Those who want to be rich, however, fall into temptation and become ensnared by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction.
I. THE EAGER PURSUIT OF THE WORLD IS TO BE SHUNNED. "But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare."
1. The apostle does not condemn the possession of riches, which have, in reality, no moral character; for they are only evil where they are badly used. Neither does he speak of rich men; for he would not condemn such men as Abraham, Joseph of Arimathsea, Gains, and others; nor such rich men as use their wealth righteously as good stewards of God.
2. He condemns the haste to be rich, not only because wealth is not necessary for a life of godly contentment, but because of its scrim and moral risks.
II. THE DANCERS OF THIS EAGER PURSUIT OF WEALTH. They "fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition."
1. There is a temptation to unjust gain which leads men into the snare of the devil. There is a sacrifice of principle, the abandonment of conscientious scruples, in the hurry to accumulate wealth.
2. The temptation in its turn makes way for many lusts which are "foolish," because they are unreasonable, and exercised upon things that are quite undesirable; and which are "hurtful," because they injure both body and soul, and all a man's best interests.
3. These lusts in turn carry their own retribution. They "drown men in destruction and perdition."
(1) This is more than moral degradation.
(2) It is a wreck of the body accompanied by the ruin of the immortal soul - T.C.
But they that will be rich.I. THE DANGERS OF THIS TEMPER OF MIND ARE OBVIOUS.
1. It leads many to deception and dishonesty.
2. To get advantage to oneself is a false aim for any Christian life. If you know how insidious these and other perils are, you may well pray: "Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil."
II. DEFENCES AGAINST SUCH EVILS are within our knowledge, and many are finding moral security through using them.
1. Watch against the tendency to extravagant living. The absence of simplicity in some households leads to more evils than you think. Be brave enough to be simple in your habits. Seek to live without ostentation.
2. On the other hand, see to it that you do not bow down to worship the golden calf. No idolatry is more prevalent than this.
3. Cultivate love for higher things than the world offers. Good will conquer evil by its own inherent force.
4. Pray for the spirit of heroism in common life.
(A. Rowland, LL. B.)
I. THERE ARE CERTAIN CLASSES OF CHARACTER SINGULARLY EXPOSED TO TEMPTATION.
1. Strong-willed and ambitious men. "These fall into temptation and a snare." From some points of view these strong-willed men may be regarded as the noble men of earth. They have a purpose in life, which holds in and guides, as with bit and bridle, all the forces of their being. They are the great men in our mills and warehouses; the foremost as statesmen, and in carrying out great social and national enterprises. Yet this disposition lays men open to peculiar dangers. It comes too often to be opposed to that spirit of contentment which the apostle here intimates is peculiarly suitable to "godliness," and which is the result of a daily thaukful dependence on that living God, who giveth us all things richly to enjoy. Especially do we find that this strong-will is liable to become self-will. And if you observe these strong-willed men carefully, you will find they are sadly often falling into sin in relation to their dependents and servants; becoming imperious in their manners, forgetting the ordinary charities of social intercourse, and treating those who serve them as though they were an inferior kind of creature; which is, in the sight of the one God who made us all, a sad and mournful sin against the common brotherhood. They that will be anything fall thereby "into temptation and a snare." If such is your disposition, remember, that is the side of your nature on which you are peculiarly exposed to danger. Do you then ask, May a Christian man be ambitious? May he say, I will — I will be rich; I will be great; I will be successful? — I reply, "Yes, he may; but only when he can add, 'If God sees best.'" He may be ambitious if he can keep leaning on God all the while he pursues his ambitions.
2. Now, let us consider together two opposite classes of character — intense impulsive men, and inactive, sluggish men. These also "fall into temptation and a snare." They are very liable to sins of commission. So feebly swayed by prudential considerations, they often do things which they live very greatly to regret. In connection with Christian life and work, they are exposed to the sins of discouragement and failing perseverance. They, too, often live a butterfly life, emptying the nectar from no flower on which they settle, but flying hither and thither from flower to flower, and gathering no stores of honey. They are like those streams which are only fed by mountain rains, or melting snows; they sometimes flow along in a very passion of excitement, but only for awhile; they soon subside; for weeks there is but a trick ling rill, and often the stones lie bleaching in the sun for months together. There are few things which do more injury to a Church than the ebb and flow of its hopes and efforts through the influence of its impulsive members. There are many of the opposite disposition. It is exceedingly difficult to arouse them at all. They seem to have no personal wills. They are always requiring to be urged and pressed. Such persons have their peculiar liabilities to temptation; mostly to sins of omission, the sins which come in connection with procrastination; sins arising from neglect of duty.
