Be Rich in Good Works
“Charge them . . . to do good, to be rich in good deeds, liberal and generous, thus laying up for themselves a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life which is life indeed.”—1 Tim. 6:17-19, R.S.V.
1. How did God at the first show himself man’s provider?
JEHOVAH God is a wonderful provider. He has given humankind everything they need. From the very beginning when he created Adam and Eve and placed them in Eden he provided them with a beautiful home in a paradise. He did more than that. God did not make his first earthly intelligent creations hunt for food to keep them alive. No, that was all provided for too. “And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb yielding seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for food.” (Gen. 1:29, A.S.V.) With all these provisions, they should have had sufficient. But even after the first pair sinned by eating the fruit of the only forbidden tree, which fruit was forbidden them in order to test their obedience, the Lord provided them with clothing. “And Jehovah God made for Adam and for his wife coats of skins, and clothed them.”—Genesis 3:21, A.S.V.
2. With the supply of what desires should creatures be satisfied?
2 Since that time nearly six thousand years ago, man has needed these three things—shelter, food and clothing—in order to carry on his normal existence in life. With these he should be content. “For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.” (1 Tim. 6:7, 8) David, a man after God’s own heart, expresses how generously Jehovah provides for every one of his creatures; not only for man, by supplying him with all his needs, but for every living thing: the birds, fish and beasts of the field. The Almighty God looks after and cares for what he creates. “The eyes of all wait for thee; and thou givest them their food in due season. Thou openest thy hand, and satisfiest the desire of every living thing.”—Psalm 145:15, 16, A.S.V.
3. Did providing for man’s needs mean he was to idle? Why?
3 In providing all these necessary things in abundance God was not making man an idler so that he would be able to say, “I don’t have anything to do.” No, God kept man busy from the time of his creation, when He put him in the garden “to dress it and to keep it”. (Gen. 2:15) So it will be with man in the new world. But when man went contrary to God’s law He declared, “Cursed is the ground for thy sake; in toil shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life.” (Gen. 3:17, A.S.V.) While God made man a little lower than the angels and crowned him with glory and honor, it was Jehovah who gave him the assignment to look after things upon the earth. He put all things under man’s feet: “Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing.” (Gen. 1:26) Man has used beasts of burden in his toil to plant, cultivate, water, and eventually bring forth food. But still Jehovah is the original Provider of all our needs and our thanks must go to him for all things. We are dependent on him for the rain, sun, air, soil, fertile seed, for everything; and he gives it to us. When God made man ruler over these animals and charged him to keep the fields and forests in all their majesty, he never decreed that man was to be a tyrant over man. Man’s sovereign Ruler and everlasting Provider must be Jehovah. Man’s life is dependent on the only true God!
4. Why should we not be greedy, coveting other’s possessions?
4 Man should know that all creation, including man himself, was made to set forth the splendor and the glory of Jehovah, the Supreme One of the universe. Man should feel his need of relying on God; for when one comes into the world he has nothing but the gift of life God gave him, and he can take nothing along when he leaves it. When one knows this, why should he crave to domineer over and control the lives and destinies of other human creatures? Why be greedy and have that selfish condition of heart? If, as we know, God supplies all things to sustain our life, why try to take away the substance that God has given other men for their existence? In this commercialized world most persons have very little and the giants of commerce do not want them to have more. Those who substitute communistic co-operatives do not succeed in overcoming that condition and the people continue to suffer from lack of the necessities of life. Under one system or another that men set up, selfishness and lust for control rise to dominate. It would be better to give our substance to the poor than to covet what little they have. What is our gain if we do rob the poor? We certainly can’t take it with us!
