The Bible says a LOT about money. Why? Wealth is necessary for survival. In order to eat, comfortably sleep, and stay healthy, you’ll need some form of currency. Wanting money is not wrong. But humans are certainly bad at desiring modest amounts, especially when it comes to money. God is not surprised by this, and so he’s given us ample direction on how to navigate the topic.

First, we’ll provide you with a list of verse references related to money in the Bible. After that, we’ll dig into 1 Timothy 6:17-19 with the Understanding the Bible Commentary. They give a great, detailed explanation of the passage. You’ll learn Paul’s thoughts on becoming rich, or what he suggests for those who already have great wealth.

Bible Verses About Money

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1 Tim. 6:17–19, NIV

“Command those who are rich in this 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. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.”

The following content is from
Understanding the Bible Commentary.

A Word for Those Already Rich With Money

After the exalted language of the preceding doxology (vv. 15–16), these words come as such a surprise that some scholars doubt whether they really belong here and suggest they are an interpolation. But if the “logic” of all this is not perfect, there is no difficulty in seeing what has happened.

Paul’s Warning to Those Who Want to Be Rich with Money

Paul was bringing the letter to its close with a final word against the false teachers, a word that turned out to be such a strong judgment against their greed that it included a warning to “all those who want to get rich” (v. 9). But there would have been some in the church who were already rich in this present world (v. 17), especially those in whose homes the church met (cf. also 5:16).

However, since Paul’s first concern was with the false teachers and Timothy’s own role in combating them, he followed his words about them with an immediate final exhortation to Timothy—to keep contending in the noble contest until the End. Now, having given that noble charge to Timothy, he returns to say a few words for the already rich, lest they feel condemned by verses 6–10.

What Paul Says About Money in the Bible

What he says to them is again predicated on his thoroughly eschatological view of Christian existence, but without the asceticism of the false teachers. Such people may be rich in the things that pertain to the present life; but these things, even though they may be for our enjoyment, belong only to this present age and are therefore uncertain. The rich should therefore hold their possessions loosely, not placing their hope in them but being generous with them, using them for good works. Their hope must be placed in God and their riches used to store up treasures for the future, for the life which is true life. One might note that there are some close affinities in this passage (including 6:7) with Ecclesiastes 5:8–20.

Understanding the Bible Commentary discussing money in the Bible
Left: the NIV open to 1 Timothy 6:17; Right: Understanding the Bible Commentary

What Does Bible Verse 1 Timothy 6:17 Specifically Say About Money?

Timothy is called upon to give one more command (the same word as in 1:3, 5; 4:11; 5:7), this time to those who are rich in this present world. Paul nowhere else speaks to the wealthy as a class, but that merely indicates the ad hoc nature of his letters. His theology of the cross clearly recognizes the Old Testament stance that God champions the cause of “the poor” (1 Cor 1:26–31). And in Corinth, where the majority are in this class, he gives the wealthy a considerable dressing down for their treatment of the “have-nots” (11:20–22). But he must often have been the beneficiary of the well-to-do (cf. Philem. 1–2, 5–7, 22), so he is hardly against the wealthy as such. He simply expects those who “have” to be generous to those who “have not” (Rom 12:8, 13; 2 Cor 9:6–15).

Paul’s command strikes at the twin perils of the wealthy: not to be arrogant or to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain.

The word for arrogant is a compound of two words that mean “to think, or cherish, exalted thoughts” (KJV, “high-minded”; cf. Rom 11:20; 12:16). Arrogance, or pride, is the deadly sin of all people, but it seems to be the special curse of the rich. Not only that, but they tend to put altogether too much confidence in what is so uncertain.

The uncertainty of wealth is underscored in the Proverbs (23:4–5); here this theme is tied to its being only for this present world (in contrast to “the coming one,” v. 19). Putting hope in wealth was denounced by the prophets (e.g., Jer. 9:23) and seems to be the one thing above others that closed the door of the Kingdom to some in the ministry of Jesus (cf. Mark 10:17–27; Luke 12:15, 16–21).

As with all others (4:10), especially the poor widows (5:5), the wealthy are to put their hope in God. As in the two earlier texts, salvation expressed as hope in God carries a decidedly eschatological connotation, as well as that of trust and endurance.

