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How To Handle Wealth

January 5, 2020 Speaker: Brian Wilbur Series: Stand-Alone Sermons

Topic: Christian Life Basics Passage: 1 Timothy 6:17–19


An Exposition of 1 Timothy 6:17-19

By Pastor Brian Wilbur

Date:   January 5, 2020

Series: Stand-Alone Sermons

Note:   Scripture quotations are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard   Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved.



This morning I would like to talk about wealth.

The initial impetus for this sermon is that two people within our church family have encouraged me to preach about the importance of regular financial giving to the church, and I have taken that encouragement to heart.

This sermon is a ‘first installment’ answer to that encouragement. We’re going to look at the Bible’s big-picture view of wealth and learn about the mindset behind giving. This sermon is meant to challenge us to give generously – not just in terms of what we give to the church, but how we live our entire lives.

This sermon is not about percentages, it is about priorities.    

And when it comes to the Bible’s teaching about wealth, 1 Timothy is a great place to turn.

The entire letter of 1 Timothy is a treasure trove on the subject of wealth. We will give special attention to 1 Timothy 6:17-19. You will notice that these three verses are addressed specifically to “the rich” (v. 17). Whether or not you consider yourself among those who are rich, I would suggest that many of us are ‘rich enough’ by global and historical standards. But regardless, whether our resources are great or small, we all need to learn and apply God’s principles for handling wealth.


God’s holy Word says:

17 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. 18 They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, 19 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 Timothy 6:17-19)


I have six questions to help us walk through this passage. Here is the first question: Do you have God’s view of time?

Having a proper view of wealth is tied very closely to having a proper view of time. There are a couple of passages in 1 Timothy that clearly show us God’s view of time.

The first passage relates to exercise:

“[Train] yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” (1 Timothy 4:7-8)

Notice the two stages of time: “the present life” and “the life to come.” The present (which is relatively short!) and the future (which lasts forever!). The idea in 1 Timothy 4:7-8 is that physical exercise has “some value” because it is beneficial for the present life, but spiritual exercise (the disciplined pursuit of godliness) is of greater value because it is beneficial both for the present time and for the eternal future. If you have God’s view of time, then you will prioritize godliness over fitness. 

The second passage about time – 1 Timothy 6:17-19, which I read earlier – relates to earthly possessions and riches. Notice the contrast that Paul draws between the present and the future: Being “rich in this present age” (v. 17) contrasts with “storing up treasure… as a good foundation for the future” (v. 19). As we will see, Paul teaches us that there is a way to use worldly riches now that will lay up treasure “for the future.”

If you have God’s view of time, then you will care deeply about investing your wealth in the eternal future.

But if you don’t have God’s view of time, and if you don’t value the eternal future of “the life to come,” then you won’t handle wealth with eternity in view. If you are preoccupied with “the present life” and if you care most deeply about “this present age,” then you will be more apt to spend and save in order to store up treasure on earth, and you will be less apt to share and give in order to store up treasure in heaven.

Do you have God’s view of time?


Now to my second question: Do you have God’s view of wealth?

Often when we think of wealth, we think in terms of being wealthy – and to be wealthy means that we have a pile. And while wealth can mean abundance, I am using wealth in a more general way. Wealth is all the physical stuff – all the possessions and all the provisions – that sustain life and enable us to flourish and prosper. The money in the bank, the food in the pantry, the tools in the garage, the vehicle or vehicles in your driveway, your house and everything in it – all this, and much more, constitutes wealth.

What is God’s view of wealth?

According to verse 17, here is God’s view of wealth: 1) Wealth is a good gift that He gives to us for our enjoyment; and 2) Wealth is a miserable substitute for God.

Wealth is a Miserable Substitute for God

Let’s ponder how wealth is a miserable substitute for God. Verse 17 tells rich people “not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches.” Because we are sinful people who are apt to misuse all of God’s good gifts, we are tempted to misuse wealth. Specifically, we are tempted to let wealth be the basis of our identity and our security.


When our identity is built on God’s grace, we grow in humility. And in that humility, we honor God. Paul models this in 1 Timothy 1:15-17:

“The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Timothy 1:15-17)

No sinner will be reconciled to God because he or she was wise in handling money. What we need is a great Savior who extends mercy to sinners. We receive this gracious, blood-bought salvation by trusting in Christ alone, by “[believing] in him for eternal life.” When we realize that we have become the undeserving recipients of God’s lavish grace, we know that all the honor goes to God the Father and the Lord Christ Jesus.

By contrast, when our identity is built on wealth, we get “haughty” and proud. We get to thinking that we are something special, because we have a lot of stuff. We assume that we are worthy of honor, because our money has turned us into important and influential people who can pay our own way, write big checks, and buy the best products. We forget that everything that we have is a gift from the Lord.