5. Why should Christians be helpful to the poor?
5 The Lord has always been interested in and helpful to the poor. Christians should be too. David knew that the favor of God did not go with the oppressor of the poor, for he said, “All my bones will say, ‘O LORD, who is like thee, saving the poor from him that is too strong for him, the poor and the needy from him that would rob him?’” (Ps. 35:10, An Amer. Trans.) David’s whole body, his very bones, cried out in an expression of praise to his Creator because of God’s loving interest in the poor. To know that Jehovah will protect the poor against the oppressor, the strong, the rich and the mighty is surely a comfort. Good men will help the poor. “He that oppresseth the poor reproacheth his Maker: but he that honoureth him hath mercy on the poor.” (Prov. 14:31) The poor love life the same as all other folks. Why make them suffer and rob them of what they have?
6. Why is it not necessary to covet, as well as wrong to do so?
6 Man was made to be free and to be allowed to use the many things God created for his welfare. If a man likes something another man has he should not covet it. There is enough of everything in the world for everyone to have sufficient. The accumulation of earthly wealth and possessions is not the big thing in life. “You must not covet your neighbor’s home; you must not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male or female slave, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything at all that is your neighbor’s.” (Ex. 20:17, An Amer. Trans.) It is not wrong to have a home, wife, servants, or animals; but it is wrong to covet that which someone else has. One should not use his power or his wealth or influence to take away from another that person’s own beloved possessions. That is the spirit of the old world, the spirit that the Devil has implanted in the minds of men. This selfishness has grown up in the hearts of human creatures, and they have a strong desire to control other people and to make man dependent upon man rather than dependent upon Jehovah God, who is the supplier of all things. If God has so abundantly supplied food, clothes and things needful for living, then why rob the poor? Why not seek the greater thing—life everlasting?
WORLDLY SELFISHNESS AND DISSATISFACTION
7. How has organized religion shown itself selfish, oppressive?
7 The spirit of this world is selfishness and it says, “We do not need God!” Whether they be commercial, political or religious, these combines covet that which others have. Religion tries to control politics; so does commerce. Riches have a big influence on religion. Politics curtsies and tips the hat for the smile of religion. Take the greatest religious organization in the world today, the Roman Catholic Hierarchy. Look at it. Note the evils it has done in the name of religion: how it has corrupted nations; how it has managed to hold its members in illiteracy; how it has controlled education in many countries and kept the poor people in ignorance; how it has hid the Bible and had its Bible-burnings so that the Book of freedom would never become the peoples’ Textbook of life. Yes, look at the world it influences! Its wars! Its torture chambers! Its bloodshedding! Its oppression of the poor! Why have they not given the people the Bible, so that they could learn of the true God, his Son and the way of life eternal?
8. How have governments operated for control and self-exaltation?
8 Now turn to the political organizations of the world. None is satisfied with its own territory or sphere of influence. The desire of each is to gain control of people through a system of government. They often claim to have a government with rulers of divine right. The whole purpose of governments of the world is to control the people by making them dependent upon the state rather than upon God. They want all people to believe that that which they have comes to them through the good graces of a dictator, a prime minister, a president or a political party. All this propaganda is merely a scheme of government to regiment the people and make them wholly dependent upon a man-made way of life rather than on Jehovah God, who says He will provide them with all the necessities of life: shelter, food, and clothing. The state tells the farmer how much wheat to plant, how many pigs to slaughter and bury in the ground, how much coffee to burn when the stock piles are too great to please commerce or politicians. They dump the potatoes into the sea or destroy them by other means when the prices are “too low”. The increase that God has given to the land and to the animals, to the fruit and the herbs, man destroys to please the state and commerce. The poor and needy they will take care of in their way if they do not die first. Man, in his covetous desire to control and take away from the people, has said, “This is mine.” He never reflects for a moment to think that God, the Creator of heaven and earth and all that therein is, provided these things for all men, not for a few to control.
