“The Uncertainty of Wealth”

Categories: Bulletin Articles, M. W. Bassford

In 1 Timothy 6:17, Paul embarks on a familiar New Testament theme.  Don’t trust money; trust God instead.  However, his reasoning is different here than elsewhere.  Unlike Jesus, he doesn’t warn us that we can’t serve both God and Mammon, nor does he repeat his claim in Colossians 3:5 that greed is a form of idolatry.  Instead, he warns rich Christians away from trusting in riches because riches are. . . uncertain.

Uncertain?  That doesn’t sound so bad!  However, once we recognize how large a problem the uncertainty of wealth truly is, we will be far less inclined to entrust ourselves to it.

First, wealth is uncertain in prospect.  I know Christians who always have some new get-rich-quick scheme every time I talk to them.  So far, none of these schemes have resulted in riches. 

Sometimes, people’s hopes for wealth founder because of foolishness.  At others, they founder because of chance.  In 1993, some of the brightest minds in finance, including a Nobel Prize winner, founded a hedge fund called Long-Term Capital Management.  They thought they had discovered a way to get great returns without risk.  However, the wrong combination of financial crises in 1997 and 1998 destroyed LTCM.  It lost billions and was liquidated in 2000.

Similar dangers beset our hopes of holding on to the wealth we already have.  Ecclesiastes 5:13-14 comments on the tragedy of holding on carefully to one’s money, only to lose it through a bad investment.  This often is a modern tragedy too.  Con artists, needy relatives, negligent subordinates, and economic shocks all can part us from what we’ve earned.

Worse still, just as we can’t rely on getting wealthy or on keeping our wealth, we can’t rely on wealth to protect us either.  “Money is the answer for everything,” the Preacher scoffs in Ecclesiastes 10:19, and so it seems to the people of the world.  As long as you’re rich, your riches will keep you safe.

That’s not the case.  Many things can separate us from our wealth, and there also are problems that no amount of wealth can solve.  Money might buy the pretense of love, but it can’t purchase the reality.  God is more impressed when we give away our riches than when we accumulate them.  Some diseases remain stubbornly incurable no matter how much money we throw at them, and in the end, “rich dead man” is as much an oxymoron as “jumbo shrimp”. 

Basically, money is good for the little things in life, but it’s worthless for the big ones.  When we’re dying, none of us will look back in satisfaction on the things that money bought.  The people who build their lives around money, though numerous, are foolish. 

God is a much better investment.  Wealth is known for betraying those who love it, but He is known for being faithful to those who love Him.  He will never leave us, and there is no challenge too great for Him to overcome.  Ultimately, the treasure we lay up in heaven is the only treasure that matters.