3. Only one other phase of character I will mention. Men who must have company. These also "fall into temptation and a snare." God has set the solitary in families. "It is not good that man should be alone." But you must have observed that this spirit possesses some men very much more than others. There are some who feel as if they could not live without company. They feel restless in their very homes if no one beside their family is found there. I do not say that, on the very face of it, this is wrong; but need I point out to you how perilous such a disposition becomes? Need I remind you how many have, through it, been led astray into drinking habits, and so ruined in heart and in home, in body and in soul?
II. THERE ARE CERTAIN TIMES IN A MAN'S LIFE WHEN TEMPTATION HAS PECULIAR FORCE. One of the wonderful discoveries of this scientific age is that of the successive changes through which our bodies pass in the course of our lives. Now, these bodily changes are very remarkably associated with our moral conditions; especially are they connected with the varying force of bodily passions. In some conditions of our frame, no temptation to the indulgence of any bodily lust would exert an effective power on us. In other conditions of our frame, the least exposure seems to involve our fall, we feel to be actually "overtaken," "overwhelmed." There are three periods of life in which, for the most part, men fall under the power of evil. Most men that fall, fall either into young men's peril, full-grown men's sins, or old men's sins. The devil never appears so much like an angel of light as when tie clothes himself to meet the rising passions of early manhood. A mourn ful proportion of our youth "fall into temptation and a snare," and are "drowned in destruction and perdition." Many a man has conquered the sins of youth, and then fallen before the sins of manhood. Sensual passion seems to acquire a new force then. The lust of gold. The thirst for position and fame urges men then. Men begin, for the most part, to be misers, or drunkards, or sensualists about this age. "A hoary head is a crown of glory if it be found in the way of righteousness." Yet old age has its special evils. Temptations to those sins which the Bible gathers up in the word "uncleanness." Often uncleanness of word and conversation; often, alas! of life and conduct also. It would appear that bodily lust and passion gathers itself in old age for one last struggle to gain the mastery.
(R. Tuck, B. A.)
(H. W. Beecher.)
(J. Foster.)Colossians 3:5). This sounds a hard saying, but it is one which can justify itself. For what is the essence of idolatry? Is it not a serving and loving of the creature more than the Creator; a giving to the lower what was due only to the higher, what was due only to Him who is the highest of all? And as this love of money disturbs the relations of men to God, drawing off to some meaner object affections due to Him, so it mingles continually an element of strife and division in the relations of men with one another. Again, what a root of unrighteousness, of untruthful dealing between man and man, of unfair advantage taken of the simple and the ignorant, of falsehood, fraud, and chicane, does the love of money continually show itself to be! And then — for time would fail me if I dwelt at large on all the mischiefs that spring from this, which even the heathen poet could style "the accursed hunger of gold" — what treading on the poor; what thrusting of them on unwholesome and dangerous occupations, with no due precautions taken for their health and safety; what shutting up of the bowels of compassion from the Lazarus lying at the gate; what wicked thoughts finding room in men's hearts, secret wishes for the death of those who stand between them and some coveted possession, have all their origin here. Consider, then, first, how powerless riches are against some of the worst calamities of our present life; how many of the sorrows which search men out the closest, which most drink up the spirit, these are utterly impotent to avert or to cure. Ask a man in a fit of the stone, or a victim of cancer, what his riches are worth to him; why, if he had the wealth of the Indies ten times told, he would exchange it all for ease of body, and a little remission of anguish. But why speak of bodily anguish? There is an anguish yet harder to bear, the anguish of the man whom the arrows of the Almighty, for they are His arrows, have pierced; who has learned what sin is, but has stopped short with the experience of the Psalmist, "Day and night Thy hand is heavy upon me; my moisture is like the drought in summer" (Psalm 32:4), and never learned that there is also an atonement. What profits it such a one that all the world is for him, so long as he feels and knows that God is against him? Then, too, how often we see a man comparatively desolate in the midst of the largest worldly abundance. These considerations may do something; but take now another and a more effectual remedy against this sin. Let a greater love expel a less, a nobler affection supersede a meaner. Consider often the great things for which you were made, the unsearchable riches of which you have been made partakers in Christ; for coveteousness, the desire of having, and of having ever more and more, sin as it is, is yet the degeneration of something which is not a sin. Man was made for the infinite; with infinite longings, infinite cravings and desires. But finally, the habit of largely and liberally setting apart from our income to the service of God and the necessities of our poorer brethren is a great remedy against covetousness.
