1 Timothy 6:17-19
Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not high minded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God…
Every condition of life hath its peculiar dangers to be avoided and duties to be done, but none hath dangers more threatening or duties more important than that of the rich and great: whose situation, notwithstanding, is seldom considered by those who are in it as having anything to be feared; and is generally imagined by others to comprehend almost everything that is to be wished. To be thus environed with temptations, and probably sensible of none of. them, is a most pitiable condition. Now the peculiar dangers of the rich and great arises either from the eminence of their station or the abundance of their wealth: and therefore the text points a caution against each. But I shall be able at present to treat only of the first: which is, THAT THEY BE NOT HIGH-MINDED. Every superiority of every sort, which men only imagine themselves possessed of, is too liable to be over-rated and improperly used. But superior fortune and condition are advantages so visible to all eyes, create such dependences, and give such influence, that it is no wonder if they tempt to uncommon haughtiness. Now undoubtedly distinguished rank is entitled to distinguished regard; and the good order of society very much depends on keeping up that regard; and therefore the great should in a proper manner be much more careful to keep it up than many of them are. But when they nurse up the consciousness of their own superiority into a contemptuous neglect of others and insolent expectations of unfit submissions from them, they have great need to be reminded that respect is paid to wealth and birth because the common good requires it, not because the persons who receive it are always worthy of it; but their dishonourable behaviour will be the more conspicuous for their honourable station. And even supposing them guilty of nothing else to lessen the esteem they claim, yet claiming too much of it, or too openly, will frustrate their intention most effectually. For neither equals nor inferiors will suffer near so much to be extorted from them as they would have bestowed most freely on their own accord. But one sort of condescension to inferiors may be of peculiar advantage; I mean listening to useful information and advice from them, things which the great are very apt to think themselves above, when every one else sees they have much need of them. Neither affluence nor high rank by any means imply superiority of judgment. But if humility in the great could be no ether way beneficial to them, yet avoiding the guilt of so injurious a behaviour as indulging a proud spirit prompts them to, is surely a motive important enough. Thus too many treat their tenants hardly, or permit them to be so treated. Another sort of persons, for whom superiors too commonly will not vouchsafe to have the consideration that they ought, are those who come to them upon business. Obliging such to an unreasonable attendance, making them wait long, and it may be return often, is a very provoking and a very injurious kind of stateliness. But there is another fault still worse frequently joined with this; deeming it beneath their notice whether such of their inferiors as have just and reasonable demands upon them are paid when they ought. Another very blameable and very pernicious instance of high-mindedness in the great is imagining the management of their families an attention too low for them. Even that of their children they very commonly despise to an astonishing degree. Or if they have humility enough to inspect some part of their education, it is usually the outward and showy but less material part. Now proceed to the latter, TRUSTING IN UNCERTAIN RICHES: which phrase comprehends placing the happiness of life either in wealth itself or in those pleasures and amusements which it is commonly made the instrument of procuring. The prohibition therefore of doing this extends to regulate the acquisition, the possession, and use of a great fortune; and to go through the subject fully, each of these points must be considered.
1. The acquisition. In speculation it seems hardly to be expected that any one who is once master of enough to answer his real and reasonable wants should feel any desire almost, on his own account, of having more: that he should take much pains about is very wonderful; and that he should do anything wrong for it quite unaccountable. No temptation is a warrant for doing wrong; but to do wrong without anything that deserves the name of a temptation is exceedingly bad. And it cannes be nature, but merely an absurd habit wilfully indulged, that tempts men to accumulate what they have no need of. But though riches alone render eagerness for more very blameable and unbecoming, yet greatness added to them doubles the fault. For exalted rank absolutely calls for the exercise of honourable disinterestedness.
