The Expository Files




Storing Up A Good Foundation,

or – Don’t Skip This Passage

1 Timothy 6:17-19



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 Tim. 6:17-19, ESV

What do you think about when you read this?  What is your first thought when you see the word “rich?” Many of us may have this first, impulsive thought: “..that’s not me; I’m not rich.” “I can skip this.”

By some standards of measurement, it may be argued – most of us are not rich. We have to watch our budgets, check our accounts, cut back in some expenditures, look for bargains, etc. So we conclude we are not rich.

At the end of such reasoning, the temptation is to dismiss the application of this passage and others where “the rich” are addressed. Let’s think about that, and try to overcome that obstacle.

First, compared to most first century Christians, we are very rich. Even when you factor in the economic differential this is so. There were certainly Christians from every social and economic level. But there is both biblical and secular evidence – many of those early Christians were poor as a result of their activity of faith, and some came from poor communities. Many of our first century brethren lived in conditions hard for us to imagine. (See Acts 2:44,45; 4:32-37; 6:1-7; 11:28; 20:35; 2 Cor. 8:1-5; Eph. 4:28; Heb. 10:34.)

Then, think about this ŕ compared to many in the world today, we are rich. I live in the McAllen, Texas area (the church is in McAllen, we live in nearby Edinburg; the Rio Grande Valley of Texas). South of our border, there is dramatic evidence of poverty; poverty that drives many of those people into this country.

Then, within this nation, there is evidence of poverty most of us observe daily. Take your present living conditions and your financial condition then look around. We should admit –and I speak generally of course– most of us are rich, compared to first century Christians, and compared to many people today. We may not be at a level of inordinate extravagance or super-abundance, but we have more than the necessities. Thus, the text needs our attention and application.

Suppose you live just above “poverty level” as variously defined in the United States. Yet, in the interests of compliance with God’s will – you consider yourself “rich” in your view of 1 Tim. 6:17. Therefore, you avoid pride, you set your hope on God, you do good, you are rich in good works, generous and with a firm grasp on “that which is truly life.” Even if some argue you are not “rich,” you not only have done yourself no harm by applying these teachings, you are better for it.

So, spend no time trying to figure out if you qualify under “rich” in 1 Tim. 6:17 by applying some formula that defines you out of the category. Assume you are and apply every component of the text. You will be better for it. Trying to define “the rich” of 1 Tim. 6:17 by some sort of objective mathematical scale is futile. Just apply the passage, understanding that even if you are poor according to some standards, it is eternally good to do everything Paul teaches in the text. So here we go:

1. Let’s assume we are rich, just for this study, and accept the charge “not to be haughty.”

One of the silliest games people play here on earth is to think more highly of themselves because they have more than others. A haughty spirit that compares, competes and congratulates self and shows utter childish, carnal thinking. No matter if you meet a rigid definition of “rich” or not –avoid this kind of inordinate pride. As a function of your faith, refuse to form a low opinion of someone because you have more, even if just a little more. That’s arrogance. That’s being haughty.

2. Continuing our acceptance of the label “rich,” “we must not set our hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy.”

Your temporary future may depend to some extent on what you have, what you save, what you hold and “own.” Your long-term future depends on your relationship with God, your trust in Him who provides for you. Don’t set your hope on what can disappear in a moment! (Read Ecclesiastes 6). {Part of our good response to God is good stewardship with what He allows us to have for a while. But what He allows us to have for a while was never intended to be the driving force of our hope.}

The dollar –earned, spent, kept or invested– will never compare to God’s faithfulness to His promises (see 1 Tim. 6:17).

3. As “rich” people, we “are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share.”

No matter if you have minimal income or maximum, if you hoard what you have, refuse to share and practice godly generosity, you have an issue in your relationship with God. Those at the minimal level may not be able to share the same amount as those who have more. But God has always said that our giving is to be in proportion to what we have (2 Cor. 8:1-4; 9:6-14; 1 Cor. 16:2).

4. Let us store up “treasure for” ourselves “as a good foundation for the future, so that” we “may take hold of that which is truly life.”

True life is life with God, made possible through Jesus Christ. This “true life” can be received and lived by anyone with a good and honest heart, no matter their income, their holdings, their poverty or wealth.

Don’t skip this passage!


Thanks to Dee Bowman

The Book of Proverbs has more warnings about money than all the others combined. It warns that:

•   Money cannot buy peace. “Better is little with fear of the Lord than great treasure and trouble therewith.”

•   Money cannot buy moral sense. “Better is a little with righteousness than great revenues without right,” (16:8).

•   Money cannot buy a home. “Better is a dry morsel, and quietness therewith, than a house full of sacrifices with strife,” (17:1).

•   Money cannot buy true security. “The rich man’s wealth is his strong city, and as a high wall in his own conceit [imagination, NASV]” (18:11).

•   Money cannot buy an honorable character. “Better is the poor that walketh in his uprightness than he that is perverse in his ways, though he be rich” (28:6).

•   Money cannot deliver from death. “Riches profit not in the day of wrath; but righteousness delivered from death,” (11:4).  [1] Bowman, D. (1989). Front Lines: Money! Money! Money!. In Christianity Magazine: July 1989, Volume 6, Number 7 (2). Jacksonville, FL: Christianity Magazine.

  By Warren E. Berkley
From Expository Files 21.4; April 2014