1 Timothy 6:17-21
17 Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy;
18 That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate;
19 Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.
20 O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called:
21 Which some professing have erred concerning the faith. Grace be with thee. Amen.
There were many rich believers throughout Scripture: Abraham, Joseph, David, Daniel, Lydia, and Philemon. Having wealth is not a sin;
How can we be good stewards of God’s riches?
In Matthew 25:14-30, Christ describes believers as stewards—meant to oversee his possessions and his affairs. One day Christ, our master, will return and the faithful will be rewarded and the unfaithful disciplined. He will say, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (v. 23 NIV) and to others, he will call them “wicked and lazy servants” (v. 26 NIV). This stewardship includes many things such as our families, careers, and ministries.
In 1 Timothy 6:17-21, Paul focuses on the believer’s stewardship of two riches: God’s wealth and his Word. He commands the financially rich in Ephesus to be rich in good deeds and to store up treasure in heaven. He calls for Timothy to guard what had been “entrusted” to his care—referring to God’s Word. The word entrusted was used of “money or valuables deposited with somebody for safe keeping.” God’s Word is one of his great riches. We are called to recognize how valuable it is and to faithfully steward it. This instruction was not just for Timothy; the fact that Paul ends the letter with “Grace be with you all” means that it was for the Ephesians as well (v. 21). They needed to faithfully guard the valuable deposit of God’s Word, and we must also. First Corinthians 4:1-2 says,
One should think about us this way—as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Now what is sought in stewards is that one be found faithful.
Are we being faithful with the deposit of God’s Word? Are we being faithful with God’s money? One day, Christ will demand an account of our stewardship. In 1 Timothy 6:17-21, we learn principles about being good stewards of God’s riches.
Big Question: What principles can we learn about being good stewards of God’s wealth and his Word in 1 Timothy 6:17-21?
Stewards of God’s Wealth
Command those who are rich in this world’s goods not to be haughty or to set their hope on riches, which are uncertain, but on God who richly provides us with all things for our enjoyment. Tell them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, to be generous givers, sharing with others. In this way they will save up a treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the future and so lay hold of what is truly life.
1 Timothy 6:17-19
After teaching on the dangers of the love of money in verses 9-10, Paul speaks directly to the rich in Ephesus. Ephesus was one of the wealthiest cities in the ancient world, and therefore many of the Ephesian converts were rich. Some were even wealthy slave owners (6:1). It must be noticed that Paul doesn’t tell them to get rid of their riches, but instead, to be faithful stewards of them.
There were many rich believers throughout Scripture: Abraham, Joseph, David, Daniel, Lydia, and Philemon. Having wealth is not a sin; in fact, wherever Christianity has gone, it often has led to wealth. People start to be more honest, hard-working, and disciplined—often leading to wealth. However, there is a scary cycle which often happens after Christianity brings wealth. Ken Hughes talks about this as he cites Cotton Mather, a Puritan writer. He said:
The Puritan Cotton Mather, alarmed by the trend toward materialism in New England society, made this statement in his famous book Magnalia Christi Americana: “Religion begat prosperity and the daughter devoured the mother.” Mather was noting a common, though not inevitable, effect of Christianity. Authentic conversion to Christ so changes people’s lives that bad habits fall away, and they become better workers and managers as they live out the Scriptures, resulting in economic prosperity. But tragically, in many cases the new prosperity and material wealth devour the same Christianity that gave them birth—especially in the second or third generations.
Some might say to themselves, “This text does not apply to me, as I am not wealthy!” However, consider these stats:
• “If you made $1500 last year, you’re in the top 20% of the world’s income earners.
• If you have sufficient food, decent clothes, live in a house or apartment, and have a reasonably reliable means of transportation, you are among the top 15% of the world’s wealthy.
• If you earn more than $50,000 annually, you are in the top 1% of the world’s income earners.”
Christians in developed nations are most likely in the top 20% of the world’s income earners, if not the top 1%. How can we be faithful stewards of our wealth?
To Be Good Stewards of Wealth, We Must Be Humble
Command those who are rich in this world’s goods not to be haughty
1 Timothy 6:17
The word “command” is a military word. This is not a suggestion but a command from our Lord through Paul. The rich Ephesians were called to not be haughty or prideful. Pride is something that we all struggle with. However, wealth makes us more inclined towards this particular sin. The wealthy tend to think higher of themselves than they should and look down upon others. They might think this of those from a lower socio-economic bracket, “If they weren’t so lazy and just worked harder” or, “If they would just get an education…” However, Scripture teaches that God is the one who makes one wealthy or poor. First Samuel 2:7 says, “The Lord impoverishes and makes wealthy; he humbles and he exalts.” Wealth is a gift from the Lord and so is poverty—they both have advantages. The poor are more prone to depend on God and therefore typically have greater faith (James 2:5). The wealthy are given opportunities to use their God-given resources to help people (1 Tim 6:18). They both come from God.