(R. C. Trench.)oppression: — The love of money is a root of every evil, and oppression is one of its many bitter fruits. The subject of this discourse is the multiform oppression of the poor, that results from a too eager pursuit of wealth. In ruder times, the rich often oppressed the poor in a very direct manner. When might took the place of right, they who had the power did not always take the trouble of covering their rapacity under legal forms. They kept back the labourer's hire, or seized his patrimonial field, or enslaved his person, according to the measure of impunity which their circumstances permitted them to enjoy. In this country, and in the present day, such vulgar robbery cannot be perpetrated. Love of money, a spring in the heart, when one channel of issue is blocked up, will force its way by another. Accordingly, this passion as certainly, and perhaps we should say as extensively, oppresses the poor now, as in ruder nations at earlier times. The same native evil is compelled to adopt more refined modes of action: but the oppression may be as galling to the poor and as displeasing to God although it keep strictly within the letter of human law. I have no doubt the law of Christ is violated amongst us — thoughtlessly, in ignorance, and in company with a multitude, it may be — but still sinfully violated, to a most alarming extent, in connection with the money-making efforts of this mercantile community. You have seen a street thronged from side to side with human beings, men, women, and children, all moving in one direction. The mass moves like a river. If every one keep his own place and glide along with the current, the motion will be gentle and harmless. But two or three strong men in the midst of that crowd conceive a desire to proceed at a much quicker rate than their neighbours. Yielding to that impulse, they bound forward with might and main. Observe the effect of their effort. They press on the persons that are next them. If these be strong men too, the only effect will be to push them faster forward, and the greater pressure may be only a pleasant excitement. But the pressure extends on either side, and is felt even to the outer edge of the crowd. Wherever there is a woman, a child, or a cripple, the feeble goes to the wall. The person originating the pressure may not be in contact with that sickly passenger — there may be many persons between them; but the pressure goes through all the intermediate links, not hurting any till it come to one who is unable to bear it, and hurting the helpless. In such a crowd you may sometimes see the selfishness of human nature in all is undisguised odiousness. The man seeks his own advantage, heedless of the injury that his effort may inflict on others. He is not guilty of a direct deed of injustice. He would not lift his hand to strike the feeble; he would not illegally wrest away his property. He endeavours to act justly: nay, he sometimes opens his hand in charity to the distressed. But really, though indirectly, he is an oppressor. He wriggles forward, although his movements necessarily hurt the poor. He looks to his own things; and disregards the things of others. He breaks the law of Christ. The oppressions which abound in our day, as the fruits of covetousness, are chiefly of this nature. They are by no means so gross as the tyranny which the feudal lords of the Middle Ages exercised on their serfs; but they spring from the same source, and are essentially of the same character in the estimation of the Judge. I shall now enumerate and briefly illustrate some of the forms which oppression assumes in modern society.
1. The reduction of wages below the point at which a labouring man can support his family, or a woman support herself.
2. The labour of children is another evil more or less remotely an effect of the haste to be rich.
3. Sabbath labour is one of the oppressions that the prevalence of the money-interest inflicts upon mankind. It is an evil that cries loud to the Lord of Hosts.
