Charging The Rich — 1
As a man was leaving worship services he met an old acquaintance whom he had not seen for several years. In their brief conversation he said to his acquaintance, "I understand that you are in great danger." It was said seriously and was heard with much surprise. The friend addressed was not aware of any danger and eagerly inquired what was meant. The answer was, "I have been informed that you are getting rich."
No man can read the Bible and not be impressed by the number of scriptures that warn of the danger of riches. The young preacher was commanded "Charge them that are rich in this present world, that they be not high-minded nor have their hopes set on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; that they do good, that they be rich in good works, that they be ready to distribute, willing to communicate; laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on the life which is life indeed," I Tim. 6:17-19.
The negative charges of this passage are twofold: (I) Be not high-minded. That means don't be snobbish or smug. Don't value yourself because of your wealth. The fact that this charge is given implies that it is often a tendency of the rich to "think of themselves more highly than they ought to think." (2) Nor have their hopes set on the uncertainty of riches. This likewise is recognized as a tendency or the Holy Spirit would not have mentioned it. Because there are so many things money can do, there is the danger of being lulled into thinking there is nothing it can't do. Yet in a moment's time a sudden change in our economic system could knock the props from under all of us. The worst hurt would be the rich. But he who is trusting in riches when the Lord returns will be hurt even more. Jesus said, "It is easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God," Mt. 19:24. While we might get bogged down in a hassle as to what the "needle" refers, there is one obvious truth in Jesus' teaching which must be admitted by all — it will be hard for the rich to be saved!
The positive charges are: (1) Trust on God; (2) Do good; (3) Be rich in good works; (4) Ready to distribute; and (5) Willing to communicate. In a nutshell, these five positive charges are saying: "Without partiality, be ready at all times (not just seasonally) to help everyone because of your faith in God rather than possessions. You will be laying a good foundation to help you reach eternal life — you'll need it!"
While the covetous nature of many who are rich is often deplored, let us not forget that one need not be rich to be guilty of covetousness. The same chapter warns those who have a desire to be rich. "But they that are minded to be rich fall into a temptation and a snare and many foolish and hurtful lusts, such as drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil: which some reaching after have been led astray from the faith, and have pierced themselves through with man sorrows," I Tim. 6:9, 10. Those who are not rich but "have a mind to be" are often self-defeated. Hoping to better themselves materially, they frequently succeed in doing the opposite spiritually.
Occasionally one wonders how the love of money can be a root of all evils (footnote in ASV). If you will stop and think for a moment, it will dawn on you. There is hardly a sin in that great "category of sins" that cannot be connected with money. Some of the "foolish and hurtful lusts" in which the love of money can play a part are: adultery, fornication, lasciviousness, homosexuality, drunkenness, theft, jealousy, strife, revelings, idolatry, gambling, extortion, etc. Sin is expensive in more ways than one. Many have reached after riches and fallen from the faith.
We have tried to lay a foundation for what we have to say in the second half of this installment. It is this writer's firm conviction that a primary root of the preacher shortage problem is the attitude of the brethren toward riches. Preachers have been influenced. We intend to be quite specific, so watch for number two.
— P. O. Box 147, Trumann, Ark. 72472