When our security is based on God’s grace, we grow in grateful dependence. We know that riches are uncertain – we know that through catastrophe riches can be taken away from us in an instant, or that through death we can be taken away from them in an instant. But God is a faithful Father, His promises are certain, His care is unchanging, and His heart is generous. We rest in Him.

By contrast, when our security is based on wealth, we “set [our] hopes on [it].” Instead of setting our hope on God and waiting patiently for Him to come through for us, we set our hope on money and expect our money to come through for us. Money is a like a mighty fortress in our imagination (see Proverbs 18:11). Having money makes us feel secure, because we know that with money we can buy comfort, enjoyment, upgrades, medical care, and the insurance that assures us that we are in good hands.[1]

But although wealth is a miserable substitute for God, wealth in and of itself is fundamentally good, since according to verse 17 God is the originator and provider of “everything.”


Indeed, God views wealth as a good gift that He gives to us for our enjoyment. This raises a third question: Are you able to enjoy the wealth that God gives you?

Although verse 17 doesn’t command us to enjoy the wealth that God gives to us, it clearly implies that we should enjoy the wealth that God gives to us: we should set our hope “on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy.” Our hope is in God, not in the things that He gives to us. Even so, God is a good Father and generous Provider – and He lavishes provisions upon us not only so that we stay alive and balance our checkbook, but also and especially for the deeper reality that we receive enjoyment: He “richly provides us with everything to enjoy” (italics added).

Now it may seem so obvious that we would enjoy the wealth that God gives to us, that why should we even bother to ask ‘Are you able to enjoy it?’. The reason we must ask the question is because it actually isn’t obvious that we are able to enjoy what God gives us.

There are various reasons for the inability to enjoy wealth – the main reason being that when the heart is sick, it doesn’t really matter how much money is in your bank account. We need healthy hearts that are trusting in the Father. 

That said, in Chapter 4 Paul calls attention to a particular error that some people make. This error might be called a ‘don’t-enjoy-anything theology’. Look at 1 Timothy 4:1-5, where Paul talks about a kind of false teaching that all too often pops up in the church:

“Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.” (1 Timothy 4:1-5)

According to this ‘don’t-enjoy-anything theology’, here is the way to spiritual maturity: reject marriage, reject certain foods, and – in general – reject all kinds of good things that God created. On this view of things, one must keep physical comforts and pleasures to a minimum. Commit yourself to celibacy, commit yourself to the severe treatment of your body, commit yourself to poverty, and make sure you don’t get caught laughing, having fun, smiling, or enjoying warm, moist, butter-slathered biscuits. This kind of teaching is very harmful: it comes from demons who spread their venom through sorely misguided teachers inside the church.

What is the right approach? Put 1 Timothy 4:4 and 6:17 side by side: “For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving” (4:4) and “God… richly provides us with everything to enjoy” (6:17). The lesson is clear: we ought to receive God’s good and generous gifts, thanking Him and enjoying His gifts.

Are you afraid of God’s good gifts? Do you feel guilty for having and enjoying God’s gracious provisions? Do you find yourself wanting to apologize for the purchase of a quality item? Do you operate on the assumption that less is better, or cheaper is better, or going without is better? I understand, of course, that these are heart issues – and one person’s heart struggle may be different than the next person’s. Maybe you really are in danger of crossing the line into sinful self-indulgence of God’s gifts, and you need to hear the truth that more isn’t necessarily better. But you need to understand that it is also possible to be in danger of living in the sinful non-enjoyment of God’s gifts, and you need to hear the truth that lack isn’t necessarily better. After all, consider that it is God Himself who “richly provides” you with these good gifts – and He takes pleasure in your grateful enjoyment of them.

Are you able to truly enjoy the wealth that God gives you?


It truly is good to enjoy what God richly provides to us (v. 17) – and yet, we must recognize that the main purpose of Paul’s instruction in verses 17-19 is not to enjoy our wealth. You ought to enjoy it, and something is wrong if you are unable to enjoy God’s generous provisions. However, the main purpose of Paul’s instruction comes to the forefront in verses 18-19, where we learn that something is terribly wrong if you are unable to share what God has entrusted to you. So here is my fourth question: Do you have God’s view of sharing?

Verse 17 tells us what we must not do in the midst of our riches: we must not be proud and we must not put our hope in what we have. Now verse 18 tells us what we ought to do in the midst of our wealth: “[We] are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share.”

Notice how Paul is taking the concept of wealth and urging a transformation to take place in our minds. If you are rich in money, don’t let that ‘go to your head’; instead, make sure that you are “rich in good works.” Wealth measured in cash is a poor substitute for wealth measured in character – godly character that is expressed in the fruitful deeds of goodness, righteousness, and mercy.

