with their estates, and they can hardly believe that they are so ill, which they feel themselves so well.” [13] In agreement with the message, another notable Puritan, John Robinson wrote, “From rich men’s pride in themselves ariseth commonly contempt of others, specially of the poor.” [14]

Permit me one further citation from Ryken’s book. “The acquisition of wealth, said the Puritans, also has a way of absorbing so much of a person’s time and energy that it draws him or her away from religion and moral concern for others. Richard Mather, in his farewell sermon, said: ‘Experience shows that it is an easy thing in the midst of worldly business to lose the life and power of religion, that nothing thereof should be left but only the external form, as it were the carcass or shell, worldliness having eaten out the kernel, and having consumed the very soul and life of godliness.’” [15]

Rather than becoming arrogant, setting our hopes on our possessions, we are taught “to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share.” We are “to do good.” This particular verb is used only one other time in the New Testament. Paul said of God, “[God] did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons satisfying your hearts with food and gladness” [ACTS 14:17]. God has poured out His goodness; and we are to allow His goodness to spill over to those about us.

Then, we are “to be rich in good works.” What is vital for us to see is that God has made the wealthy rich so that they might in turn become rich in good works. Not only are we who are rich to be rich in the works we perform, but the works themselves must be rich in nature, substance and number. Good works do not save us; but they do represent in stark fashion the reality of our salvation. This is evident from several verses Paul penned in his letter to Titus.

“[God] saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit” [TITUS 3:5].

“[Christ Jesus] gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works” [TITUS 2:14].

“The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people” [TITUS 3:8].

Elders must teach the rich “to be generous and ready to share.” The words occur only here in the New Testament. The word translated “generous” means “to share well.” The word translated “ready to share” has the concept of “fellowship” at the heart. Wealthy believers—and that would be us—are to share not only their wealth, but also their very hearts.

A fine example of such generosity is witnessed in the Macedonians. “We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints—and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us” [2 CORINTHIANS 8:1-5]. True wealth is found in relationships and in employing one’s physical possessions to enhance those relationships.

When we do what Paul has taught in this passage—turning from conceit, refusing to set our hopes on riches, doing good, being rich in good works and being generous and ready to share—we will discover that we are actually storing up treasure for ourselves as a good foundation for the future, so that we may take hold of that which is truly life. We will be turning the currency of this dying world into currency that has value in the world to come. The process is known as transmutation. [16]

The message is a call to Christians to delay personal gratification in order to obtain future personal blessing. The message calls believers to store up for themselves a “good foundation.” We are urged to build that which is good because it is solid and lasting, rather than accumulating that which is worthless. This process is to continue throughout this life, since this is the moment we are given to prepare for what is coming. Someone has said this moment in which we now live is the anteroom to Heaven itself. What we do now is laying a foundation for eternity.

As wealthy Christians, what are we doing with that which God has entrusted to us? As a people who enjoy fabulous wealth, what foundation are we laying for the future? Weight what the Apostle has written, considering well that God now watches how we handle what He has entrusted to our oversight. Amen.

[1] Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

[2] Michael Stark, “Godliness With Contentment is Great Gain,” (sermon), 20 July 2014, timothy 6.06-10 godliness with contentment is great gain.pdf

[3] See William Arndt, F. Wilbur Gingrich, Frederick W. Danker and Walter Bauer, A Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: a Translation and Adaption of the Fourth Revised and Augmented Edition of Walter Bauer’s Griechisch-Deutsches Worterbuch Zu Literatur (University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL 1979) 122

[4] Cf. Mike Hanion, “How the world’s wealth is distributed–the top two percent own half,” December 6, 2006,, accessed 18 September 2014

[5] World Wealth Calculator,, accessed 18 September 2014

[6] Statistics from Wikipedia, “List of countries by average wage,, accessed 18 September 2014; Wikipedia, “Median household income,”, accessed 18 September 2014

[7] Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (United Bible Societies, New York, NY 1996) 763-4

[8] E.g., New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (The Lockman Foundation, LaHabra, CA 1995)

[9] Boris Pasternak, Dr. Zhivago (Collins and Harvill Press, London 1958) 160, cited in R. Kent Hughes and Bryan Chapell, Preaching the Word: 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus: To Guard the Deposit (Crossway Books, Wheaton, IL 2000) 160

[10] Cf. Hughes and Chapell, 160

[11] Michael Stark, “What’s In It For Me?” (Sermon), 3 August 2014, corinthians 09.06-11 what's in it for me.pdf

[12] Quoted in Leland Ryken, Worldly Saints (Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI 1986) 63

[13] Op. cit., 62

[14] Ibid.

[15] Ibid.

[16] John A. Kitchen, The Pastoral Epistles for Pastors (Kress Christian Publications, The Woodlands, TX 2009) 289

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