1 Timothy 6:17 Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; 18 That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; 19 Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.
(King James Version)
Rich in this world. Who is richer than Americans today? This passage is for us. It is the key to Christmas joy.
We surround ourselves with luxuries most of the world can never afford and which generations before us never imagined. Our food is so plentiful and cheap that not counting the value of what we waste by overeating, Americans spent $2 billion in 2015 on weight loss dietary supplements to take it back off! (ScienceDirect)
That is twice what we spend on missions. Christians spend more on the annual audits of their churches and agencies ($810 million) than on all their workers in the non-Christian world. In fact, annual church embezzlements by top custodians exceed the entire cost of all foreign missions worldwide. (World Evangelization Research Center, An AD 2001 Reality Check. http://gem-werc.org/gd/findings.htm)
Highminded. Is it “highminded” to sing “proud to be an American”? Since “pride” is one of the six things God hates, Proverbs 6:16-17, maybe it would be spiritually safer to sing “Blessed to be an American”.
Trust in uncertain riches. What great pride and trust we have in American strength! In our military strength, and in our economic and technological strength that enables our military!
But these are “uncertain riches”. A solar storm, an EMP blast, our collapsing dollar, a pandemic, or a thousand other dangers could reduce us all to slums overnight.
The living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy. Why is it so hard for a nation so blessed by God to openly, publicly, gratefully, officially acknowledge what God has done to enable our prosperity?
And officially acknowledge how the pillars of our economic and technological strength are Biblical principles like caring for the least – Matthew 25:31-46, greatness through service – Luke 22:24-27, wealth through investing in the needs of others – Luke 6:38, laws equally applied to all – Exodus 12:49, a Constitution from which no government leader is exempt – Deuteronomy 17:15-20 and 1 Samuel 10:25, equal honor for women – 1 Peter 3:7, freedom of conscience – Romans 14.
With 20 centuries of hindsight, we can see how Western Civilization matured step by step as Christians matured in their understanding of Biblical principles and willingness to live by them, and as more of the population became Christian.
1 Timothy 6:17 Direct those who are rich in this present age not to be proud or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but rather on God—who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. 18 Direct them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, to be generous, sharing, 19 storing up for themselves a good foundation for the future, so they might take hold of the true life. (Tree Of Life Version)
Rich in good works. If we say we don’t have the time or resources to help others in need, we lie.
Americans on average spend 10 hours and 39 minutes a day consuming all media from TV to radio to surfing the web to using phone apps. Americans over 50 watch just TV over 50 hours a week. Worldwide daily TV watching has dropped from 3 hours 8 minutes in 2009 to a projected 2 hours 44 minutes in 2018 while internet surfing has gone from 48 minutes to 2 hours 37 minutes next year (total: 5 hours 21 minutes)
Can you imagine if the average American spent even one of those hours a day “bearing one another’s burdens”, Galatians 6:2?
Of course some of that media consumption is by activists, champions, and heroes not just consuming information for entertainment but producing information for action. But a review of available programming and its popularity indicates how minor that activity is. Even Christian programming focuses on personal education, development, and encouragement, not on opportunities for action to help others or to shine light on the Darkness outside the Bushel.
Matthew 5:14 Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. 15 Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
Instead of “bearing one another’s burdens”, cowards wanting someone else to blame ask “How could God be in control, or be a God of Love, and allow all this evil in the world?”
Can you imagine if the average American spent even one of those hours a day knocking down all those mountains of evil in the world? They would all jump in the lake!
Matthew 17:20 And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.
Luke 17:5 And the apostles said unto the Lord, Increase our faith. 6 And the Lord said, If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamine tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it should obey you.
America began as an adventure in overcoming evil. America’s first church was no spectator sport, like churches today where the pastors are the only ones on the field, watched from the bleachers by the congregations, instead of directing the congregation on the field like coaches.
To be “rich in good works” is described in the Bible by many metaphors.
It means to rescue those being led away to slaughter, Proverbs 24:10-12. It means “supplications” and “intercessions” (lobbying) with government so government will let innocent Christians live in peace, 1 Timothy 2:1-2.
It means to be the salt of the earth. It means to shine “light” in the darkness, outside the safe noncontroversial “bushel”. Matthew 5:13-16.
Not all, but a lot of the evil and darkness of this world, that makes fools question whether a “God of Love” is in control, is supported by governments. But churches today redefine “darkness” as “politics” and redefine “shine your light on” as “don’t get involved with”, making Jesus’ commandment unrecognizable. (See Bible study at Last 5 Reformation Theses.)
