I Timothy 6:17-21 Guarding The Trust.
As a man of God Timothy was to eschew sinful pride and greed. Paul, in turn, tells Timothy to “command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy” (v. 17). By modifying ‘rich’ with “in this present age,” Paul is clearly speaking of material wealth and prestige that some do rightfully enjoy in this life. However, he also calls them “uncertain,” and this combined with “this present age,” shows how fleeting they are, both in respect to this life and in that which is to come. Timothy is to command them not to be haughty, not only because it would not be wise to be proud of that which is fleeting, but also more importantly because it is “the living God who gives us all things to enjoy.” It is ultimately the living God who blesses people with material wealth (Cf. Jer. 9:23-24; 48:7; Eccl. 5:18-20).
It is because it is ultimately the living God who blesses people with material wealth that Paul instructs his pastoral protégé to urge the rich to be “rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share” (v. 18). He does not repeat the word ‘command’ but instead tells Timothy to in effect ‘urge’ the rich to be “ready” and “willing”. It is better for us all, and more needful, that we give not out of command but because we are ready and willing out of gratitude for all that God has given us. In so doing, we store up for ourselves “treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Mt. 6:20). This is the “good foundation” which Paul wrote about here. The lasting nature of these riches contrast sharply with the uncertain material wealth of this age. Better to use the latter in the service of the former.
When Paul urges the rich to store up riches for the life to come, “that they may lay hold on eternal life,” he does not contradict his firm commitment to the gospel of justification by faith. We know “that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ” (Gal. 2:16 Cf. 3:11; Rom. 3:20, 28; 4:1-4). What Paul does affirm is that those who are truly saved will inevitably show this change in how they then live. Right after he affirms grace in Ephesians 2:8-9 he goes on to write the following. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (v. 10). We are saved by grace for a purpose-that we might be true image bearers of Christ Himself in a ‘creation mandate’ renewed (Cf. Gen. 1:26-28; 2:15, 18). We work out what God works in, and this is why these works are of lasting value (Cf. Mt. 19:21; Phil. 2:12).
The words of this epistle are absolutely critical, and this is why Paul took the time and effort to leave such a letter for his pastoral protégé and ultimately for the church. The parting conclusion here merits an exclamation-“O Timothy!” He and we need to guard the faith against all assaults. The gospel which he has reiterated here and his other letters must be protected, and this includes both doctrine and the life of the individual and the church. This was that which was committed to him and to every true minister of the word when one is ordained. We don’t do this in our own strength, but in the strength which the Spirit gives us (II Tim. 2:12-14). The word of God is something placed in our trust, therefore we must avoid “the profane and idle babblings and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge” (v. 20). It is false teachers who enjoy arguing for argument sake. However, the word entrusted to us does not contradict itself.