Also available as MP3: Charge the Rich! – 1 Timothy 6:17-21
Paul told Timothy to “charge the rich” in a dispensationally different way that the Lord charged them (Mark 10:17-21) when He was preparing them for the Tribulation when the beast will issue his mark and God’s people won’t be able to buy food without it. In that day, the rich will have to help the poor survive. But we’ll be raptured before the Tribulation, so God’s instructions to the rich today are different.
They must be warned not to be “highminded,” which is the opposite of “lowliness of mind” (Phil.2:3), esteeming others to be better than you. Riches make the rich think they got what they got because they are better than others (Dan. 4:30). Nebuchadnezzer knew better (Dan.2:37), but riches and power lift a man with pride. Even believers! (Deut.6:10-12; Hos.13:6).
Even under grace, God prospers us (ICor.16:2). And it is interdispensationally true that the good of a man’s labor is something “God giveth him,” along with the “power” to eat it (Eccl.5:18,19). You couldn’t eat the food you buy with the money you earn without the teeth and digestive system God gives you. God gave you life (Acts 17:25). You may draw your own breath, but only with lungs God gave you.
The rich should also be charged not to “trust in uncertain riches” (Pr.27:4) but in “the living God.” Timothy was in Ephesus, where they worshipped a dead god, Diana. She was making her worshippers wealthy (Acts 19:25), but those riches proved uncertain when Paul destroyed their industry. The living God may not make you rich, but He “giveth us richly all things to enjoy.” The rich can’t enjoy what they have, not as you can, because they are subject to the bondage of death (Heb.2:15), whereas you don’t fear death. But you can richly enjoy what little you have because you know where you’ll be spending eternity.
“Do good” is what we should all do (ITim.6:18), but the Lord could “do good” in a way only He could (Acts 10:38), and the rich can do good in a way only they can financially. Women are similarly uniquely able to do certain “good works” (6:18 cf. 5:10) and so should do them, as the rich should do the works they are uniquely able to do (Tit. 2:14)
“Ready” to distribute (6:18) means prepared and inclined to, meaning the rich shouldn’t lock up all their riches in long term investments, but have some available to help others. “Distribute” is always used for giving to the poor, while “communicate” is always used for helping the ministry. The rich should help with both, as we all should.
Giving to others might seem like loss to the rich, but Paul calls it a good work, and good works are “profit,” not loss (Tit.3:8). Because in giving, the rich are “laying up in store for themselves a good foundation” (ITim.6:19).They should store up riches in heaven. Investing in eternity lays up “a good foundation against the time to come” in eternity. If believers are to “edify” one another, that must mean in life you’re building a building. But the building of your life is just the foundation of your eternal building. Good works don’t help you obtain eternal life, they just help you “lay hold” on the eternal life you already have. Pastors do this by the good work of fighting the good fight (6:12), the rich do it by giving. If they don’t, it probably means they have laid hold on this life instead of their eternal life.
Finally, Timothy is told to keep that which was committed to him (6:20). Paul doesn’t say what it was, but we know from comparing Scripture that it was the gospel of grace first committed to Paul (ITim.1:11) and the form of sound words God gave Paul (IITim.1:13,14), the grace message.
Paul warned of “profane and vain babblings,” words his enemies used of him. They said he was babbling “vain” things when he taught the resurrection (Acts 17:18; ICor. 15:14,17. These were “oppositions of science falsely so-called” based on the science of physiology (ICor. 15:35). Paul answered with the science of agriculture (36-38).
Timothy silenced these babblings, but by the time Paul wrote IITimothy the “profane and vain babblings” (IITim. 2:16-18) had misplaced the resurrection instead of denying it. This “overthrew the faith of some” (cf. ITim.6:21).