Her hands were full of rings, bracelets, necklaces, chains and other treasures. Torrents of lava were erupting and pouring down from Mount Vesuvius in AD 79. As she fled, this woman was not prepared to leave behind her valuable jewels. Encumbered by her treasures, she was overwhelmed by the rain of ashes from the volcano and was buried under it.
During the course of modern building operations, her petrified body was found outside the area of the buried city of Pompeii, an ancient Roman port. Her body was unearthed in a sea of jewels. She lost her life in an attempt to save her treasures.
Jesus warned us that ultimately you have to choose between money and God (Matthew 6:24). In the New Testament, there is no ban on private property or making money, or even enjoying the good things in life. The command to the rich, however, is that they do not ‘put their hope in wealth’ (1 Timothy 6:17). A selfish accumulation of wealth and an unhealthy obsession with material things leads us away from God. What promises security leads to perpetual insecurity.
Ultimately, contentment only comes from putting your hope in God: ‘godliness with contentment is great gain’. The promise of God’s word is that those who ‘put their hope in God’ (v.17) find ‘a firm foundation’ and ‘take hold of the life that is truly life’ (v.19).
Time is your most valuable possession. You can make more money but you cannot create more time. How you spend your time is evidence of where your hope lies. If your hope is in God and his word, then you will invest time in them.
The psalmist places his hope firmly in God’s word: ‘For I have put my hope in your word’ (v.74b). What does this mean in practice?
Spend time seeking to understand God’s word (vv.73,79), meditate on it (v.78), delight in it (v.77) and learn it off by heart (v.73).
When you are going through difficult times continue to trust God’s word: ‘Your testing has taught me what’s true and right’ (v.75, MSG). Trust in God’s faithfulness, ‘unfailing love’ (v.76) and ‘compassion’ (v.77).
Spending time with God is the way in which God breathes his wisdom into you (v.73, MSG). He comforts you so that you can live, ‘really live… live whole and holy, soul and body’ (vv.77,80a, MSG), and always walk with your ‘head held high’ (v.80b, MSG).
If you live like this, it will encourage others to do the same: ‘May those who fear you rejoice when they see me’ (v.74a). Likewise, it is encouraging for us to see other people who are hoping in God’s word.
Lord, as I put my hope in your word today, may I be an encouragement to others: ‘May those who fear you rejoice when they see me’ (v.74a).
The apostle Paul begins this passage by warning against those who teach false doctrines – rejecting godly teaching and the ‘sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ’ (v.3). These people have an unhealthy interest in controversies and disputes (v.4).
These false teachers cause ‘constant friction between people of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain’ (v.5).
Paul’s words about wealth in this passage apply to everyone – especially to those of us who live in the West, where we are rich in comparison to so much of the world. Paul writes, ‘Command those who are rich in the 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’ (v.17).
Don’t be tempted to think that you would be more content if you had more money (provided that you have food and clothing, v.8). Be content with what you have materially: ‘Godliness with contentment is great gain’ (v.6).
Contentment is worth more than all the wealth you could possibly accumulate. People who want to get rich ‘fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction’ (v.9).
Paul is often misquoted as saying, ‘Money is the root of all evil.’ What he actually says is, ‘The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil’ (v.10a). Money can do a lot of good. But the love of money is extremely dangerous. ‘Lust for money brings trouble and nothing but trouble. Going down that path, some lose their footing in the faith completely and live to regret it bitterly ever after’ (v.10, MSG).
Whether you are very wealthy or have scarcely any money, the danger is the same – to love money. The temptation is there, whether it is to love money you already have, or money you would dearly love to have.
Instead of loving and pursuing money, love and pursue: ‘a righteous life – a life of wonder, faith, love, steadiness, courtesy’ (v.11, MSG). He urges Timothy to ‘fight the good fight of the faith’ (v.12a). The ‘fight’ starts with our hearts and minds focused on Jesus (vv.13–14).
He does not command them to give all their money away, but not to put their hope in it. If you get your attitude towards money sorted out, it will help sort out almost every other area of your life. Paul gives five ways to sort out our attitude to money (vv.17–18):
Lord, help us not to put our hope in wealth but to be content and to put our hope in you. Help me to do good, to be rich in good deeds and to be generous and willing to share.
Some people put their hope in riches. This is what the Moabites and Ammonites did (48:7; 49:4). Others put their hope in powerful people – as the Egyptians did.
The prophet Jeremiah realised that the Lord (Yahweh) was not just the national God of Israel but was Lord over all the nations of the world. He was given a message by the Lord for Egypt and the other nations.
He warned against relying on Pharaoh in spite of the fact that he was one of the most powerful people in the world. Those who trust in ‘Pharaoh’ are heading for trouble (46:25).
By contrast, he promises those who serve him: ‘But you… my servant, you have nothing to fear… there’s no need to worry… Depend on it, I’m on your side… I’m not finished with you yet’ (vv.27–28, MSG). In Christ, he promises to you also peace and security. He is with you. You do not need to be afraid.
Ultimately, it is the Lord alone who is our hope. As Pope John Paul II put it, ‘Christ is the source of hope for the whole world... Jesus Christ is our hope.’
Lord, I will not be afraid because you are with me. Help me always to put my hope in you and serve you only. May my trust never be in money, powerful people or anything else. May my trust and contentment always be in you.
‘May those who fear you turn to me.’
There are so many things I am tempted to fear in life, but the only right fear is of the Lord.