Many years ago, before I was called into ministry, I used to be an antique dealer. I used to try to explain my work as an antique dealer to people as being very much like a treasure hunter. There was a great allure in looking for treasures, whether in a flea market, or auction house, or someone’s attic. Occasionally, I would find something I used to refer to as a “national treasure.” That may have been an exaggeration, but not always. And when it really paid off financially, I said that I had hit a home run.
I guess everyone can relate to a certain degree with the idea of treasure. Some form of riches or wealth makes us feel tremendous. That’s the appeal of a new car. Even though 99% of the people passing you on the road don’t know who you are, and will probably never see you again, it makes you feel really good to think that they admire your new car, and by extension, they admire you. I suppose that’s the appeal of new clothes, or expensive clothes. Wearing that shirt or outfit that has that expensive label makes you feel more confident, more appealing, more attractive.
Paul is wrapping up the end of his letter to Timothy, in which he has been giving a lot of instructions on how the church is to conduct itself. And included in that are a lot of instructions about the way to use money, or the danger of money’s allure. It’s not that money in and of itself is evil. But what is a potential problem for the believer is that money or wealth or earthly treasure becomes an idol in our lives. Paul said earlier in this chapter that the love of money is a root of evil. It’s being seduced by the allure of what the world treasures, the materialism, the bank balance, the investments you have made, and even the addiction to chasing the latest fashion or the latest technology or automobile or boat.
When Paul talks about being rich in this present world, he is including all those things which the natural man values. All the comforts, the financial independence, the desire for the world’s goods which we think will make our lives more enjoyable, more successful, more rewarding. And so he warns against focusing our attention on gaining more and more of the world’s riches. He warns against the very seductive way that the world appeals to us and draws us after the materialism of the world, and away from pure devotion to the Lord.
So just to make it clear from the outset, when Paul warns against being captivated by the riches of this present world, he is talking about the things that the world values and calls success. It’s not a warning that is given just to millionaires. But it’s something that we all suffer from. And that is an attraction and desire for the things of this world, that we believe will bring us happiness and enjoyment in life.
He closes this last section of his letter then by speaking of two things that we should treasure, that we have been given to be good stewards of. And these treasures are not simply worldly treasures, but heavenly treasures. In other words, these treasures will go with you into eternity where you will live forever. They will provide for you in eternity. Earthly treasures will remain behind when you die. As Paul said back in vs 7 “For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either.” The treasures we accumulate here on earth we will leave on earth, when we pass out of this life into the next. But what Paul wants to assure us of is that if we are good stewards on earth of what we have been entrusted with, it will store up for us treasure in heaven.
So notice vs 17, as he speaks of the first kind of treasure. 1Tim. 6:17-19 “Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy.”
So first we recognize that he is speaking to everyone of us. All of us are rich in this present world. We all have an attraction to the riches of this world, and to some extent, we have a desire to accumulate more of those riches. We may not call them riches, we may call them living expenses. But we spend the majority of our time and resources acquiring things that we think will make our lives comfortable, enjoyable and successful.
The second thing we should recognize is that Paul is warning against allowing that self interest, desire for self gratification, to unduly influence your life. Our goal in life as Christians should not be that whoever dies with the most toys wins, or whoever has the biggest bank account wins. My translation interprets Paul’s denunciation as being conceited. It’s taking pride in what you have, or how much you have. That’s pride, and pride is sinful. Pride was the original sin. It was the sin of Lucifer before he fell from heaven. Money may be A root of evil, but I would suggest that pride is THE root of all evil.
And when you have an abundance of the world’s riches, you feel pride, you are conceited, and as such you cannot love others as much as you love yourself. Jesus said you should love your neighbor as yourself. But being conceited means you just love yourself. Riches, in whatever shape or form they may take, causes a person to feel they are somehow better than others. I think some Christians think they are more deserving than other people because they have a better work ethic, or they think they are smarter, or they are more of an upstanding citizen than others. But the fact is that none of us deserve God’s grace.
And furthermore, we need to make sure that we don’t confuse God’s grace, or God’s blessing, with acquiring the world’s riches. Christians have a bad habit of referring to a raise, or a new car, or a new house, or some financial windfall, as “God blessed me.” If you are truly saved, then God has indeed blessed you. But the eternal, spiritual blessings He has given you are not to be confused with the mammon of this world. He may have entrusted riches to you. But if so, that is for you to use for the glory of God, not for your own glory.
