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Today's Little Lift

    by Jim Bullington

Uncertain Riches (1 Timothy 6.17)
Date Posted: November 29, 2022

There are a number of figures in the Bible that describe the unstable worth of material things (riches). Today’s message will take a quick glance at some of these figures and then close with a more detailed look at the phrase Uncertain Riches as used by Paul in writing to the young preacher, Timothy.

First, we will take a cursory look at a few “riches figures” as used in the Bible. “Will you set your eyes on that which is not? For riches certainly make themselves wings; They fly away like an eagle toward heaven.” (Proverbs 23.5). “You have sown much, and bring in little; You eat, but do not have enough; You drink, but you are not filled with drink; You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm; And he who earns wages, Earns wages to put into a bag with holes.” (Haggai 1.6). “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through [intentionally impaled themselves] with many sorrows.” (1 Timothy 6.9-10).

Finally, we will note Paul’s admonition to Timothy concerning the fleeting nature of riches. “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. Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.” (1 Timothy 6.17-19). Anyone who has paid any attention at all to the shrinking value of money in our culture understands that riches are not permanent. Many American citizens who thought they had iron-clad retirement benefits found themselves to have absolutely nothing! Some of this shrinkage has been due to the malfeasances of wicked men, while other losses have been tied to a general downturn in the economy (housing and real estate being two notable examples). The tragedy is not the loss of wealth; the real tragedy is the fact that so many trust in riches!

The remedy for this tragedy is contained in this very context. Paul counsels everyone to reject false trust and to trust in “the living God who gives us all things to enjoy.” Those who follow this advice store “…up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come.” Jesus spoke of this very principle when He told the parable of the wise and foolish builders; a part of it reads: “He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently against that house, and could not shake it, for it was founded on the rock. But he who heard and did nothing is like a man who built a house on the earth without a foundation against which the stream beat vehemently; and immediately it fell. And the ruin of that house was great.” (Luke 6.48-49). We “get it” when iftcomes to houses and other buildings; unfortunately we don’t always get it when it comes to riches.

Last night I held an item in my hands that I have kept for over 30 years; I keep it to remind me of the fleeting value of riches. It is a small tin box which contains about a quart of burned coins. Originally the coins were in another tin in my house, just a safe place to put back some spare change from day to day. That was before lightning struck our house and took everything in it except this little stash of coins and a steel crowbar (wrecking bar). Fortunately no lives were lost and no one was hurt physically. But, it burned an indelible lesson in my mind as to the fleeting nature of riches. The only sure thing about money is that it is unsure. Trust in God; the owner of the cattle on a thousand hills! (Psalm 50.10).


1. What is meant by the figure of money sprouting wings?

2. What is the lesson about putting money in a bag with holes in it? Would we literally be that foolish? Do we do this figuratively when we fail to remember that money sprouts wings? Explain!

3. What is the figure that Paul used to describe what we do to ourselves when we trust in riches and not in the Living God?

4. Can you think of situations in your life when the loss of riches was actually a blessing? Who said, “The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” (1 Timothy 6.10)? How is this verse often misquoted? What is the difference between the actual quote and the popular misquotation?

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Biography Information:
Jim Bullington - A Christian writer whose insight into the scriptures is reflected in practical application lessons in every article. The reader will find that the Bible speaks directly to him/her through these articles. God is always exalted and His word is treated with the utmost respect in this column.
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