1 Timothy 6:17 - God Richly Provides Us with Everything
Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant.1 Timothy 6:17
The Apostle Paul exhorts Timothy, his companion and co-worker, to address those who are rich in this present world. Timothy has to command them not to be arrogant or to put their hope in wealth. It’s not a message for those in the midst of society who show themselves to be materialistic. No, it’s a message Timothy has to bring to the congregation, to those entrusted to Timothy’s pastoral care.
There may not have been many of them; still, Paul wants Timothy to address them directly. Just as in 1 Corinthians 1, the congregation may have consisted of “not many wise by human standards, not many influential, not many of noble birth” (v 26), and not many rich either, most likely. Yet Timothy gets a command to speak a strong message to those who are richly endowed with wealth and treasures.
How many of us would qualify as hearers of this address today? Is this a message for those who fit the shoe, that they may wear it, while the message is irrelevant for the others in the congregation? Paul includes the entire congregation in this exhortation. He directs the attention of all to God, who “richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment” (v 17).
How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!” the Lord Jesus exclaimed when that rich young man went away (Mark 10:17-27). We read that he had great wealth. And the Lord Jesus added, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.
Well, that reality seems to be confirmed by the rich young man’s reaction to the Lord’s words, “Do you want to inherit eternal life? Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have a treasure in heaven.” The young man couldn’t do it, for he had many goods. That’s why he was sad, and so was the Lord Jesus. He loved the rich young man for his love, expressed in his life of obedience. Yet his wealth had come in between the Lord and him; he couldn’t do without it!
Moses already warned the people of Israel about the danger to which this rich young man succumbed. Before they had entered Canaan, that country flowing with milk and honey, he’d said,
When the Lord your God brings you into the land He swore to your fathers, and you enjoy prosperity: food, drink, clothing, shelter, the fruit of the fields, vineyards, olive groves, and the riches of cattle, gold, and silver – then be careful that you do not forget the Lord.(see Deuteronomy 6:10-12)
Likewise in the book of Proverbs we read the prayer of Agur, “Give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonour the name of my God” (30:8-9). Indeed, that’s the danger; the rich could become arrogant, says Paul, and forget the Lord, and think they can take care of themselves.
Does that mean it is wrong to be rich, or that wealth is an evil? That cannot be, for the Lord himself makes people rich. He made Abraham rich, and Isaac, and the people of Israel in the Promised Land. In the New Testament as well, we shouldn’t only focus on the spiritual blessings that come to us from the heavenly realms. Today too, the fruits of the field, the prosperity in the land, and the wealth of the nations, are blessings of God. Wealth and riches are no curse!
What happens, however, is that people make prosperity a curse. That’s what happens when people live for wealth and riches and trust in them. When people’s attitude shows, “I am rich, I don’t need the Lord; I can look after myself.” Or when people say, “I am rich and I better make sure that I stay rich, for my hope and happiness depend on these things.” That’s a danger not just for millionaires, but for all of us. It’s in the heart of all of us, that we feel we have to vie for ourselves.
The deep awareness of our total dependence upon the Lord, also in regard to our daily needs, is not strong even at the best of times. That’s what Paul is concerned about. Before you know it, you have put your hope in your income or your money-management. Instead, let’s put our hope and trust in God alone!
God richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.1 Timothy 6:17
Paul’s exhortation is addressed to us. Paul proclaims the Word of God for the church of all times and all places. He proclaims God and who he is, and what he does, and how he gives – that is, richly!
God is not cheap but generous; he is an overflowing fountain of all good in every way. That’s how we know him from his work of creation, when he gave an abundance of food, of resources, of potential, and means of development. He entrusted this creation to man, to govern it. Even after the fall into sin this creation is rich and plentiful, as Paul testifies to the heathen in Lystra, “Yet he has not left himself without testimony: he has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy” (Acts 14:17). Paul also testifies to this in his exhortation to Timothy and the congregation: “God richly provides us with everything.” And he adds that God richly provides us with everything “for our enjoyment!”
That makes it even more festive, don’t you think? It’s typical for our generous and gracious God that he provides us with everything for our enjoyment. That’s not to say that we can use it all for our own pleasure. He’s not giving a carte blanche for a life of luxury, of eating and drinking, feasting and holidaying. He’s not saying, “Carpe diem – live it up!”
How then should we enjoy God’s rich provisions? Well, in the same way that God enjoys this world with all its riches. “Be imitators of God,” Paul writes in his letter to the Ephesians (5:1), and it’s that image of God which Paul promotes here. What Paul is saying is this: “God richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment, to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.” So give as God gives. Do as God does. God enjoys giving; so you too, use what God gives, and enjoy doing good with it.
Yes, do this in thankfulness to God for his provisions and love. God so loved this world that he gave his only Son, so give yourself with all that God provides to him and to your neighbour. That’s the basis of our hope, our love, and our joy. Of course, we may enjoy God’s gifts and blessings in our life as children of the Father. Yet He also wants us to be involved with his work in this world. He wants us to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share (1 Tim 6:18).
Is that possible? Would you be able to enjoy God’s riches and give with joy? That’s how David rejoiced,
But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand.1 Chronicles 29:14
That’s the joy we experience when we may give our gifts and talents to the communion of saints. That’s how we may give generously to the many causes here and abroad.
The Scriptures direct us to “do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers” (Galatians 6:10). But the only way we can enjoy such giving is by faith. We know God as the Creator, as our Father, and as our generous Giver, even the Giver of his only Son – and by faith in him we accept his gifts by grace and share his gifts by grace.
The apostle gives us another incentive to help us in this. He opens our eyes to a reality that we may also know by faith; namely, that the gifts we receive and enjoy using in his service are not lost but are rather a deposit in a savings account for the future:
You will lay up treasure for yourself as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that you may take hold of the life that is truly life.1 Timothy 6:19
Your gifts are investments! You’re not depleting your means and possessions, but you’re ensuring a good foundation for a life in the Lord, today and in the future.
That doesn’t mean you earn your place in heaven, or that you deserve new life with God. That’s possible only by faith in Christ, who gives it by grace. But what rich prospects we have when we use God’s gifts and blessings in thankfulness and love to him, being rich in good deeds and being generous in our sharing!