Give Today to Seize Tomorrow
So this morning we are coming to the finish line of Paul’s first letter to Timothy. We started this sermon series back in January, and over the last 21 weeks we have been walking through this letter verse by verse, and it’s been good for us. We, as a local church, are trying to get our house in order, and that is Paul’s purpose in writing this. We are wanting to do with this letter what Paul would want us to do — and that’s to read this letter closely and to think deeply about our commitment to sound doctrine and its congruence to our practice.
Going back to the time of the Protestant Reformation, there was this Latin phrase they used to say. It goes: ecclesia reformata, semper reformanda — it means: the church reformed, always being reformed, and that is, always being reformed according to the word of God.
The word of God never changes, but the spirit of the age does change, and so the church must be vigilant not to conform herself to the surrounding society, but always to Holy Scripture. That is what we want. Amen!
Today we are in our last passage, Chapter 6, verses 17–21, and there are basically two things that Paul is doing here. First, there is a charge to the rich in verses 17–19, and then there is a final final charge to Timothy in verses 20–21 that concludes the letter. We’re going to look at both of these this morning, but we’re mostly going to focus on verses 17–19 because that’s really the main idea of the passage. The main thing happening here is Paul’s charge to those who are “rich in this present age.”
And so for sermon we’re answering two questions:
Who Are the Rich?
What Should They Do?
And these are relevant questions for us right now as a church. In fact, I don’t think I have ever wrestled with a more practical passage of Scripture than what we have in these verses. So let’s pray and we’ll get started:
Father, it is in your praise that we draw near to you now and open your Word. We ask, by the power of your Holy Spirit poured out upon us, speak to us and guide us. Show us your will and ways. We confess that we are your church created and reformed by your Word, and we pray, continue to reform us by your Word, in Jesus’s name, amen.
Question #1: Who Are the Rich?
So Paul is talking about money in these verses, but really, he’s just coming back to the topic of money he started in verse 6. If you can, turn back there for a second. Look at Chapter 6, verse 6. Paul says there, in 1 Timothy 6:6,
But godliness with contentment is great gain, 7 for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. 8 But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. 9 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation …
Then of course he continues through verse 10 — then he steps aside to exhort Timothy — and now here in verse 17, he goes back to verse 10 and says: “As for the rich in this present age.” In other words: Going back to the topic of money, speaking of the rich in this present age — and then Paul tells Timothy how to shepherd these people.
Timothy is to charge and exhort the rich in six ways, but before we get there, there are a few things that we need to see that clarify the meaning of “the rich” in verse 17. Who is Paul talking about here? It’s important we get this right — Who are the rich? Three things:
#1. The rich are not necessarily the same as those who desire to be rich.
In this Part Two section on money, Paul is not talking about the same people he described in verses 9–10. In verses 9–10 Paul mentions those who desire to be rich and who love money — these are people who have sinful desires. They are one step out the door of faith, and some, through his craving, have already wandered from the faith. Those who desire wealth and love money — they are those who get it wrong.
And some of these people are wealthy, but it doesn’t mean that everyone wealthy is like these people. Some lovers of money have a lot of money, but not everyone with a lot of money is a lover of money. And of course, you know this is true. There is nothing wrong with wealth and money, it’s the desire and love of wealth and money. Which means, it all comes down to the heart.
The sin of greed is not necessarily connected to your bank account — and God knows this — but I would not be surprised if some of the greediest people in our world actually earn far less than the generous. You can be broke and greedy; and you can be wealthy and generous. It would be a terrible mistake for us to equate godliness to material poverty or ungodliness to material wealth. The apostle Paul does not do that. That is not how it works.
And at the same time, Paul wants Timothy to address the wealthy straight on because he understands that there are inherent temptations that come with wealth. Jesus taught us this. Remember the story of the rich young ruler in Mark 10. Jesus called that man to stop spending and being spent for this world. Jesus says: “Go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me” (10:21). Then in Mark 10, verse 22,
Disheartened by the saying, [the man] 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. … 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.” (10:22–25)
So wealth itself is not evil, but it is dangerous, and the battle is fought at the heart level, and that’s why Paul tells Timothy, Shepherd the wealthy.