1 Timothy 6:17 Give this command to those who are rich with the things of this world. Tell them not to be proud. Tell them to hope in God, not their money. Money cannot be trusted, but God takes care of us richly. He gives us everything to enjoy. 18 Tell those who are rich to do good—to be rich in good works. And tell them they should be happy to give and ready to share. 19 By doing this, they will be saving up a treasure for themselves. And that treasure will be a strong foundation on which their future life will be built. They will be able to have the life that is true life. (Easy-To-Read Version)
Ready to distribute. We don’t lack resources. Christians make up 33% of the world’s population, but receive 53% of the world’s annual income and spend 98% of it on themselves. North American and European Christians spend $12.5 trillion on themselves and their families each year. Barrett, David B., and Todd M. Johnson. 2001, p. 656. World Christian Trends AD 30 – AD 2200: Interpreting the annual Christian Megacensus. Associate ed. Christopher R. Guidry and Peter F. Crossing. Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library.
“Americans spent $2.6 billion on muscle-building products in 2015 (McKenna, 2015).” Three times as much as for all foreign missions. Muscle-building drugs take less time than hard work, leaving more time to watch TV. Except how much muscle does one need to watch TV? “…dietary supplements promising enhanced sexual function…likely generates tens of millions, if not billions, of dollars yearly (Canham, 2011; Cohen and Venhuis, 2013; Szalavitz, 2013).”
That doesn’t count the cost of medical care for the notorious side effects. Supplements for losing weight, gaining muscle, and having sex “are not medically recommended and have been shown to be ineffective in many cases (Steffen et al., 2007; Roerig et al., 2003; Blanck et al., 2007) and to pose serious health risks to consumers due to adulteration with banned substances, prescription pharmaceuticals, and other dangerous chemicals (U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 2017; U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 2010; Cui et al., 2015).” And “more likely than other supplements to be deceptively marketed and tainted with toxic ingredients (U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 2010).” (For a list of general side effects see ScienceDirect.)
Gambling. That cultural waste is nothing compared to the $54 billion annual cost to our economy of gambling, most of it government supported. The average cost to society of one regular gambler is $9,393 a year. The breakdown: costs to police, $274. To courts, $421. To jails, $462. Lost productivity: $874. Lost time and unemployment: $2,008. Bankruptcy: $307. (One bankruptcy directly affects 17 people on average.) Illness $945. Treatment: $156. Welfare, food stamps, etc: $351. Divorce, separation: $76. Abused dollars (money gotten improperly but not reported as a crime: such as stolen from family or relatives): $3,520. This doesn’t count the cost of government regulation of gambling, or the 17-24% of regular gamblers who attempt suicide.
“Gambling expenditures now top $550 billion per year….Polls indicate that at least 89 percent of the American population approves of casino gambling….While the tidal wave of legalized commercial gambling has engulfed the country, the Christian community has greeted this development with a deafening silence.”
God describes a gambling table with everyone around it drinking:
Isaiah 65:11 But you are those who forsake Jehovah, who forget My holy mountain; who array a table for Fortune, and who fill mixed wine for Fate. 12 And I will number you to the sword; and you shall all bow down to the slaughter; because I called and you did not answer. I spoke, and you did not hear; and you did the evil in My eyes; and you chose that in which I had no pleasure.
Drugs. But the cost of gambling is nothing compared to the GAO’s estimated annual $110 billion cost of drug abuse.
Galatians 5:20 Idolatry, witchcraft, [Greek: farmakeia, “medication, magic” Clarke explains: “ in all spells and enchantments, whether true or false, drugs were employed.”] hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies [Gr: division], 21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
Proverbs 25:28 Like a city that is broken into and without walls Is a man who has no control over his spirit.
Matthew 27:34 they gave Him wine to drink mixed with gall; and after tasting it, He was unwilling to drink.
Romans 12:1 Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.
1 Thessalonians 5:6 so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober.
1 Peter 1:13 Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 4:7 The end of all things is near; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer.
1 Peter 5:8 Be of sober spirit, be on the alert Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
Divorce. And the cost to our nation of drug abuse pales against the cost to our nation of divorce.
“The average divorce costs nearly $50,000, and … $175 billion is spent annually on divorce, mostly on litigation [lawyers].” (Breakdown. Uncertainties.) That’s just the legal cost to the parents getting divorced. “The nation’s 10.4 million divorces in 2002 are estimated to have cost the taxpayers over $30 billion….based on such things as the higher use of food stamps and public housing as well as increased bankruptcies and juvenile delinquency.”
(Fortunately America’s divorce rate was never the 50% often claimed, but now stands at about 28%. However, this doesn’t include people “living together” who separate. Christians who regularly attend church divorce are 27-50% less likely to divorce than those with no religious preference, but that still puts their rate at somewhere around 20%.)
