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. 1 Timothy 6:17-19
After teaching about 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; therefore, many 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.
Religion begat prosperity and the daughter devoured the mother. Authentic conversion to Christ 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 $100,000 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 $150,000 or more 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?