#3. Wealth is relative.
What exactly does it mean to be rich? What does it mean to have material wealth?
This is not an easy question, and the answer is going to depend on your vantage point. For example, in America those who are below the poverty line would still be considered very rich from the vantage point of most of our world today.
This means that if we think of the wealthy as “those who have more than me” then, in the grand perspective of things, every single one of us is wealthy — because we all have more than most people in the world.
I remember in college, one of my favorite professors used to tell us all the time, “Y’all are filthy rich.” And this is a class of college students, and nobody felt rich, but he wanted us to have a global perspective. In light of the entire world, it was true. If we go by the standard definition of wealth as “the abundance of material possessions and resources,” then compared to the seven billion people on earth, all of us live in opulence.
And I think if Paul could see our society today he’d say the same thing. And a big reason I think Paul would say that is because of two things. First, there’s what Paul says in Chapter 6, verse 8. He says there, “But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.” That’s how Paul thinks about stuff.
Now, compare the way Paul thinks stuff to the kind of society we live in. We live in a consumer-centric society. In other words, the economic system we’re part of depends upon endless consumption — and we are all shaped by this society.
We are all shaped by our society to continuously need and desire, and therefore we are shaped to always carry with us a sense of being a little bit inadequate and a little bit unfulfilled … and that is what makes us want more, have more, own more, use more, eat and drink more — always more and better, more and better, more and better, and it never is quite enough. That’s our world. That’s our society — it’s the air we breathe, which is the exact opposite of 1 Timothy 6, verse 8.
And so we should just realize this. Paul says Be content with food and clothing, and we should just know that our society is built on that not being true of us.
And so if we define wealth as abundant material possessions, if we define it as having more than food and clothing, every single one of us, in this sense — we’re all filthy rich. And so what Paul says here in these verses is relevant for everybody.
One more point on Who Are the Rich?
#3. Paul qualifies the rich as “rich in this present age”
It’s easy to breeze right past this point, but I think it’s good for us to see how consistent Paul is in how he talks. He can’t mention the rich without clarifying the kind of rich he means. He’s talking about the rich in this present age — which, implies, of course, that there is more than one age.
When Paul thinks about time and reality he thinks about it in at least two parts: there is this present age and there is the future age, and the future age is so real for Paul that he has to specify what age he is talking about here. He means the rich in the present age — not those who will be rich in the future age. Those are not the same.
Paul wants to make sure Timothy knows who to address in the church. If Paul had just said charge “the rich” then Timothy might have charged the widow who out of her poverty gives all she has — because she is rich in the future age (see Mark 12:41–44).
So Paul says: Timothy, charge the rich! And Timothy thinks: Well, which ones, the ones who are rich here or the ones who are rich in heaven?
Paul just assumes the question, and he’s clear up front: Timothy, charge the rich in the present age. Shepherd those who are wealthy here, in this world. And charge them what? How is Timothy supposed to shepherd the wealthy?
This is our second question.
Question #2: What Should the Rich Do?
There are six things Paul mentions here, two negative, four positive, and I’m going to summarize them in three points:
#1. Check your hope
This is verse 17:
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.
The negative command here is against haughtiness and misplaced hope, and those two are connected. Those who are arrogant, those look down on others, they always will have misplaced hope, which is, namely, hope in themselves — and in this case, the misplaced hope in themselves would be hope in their wealth.
So get this: to hope in your achievements that you believe you have achieved by yourself will absolutely make you look down on others who have achieved less.
I’ll say it this way:
If you see the world in terms of sheer merit, and you have merited more than others, then you will develop a disdain for the others who have merited little.
That is one reason why those who accrue wealth tend to climb the social ladder, not stoop down. The wealthy tend have wealthy friends. Those below them have not worked hard enough; they’ve not been wise enough; and so they are seen with contempt. And we should stop here for a minute: I don’t necessarily mean how the 1% might think about the 99% — I mean how you might think about the people you see holding cardboard signs by the side of the road.
In your heart, when you see a person holding a cardboard sign by a stoplight, do you think inside: Why doesn’t that guy just get a job? That guy looks like he can work. That guy’s problem is laziness. Which could be true, but without even meaning to, what’s happened is that you have despised someone lower than you. You’ve been haughty. And why?