So the third warning in this section is don’t put your hope in the riches of this world. Paul calls it the uncertainty of riches. What that refers to is the unreliability of riches. I’m not very well versed in the financial markets, but I do try to read the business news occasionally. And I know that if you invested your money in certain crypto currencies, there was a time not that long ago when you might have seen that investment dramatically increase. But if you continued to hold onto it, today you are looking at a fraction of what it was worth a few months ago. And a lot of earthly riches are like that. They are unreliable. Our money is not worth today what it was a decade ago. The housing market goes up, and then it goes down. The same with the stock market. And one things for sure; no amount of money can buy good health. But the most unreliable thing about riches is that it’s only temporary. You certainly can’t rely upon your riches in eternity. The world’s currency will not spend in heaven or in hell.
Instead, Paul says to fix our hope on God. Now God we can depend upon. We can depend upon His promises. We can depend upon His word. We can depend upon His faithfulness. 2Tim. 2:13 “If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.” We can confidently put our hope in Jesus Christ, because He lives forever, and He never changes. Hebrews 13:8 “Jesus Christ [is] the same yesterday and today and forever.”
Paul says we can hope in God because He richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. Not only is God rich, but He provides according to His riches in glory. Phl. 4:19 says, “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” Now to be fair, the context of that verse is in relation to the Philippian’s sacrificial giving. God would provide the means by which they would be able to give sacrificially. So this is not a verse to be taken out of context and used as a pretext to say that God wants you to have a new Cadillac.
What are the riches of God’s glory then? What does that refer to? A description of what are the riches of His glory might be found in Eph 3:16-19 which says “that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; [and] that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.”
So then the riches of HIs glory is the fullness of the Spirit of Christ in you. That Christ may dwell in your hearts, and that you may know the fullness of the love of Christ. That knowledge, that inner power, surpasses knowledge, surpasses worldly riches. It is the riches of heaven which satisfies, which brings everlasting joy. To know the love of God is to be far richer than any billionaire. It is a treasure that is not only good for this life, but will still be of inestimable value in the next life. In fact, it is the only way to appropriate eternal life.
And those riches that we have in Christ should overflow to others. That’s the point of the second set of instructions Paul gives. He says in vs 18, “Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed.”
So when Paul says God richly supplies us with all things to enjoy, and then he tells us in the next verse to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, do you suppose that what God richly supplies are the means by which we share and do good works, to be generous, and that we are to enjoy doing these things? I think so.
Consider what he wrote to the Corinthian church in [2Co 9:7-8, 10-11 “Each one [must do] just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed; … 10 Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness; you will be enriched in everything for all liberality, which through us is producing thanksgiving to God.”
So our good deeds, our generosity, should come out of a grateful heart to God, and it should be out of a heart of joy and not grudgingly. Now we do this because our heart has been changed first of all. Because we are being conformed to the image of Christ, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross so that we might receive salvation. But the added benefit of such generosity is that we store up for ourselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future. What is he talking about? He’s talking about our good works, our generosity, our sharing is in effect our 401k plan for eternity.
I don’t personally have a 401k plan in our church, but I have a little understanding I guess of how it works. Typically, if you work for an employer like the US Government, you put some money from your paycheck every couple of weeks into your 401k and your employer matches that money. On top of that, it’s tax free if you wait until you retire to take it out and in the meantime, it’s accumulating compound interest. A lot of you have made a lot of money in your 401k. And that can be a good thing as a means of saving for your retirement, I suppose.
But I tell you what, having a heavenly 401k is a whole lot better. You do good works here on earth, and when you retire so to speak from this world, and go to the next, you find that God has multiplied and multiplied the interest on your account beyond what you can possibly imagine. Our good works do not earn us a place in heaven, but our good works gain us an inheritance and a reward in heaven.
Jesus said in Mark 9:41 “For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because of your name as [followers] of Christ, truly I say to you, he will not lose his reward.” We are constantly told in the scriptures that as Christians we are to receive an inheritance in heaven. That there awaits us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison to the things of this world. So then if we truly believe that, we should joyfully look for opportunities to do good, to do good deeds, to be generous, to share, that we may lay up treasure in heaven.
