Online Bible Commentary
A Sacred Trust
1 Timothy 6:17 Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 18 Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 19 In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life. 20 Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, 21 which some have professed and in so doing have wandered from the faith. Grace be with you. (NIV)
This passage represents Paul’s closing instructions to Timothy in this letter. The final word in this passage, “you”, is plural and denoted that this letter was to be read by more people than just Timothy. It was to be read to the church at Ephesus, where Timothy was helping, and, as the other Pauline letters, was likely to be distributed to other first century churches. So the “commands” from God in this passage apply to all Christians.
The subject of the letter was to fight false teaching in the church. Previously, Paul revealed that the motive for false teachers was to become rich, which he condemned. Now, Paul addresses those in the church who are already rich. He does not condemn worldly wealth, but he does put it in its proper perspective.
First of all, God commands the wealthy not to be “arrogant” (v. 17a). God is the provider of all things. Those who are given worldly riches have no reason to be arrogant. They are not rich through their own efforts, but through the providence of God.
The world defines security as having wealth. But God says otherwise. He warns that wealth is “uncertain” (v. 17b). You can lose wealth just as quickly as it was conferred upon you. Our only security is to put our trust in God (v. 17c). He “richly provides” everything we need, and everything He provides is for “our enjoyment” (v. 17d). Paul is referring here to those false teachers of Gnosticism who claim that we are to deny ourselves worldly pleasures.
God provides wealth for a reason. Where God gives much, he expects much. We are commanded to “do good” with our wealth (v. 18a). We are commanded “to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share” (v. 18b). The reason God has given us wealth is to share with others.
When we share our wealth we are laying up “treasure” in Heaven (v. 19). Since it is the Lord’s primary desire that all should have eternal life, no charity is as important as that of the church and Christian ministry. Our donations to the work of the Lord are the best way that we can lay up treasures in Heaven.
Paul does not expand on what he means by “rich” in this passage. We think of rich as only the super-rich, the Donald Trump types. The Greek word translated “rich” in this passage means “abundance”. This would probably equate to the middle class and above in America. In terms of the world, those of us who own homes are considered “rich”. This passage applies to anyone who has an “abundance”. God’s measure of what should be given to His work is a tithe, a tenth of our income.
Paul then turns from spreading the word of God to protecting the integrity of the word of God. We are to “guard what has been entrusted to your care” (v. 20a). The literal Greek translation for this passage is “O Timothy, the Deposit guard.” The “Deposit” was a sacred trust. It was a legal term connoting something which is placed on trust in another man’s keeping to guard. This was more than just asking Timothy to do his work of fighting false teaching while Paul could not be there. This means to guard the sacred truth of the Gospel. This is the charge for all Christians. We should always guard the truth of the Gospel, which means also pointing out false teaching where we find it.
We should “turn away” from false teaching, “godless chatter” (v. 20b). The Greek word translated “turn away” is also translated “run away”. The source of false teaching is Satan, and we should always run from the things of Satan. This false teaching is “falsely called knowledge” (v. 20c). Those who teach it will try to convince us that they know better than the traditional teachers. They will claim to be enlightened. But in reality, they have “wandered from the faith” (v. 21).
The truth of the Gospel is sacred. It is a sacred trust. We have been entrusted to spread the Truth and to protect the Truth. We can do this through our own efforts or through financially supporting others to do the work for us. There comes a time in the life of every Christian when he needs to stop only feeding himself, and feed others. You can do this through financially supporting your church, and ministries such as this. May God bless you on your journey to spiritual maturity.