Because you have set your hope on the uncertainty of riches. You’ve assumed you earned your health and your sobriety and your work and your wages — and if you earned it then why can’t they? — those bums! And if we think that way, which we tend to, Paul would say to us:
What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it why do you boast as if you did not receive it? (1 Cor. 4:7)
Yes, you work hard. You might work harder than anyone else, but it’s not you, it’s the grace of God that is with you (see 1 Corinthians 15:10). Everything about who you are and what you have has been given by God through the blood of Jesus — and God even gives you the grace to steward the grace he has given you!
Which means, because all is grace — because we hope in the God who gives and not in ourselves who merit — there is no room for pride. Check your hope.
This is not even to mention that that riches are uncertain. Don’t hope in your riches because what you have today could be gone [like that]. We live in a world of house fires and tornados and earthquakes and hurricanes and unemployment and all kind of things that can change someone’s financial situation over night. So don’t put your hope in these things so subject to change, instead, Paul says, put your hope in God.
Put your hope not in the gifts, but put your hope in the Giver — and get this — put your hope in the Giver, in God “who richly provides us with everything to enjoy.” That’s the end of verse 17.
God is the God who richly, abundantly, provides us with not just the bare necessities, but also with things to enjoy. Hey, thank God for ice cream. I appreciate air conditioning. I enjoy having a vehicle. These are good things, and they’re from God for us to enjoy. This is a correction for us in case we think God is frugal or stingy or just plain vanilla — he’s not! God’s world is a buffet of pleasure-causers that he made for us receive with thanksgiving, for our joy. We can be humble, set our hope in God, and enjoy his gifts. That’s what we want. So check your hope.
That’s the first point in verse 17 on what the rich should do.
#2. Do good with your money
This is in verse 18, which continues the logic of verse 17. There is a series of three things said here, and they each are extending the same point. Look at verse 18, speaking of the rich in this present age — God provides them everything to enjoy, with which:
They are to do good — [well, what kind of good?]
to be rich in good works — [what kind of good works?]
to be generous and ready to share.
Paul narrows down the application to the kind of good works the wealthy should do. They should be generous with their wealth. The words here translated “generous” and “ready to share” are basically synonyms.
We all in Christ have been “created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10) — and if you have wealth in this present age then one of those good works prepared beforehand for you is generosity. A good work for those who have money is to do good with that money — and again this applies to all of us. We, as Christians, especially as Christians in America with money, we want to be cheerful givers. We are called to be generous people.
And if you are a member of our church, this is one of our commitments to one another. As members we commit to “contribute cheerfully and regularly to the support of the ministry, the expenses of this church, the relief of the poor, and the spread of the gospel in this city and among all the nations.”
This is a way that we commit together to do good with our money, and of course it’s not the only good that we can do with our money — there’s all kinds of good — but generosity to your local church should be top of the list. Because you are the local church, which means the ministry and provision of the local church depends upon you. God has designed it so that the church is the means of support for the church. So real quickly here I want to make two very practical exhortations:
First, to the covenant members of our church, be a cheerful giver to this ministry. There are a couple different angles we could take here, but we’ve done the numbers and basically it goes like this: in our church of 327 covenant members, when you take into account marrieds and singles, we end up having 206 households. And when you consider the median household income in the Twin Cities and then we take other things into account, it’s pretty straightforward for us: if all 206 covenant member households were giving to this church we would be in great shape.
And I realize there are all kinds of different circumstances here. There are different seasons, and some people are struggling. I understand, and still, the point stands in verse 18: we should do good with our money, and so when it comes to your local church, covenant members, give; give what you can; give cheerfully; and give as unto the Lord.
Now, second exhortation: to the regular attenders of our church, those whose who worship with us on Sundays but are not yet committed to the church body, first, we’re glad you’re here. We’d love for you to become a member of our church, but in the meantime, if you’re helped by the ministry here, would join us in contributing to the needs of this church? Look, we hardly ever talk about giving around here — but we’d ask, if your heart could do it cheerfully, would you consider giving toward this ministry?
Paul says in verse 18: do good with your money. There are lots of ways to do that, and giving to the local church is an important one.
