1 Timothy 6:9-11
But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts…
You will notice, in the first place, the emphasis which is to be put upon the opening of this passage. "They" — not they that will be rich; because riches are ordained of God, and, rightly held and rightly used, are an instrument of most beneficent power, salutary to the possessor as well as the recipient of bounty — "They that will be rich" whether or not "fall into temptation," etc. They are willing to give the whole force and power of their being; for they will have it. They are men who, because they will be rich, cannot be conscientious; and who learn soon to say that most beggarly of all things, "A man cannot be a Christian and be in my business." How came you in it then? Yea, they have not time to cultivate refinement; they have not time for the amenities of life; they have not time for their household; they have not time for friendship; they have not time for love. And so, because they will be rich, they give up their heart also. And having given all these up, God blesses and blasts them: blesses, for they are rich, and that is what they call blessing; blasts, because it is not in the nature of God Himself, without an absolute change of the laws by which He works, to make a man happy who has, for the sake of gaining wealth, divested himself of those elements in which happiness consists. For what if the harp, in order to make itself blessed, should sell, first, its lowest base string, and then its next one, and then its next string, and then its next, and its next, until finally every string of the harp is sold? Then, when all the heaps of music are piled up before it, and it wants to play, it is mute. It has sold the very things out of which music must needs come. And men that will be rich give up sensibility, affection, faith, manhood, coining them all, emptying themselves: and when they get possession of their wealth, what is there left for them to enjoy it with? Their marrow is gone. There is no string in the harp on which joy can play. Not only will they who will be rich sacrifice everything, but they will not hesitate to do everything that is required — only, as men that will be rich require impunity, it must be safe. And so comes the long, detestable roe of mining, subterranean conduct, the secrecy of wickedness, collusions, plotting, unwhispered things, or things only whispered; that long train of webbing conduct which makes man insincere, pretentious hypocrites, whited sepulchres that are fair without, but that are inwardly full of death and dead men's bones. Men begin at first to make a little; they find how easy it is; they enlarge their ambition, and the conception dawns upon them, "Why am not I one of those who are appointed to be millionaires." In the beginning of life, a few thousands would have satisfied their ambition. Now, hundreds of thousands seem to them but a morsel. They grow more and more intense. Temptations begin to fall upon them. You can no more make money suddenly and largely, and be unharmed by it, than a man could suddenly grow from a child's stature to a man's stature without harm. There is not a gardener who does not know that a plant may grow faster than it can make wood; that the cellular tissue may grow faster than the ligneous consolidation; and that then it cannot hold itself up. And many men grow faster in riches than they can consolidate. Men who are tempted to make money suddenly, are almost invariably obliged to traverse the canons of morality. Avarice in its earliest stages is not hideous, though at the bottom it is the same serpent thing that it is at last. In the beginning it is an artist, and the man begins to think, "I will redeem my parents. Oh! I will repurchase the old homestead. Ah I will I not make my village to bud and blossom as a rose?" How many things do men paint in the sky which clouds cover and winds blow away, and which fade out with the morning that painted them. But where do you find a man who begins to make money fast, that does not begin to have narrower, baser, and avaricious feelings? Such men begin to be tempted to believe that success atones for faults. Men are tempted as soon as they get into this terrific fire of avarice, to regard morality as of little avail compared with money-making. They are dazzled. You will recollect our Saviour's words, "The deceitfulness of riches." Men are snared when they are given up to fiery avarice. They are snared because the very things by which they propose to gain success become in the long run the means of their own destruction. Cheating is another snare. No man cheats once without cheating twice. Like a gun that fires at the muzzle and kicks over at the breach, the cheat hurts the cheater as much as the man cheated. Cheating is a snare, and will always be a snare. The cheater falls into it. Conceit is another snare. Men lose wisdom just in proportion as they are conceited. It is astonishing to see how conceited men are in power. I have noticed how soon those that will be rich at any hazard, fall into drinking habits. They have come into a sphere in which they begin to fall not simply into "temptation and a snare," but into divers "lusts." Now comes extravagance. With extravagance come many more mischievous lusts. And when you see a man given to licentious indulgence, you may be sure that he will come to want a crust. Mark that man. Poverty is on his track; and he shall be surely overcome and destroyed by it. We are not to understand that money is the root of all evil; but the love of it — bestowing that which we have a right to bestow only on undying and immortal qualities upon God, and angels, and men — bestowing love, idolatrously, upon material gain. It is not said that all evil springs from this cause; but at one time and another this may become the cause of all evil. It has corrupted in its time every faculty and every relation in which a man stands connected with his fellows. It has divided families, it has parted friendships, it has corrupted purity. The love of money, often, is stronger than the love of kindred. I observe that as men come into this, one of two things takes place; they forsake the house of God, they forsake religious society, because either they have no taste for it, or because it irritates them, or annoys them, and they will not bear the restraint or else, on the other hand, they betake themselves to religion because under certain circumstances, religion is an atonement for misconduct. It is a policy of life-insurance to men that are in iniquity. It is not, "What is true?" but, "What will make me feel good while I am a wicked man?" That they seek. They err from the faith. But now comes the solemn sentence, "They pierce themselves through with many sorrows." I wish you could see what I have seen. A sword is merciful compared with "the sorrows that pierce men with pain through life. You do not dare to adopt economic courses, because men would rush in on you, and take possession of you. And so men go under false appearances. How they suffer! Ah! if a man is going to be ruined, and has the testimony of his conscience that he has been an honest man, there is some alleviation to his suffering; but frequently it is a ruin carrying with it blight. Is it not a terrible thing to see a man, in the middle of life, count death better than life? Thank God, a man does not need to be very rich to be very happy, only so that he has a treasure in himself. A loving heart; a genuine sympathy; a pure unadulterated taste; a life that is not scorched by dissipation or wasted by untimely hours; a good sound body, and a clear conscience — these things ought to make a man happy. A man may be useful and not be rich. A man may be powerful and not be rich; for ideas are more powerful than even dollars. If God calls you to a way of making wealth, make it; but remember do not love money. If God calls you to make wealth, do not make haste to be rich; be willing to wait. If God calls you into the way of wealth, do not undertake to make yourself rich by gambling.
(H. W. Beecher.)
Parallel VersesKJV: But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.