2. Concerning the possession of it. Now keeping a heap of wealth merely for the sake of keeping it is an apparent absurdity. Keeping it merely for the repute of having it is a very low inducement. And if laying up against future accidents be pretended, a moderate store will suffice for a reasonable security, and nothing can secure us absolutely. Indeed the larger the fortune, the more room for accidents in one part or another of it; and the loss of a small part will be as grievous to a heart set upon riches as that of a larger to another man. Besides, whoever lives only to the purpose of saving and accumulating will be tempted by this ruling passion to a sinful neglect of the poor and the worthy among his friends and dependants, perhaps among his relations and very children. But besides the sins which may be committed in the getting or keeping of wealth, there are —
3. Others, committed too frequently in using it; which persons of superior fortune and rank must be charged to avoid, and which undoubtedly the text comprehends. For putting their trust in riches is just as much the description of those who place the happiness of life in the enjoyment of large estates as those who place it in the possession of them. Some trust in their riches so very inconsiderately that they trust there will never be an end of them, let them be squandered as extravagantly as they will. So they set out with gratifying themselves in everything. Others, if they do not dissipate their estates in so wild a manner, yet use them principally to minister to their sensuality and debauchery; vices which men of superior fortune somehow imagine they have a sort of right to be guilty of. Another very bad use of wealth, in which too many seem to place no small part of their happiness, is that of gaming. But supposing wealth be neither spent in this nor any of the gross vices mentioned before, yet if it be employed in ministering to a course of more decent and refined luxury, or in supporting such a pomp of life as nourishes vanity and pride, or in filling so much time with unprofitable entertainment, that little room is left in the mind for objects of importance: these things also the rich and great must be charged to amend.I proceed to THE DUTIES OF WHICH HE ENJOINS THEY SHALL BE PECULIARLY REMINDED.
1. The first is, to trust in the living God, who giveth us all things richly to enjoy. After warning them against placing their happiness in the pre-eminences, the possessions or pleasures of this world, it was very natural to direct them where they should place it: for somewhere-we must. And his precept carries the proof of its own fitness along with it. For the living God must have the greatest power to reward our trust, and He who giveth us all things richly to enjoy hath shown Himself to have the greatest will also. Some persons, it may be, when they are pressed upon the subject, will plead that they are by no means without inward regard to God; though they cannot say they give much outward demonstration of it in acts of worship. But supposing them sincere, what reason can there be why respect to God should not be paid outwardly when respect to every superior besides is? But it is possible for us to keep up a sufficient possession of religion to secure both public order and domestic tranquility, yet by no means have a sufficient sense of it for obtaining eternal life; and what will the former avail us without the latter? We should all, therefore, learn to live more to our Maker; to imprint on our hearts and exert in our whole behaviour a stronger sense of His present providence and future rewards. It would be a direction, a security, an improvement, a comfort to us beyond expression.
2. The second duty prescribed in the text as peculiarly necessary for the rich and great is that they do good, that they be rich in good works. If men of rank and fortune observe duly the preceding part of the apostle's charge, they will easily be induced to observe the concluding one. If they are neither so high-minded as to neglect and despise their fellow-creatures, nor so selfish as to trust in uncertain riches, in the acquisition, the possession, or voluptuous enjoyment of them, for their happiness, but expect it only from their acceptance with the living God; they will naturally imitate Him whom they desire to please, particularly in His beneficence, the most amiable of all His perfections. And it is not by their wealth only that they are able and therefore called to do good, but by their whole behaviour. But still, though almsgiving is by no means the whole of beneficence, yet it is an essential part in those whom God hath qualified for it. And He hath given them all things richly and in plenty, not merely for themselves to enjoy in the vulgar sense, but that others may enjoy a due share of them and they the pleasure of imparting it; the worthiest and highest enjoyment of wealth that can be. But, in general, that both our charity and our generosity should bear some decent and liberal proportion to our abilities, and the rich in this world be rich in good works also. Nor is it sufficient for the rich to give plentifully, but they must do it on every fit occasion speedily; be ready to distribute and not stay till the circumstances of the poor are beyond recovery or their spirits broken under the weight of their misfortunes, but make haste to help them and, as far as possible, prevent distress.
Parallel VersesKJV: Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy;
WEB: Charge those who are rich in this present world that they not be haughty, nor have their hope set on the uncertainty of riches, but on the living God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy;