The presence of such warning in the New Testament as “charge them that are rich in this world” and “Go to now, you rich men, weep and howl” (1 Tim. 6:17 f; Jam. 5:1) suggests there are dangers connected with being rich in this world. Yes, God made rich certain men in the scripture (e.g. Abraham, Solomon, Job) but not one of them sought to be rich. Solomon wrote that we labor not to be rich (Prov 23:4).
Just what warnings are given to the rich? Timothy was to charge them, negatively, to “be not high-minded, nor trust in uncertain riches.” Riches promise much the same things that God does-security, happiness, etc. Because of this, riches often come to take the place of God in people’s lives. It is hard for a man to pray as fervently “give us this day our daily bread” when he has millions in the bank. The widow who is “desolate” and “trusts in the Lord” (1 Tim. 5) can look no where else. Sometimes those who are “desolate” are led to believe that material things will satisfy and therefore seek after them instead of God. In this way, the poor as well as the rich can be guilty of the same evil. It will be admitted that riches will provide many comforts and exempt people from many of the problems that confront the poor; but people greatly err when they allow material things to supplant God in their lives.
Notice, the rich are told not to trust in “uncertain” riches. Here is the great difference in the objects of trust. Material riches are never certain. God is certain. He is unchangeable, eternal, and His promises are sure. Man is prone to look upon that which is seen — that which is tangible, and therefore place his trust in these things instead of the unseen, eternal God. All such need to learn that experience and the Scriptures clearly reveal “the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (2 Cor. 4:18)
From a positive standpoint, Timothy was to charge the rich to “Trust in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy . . . do good, be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate.” Trusting in riches instead of God is to trust in that which is not a sure source of good.
The rich man (Luke 16:19-31), clothed in purple and fine linen and faring sumptuously every day. He had the ability of helping Lazarus with his sores and satisfying his gnawing pangs of hunger, but he did not exercise his privilege. His failure shows that he was “high-minded” and had no trust in the living God, the source of his “good things.” No wonder he cries on the other side of death, “I am tormented in this flame!”
The rich men who are told to “weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you” (Jam 5:1-6) were men who had gained, hoarded, and lived delicately at the expense of the poor laborers. How many rich men today get rich by keeping the wages of those work for them very low? How often they want to limit how much health care they can obtain. Their miseries were sure to come because their silver and gold was rusted, their garments moth-eaten, and many just ones had been made to suffer by their fraud and lack of mercy. Rusted money is not needed by the possessor, but would be put to good use by one in need. Garments are much better on the backs of the destitute than to become food for moths. Fraudulently withholding the hire of the laborer reveals a covetous spirit and unconcern for (or unbelief in) the day of judgment. “Living in pleasure on earth” “nourishing your hearts,” “eating, drinking, and making merry” “are expressions which depict a life that has no trust in God. Truly, it may be said, “their belly is their God” and “their glory is their shame.”
The rich man of Luke 12:16-21 was not called a fool because his ground brought forth plentifully. It was his desire to hoard “all my fruits and my goods” for the purpose of eating, drinking, and being merry, without giving any credit to God or having even one thought for the less fortunate that caused God to say, “You Fool.” The sudden ending of his life, with the question-” Whose shall those things be?”-shows the folly of selfish, godless plans.
From these Scriptures we can behold some of the “pits,” “snares,” and “lusts” connected with riches “which drown men in destruction and perdition.” How wholesome, therefore, are those things which protect us from such disaster. No wonder Jesus said to the rich young ruler, “go and sell that which you have, and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven, and come follow me.” (Matt. 19:21.) “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Jesus was actually telling people to be “rich in good works”-to use this world’s goods in such a way that shows love for God and man-laying up treasures in heaven, when he said “make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that when you fall, they may receive you into everlasting habitations.” (Lk 16:9.)
The motives for making money assigned in the scriptures are to supply our own needs, those who are dependent upon us, and “that we may have to give to him that have not.” (1 Tim. 5:4,8 f; Eph. 4:28). Truly, as it hath been said, our wealth is like our shoes; if too small, they will gall and pinch us, but if too large, they will cause us to stumble and to trip. If we want to be assured always of “a correct fit,” let us first put our trust in the living God, and center our interests upon being “rich toward God” and having “treasures in heaven.” Remember this rich man, “Of much given is much required!” (Lk 12:48). Ill gotten gains at the expense of the poor will bring damnation to your soul (Jer 17:11). If you have gained according to God’s laws, neglect not the poor, especially those who are of the household of faith (Gal 6:10). Use your riches to the furtherance of the gospel as opposed to your luxury and leisure. Build treasures in heaven and not treasures upon this earth, for where your treasure is there will your heart be also (Mt 6:19-21).