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Ephesus—where Timothy received his epistles from Paul—was a wealthy city. By the Roman Empire’s high standards, it was comfortable and prosperous. It certainly had its poorer citizens, but on the whole, it was economically stable, seeing substantial growth as a regional economic hub. It had a thriving trade, agriculture, and pagan temple-tourism industry. This is one reason that Paul addresses the danger of the desire to be rich—the love of money. This love was as much a danger for the poor as the rich, as much a danger now as it was then. The beauty of godliness with contentment stands in contrast to passion for wealth.

As the Lord saved sinners throughout the Ephesian community, the gospel came to the whole spectrum of believers there, including the “rich in this present age” (1 Tim. 6:17). Most of us would qualify for the same designation in comparison to many in our world. When we are better off than others, we face two dangers. The first is becoming proud instead of thanking the giver of every good gift. Whether we are proud in our resources, popularity, abilities, physical strength, or family or social connections, our pride is rooted in a false confidence because all those things are gifts from God who provides means, connections, health, and so on. The second danger is putting our hope in uncertain riches instead of in our faithful God. Earthly wealth of any kind is limited to the present age and characterized by uncertainty. When things seem good, we quickly feel comfortable—too often because our hope is rooted in this world.

This is why Paul issues the charge not to set our hopes in riches but instead to look upward, setting our hope “on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy” (1 Tim. 6:17). God is the only infinite, eternal, and unchanging One in all His triune perfection. He is the Creator and Sustainer, ruling over all. He is the One who in triune love and wisdom has provided us with salvation in the Son. He is the giver of every good gift, and He reminds us of that here.

Sunshine, clouds, breeze; all the colors and textures of creation; daily bread, clothing, and shelter—these are all gifts for us to enjoy. Our work, times of rest and relaxation, and people who love us are all from a Creator who delights to give His children good things. God richly provides us with everything to enjoy—most of all, Himself in and through His Son’s incarnation and atoning work. He gives us Himself in His Word and by His Spirit. Our chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever, and so as we enjoy His gifts, they should not be an end in themselves but should be constant reminders of thanksgiving and praise. Seeing and loving the giver of every good gift will allow us to experience contentment and joy and move us to “do good, to be rich in good works, [and] to be generous and ready to share” (1 Tim. 6:18).

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From the October 2022 Issue
Oct 2022 Issue