So that being true, Paul says in regards to doing good that it results in “storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed.” He is not saying that by doing good works you can earn eternal life, as if you can work your way into heaven. But what he is saying is that you should invest in heaven. Eternal life is life indeed. We should be investing in that life, and concerned with storing up treasure in that life, not in this life which is temporary.
Jesus said, in Mat 6:19-21 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Now closely related to the first treasure is the second treasure that we have been entrusted with. A treasure that we are to be good stewards of. And that treasure is the gospel – the scriptures – which lead to eternal life. Paul says regarding that treasure in vs 20-21 “O Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you, avoiding worldly [and] empty chatter [and] the opposing arguments of what is falsely called “knowledge”– which some have professed and thus gone astray from the faith. Grace be with you.”
We have talked about deposits we may make in heaven by our good deeds, now Paul speaks of a deposit that God has made to our account. It is as if God had made a deposit in Timothy’s bank. And he is given a command or charge to protect that deposit, to guard that treasure. That treasure is simply the gospel, which includes all of scripture, which is the means by which we lay hold of that life which is life indeed.
In his next letter, in chapter 3, Paul speaks of the scripture being the means by which one is saved. He says in 2Tim 3:14-17 “You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned [them,] and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” Paul says, “You have known the sacred writings which are able to give you wisdom that leads to salvation through faith in Christ.” Such a valuable treasure, and we are all given stewardship of it.
Years ago I worked in a 5 star hotel as a food and beverage manager. And one of the positions that I hired and trained employees for was a wine steward. They were the guys that were responsible for knowing all about the various wines on the menu, who took care of ordering and storing the wine at the proper temperature, and would open the wine at the table and serve it to the guests. That gives us some idea of what a steward is. He takes care of the scriptures, he knows all the qualities of the scriptures, what scriptures apply best to this situation and which to another. And he is able to dispense the scriptures in the proper way, according to the correct interpretation and application.
We are all called to be Bible stewards. To know it frontwards and backwards. To make sure that it is being interpreted and taught correctly, and applied according to the right context. In the next letter, Paul will tell Timothy, in 2Tim. 2:15-16 “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. But avoid worldly [and] empty chatter, for it will lead to further ungodliness.” Here at the end of 1 Timothy Paul speaks of that worldly and empty chatter that leads to ungodliness as “avoiding worldly and empty chatter and the opposing arguments of what is falsely called “knowledge”—which some have professed and thus gone astray from the faith.”
We see that even in many of the religious seminaries today, in a majority of the colleges and universities that claim to be Christian. They have undermined the reliability of the word of God, the truth of God, by claiming a worldly knowledge that contradicts the truth of the scripture. We see that in many of the mainstream denominations that no longer hold to the authority and inerrancy and inspiration of scripture. They claim that the scriptures were written by many different men over sometimes centuries, each adding or taking away from it over time until we cannot be certain who wrote it, when they wrote it, or how reliable it is. They take the word of science over the word of God and say that the world was formed by an cosmic explosion and man and the animals evolved over millions of years. And in many ways like that they undermine the authority of scripture, they detract from the inspiration of scripture, and they end up with a collection of worldly fables that are not to be taken literally and have very little benefit to anyone. It’s no wonder that there is a wholesale departure from the faith today in our culture. Paul says those who have professed such false knowledge have gone astray from the faith. They are unable to be saved, because the scriptures are the means by which we are saved, and the only way to know the truth of God.
So the scriptures are a national treasure which are of inestimable value, for it is the means by which we are able to know God, know HIs will, and know His salvation which gives eternal life, which is life indeed. Paul urges Timothy, and by extension, urges us, to guard this treasure which has been entrusted to you. Proclaim this truth which provides the way to life. Teach this truth which is able to lead us to a saving knowledge of God by faith in Jesus Christ. God’s word is forever settled in heaven. It is eternal. Jesus Christ is the manifestation of the Word of God, and knowing Him is the greatest treasure that we can have in this world or in the world to come.
Paul ends this letter with “Grace be with you.” God’s grace is the manifestation of Jesus Christ to be our Savior, and by faith in Him, we are given forgiveness of sins, the indwelling of the Spirit of Christ, and everlasting life. Grace means gift. Eph 2:8 says “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, [it is] the gift of God.” That gift of God, that gift of the greatest treasure that the world will ever know, has been offered to you. I pray that you will trust in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, that you might receive that which is life indeed.