9. How has commerce acted selfishly and unthankful toward God?
9 Then there is the third part of this oppressive, great, devilish organization: commerce. We see the great combines and cartels feverishly working against one another. We see management and labor vying for control of industry. We see small business men struggling to eke out an existence in a competitive world. The big things are money, power, wealth, getting ahead, doing better than the other fellow, getting on top, beating competitors out of the world, state or city markets. The spirit of helping the poor has been lost. The spirit of helpfulness is nearly forgotten and, as for doing a day’s work, man’s motto is, “Do as little as you can and watch the clock.” When the earth yields its increase there are no thanks to God for it, but commerce grabs the controls and either boosts or lowers prices according to its own interest. It is a fearful thing to be entwined in this great commercial organization which has no heart and to get the feel of its selfish, grasping, possessive atmosphere. It is better to ask the Lord to ‘give us this day our daily bread’ than to do as the rich of the religious, political and commercial world do. They are laying up “treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal”.—Matt. 6:19.
10. What does obeying God’s commands guarantee us as to provisions?
10 How much better it is for one to trust in the Lord and believe his Word! “If ye walk in my statutes, and keep my commandments, and do them; then I will give you rain in due season, and the land shall yield her increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit. And your threshing shall reach unto the vintage, and the vintage shall reach unto the sowing time: and ye shall eat your bread to the full, and dwell in your land safely.” (Lev. 26:3-5) That was the promise that God gave to His chosen people, and it was a sure promise, but it meant that the individuals must follow the commandments of the Lord and walk in them. As far as the provisions of life are concerned, God guarantees these the year round to those who walk in his statutes. In the very beginning of creation, Jehovah provided all the necessary things for man, and in their abundance the food and provisions were for all. These things are just as sure today for those who love Jehovah.
11. By amassing wealth and power what do rulers claim to give? Do they?
11 But how different are all the nations today who seek to control all production and say what portion of the God-given provisions men shall have! By getting control of the world’s necessities one nation can force its rule on another. How true the saying, ‘Every man’s hand is against his neighbor.’ (Zech. 14:13) The rulers of a nation boast that ‘we are massing this wealth and power so that you, the people, may have security’. Has the United Nations organization, with all its potential accumulated power, brought security. The more things nations control in the world, whether they be the atomic bomb, airplanes, steamships, food supplies, raw materials, or anything else, the more they want and the greater become their influence and power, while the poor suffer. There is no safety in the accumulating of all these riches for the last days. Having coveted and collected wealth, influence and political and religious power, what will these men do in the day of judgment when Jehovah God brings his wrath against the oppressor of the poor, the wicked organization, and destroys it?
12. In the day of God’s wrath how will their riches prove vain?
12 The Lord’s Word prophesies just how these men will feel in that time: “Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you. Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are motheaten. Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days.” (Jas. 5:1-3) There is no material wealth that will save governments or men from the destruction that will be meted out to them, because of their evil doings, at the battle of Armageddon. Momentarily the material wealth of a nation makes it feel strong, but Jehovah said he would deliver “the poor from him that is too strong for him, yea, the poor and the needy from him that spoileth him”. (Ps. 35:10) How the nations of the earth have spoiled the people, especially through the first and second world wars! Even in between these wars and to this very day there is no peace, but the peoples of the nations are still being spoiled. And for what? “They shall cast their silver in the streets, and their gold shall be removed: their silver and their gold shall not be able to deliver them in the day of the wrath of the LORD: they shall not satisfy their souls, neither fill their bowels: because it is the stumblingblock of their iniquity.” (Ezek. 7:19) How foolish then it is for men to hoard their wealth just to satisfy their own selfish desires! It will profit them nothing. They cannot take it with them. The wise man wrote in Proverbs: “Riches profit not in the day of wrath: but righteousness delivereth from death.”—Proverbs 11:4.
HOW TO GAIN LIFE
13. What is it that counts toward secure, happy living?
13 It is so very evident that the accumulation of wealth does not bring peace, security or prosperity to the nations, nor does it bring real happiness to the individual who may have gathered it through evil means and covetousness. It is righteousness that counts! One who wants to live and really enjoy life must turn to the Lord’s Word for advice and then follow it. The poor as well as the rich must put their trust in Jehovah and do his bidding and preach the good news of the kingdom of God. Can the rich, those with much of this world’s goods, do that? Is there any hope at all for them to gain life in the new world? If there is, what must they do?
