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. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 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. -1 Timothy 6:17-19
At the time of writing this, the COVID-19 Virus is literally shaking and shutting down the world in unprecedented ways. Not only are travel restrictions being put in place around the world, but “social distancing” has become a new term for many of us in practice! Groups larger than 10 are being discouraged from gathering. Restaurants, sporting events, schools, churches, and other social and public meeting places are being closed down for a time. Grocery stores can’t keep up with the demand for many items, and even Amazon is restricting what it is shipping.
Meanwhile, the stock market is going wild in ways we haven’t seen since the recession of 2008. And all of this has been happening in what seems like the blink of an eye over an invisible enemy.
In times like this that are uncertain and unfamiliar, panic and fear grips hearts, and people begin to focus on their personal needs and concerns in a way that can lead to hoarding, selfishness, and self-preservation. In times opposite of this however, we can become arrogant and overly confident in the stock market or our comfortable lives that we take for granted.
That is why this passage caught my eye in a new way. Here, the apostle Paul encourages young Timothy to address the rich in this world. You may not think of yourself as rich, but if you live in the United States and are reading this, you are rich compared to most of the rest of the world! And we are explicitly called not to be arrogant (in times of prosperity) or to put our hope in wealth, which is so uncertain. Did you catch it? As we are all realizing right now, things can change in the blink of an eye, and that which seemed so certain, no longer is so sure!
But rather than this provoking fear, anxiety, and self-preservation in us, the rest of this passage is critical. We are to put our hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. God is not out to rain on our parade or spoil the enjoyment of life. He is the One from whom all good in our lives comes from and who enables us to enjoy life! But our hope must be in him, not the stock market, economy, our job security, or our bank accounts. Everything in this world is subject to uncertainty and change. Only God himself, however, is unchangeable and, therefore, certain and sure for us to put our trust in.
Secondly, Paul called Timothy to command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. This, however, is the opposite of self-preservation in uncertain times! And yet this is so critical during times like this that we not begin to focus inward and hoard for ourselves, but open up generously to others in need too.
I lead a mission organization called ServeNow. We work among some of the most vulnerable people in the world. In some ways, they go through “crises” like this all the time, and their life is one of constant uncertainty day by day. And we are getting requests from our directors in these countries sharing with us the needs and ways we could really serve and be a blessing right now.
However, I have been wondering how giving will be impacted since the USA is also going through this. Will people become less generous and think only of their own needs or life here in America? Will donations go down and will we have to cut back other programs, let alone not be able to respond to this situation for those with far less options or access than we have?
Therefore, this is a call to not stop being generous. This is a call to be careful not to lose compassion. This is a call to be rich in good deeds, even if you might be losing some earthly riches in the stock market. This is a call to not turn inward and act only in self-preserving ways.
And here is ultimately why: it is an act of faith and love that will not only benefit those most in need on earth but also result in true reward for you in eternity. The motivation Paul told Timothy to communicate to the rich was, 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.
“They,” is me and you! Now is a critical time to ask ourselves; are we thinking only of our lives on earth or also others life on earth and eternity?