Paul says the wealthy should not be arrogant or prideful in their riches. If they remember that God both gives and takes away, this will help them remain humble. First Corinthians 4:7 says, “For who concedes you any superiority? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you received it, why do you boast as though you did not?”
Application Question: How can a person know if he is arrogant about his wealth?
One can tell by considering how he views those from a lower economic status. Do they look down on them? Do they treat them with less respect than the wealthy? Would they avoid marrying somebody with a lower economic status or education or prevent their children from doing so? If so, they must humble themselves, as Scripture forbids these types of thoughts. Consider what James 2:3-6 says in forbidding partiality:
do you pay attention to the one who is finely dressed and say, “You sit here in a good place,” and to the poor person, “You stand over there,” or “Sit on the floor”? If so, have you not made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil motives? Listen, my dear brothers and sisters! Did not God choose the poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom that he promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor! …
James writes about actions that should accompany genuine faith (cf. Jam 2:14-26), and he says partiality is foreign to it. True faith should change how we treat the poor. It should deliver us from pride that leads to partiality. Beware of the pride and judgmentalism that tend to come with wealth
Application Question: In what ways have you experienced the arrogance that comes with wealth? How can we grow in humility—especially in regards to our wealth?
To Be Good Stewards of Wealth, We Must Put Our Hope in God and Not Wealth
Command those who are rich in this world’s goods not to be haughty or to set their hope on riches, which are uncertain, but on God who richly provides us with all things for our enjoyment.
1 Timothy 6:17
Paul commands the rich to not put their hope in wealth but in God. This is one of the problems with wealth. We tend to put our hope in it. We trust in our bank accounts—they provide us with peace of mind in an emergency. We trust in our jobs that provide us with money for our bank accounts. We tend to put our “faith” in the gifts instead of the Giver.
Observation Question: Why should we not put our hope in wealth?
Paul says that we shouldn’t put our hope in wealth because it is “uncertain.” It is uncertain because it tends to fly away. Proverbs 23:5 says, “When you gaze upon riches, they are gone, for they surely make wings for themselves, and fly off into the sky like an eagle!” They fly away for various reasons: Personally, as soon as our savings account starts to grow, something breaks down: we need to fix our car or something in our house. Sometimes they fly away when a person loses a job and must live off savings. Sometimes they fly away because we need to provide for a family member or meet somebody else’s need. It is good to remember that wealth is uncertain; it tends to fly away.
But also, wealth is uncertain because it is part of this “world.” The ESV translates it “this present age” (v. 17). This means that one day we will die and leave our wealth, or one day, this present world will pass away along with our wealth. In Luke 12:13-21, the wealthy farmer thought he was secure because he stored up wealth in his barns; however, soon after, he died. Christ used this as a warning to not put our focus on wealth instead of God.
As we consider the passing nature of wealth, we must realize it isn’t something to put our faith in. We must put our hope in God who is the giver of wealth. He is our Shepherd, and we shall not want (Ps 23:1). Because of this, Jesus taught that we should “seek first God’s kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be added unto us” (Matt 6:33 paraphrase).
Application Question: How can we know if we are putting our hope in wealth or God?
We can discern this in two ways:
- First, we can tell by what we are seeking. Are we daily pursuing a deeper knowledge of God through his Word and fellowship with his saints? Are we seeking to further God’s kingdom by discipling and training others? Or are we on an endless pursuit of more wealth which is so uncertain?
- Secondly, we can tell by where we get our peace. Does our peace come from our job-security and wealth in the bank? Or does it come from our relationship with God?
Application Question: How can we place our hope in God instead of putting it in our job or wealth?
To Be Good Stewards of Wealth, We Must Enjoy God’s Gifts
or to set their hope on riches, which are uncertain, but on God who richly provides us with all things for our enjoyment.
1 Timothy 6:17b
With the command to not put our hope in riches, clearly, Paul is not teaching asceticism. The rich don’t need to sell their riches, because God gives us everything for our enjoyment (v. 17). He is the giver of every good and perfect gift (Jam 1:17). He will always provide our needs according to his riches in glory (Phil 4:19), but also, like any loving father, he delights in giving us many of our wants. Therefore, as stewards of God’s wealth, we must enjoy his gifts without falling into wasteful luxury. Consider these verses in Ecclesiastes:
There is nothing better for people than to eat and drink, and to find enjoyment in their work. I also perceived that this ability to find enjoyment comes from God. For no one can eat and drink or experience joy apart from him.
To every man whom God has given wealth, and possessions, he has also given him the ability to eat from them, to receive his reward and to find enjoyment in his toil; these things are the gift of God. For he does not think much about the fleeting days of his life because God keeps him preoccupied with the joy he derives from his activity.
This is one of the recurring themes in the book, “‘Enjoy the blessings of life now, because life will end one day’ (Ecc. 2:24; 3:12–15, 22; 5:18–20; 9:7–10; 11:9–10).”
Application Question: How can we enjoy God’s gifts?
- To enjoy God’s gifts, we must give thanks for them instead of complaining about them. Most people are never thankful for their gifts because they take them for granted, focus on what’s wrong with them, or are focused on the next, better thing.
- To enjoy God’s gifts, we must keep them in the proper place of our heart. As we put God first before our gifts, we can enjoy them more. Otherwise, they will bring discontentment in our hearts, as they can never fill us. This is also true with people. When we seek for friends, family, or co-workers to fulfill us instead of God, it will always lead to discontentment instead of joy.
Application Question: What specific material riches are you most thankful for and why? Are there any material riches that have more potential than others of stealing your heart from God, and if so, why? How can you maintain the proper balance of keeping God first?
To Be Good Stewards of Wealth, We Must Be Rich in Good Deeds and Sacrificial Giving
Tell them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, to be generous givers, sharing with others.
1 Timothy 6:18
Next, Paul commands the wealthy to be rich in good deeds and sacrificial giving. He calls them to add to their wealth another type of wealth. Calvin said this about the wealthy, “A man’s opportunities to do good to others increase with the abundance of his riches.” In one sense, the wealthy reflect God in a way that the poor cannot. God is also wealthy—as he owns the cattle on a thousand hills (Ps 50:10); he owns it all. Yet, with his wealth, he sacrificially gives to meet the needs of the world. God gave his Son. His Son gave up everything and became poor so others might be rich (2 Cor 8:9). This should also be true of wealthy believers, as they seek to be rich in good deeds and sacrificial giving.
Certainly, we see something of these types of good deeds in Lydia and Dorcas. Lydia was the first convert of the Philippian church. She was a wealthy seller of purple clothes. She used her home to host the early church (Acts 15:36, 16:40). Similarly, Dorcas, a believer who lived in Joppa, used her wealth to help the poor (Acts 9:36).
Wealthy believers must also give sacrificially. Sadly, statistics say that the more a person increases in wealth, the less they give. “A 1989 poll showed that households earning under $10,000 gave away 5.5 percent; those making $50,000 to $60,000 gave away 1.7 percent .” Though an antiquated survey, it is still true today. Most Christians act just like the world when they gain wealth—they buy a better house, car, and entertainment system. However, God gives to us, in part, so we can give to others. The rich in this world must remember their great responsibility. They must not only be rich in good deeds, but they must be generous and willing to share, which refers to the heart. We must develop a generous heart that loves to give to others. Second Corinthians 9:7 says, “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.”
Application Question: How much should we give? What principles should guide our giving?
Unfortunately, many in the church think that we are only required to give our tithe—ten percent—to the Lord. However, Scripture teaches that New Testament believers are not under the Old Testament law which includes the tithe (cf. Gal 3:25, Rom 6:14). The tithe is just a great place for us to start as New Covenant believers.
Scripture teaches that believers should always strive to grow in their giving. Second Corinthians 8:7 (NIV) says, “But since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you—see that you also excel in this grace of giving.” In the same way that we always aim to grow in trusting God, sharing God’s Word, knowing God, and loving God and others, we should always aim to grow in our giving.
This is particularly true when God prospers us financially. In 1 Corinthians 16:1-2, Paul taught about giving weekly offerings. In the ESV, it says that one should give “as he may prosper.” When God increases our income, he means for us to give more to the kingdom. In all situations, we must aim to be rich or abundant in our good works and our giving for the Lord.
Application Question: What are some examples of good deeds that the wealthy should seek to excel in?
To Be Good Stewards of Wealth, We Must Pursue God’s Rewards
In this way they will save up a treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the future and so lay hold of what is truly life.
1 Timothy 6:19
Observation Question: What two incentives does Paul give the wealthy for being generous?
To motivate the wealthy Ephesians to be generous, he tells them that abundant giving has two rewards: riches in heaven and an abundant life on earth. We’ll consider the abundant life of a believer before heavenly riches. We can discern something of what it means to “take hold of the life that is truly life” by considering some of the earthly blessings God promises to givers. Second Corinthians 9:7-8 (NIV) says,
Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.
Observation Question: What blessings does God promise the cheerful giver in 2 Corinthians 9:7-8, which pictures something of what it means to take hold of life that is truly life?
- Paul says God loves a cheerful giver. One might ask, “Doesn’t God love everyone and especially all believers?” Yes, in one sense. Paul seems to be talking about a special love and therefore intimacy that comes to those who are givers. When we give, we experience God’s pleasure and intimacy.
- Paul says God will provide all that we “need.” No doubt, this means that believers who don’t give cheerfully often experience lack (Mal 3:8-11). They lack because they are not seeking first God’s kingdom (Matt 6:33), as demonstrated by their sparse giving.
- Paul says that one will “abound in every good work.” These good works include marriage, parenting, discipleship, evangelism, work, studying the Bible, etc. God provides tremendous grace to those who excel in giving. His grace overflows in every good work.
For those who give, they take hold of what is true life—they live the life God planned for them.
With that said, the rewards for giving are not confined to this life but continue into eternity. God promises eternal riches to those who are givers. Consider these verses:
Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide yourselves purses that do not wear out—a treasure in heaven that never decreases, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
… “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by how you use worldly wealth, so that when it runs out you will be welcomed into the eternal homes.
Kent Hughes said this, “Those who give never suffer loss but get richer and richer and richer in the age to come. Incredible incentive!”
Application Question: Have you ever considered the rewards of being a giver? How does the prospect of reward affect your giving?
Stewards of God’s Word
After focusing on the believer’s stewardship of wealth, he focuses on the stewardship of God’s Word. This is our greatest stewardship. Second Timothy 2:15 (ESV) says, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.”
God will one day approve those who faithfully work hard to correctly handle God’s truth. Only shame awaits those who have been lazy and unfaithful with it.
How can we be faithful stewards of God’s Word?
To Be Good Stewards of God’s Word, We Must Guard It
O Timothy, protect what has been entrusted to you
1 Timothy 6:20
As mentioned, the word “entrusted” was used of keeping valuables in a safe place. This refers back to 1 Timothy 6:12 where Timothy was commanded to “Fight the good fight of the faith.” Timothy was to protect or guard the Christian message that had been passed on to him. He was to keep it from corruption and tampering and pass it on to others.
Application Question: How can believers guard the faith that has been entrusted to them?
- Believers guard the faith by treasuring it.
Job 23:12 says, “I have not departed from the commands of his lips; I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my allotted portion.” The reason most Christians don’t read or study the Word of God is simply because they don’t treasure it. They treasure other things over the Word of God—entertainment, social media, education, work, friends, etc. If we are going to guard something, we must first treasure it.
Do you treasure God’s Word?
- Believers guard the faith by believing it.
This should go without saying, but many Christians don’t believe the Word (cf. John 3:32-33). They don’t believe what it says about creation, gender-roles, abortion, homosexuality, or a host of other topics. If we don’t believe the Word, then we can’t guard it.
- Believers guard the faith by obeying it.
If we don’t obey the Word, we push people away from what we profess. We scatter instead of gathering people to Christ (Lk 11:23). Are you obeying God’s Word?
- Believers guard the faith by studying it.
If we don’t know what it teaches, it cannot be guarded. In the KJV, 2 Timothy 2:15 says, “Study to show thyself approved…” God approves those who study and meditate on his Word. He blesses them and makes them like trees which bear fruit in season and prosper in everything (Psalm 1:2-3).
Do you faithfully study God’s Word?
- Believers guard the faith by passing it on to others.
Second Timothy 2:2 says, “And entrust what you heard me say in the presence of many others as witnesses to faithful people who will be competent to teach others as well.” In this passage, we see four generations of Christians: Paul, Timothy, reliable people, and others. The faith is always just one generation away from being lost. If we don’t teach it to others, then we are not guarding the faith; in fact, we contribute to it being lost.
Are you passing God’s Word on to others?
- Believers guard the faith by contending for it against false teaching.
Jude 1:3 says, “Dear friends, although I have been eager to write to you about our common salvation, I now feel compelled instead to write to encourage you to contend earnestly for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.” Satan has attacked and twisted God’s Word since the beginning in the Garden of Eden, and he still seeks to do so. He denies the inerrancy of Scripture—teaching others that it is full of errors and not to be trusted. He teaches that faith alone cannot save someone—they need baptism, giving, or other good works.
Believers guard the truth by confronting the lies of Satan and delivering others from them. Paul declared that anyone who proclaimed another gospel was accursed (Gal 1:8). He did not compromise like so many today who guard nothing, as they declare tolerance or unity—opening the door for the enemy.
