by Bob Russell
Rose Greenhow, a Confederate spy during the Civil War, tried to evade capture and the loss of her fortune by sewing the gold she had gained into the seams of her dress. However, the ship she boarded sank and the weight of the gold made it impossible for the life-preserver to support her. Tragically, she sank to the bottom with all her wealth.
Dr. Pierce Harris, who related that story, pointed out that the passion for riches is not worthy of such extreme devotion because we “cannot take it with us” when we die. “But sometimes,” he added, “it takes us with it!”
The Apostle Paul warned, “People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.” (1 Timothy 6:9-10)
It’s not just the ultra-rich that struggle with greed. Those who desire to be rich can plunge into ruin by greed and envy. 1 Timothy 6:17-19 goes on to provide a practical guide to those who are blessed with more than average material wealth.
1. Stay humble – Don’t be arrogant. Just because you drive a nicer car or live in a better neighborhood doesn’t make you superior to those who have less. Conversely, just because someone has more than you doesn’t give you permission to resent them or feel inferior to them. Jesus said, “…a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of things he possesses.” Since God doesn’t measure worth by possessions and neither should we.
2. Trust God – Don’t put your hope in riches. Don’t horde up wealth imagining that you can become secure when you have more stored up than you will ever need. Jesus told of a rich farmer who said, “I’ll build bigger barns and store up so much grain that I can say to myself, You have plenty of goods laid up for many years, eat, drink and be merry.” But, God said, “You fool, tonight you’re going to die. Then whose will all these things be? This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God”. (Luke 12:21)
All the wealth in the world can’t forgive your sin, grant you hope of eternal life or a purpose for living every day. Only God is worthy of your total trust.
3. Be generous – don’t be miserly. The Scripture doesn’t teach equal distribution of wealth but it does teach generosity to God’s kingdom and compassion for the needy. In most restaurants, generosity with a server is measured by a 15% standard for tipping. Anything less is an expression of poor service. Anything more is saying, “Thanks for doing more than expected”.
God’s standard of generosity in the Old Testament began with 10%. The New Testament instructs us to give as we’ve prospered. Anything less than a tithe communicates we feel cheated. Anything more is admitting we have received much more than we deserve. The more God has blessed you, the higher the percentage you should give away.
4. Enjoy what you have leftover – don’t feel guilty. God gives us good things “…for our enjoyment.” (1 Tim. 6:18) If you give an expensive set of Legos to your children on Christmas, you want them to enjoy that gift. You don’t want the child to put the legos on the shelf and never play with them. You don’t want them to feel guilty because they have more legos than the child next door. You want to see them on the floor enjoying and sharing that gift. That gratifies you.
Christians who have a Biblical perspective of riches don’t need to feel guilty about driving a nicer car or apologize for participating in a Christmas dinner that’s more elaborate than some others. If we’ve earned our money honestly, given generously and trusted in God exclusively, we can enjoy the blessings God has given.
Years ago, I met Paul Meyer who had a reputation for being the most generous man in the world. Meyer made millions in insurance and sales-training. He put hundreds of needy teens through college and was a generous benefactor to many parachurch organizations. Toward the end of his life he was giving away 90% of what he earned and discovered he still had plenty to live on. If Paul Meyer owned a Lexus, I don’t think he should feel guilty that he wasn’t driving a ten year old pickup truck. I think he should be thankful that God had blessed him with riches for his enjoyment.
“Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.” (1 Timothy 6:17-19)
Read the original article. © 2014. Bob Russell.