14. In what does God tell us to be rich, and to what end?
14 The Word of God tells us that we should be rich in good works; but what are those good works? The problem was put squarely before the Teacher, Christ Jesus, when he walked the earth. The interests of men in his time were the same as the interests of men now: they wanted life, and that more abundantly. Death held nothing for them; so the question was propounded, How can one gain eternal life?
15. What did a rich young ruler ask Jesus about? What did Jesus say?
15 Let us listen in on the conversation. “And behold, one came to him and said, Teacher, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? And he said unto him, Why askest thou me concerning that which is good? One there is who is good: but if thou wouldest enter into life, keep the commandments. He saith unto him, Which? And Jesus said, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honor thy father and thy mother; and, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. The young man saith unto him, All these things have I observed: what lack I yet? Jesus said unto him, If thou wouldest be perfect, go, sell that which thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me. But when the young man heard the saying, he went away sorrowful; for he was one that had great possessions.”—Matt. 19:16-22, A.S.V.
16. Why did not the rich young ruler follow Jesus’ advice?
16 This rich man that Jesus spoke to got the answer on how to gain eternal life, but did he follow it? No! As far as individuals are concerned, he probably had a splendid personality, and, from all outward appearances, he was living according to the law of God. One of his outstanding qualities as revealed in the conversation was that he loved his neighbor as he did himself. Very likely he was not an oppressor of the poor. His riches probably came to him through his own good, hard efforts and honest management of his great holdings. So it appears that if an individual happens to be rich or gains great wealth through his own labors there is no harm in that particular fact. The question before the rich man today is, How will he use his wealth? If you give to the poor, said Jesus, “thou shalt have treasure in heaven.” However, there was another requirement for eternal life, and that was “Come, follow me”. If one uses his wealth in the advancement of true worship of the Most High God, he is using his “great possessions” in the right way. Jesus gave this rich man the best advice so that he could have real joy in living. What the Teacher wanted him to have was riches in good works, treasures in heaven. But, as is the case with most people, so it was with this rich man; his desire was to hold on to that which he believed belonged to him by right. He worked for it, and therefore it was his. No one else could touch it, and there was no reason for giving it away. Had he forgotten that “as he came forth of his mother’s womb, naked shall he return to go as he came, and shall take nothing of his labour, which he may carry away in his hand”? (Eccl. 5:15) His earthly possessions would not give him eternal life.
GIVING TO THE POOR
17. Why could he not follow Jesus and yet hold on to great wealth?
17 Let us assume that the rich man wanted to follow Jesus but not sell all that he had and give to the poor. Could he follow the Lord and still look after all his earthly possessions? That would be an impossibility. Christ Jesus was a busy man; he was looking after Kingdom interests. He was moving about throughout the cities, villages, towns—throughout the whole countryside—preaching the good news of the Kingdom. His disciples followed him and were instructed by him. He could not be confined to some particular locality to take care of cattle or lands or possessions, nor could his disciples; not if they were to preach the gospel of the Kingdom throughout all the nation of Israel. Jesus did not even have a place to lay his head, much less a house to call home. No, the rich man could never have kept up with Jesus while still looking after his “great possessions”.
18. Why did Jesus not try to accumulate great earthly wealth?
18 Jehovah provided for Jesus, the second Adam, just as He did for the first Adam. The Son of God had the necessary food, clothing and a place of shelter. He was a welcome guest in the homes of those who loved truth and righteousness. Jesus knew a laborer was worthy of his hire; for He worked in the interests of God’s kingdom. The necessary things of life were assured; so why should he try to accumulate great wealth? He had food and raiment, and with these he was content.