Other waste. What other resources does America squander, that we could otherwise harness to pull down the world’s mountains of evil? Can we calculate the cost of felony crimes? “White collar crimes”? Online scams? Surveillance, special construction, programming, and other measures to deter crime?
How about the cost of government waste because the public is too busy watching TV to monitor how their taxes are being spent? Or the cost of the unjustified and harmful meddling in the lives of Americans by bureaucrats who are empowered by vague laws leaving interpretation up to them, and who, again, are not monitored by voters?
These evils – this Darkness – is seldom mentioned in America’s churches with enough urgency to permit members to strategize how, together, they can address them. Noninvolvement theologies routinely suppress any member who tries to present information and generate discussion and action.
Luke 16:19 There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: 20 And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, 21 And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; 23 And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. 24 And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. 25 But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.
Missions. Of the money that is given by Christians, the bit of it that gets to foreign missions is a red flag about the unconsciousness which directs our resources.
Foreign missions are not just important to our eternal security. They are important to America’s economic and military security. Many of America’s problems would be a lot less without threats from abroad. Just for example, our military budget consumes over half a trillion dollars, $620 billion, 16% of total federal spending. Imagine a world with a lot more missions and a lot less war!
The following statistics are gathered, and footnoted, by AboutMissions.
Only .1% of all Christian giving is directed toward mission efforts in the 38 most unevangelized countries in the world. Of foreign mission funding: 87% goes for work among those already Christian. 12% for work among already evangelized, but Non-Christian. 1% for work among the unevangelized and unreached people. 60% of unreached people groups live in countries closed to missionaries from North America.
Of course there is a cost. Over 160,000 believers will be martyred this year. Five Christian vocations have over a 3% murder rate: bishop, evangelist, catechist, colporteur [Bible distributor], foreign missionary. But there is a safe way to reach the unreached that is almost completely ignored.
Lost opportunity. 22 million internationals visit the US each year. Of these, some 630,000 are university students from 220 countries, 25% of which prohibit Christian missionaries. 60% of international students come from the 10/40 window. 40% of the world’s 220 Heads of State once studied in the US. (See list.)
Yet 90% of international students are unreached by ministries while in the United States. 80% of those students will return to their countries having never been invited to an American home.
1 Timothy 6:17 Charge those that are rich in this world, that they not be highminded, not placing their hope in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy; 18 but charge them to do good, that they be rich in good works, liberal to distribute, willing to communicate, 19 laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the future, that they may lay hold on eternal life. (Jubilee translation)
Willing to communicate. Several translations make this mean we must become “willing to share”. Some commentators suggest this means to give respectfully, not haughtily as the gift of a superior to an inferior. Vincent’s Word Studies says it means to share in the joy of giving:
Willing to communicate (κοινωνικούς) N.T.o. olxx. See on fellowship, Act_2:42, and comp. κοινωνεῖν to partake, 1Ti_5:22, and κοινός common, Tit_1:14. Stronger than the preceding word, as implying a personal share in the pleasure imparted by the gift.
Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come.
This is obviously true about eternity, after we die. But it is just as true here on Earth, before we die.
The prosperity, stability, and freedom of what we call Western Civilization, which really is an outgrowth of Biblical principles – like service being the measure of true greatness – testifies to the basic economic fact, summarized in Luke 6:38, that the most secure investment possible is not gold, treasury bonds, property, or any other material thing, but in the needs of people. Because when people’s needs suffer, society crumbles, and all material investments fail. But to the extent individuals do well, people are willing and able to help each other.
…that they may lay hold on eternal life. The word “life” in the Bible, with or without the modifier “eternal”, often means something greater than mere physical life, which we can live before we die, and on the other hand lose before we die.
“That we may lay hold on the Purpose of Life” is a fair translation. Or “that we may really LIVE.”
There is no greater joy or adventure than the joy of victory over evil – not someone else’s victory that we read about in story books, watch on TV, or hear in testimonies. But in our own victory over the Darkness. We find ourselves useful. Not just to ourselves but to others, which as Jesus said is the measure of our “greatness”.
There is adventure in going out to slay “mountains” of Darkness, armed with infinitely greater power than any mere comic book “superhero”. But with all the risk of failure that every movie hero faces, except that to the extent we trust God, Psalm 91, we face absolutely zero risk of failure from the power of any enemy or force of Darkness, but only the risk of failure to be victorious over our own laziness and baser impulses.
Truly, the “good works” God begs us to do for others, which our selfless Savior counts as for Himself, Matthew 25:39-46, is the greatest, most precious Christmas Gift waiting for us to unwrap.