So the first transformation of wealth that must take place in our minds is to value spiritual wealth over material wealth.

The second transformation of wealth that must take place in our midst is to value eternal wealth over temporal wealth: if you are “rich in this present age” (v. 17), don’t let that make you lazy; instead, go hard after “storing up treasure… for the future” (v. 18).

If we really do value spiritual wealth over material wealth, and if we really do value eternal wealth over temporal wealth, then this will shape the way that we use our material wealth. We will utilize our money and possessions in order “to do good.”   

Of course, there are ways “to do good” that don’t necessarily involve our material resources – such as devoting our time, energy, and skills to those who need encouragement or help. Doing good with our time, energy, and skills are certainly included within the scope of verse 18.  

At the same time, verses 17-18 does have an obvious focus on material wealth. Very often, “[doing] good” and “[being] rich in good works” do, in some way, relate to the use of our material resources. Running an errand for a neighbor on our own dime, providing a warm-baked meal for another family, sending a thoughtful card that we either purchased or made, or opening up our home to others, all involve using our resources for the sake of others.

God calls us not to be seekers of wealth (1 Timothy 6:6-10) or keepers of wealth, but sharers of wealth.  

And get this: by looking back to verse 17, we see that generously sharing God’s generous provisions shows that you have tasted God’s gracious generosity to you. Do you see the flow of thought from verse 17 to verse 18? Verse 17 tells us that “God… richly provides us with everything to enjoy.” Everything that we have is a gift to us from God. The question is: what does He want us to do with the good gifts that He has given us? The first answer (from verse 17) is that He wants us to enjoy them. But the real focus of the instruction is verse 18, where we learn that God wants us to share His gifts. So the logic of verses 17-18 is that God generously shares with us so that we can have the privilege of generously sharing with others. Which means that if you are willing to claim that God has given generously to you, but you are unwilling to give generously to others, then your claim is empty and you are missing the point of His gifts to you. God has richly provided for you so that you can richly provide for others.

First Timothy 5 gives a number of examples of richly providing for others. As individual believers, we are instructed to provide for our parents or grandparents or other extended family members (1 Timothy 5:4-8, 16), and we are encouraged to show hospitality and care for our fellow Christians (1 Timothy 5:10). As a church family, we are taught to care for widows who don’t have family members who are able to step up (1 Timothy 5:16), and we are told how important it is to compensate our elders, especially those elders who are devoted to preaching and teaching (1 Timothy 5:17-18). Other Bible passages show us that it is also important to support our missionaries and to serve our neighbors in general. Sometimes we share with others on an individual basis: taking initiative to reach out and meet needs. At other times, we share with others as a church family through our annual budget, our benevolence fund, or a joint project. Either way, let us always be “generous and ready to share” – remembering that God’s rich giving to us (v. 17) is to be the standard for our giving to others (v. 18).

Therefore, our giving must not be stingy, reluctant, penny-pinching, or tightfisted, but openhearted and rich in love. If your mindset is ‘How little can I give and still pass muster?’ you’re asking the wrong question. But if your mindset is ‘How much can I give?’ then you’re on the right track. Generously sharing God’s generous provisions shows that we have tasted God’s generosity to us.


Generously sharing God’s generous provision also shows that we have internalized God’s view of time. Sharing God’s good gifts with others shows that we have come to place such high value on the future life to come (combining 1 Timothy 4:8 and 1 Timothy 6:19) that we are investing our lives and resources into that future.

One of the things going on inverses 18-19 is that God is instructing us to capitalize eternally on our material resources by investing our resources into the economy of eternity. So here is my fifth question: Are you eternalizing your wealth? Are you transferring your earthly wealth into heavenly treasure that will last forever?

Most people leverage their wealth for the here and now. Then they die and, as Paul taught us earlier in Chapter 6, they take nothing with them “out of the world” (1 Timothy 6:7). They die, leave their treasure behind, and enter the future age bankrupt. According to Jesus, that’s a really bad way to manage your money (Matthew 6:19-24). What you ought to be asking is how you can invest your money so that ten thousand years from now you are still getting a good return on your investment in God’s eternal kingdom. There is a way to live, and a way to use your resources, which – if you do it – will mean that when you die, you will not leave your treasure behind, but instead you will go to your treasure. Of course, the way to go to your treasure when you die, is to store up treasure in heaven now. And according to verses 18-19, you store up treasure for yourself in heaven by generously sharing what you have with others.

“They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus [i.e., in this way] storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future.”

Isn’t this remarkable? Rich people who trust in God and love other people can use their worldly riches in order to lay up a treasure of heavenly riches that will never wear out, rust out, or be taken away. When you generously give a cup of cold water in Jesus’ name, when you generously open up your home for Jesus’ sake, when you generously meet the needs of extended family members because you love Jesus more than you love your cable subscription, when you generously support the work of faithful missionaries and preachers because you want the beloved gospel to be made known – when you do such things, you are demonstrating your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and you are building “a good foundation for the future.”