#3. Give today to seize tomorrow.
This is in verse 19 and it’s the result of verse 18. The result of doing good with your money — the result of generosity — verse 19, is
thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future
And this result has a purpose. Storing up treasure in heaven is, verse 19:
so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.
So this is how it goes: Be generous with your money which results in storing up treasure in heaven so that you can take hold now of that which is truly life. That’s what Paul is saying here, and this is deep. Let’s look at this closely.
Look first at that purpose, the last part of verse 19. This is the same thing Paul said in verse 12.
We saw this last week: Paul says in verse 12: “Take hold of the eternal life to which you have been called…”
Then here in verse 19 he says: “take hold of that which is truly life”
And Paul is talking about the same thing in both of these places.
Back in verse 12, we fight the good fight of faith by seizing the eternal life that is ours in Jesus. We make it through today by seizing our tomorrow, which is truly life. Our eternity with Jesus, the new creation, the future age — that which is truly life — we take hold of that now. That’s what verse 12 and verse 19 are saying.
But remember here in verse 19 this is the purpose of a result and it follows an action. What’s the result again? The result is to have treasure stored up in heaven. It is to be rich in the future age. That is the result of the action in verse 18, and that action is to “be generous and ready to share.” It’s to do good with your money. The action is to give.
So we do the action of giving now (verse 18), which results (verse 19) with us having treasure in heaven, so that we can seize our future.
In other words, our financial giving to God makes us have a better grasp in the present of our eternity with God in the future.
And this make sense. This a simple principle. It’s that the more invested you are in something the more involved you become. Increased investment means increased involvement.
And the more involved you are in that which is truly life, then it’s going to be easier for you to take hold of that life. And the more you can take hold now of that eternal life, that will help you in the fight of faith.
And so all of this comes down to one little truth. And this is what we’re taking home. Here it is: Being generous will strengthen our faith.
Give more to grow more.
Or we could say it: Give today to seize tomorrow.
This is verses 18–19. It’s the message Paul has for those who are rich in this present age, and so it’s the message for all of us.
God has richly provided you everything to enjoy … be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for yourself as a good foundation for the future, so that you may take hold of that which is truly life.
Give today to seize tomorrow.
God Wants Our Faith
And what Paul really wants is for us to believe. He cares about our faith, because that’s what God cares about. That’s what magnifies the glory of God. This is something that I say all the time — if we’d had coffee or lunch I’ve probably said this to you — It’s that whatever our situation is, whatever we have going on, we know what God wants of us: he wants us to trust him. God wants us to hope in him. Always, God wants our faith.
And that’s how Pauls closes this letter to Timothy.
It’s in verse 20: “O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you.”
The deposit here is the gospel and Timothy’s calling to minister the gospel. It goes back to Chapter 1, verse 3 — This is why I left you in Ephesus, Timothy. This is your commission:
defend the gospel (see 1:3).
Put the house in order (see 3:15).
Shepherd the flock (see 4:11; 6:2, 17).
This gospel, this task, has been entrusted to Timothy, and Paul tells him Guard it!
Guard this deposit by “avoiding the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called “knowledge,” for by professing it some have wondered from the faith.” This is one last chance for Paul to exhort Timothy to “endure by contrast.” Timothy, don’t give in.
And then there are these last four words: Grace be with you.
And it has to be grace.
This is a letter all about discipleship. That’s been the unofficial theme of this sermon series. We have been learning together, in these pages, how to follow Jesus, how to “observe all that [Jesus has commanded us].” We’ve been exploring how to apply these truths with prudence. We just want to be faithful. And all of that takes energy — the church reformed, always being reformed — that takes work; and it means we have room for growth, and that might make us feel a little winded right about now. It can seem overwhelming.
Which means we need these last four words from the apostle Paul.
Grace be with you.
Grace, grace, God’s grace
Grace that will pardon and cleanse within
Grace, grace, God’s grace
Grace that is greater than all our sin
God’s grace is our hope and energy and rest, and it’s all in Jesus Christ. That is what we remember at this Table.
This morning, if you trust in God’s grace, if you are united to Jesus by faith, we invite you to give thanks with us in this bread and cup. Take hold of that which is truly life.