Wednesday, 14 February 2018
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. 1 Timothy 6:9
Paul has been speaking of our state in this life, and that we should be content with “food and clothing.” Now he adds in a qualifying thought on this by beginning with, “But those who desire to be rich.” He does not say here, nor does he ever say, that it is wrong to be rich. It is the desire, not the possession, which is being noted. When one has a desire for wealth which consumes a person beyond their desire for honoring God, then things are upturned. The schools of asceticism took the opposite view, and supposed that if being rich brought about a conflict with one’s relationship to God, then through a purposeful vow to poverty, one would be brought nearer to God. Paul’s words here dispel that notion. It is desire which is being discussed.
This desire to be rich will lead a person to “fall into temptation.” If someone looks to wealth as their heart’s desire, then they will be tempted to do whatever it takes to become wealthy, even if it is not legally or morally right. The Lord doesn’t include this in His model prayer. Instead He said, “Lead us not into temptation.” The one desiring wealth acts in a manner contrary to the guidelines of properly honoring God.
Paul then says they will also fall into “a snare.” Birds and animals are caught in snares. They are tempted by something which is in the snare, and they head into danger without even realizing what lies ahead. This is what Paul is saying here. People who are tempted by riches will find themselves entrapped without even having seen the snare which is lying there waiting to capture them. The idea of a snare is found throughout Scripture, warning God’s people to be attentive and not get trapped. Solomon speaks this way about men who are not attentive –
“For man also does not know his time:
Like fish taken in a cruel net,
Like birds caught in a snare,
So the sons of men are snared in an evil time,
When it falls suddenly upon them.” Ecclesiastes 9:12
Paul next continues with the thought that such people fall “into many foolish and harmful lusts.” These are the things which a desire for wealth, and often the attainment of wealth, produce in the human heart. The word translated as “harmful” is found only here in Scripture – blaberos. It signifies something injurious.
With wealth often comes the temptation by others to misuse that wealth. They do this so they can also benefit from the riches. Women will tempt men (or vice versa) because of their wealth. Those who deal in drugs will tempt the wealthy in order to drain them of their wealth. When one has an expensive sports car, they will be tempted to speed in it and drive recklessly. The list could go on all day. A person desiring wealth, or who has attained his desire, is drawn into “foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition.”
The Greek word translated as “drown” is one found only here and in Luke 5:7. It means to sink, submerge, or drown. If one thinks of something being plunged into the deep, that is the idea which well describes this. Paul’s words are carefully selected to show the inevitable outcome of those whose desire is to attain wealth. Inevitably, they drown in “destruction and perdition.”
The word “perdition” is not appropriate here. That gives the thought of an eternal damnation. This is not the intent. Instead “ruin and destruction” gives the sense. The idea is that the person who has his priority on riches will normally end up ruining himself, his wealth, and the things that he touches, such as family and friendships. To get the sense of what this is relaying, all one needs to do is to think on the many televangelists whose priority is money. How often do they end up shamed, penniless, or imprisoned. They may actually be saved, but they got misdirected by wealth, and they suffered the consequences of their failings.
Life application: In all things, a balance is needed. There is nothing wrong with being wealthy, and so giving up all one’s goods for a life of asceticism is ridiculous. But there is nothing wrong with not being rich. And so to strive for wealth can be a hugely detrimental thing for a person to pursue. In the end, if we have our basic needs met, then with this we should be content.
Lord God, help us to not desire wealth and riches which perish. Rather, help us to desire the true riches, and the eternal wealth, which comes through a faithful life of pursuing You, May we direct our heart, our affections, our eyes, and our efforts towards holiness in Christ Jesus our Lord. In this, we will surely attain the greatest riches of all! Amen.