The Bible Does Not Say You Must Completely Reject Money

But Paul is no ascetic. That the wealthy should not place confidence in their wealth does not carry with it an attitude of total rejection. Thus, even here he takes a swipe at the false teachers (see disc. on 4:1–5 and 5:23). God, he says, richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment (cf. 4:3–4; see also Eccles. 5:19–20). Enjoyment, however, does not mean self-indulgent living (5:6). The reason everything may be enjoyed lies in the recognition that everything, including one’s wealth, is a gift, the expression of God’s gracious generosity.

Colossians 3

What Does Bible Verse 1 Timothy 6:18 Specifically Say About Money?

The “enjoyment” of “everything” as God’s generous gift leads away from “high-mindedness” and false security to the freedom of giving generously. Indeed, the whole of this verse repeats in four ways that the wealthy are to use their wealth for the benefit of others.

It begins, command them (repeated from v. 17 for clarity) to do good, which is then repeated with a play on “riches” (cf. 2 Cor 8:9): to be rich in good deeds. And in case that is not clear, good deeds is further defined as being generous and willing to share.

This last item, an adjective form of koinōnia (“fellowship”), implies the liberal sharing with others what is one’s own. Hence true “riches” is found in the giving, not in the having.

What Does Bible Verse 1 Timothy 6:19 Specifically Say About Money?

Having used “riches” metaphorically in verse 18, Paul now extends the metaphor eschatologically. In so doing, he makes what appear to be some very un-Pauline comments (as in 2:15). But the awkwardness is the result of the metaphor(s), not of a theological shift. Salvation is to put one’s hope in God; it is not achieved by “buying shares in heaven”!

The Bible Says to Store Up Your Treasure in Heaven, Not Earth

Nonetheless, very much as Jesus said (Luke 12:33; 18:22; cf. Matt. 6:19–21), Paul reminds them that in this way (by generous giving to the needy) they will lay up treasure for themselves … for the coming age.

This is not to “buy off” God or to earn salvation. It is simply to emphasize again what was begun in verse 17. True “riches” have not to do with earthly possessions, which are uncertain and belong to this age only. True “riches” are obtained by the generous and liberal sharing of the “riches of this life.” Thus for the rich to give riches away is not to suffer loss but rather to lay up treasure for themselves of a different kind. It is, in a typically Pauline shift of metaphors, “to lay up” a firm foundation for the coming age. In this regard one should note the sayings of Jesus that Luke has placed together in 12:32–33. The Kingdom as gift leads to selling possessions and giving to the needy and thereby providing for oneself “a treasure in heaven.”

Take Hold of the Life That is Truly Life

Finally, lest any of this be misunderstood, Paul sets forth the nature of the treasure, the same eschatological goal that all believers share (cf. 1:16; 4:8, 10; 6:12): So that they may take hold of the life that is truly life. This clause is very similar to what was said to Timothy in 6:12, except that what was an imperative there is here a purpose clause, expressing the final goal of their hope in God and their resultant good works. By so doing they take hold of (or “secure for themselves”) the life that is truly life, meaning, of course, eternal life, eschatologically understood.

Additional Note from Understanding the Bible Commentary on The Bible and Money

This paragraph is actually a single sentence in Greek that makes a considerable play on the word “riches” and related ideas. The word itself occurs four times in four different forms (a substantival adjective, “the rich”; an abstract noun, “riches”; an adverb, richly; and a verb, to be rich). Thus “the rich” are not to trust in “riches,” but in God who richly gives all things, and therefore are to be rich in good deeds, which then, to extend the metaphor, is their way to lay up … treasure for the future.

When you read the phrase “take hold of the life that is truly life” what came to mind? How would that look in your day-to-day decisions?

Understanding the Bible Commentary

Understanding the Bible Commentary

Did you enjoy this post? It came from the Understanding the Bible Commentary, a 36 volume set covering books from both the Old and New Testaments. Its primary goal is to break down the barriers between the ancient and modern worlds. Then, the power and meaning of the biblical texts can become transparent to contemporary readers.

2 Comments

  1. Nothing is more joyful when we have the right motivation in giving, and nothing gives the Lord more glory than a cheerful giver.

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