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 Timothy 6:17-19
How do you deal with rich or wealthy people? In some ways we are to treat the rich the way that we treat everyone else, but there are some particular side effects to being rich. Most of us think that rich is that other guy, not me. Rich is someone who has more than I do. If you looked into your closet this morning in order to decide what to wear, you are rich. If you drove your car today, you are rich. If you decided whether or not you would eat breakfast this morning, you are rich.
I have great news for some of us—if you make $48,000-plus annually, it places you in the top 1 percent of global wage earners. But discovering that doesn’t make you jump up and shout, “Yay, I am rich! I am rich!” Discovering that you are better off than most people in the world doesn’t really make you feel rich. Most of us are rich compared to most of the world, but most of us don’t feel like we are rich. (By the way, I really benefitted by reading Andy Stanley’s book, How to Be Rich, and his teaching influences some of these thoughts.)
In order to take the Bible seriously, we must realize that we are rich, and that being wealthy has side effects. Timothy, while he was at Ephesus, was surrounded by “wealthy converts” to Christianity due to the commercial nature of that city. It was a booming port city where merchants could make a lot of money. So Paul tells Timothy to instruct the rich, and Paul told Timothy three things about preaching to rich people.
Rich people confuse actually being rich with feeling rich (v.17)
So if you don’t think that you are rich, then you won’t listen to this Scripture. Many are rich but don’t feel it, and feeling rich is what makes being rich fun. When is the last time you felt rich? When I was nine years old, I won a contest for a free Icee every day for a year. I felt like the richest kid in the world. I’d walk down the street with my Icee in my hand so proud, but then the other kids started to ask me for my Icee. With my daily supply of Icees, I felt rich!
Margin is what makes us feel rich. Margin is the freedom to spend more combined with the discipline to spend less. If you want to feel rich, you must downsize until you create enough margin to feel rich. If you are freaking out about cutting back, then you’re suffering from feeling entitled. If you are quite wealthy but do not have margin, you don’t feel wealthy; instead, you are just trying to keep up your commitments. If we don’t feel rich, generally we are not truly grateful to God.
Rich people are plagued by discontentment because we become haughty, arrogant, and entitled (verse 17)
Our desire for newer and nicer has fed an appetite titled “more,” and we think that we deserve more. We make a huge assumption that because we have this money and stuff, that it is all for our consumption. Our appetites are never fully satisfied; they just keep on growing. Every time you feed your appetite, your margin erodes.
See Proverbs 30:15, “The leech has two daughters: Give and Give. Three things are never satisfied; four never say, “Enough”: Sheol, the barren womb, the land never satisfied with water, and the fire that never says, “Enough.”
Imagine walking through the slums in Africa or in the inner city, sitting down with one of the citizens, and trying to explain the financial pressures that you feel. It would be embarrassing! We are rich, but we are not good at it because we are never satisfied.
“Upgrade” counts for more margin erosion than anything else rich people do. How do you upgrade? Phone, kitchen remodel, more clothes?
Don’t get me wrong—we are blessed to be rich. Being poor isn’t a virtue, and being rich isn’t a sin. We are able to enjoy our wealth! But watch out that we keep trusting the Provider rather than in His provision.
Rich people suffer from the migration of hope
Over time wealth becomes a substitute for God; without meaning to, we allow our hope to be placed in God’s provision rather than in God, who is our Provider. Often we hoard stuff to guard against the future rather than trust in God. We try to save our way to security. On the other hand, if you think that you are going to hope in God at the end, why not trust in God now?
Okay so what do I do? See verses 18-19.
A. Be rich in doing good works because you have the time and the money since you now have margin.
B. Be generous. Don’t just give 10 percent to the church; give a larger percentage because you are rich.
Practicing these two scriptural principles may well allow us to be good at being rich.
(Tim recently preached a four-week sermon series on being rich from August 3-24. You may listen to his sermons here. They are also available in iTunes.)