4. Yet another oppression let me name — the poor are in a great measure cooped up in crowded lanes, and miserable houses. This is one bitter fruit of a general selfishness. Conceive the force operating now within this city in the direction of money-making. If all the energies that are expended in that direction were added, how vast would the sum of them be! I know not a speculation more interesting than this. It would represent a power which, if collected and united, and turned upon the city's filth, and poverty, and ignorance, would sweep them away, as the stream of a mighty river rolling down our streets would carry off the mire that accumulated on their surface.
(W. Arnot.)dishonesty: —
I. THE PATH BY WHICH COVETOUSNESS LEADS TO DISHONESTY is marked off step by step by the apostle in the text.
1. They "wilt be rich" (ver. 9). A class of persons are here characterized. They are described by the leading aim of their lives. It is not said what their religious profession was. Perhaps their belief was orthodox, and their zeal warm. All that we learn about them is, that in God's sight money was their "chief end." This is not a right — not a safe aim for an immortal being.
2. They "fall into temptation." The word conveys the idea of an unexpected fall — a stumble into a pit which you did not expect to be there. If the real movement of a man's life be toward money, while he diligently keeps his face turned round to maintain the appearance of being a Christian, he will certainly fall into every pit that lies in his way. The motion, too, is uneasy. Those who set out in pursuit of riches, making no other profession, get on more smoothly.
3. They fall into temptation. A man does not all at once go into vicious practices. He glides, before he is aware, into a position where he is exposed to the pressure of a strong temptation. Those who have rightly measured their own strength will avoid persons and places that put it to a severe test. He that trusteth to his own heart is a fool.
4. A snare marks another stage of this downward progress. The man who has thoughtlessly and in foolhardiness placed himself in the way of temptation, is soon surrounded — the meshes of a net compass him about. He got easily in, but he finds it impossible to get out again. He has recourse to a false entry, a forgery, or some other of the thousand tricks that the wit of hard-pressed men has invented, and the complicated forms of business has served to conceal. Behold the desperate, helpless fluttering of the bird in the snare of the fowler — dashing itself on the sides of an iron cage!
5. The next step is into "many foolish and hurtful lusts." These raging lusts are, as it were, watching, ready to fasten on their victim as soon as they see him in the toils of the net. You may have observed that a man whose pecuniary affairs are in a desperate position is peculiarly liable to fall into meaner vices. How frequently do the agonies and embarrassments that precede a shameful disclosure precipitate a man into the abyss of secret drunkenness! These lusts that covetousness leads to are "foolish and hurtful"; they pretend to cure, but they only deepen the wound. They apply a balsam that soothes the sore for a moment, but fixes disease more firmly in the flesh. I shall not trace this progress farther.
II. THE DISHONESTY TO WHICH COVETOUSNESS LEADS. "Flee these things, but follow after righteousness." The vices that the love of money lands in are not named at length. In general, they are said to be foolish and hurtful. But the opposite graces are individually specified. The first on the list is righteousness. Of course, the opposite vice to which covetousness tends, and against which his warning is directed, is injustice. Righteousness is required in all our transactions — righteousness, not according to the conventional rules of society, which shift like the sand, but according to the immutable standard of the Divine law. The righteous Lord loveth righteousness. How many are at this day put to shame for detected dishonesty, who once would have resented the supposition of it as keenly and sincerely as you! I do not know your hearts: and what is more, you do not know them yourselves. One who does know them, however, testifies that they are deceitful above all things. Some forms of dishonesty, such as a false balance, that are prominently condemned in Scripture, we shall pass over without particular notice, because in modern society, though they still exist, they have been comparatively cast into the shade by other inventions. Dishonesty is obliged to hide itself now under more elaborate devices. I mean the adulteration of goods offered for sale by the mixture of other ingredients. A false representation to a customer as to the original cost of your wares, or the rate of your profit, is manifestly dishonest. Above all things, you who have others, especially young persons, employed in selling your goods, charge them to be true and honest. I speak now not for the purchasers, but for the salesmen. Breach of trust is a form of dishonesty alarmingly frequent in our day. Righteousness is one and unchangeable. It compasses about your mighty trafficking, and lays bonds on it, as completely and as easily as the smallest bargainings between a huckster and a peasant at the wayside: even as the same law with equal ease retains a little water in a cup, and the ocean's wave within the ocean's bed.
(H. W. Beecher.)
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