19. For what kind of active, interested persons did Jesus look?
19 Jesus was looking for full-time disciples, those who would travel with him and do the same kind of work that he was doing, people whom he could send away for weeks and months into different territories to perform works like those he was performing, so as to bring the people to repentance. He was looking for dependable persons, those who would learn and then preach: “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Nothing must stand in their way of service to their God. They must not be like most people who are just too busy for the really important things in life. Remember the occasion when Jesus told of a certain man that prepared a great supper, and he asked many to come to that supper. It was a feast for rejoicing; so he sent out his servant to ask those whom he wanted to come. But the guests who were invited, because they had possessions and things that interested them more than the feast of this certain man, replied to the invitation: “I have bought a field, and I must needs go out and see it; I pray thee have me excused. . . . I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them; I pray thee have me excused. . . . I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.”—Luke 14:18-20, A.S.V.
20, 21. Why do most persons have no time for Kingdom interests?
20 So it is today; most people are so busy with their own obligations and work that they do not have time to look after the King’s interests. They do not have the time to enter into the joy of the Lord and celebrate with the Master the doing of the most important work on earth today. They have put a great hindrance in their way just because of the love of money.
21 It was very hard for the rich man to give up all that he had so that he might have treasures in heaven. It is just as hard today for many people to give up even little things and to work in the interests of the poor and comfort those who mourn, with the Kingdom message. They are busy trying to hang on to and gain more earthly possessions. This is selfishness. It is greediness. It is covetousness. “For the love of money is the root of all evil.” (1 Tim. 6:10) Even when the rich plan a banquet they do it with the thought in mind of what profit it will be to them.
22. Why do good to the poor who cannot repay you in kind?
22 Jesus had been invited to an evening meal, and he told his host, “When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, nor thy kinsmen, nor rich neighbors; lest haply they also bid thee again, and a recompense be made thee. But when thou makest a feast, bid the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: and thou shalt be blessed; because they have not wherewith to recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed in the resurrection of the just.” (Luke 14:12-14, A.S.V.) The principle pointed out by the Lord was that of giving to others without expecting a return. Why lavish your wealth on those who are wealthy? They can repay you by doing similar things for you. But rather invite the poor; they will show real gratitude and the giver will be blessed. Yes, “Go, sell that which thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me.” You will be “rich in good works”.
LIFE MORE THAN MATERIAL WEALTH
23. Why be on guard against every form of covetousness or greed?
23 Because man is born in sin and shapen in iniquity, he is prone to lean toward the evil side of life and love money. He is taught to get to the top so as to have security. He must be a self-made man, satisfied with his own greatness. How foolish! Isn’t there something worth much more than security and worldly possessions? Isn’t life itself more important? How did we get that? And those riches—are they not just a hoarding of God’s provisions for all? Jesus said, “Take care! You must be on your guard against any form of greed, for a man’s life does not belong to him, no matter how rich he is.” (Luke 12:15, An Amer. Trans.) Another translator of the Greek Scriptures, Mr. Rotherham, puts it this way: “Mind and be guarding yourselves from all covetousness; for not in one’s abundance doth his life spring out of his possessions.” Or, stated in other words, we can say on the basis of this truth, that every individual must be constantly on the alert and be on guard against every form of greediness and covetousness, because even when an individual has an abundance of this world’s goods his life is not due to the things which he possesses. Is not life, then, worth more than riches?
24. What will material riches not guarantee one? Show by parable?
24 Paul was following this wise and sound counsel of Jesus when he wrote to Timothy and said, “Charge them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, openhanded and generous, storing up a valuable treasure for themselves for the future, so as to grasp the life that is life indeed.” (1 Tim. 6:18, 19, An Amer. Trans.) What a man has gathered together as his possession in the way of riches, property or powerful influence—all these will not guarantee him life. Something else is needed. Pursuing Jesus’ argument that “a man’s life does not belong to him, no matter how rich he is”, he further said: “A certain rich man’s lands yielded heavily. And he said to himself, ‘What am I going to do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ Then he said, ‘This is what I will do; I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and in them I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have great wealth stored up for years to come. Now take your ease; eat, drink, and enjoy yourself.’” But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your soul will be demanded of you. Then who will have all you have prepared? That is the way with the man who lays up money for himself, and is not rich with God.”—Luke 12:16-21, An Amer. Trans.