And the point, of course, about building “a good foundation for the future” is not that you’ll have a bigger mansion to brag about in heaven. That would be an exercise in totally missing the point! The point of building “a good foundation for the future” is that when you get there, you’ll be overflowing with joy because that’s what you were preparing for all along. Every act of love on earth testified to the fact that the value system of God’s heavenly kingdom was in your heart. And when you set foot in the age to come and see some of the people that you loved in your lifetime on earth, when you see some of the missionaries and the fruit of mission trips that you supported, when you see some of the people who were saved and discipled through ministries that you helped to fund, when you see the faces of the once weary saints whose souls you refreshed in your living room, and – most of all – when you see the Lord Himself, you will then realize what it meant to store up for yourself treasure in heaven. And it will be glorious!


Now to the final question: Are you taking hold of true life? “[Storing] up treasure… for the future” by doing good and being generous now, is a key part of your spiritual growth. Follow the flow of thought from the end of verse 18: “They are… 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.” (v. 18-19)

The idea is to be that by “storing up treasure… for the future,” we are better able to “take hold” of true life today. Paul gave very similar instruction to Timothy earlier in Chapter 6: “Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called” (1 Timothy 6:12). To take hold or lay hold or get a firm grasp on “eternal life” or on “that which is truly life” means that even now I am loosening my grip on the here and now, and that I am increasingly captivated by the glories of the world to come. It means that I can increasingly share the good gifts that God gives without feeling like I’d be better off if I had kept them. It really is “more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35), and part of the deeper reality of enjoying God’s good gifts is the joy that comes by giving them away!

Are you taking a firm hold on eternal realities? I doubt that you care very much about what the stock market is doing, unless you have money invested in the stock market. And why is that? Because, as Jesus taught us, “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). Our heart always follows our treasure. The implication is that you won’t care a whole lot about the true life of God’s kingdom, unless your life and your resources are invested in God’s kingdom economy. If you increasingly transfer your worldly wealth into God’s kingdom economy, then your heart will follow the wealth trail into the eternal future that awaits. Invest in eternity, and you’ll get a firmer grasp on eternal realities now.

Therefore, one of the best things that you can do for your heart is to get your treasure in the right place. So long as your treasure is all bound up with the here and now, then your heart is going to stay put in the here and now – and the life of God’s kingdom will always seem like a distant concern. But the more treasure you accumulate in the heavenly places, the more wealth you invest into the work of the gospel, the more money you leverage to serve others in love, then the greater capacity you will have to firmly grasp and deeply feel the heartbeat of heaven.


In the providence of God, Charles Spurgeon was a spectacularly fruitful preacher and writer in the 19th century. Based in London, his ministry reached far and wide. Not surprisingly, Spurgeon made a lot of money. And yet, a 2016 article about Spurgeon begins this way:

“Charles Spurgeon could have been one of the richest millionaires in London.

Instead, he died poor.”[2]  

Why is that? It’s not because he was afraid to enjoy the wealth that God gave to him. He lived a reasonably comfortable life. But beyond the comfortable livelihood that he provided for himself and his family, Spurgeon gave away most of his money. He gave it to his church. He gave it to the many ministries with which he was involved. He gave it to family members and friends who had need.[3] Spurgeon was “generous and ready to share.” So although “he died poor” from an earthly standpoint, from a heavenly standpoint he died rich!

A couple of years before he died, Spurgeon said: “Gold is nothing but dust to a dying man.”[3]

Before you know it, you will be that dying man or that dying woman.

When I am laying on my deathbed, I will have to reckon with this reality: either my treasure is on earth and I am about to be parted from it forever, or my treasure is in heaven and I am about to be joined to it forever. At that time, it will be too late to change my course. I will have done good and been rich in good works and been generous and ready to share – or not. If I have squandered my life and resources, it will then be too late to set “a good foundation for the future,” it will then be too late to “take hold of that which is truly life.” On the other hand, if God’s grace so captured my heart that I had become a gladhearted giver, then when God beckons this poor old man, I shall go home to all the joys that He has promised.

Friends, today is the day to seize what is eternal and lasting. 



[1] I am referring, of course, to Allstate, an insurance company promising that you will be “in good hands” if you entrust your insurance needs to them.

[2] “4 Reasons Spurgeon Died Poor,” published online on October 10, 2016 by The Spurgeon Center for Biblical Preaching at Midwestern Seminary. Available online:

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.


Stott, John. Guard the Truth: The Message of 1 Timothy & Titus. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1996.

Yarbrough, Robert W. The Letters to Timothy and Titus (The Pillar New Testament Commentary). Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2018.

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