Are you guarding the Word of God? In order to be a faithful steward, you must.
Application Question: What keeps most people from guarding God’s Word?
To Be Good Stewards of God’s Word, We Must Reject False Doctrine
Avoid the profane chatter and absurdities of so-called “knowledge.” By professing it, some have strayed from the faith. Grace be with you all.
1 Timothy 6:20b-21
Observation Question: How does Paul describe false teaching?
Paul calls for Timothy and the Ephesians to turn away from false teaching. Obviously, some were welcoming and accepting it, maybe in the name of tolerance. False teaching tends to spread like a disease. Paul compares it to gangrene in 2 Timothy 2:17. Believers must turn away from it because it is extremely dangerous.
He describes false teaching in several ways:
- He calls it “profane chatter”—meaning that it doesn’t lead to a godly life.
- He calls it “absurdities” or “contradictions” (ESV)—meaning that it always teaches something in opposition to the whole of Scripture.
- He calls it “so-called ‘knowledge’”—meaning that those who promote it declare that it is truth or maybe even a new revelation outside of the Bible.
- Finally, he says that it led some to stray from the faith. It led people to apostasize from Christ and his church.
Because this is one of Satan’s primary weapons against the church, Christians must pay close attention to any teaching they hear. Like the Bereans, they must continually test what they hear against God’s Word (Acts 17:11). They must turn away from false teaching, which like leaven spreads quickly through the church (cf. 1 Cor 5:6, Matt 16:11-12). Here is an example of this, as shared by The Teacher’s Outline and Study Bible:
The setting was a Bible conference where a variety of speakers were invited to address the participants. One of the speakers was a man noted for his deep scholarship and quick wit. Popular across the country as a Christian keynote speaker, his address shocked the people who heard him. His opinion was that God had changed His mind about a few things since the Bible was written thousands of years ago. For example…
• Sin is really not a problem anymore. After all, our cultural values have been up-dated.
• Homosexuality is simply an issue of sexual preference.
• There are errors in the Bible. We need an inner-guide to show us what is true and to understand the wisdom of the great writers down through the ages, the words of ancient men.
One by one, people began to whisper to each other. ”Did you hear what I heard? What should we do? Would it be rude to get up and leave? Do you think he could be right? After all, he is a respected authority on the Bible.” After a while, the brave ones began to close their notebooks and make their way to the exits. But many more sat in their seats, soaking up the deception of the false teacher.
Sadly, this is all too common: sin is acceptable, homosexuality is just a preference, and the Bible is full of errors. When teachers attack the authority of the Bible, it then opens the way to discredit what the Bible teaches—leading people astray.
If we are going to be good stewards of God’s Word, we must turn away from what is falsely called knowledge and turn others away as well.
Application Question: In what ways have you seen or experienced false teaching? What are some prevalent false teachings in the church today?
To Be Good Stewards of God’s Word and Wealth, We Must Rely on God’s Grace
Grace be with you all.
1 Timothy 6:21
Finally, Paul closes with “Grace be with you all.” This grace applies to the instructions in the whole letter including being good stewards of the Word of God and wealth. If we are going to be good stewards of God’s riches, it can only be done through God’s unmerited favor. We cannot do it on our own.
No doubt, Timothy who was timid needed to hear this, as he tried to guard the faith against the false teachers in the church. We need to hear this as well.
In John 15:5, Christ said, “‘I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in me—and I in him—bears much fruit, because apart from me you can accomplish nothing.” To be faithful stewards both of God’s Word and wealth, we must rely on God. He will enable us.
If we have been unfaithful with his wealth and his Word, we must repent of our sins and pray for grace. God will enable us to faithfully steward his riches. Thank you, Lord. Amen.
Application Question: Why is God’s grace so important in living the Christian life? How can we have more of God’s grace (cf. James 4:6)?
How can we be good stewards of God’s riches—his wealth and his Word?
- To Be Good Stewards of Wealth, We Must Be Humble
- To Be Good Stewards of Wealth, We Must Put Our Hope in God and Not Wealth
- To Be Good Stewards of Wealth, We Must Enjoy God’s Gifts
- To Be Good Stewards of Wealth, We Must Be Rich in Good Deeds and Sacrificial Giving
- To Be Good Stewards of Wealth, We Must Pursue God’s Rewards
- To Be Good Stewards of God’s Word, We Must Guard It
- To Be Good Stewards of God’s Word, We Must Reject False Doctrine
- To Be Good Stewards of God’s Word and Wealth, We Must Rely on God’s Grace