25. How was the rich man of the parable foolish, selfish, lazy?
25 How true that is! The way of a man who lays up money for himself is not rich toward God. He thinks only of himself, of his own property, his own pleasure. When one becomes as self-centered as that it is no wonder Jesus said that “a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. . . . It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God”. Consider for a moment the plans of this rich man. He was going to build greater barns in which to store his crops and then forget the rest of the world of mankind and just live on the wealth he had stored away. How selfish! How inconsiderate! How lazy! He could have given much of his wealth to the poor and still had plenty for himself. He could have planned for the cultivation of his lands for the next year and thus kept his hired help employed. By caring for the land year by year greater income would be his and greater quantities of food would be available for the poor. But no, not that! He said to himself, “Now take your ease; eat, drink, and enjoy yourself.” What a fool! He never got to enjoy the wealth himself, nor had he stored up riches in heaven by giving to the poor. “Boast not thyself of to morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth.”—Prov. 27:1.
26. What questions on security and life must we answer? How?
26 As an individual, what do you want? Is it security in this world that will soon pass away, or is it life in the new world of righteousness? The Word of God sets out the pattern that all Christians must follow in order to attain eternal life, whether that life be with Christ Jesus as his bride in heavenly Kingdom glory, or whether it be life as a creature who will enjoy the blessings under the kingdom of heaven and the pleasures of life eternal upon a glorious new earth that God makes for man to inhabit. Both are attained through true riches; so store up for yourselves treasure in heaven.
27. How can rich and poor alike be really “rich in good works”?
27 All people have certain possessions, some greater than others; so the principle, “freely ye have received, freely give,” would apply to the rich, the middle class and the poor alike. The poor widow who came to the treasury and cast in her two mites “cast in all the living that she had” for use in God’s work, said Jesus; whereas the rich who came and made their deposit in the treasury of the temple gave “of their abundance”. (Luke 21:1-4) The rich did not miss the gift that they gave to the Lord. So the question might be asked, Who gave the most? Was it not the widow with the two little coins of small value? So, then, if you would be rich toward God, use your possessions and your knowledge of Jehovah God and his righteous government on behalf of the poor and comfort all that mourn, with the good news of God’s kingdom. Do not let yourself be tied down by your wealth and become a slave to your possessions, but make your possessions work for you in your preaching of the Word of God.
28. What was Timothy told to “charge the rich of this world”? Why?
28 Paul knew of certain individuals among the church who had wealth and who were busy accumulating more, and in a letter that he wrote to Timothy he said this: “Charge the rich of this world not to be arrogant, nor to set their hopes on such an uncertain thing as riches, but on God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Charge them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, open-handed and generous, storing up a valuable treasure for themselves for the future, so as to grasp the life that is life indeed.” (1 Tim. 6:17-19, An Amer. Trans.) Just because someone has a little or much of this world’s goods is no reason for that individual to take an arrogant position with his friends and his neighbors, nor with those in a Christian congregation, nor with those in the world. They should never set their hopes upon the uncertain riches such as gold and silver, all of which will be of no value in the very last days of this old world. The rich should realize just as much as the poor that it is God who richly provides everything for our enjoyment. Because one has more of the riches of this world than another is no reason for the wealthy one to look down on the poor one with shame. What all can and must be rich in is “good deeds”.
29. How did James counsel us against showing partiality?
29 James gave fine counsel to all of the Lord’s people when he said, “Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him? But ye have despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats? Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by the which ye are called? If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well: but if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors.”—Jas. 2:5-9.