“Having Nothing and Yet Possessing All Things”
“As poor but making many rich, as having nothing and yet possessing all things.”—2 Cor. 6:10.
1. In what way does money fill a need?
FOR a certainty money is essential for daily living. Without it, how could you live in this present system of things? How could you obtain the necessities of life? In many parts of the earth it can buy hospital care, transportation, electricity, heat and piped-in water, things that are useful to man. But if you did not have money, how could you feed and clothe yourself and your family? How could you obtain a place in which to live and maintain it? As Ecclesiastes 10:19 so wisely expresses it: “Bread is for the laughter of the workers, and wine itself makes life rejoice; but money is what meets a response in all things.”
2. Against what should a Christian continually be on guard? Why?
2 So, as long as this present system of things remains, money can be very well utilized by Christians to meet their daily needs, especially in respect to carrying on their Kingdom service. However, due to its usefulness and the multitude of things that it can obtain, a Christian has to exercise self-control continually, always keeping money (wealth, material possessions) in its place, that is, as an instrument, a servant. Never should it be allowed to become an object of one’s love, one’s “heart’s desire.” How necessary it is, therefore, for a Christian today, in view of the time in which we are now living, to acquire and maintain the proper view toward riches!
3. (a) How does Paul help us to view material riches? (b) Where did he place his heart?
3 Because of being from the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew and, as respects Judaism, one of the Pharisees (who had the reputation of being ‘lovers of money’), the apostle Paul could speak from a background of experience in helping us to obtain the proper spiritual balance. (Phil. 3:5; Luke 16:14) Due to his abilities and education, being instructed from the learned Pharisee Gamaliel, he could undoubtedly have been highly successful in accumulating material wealth. (Acts 5:34; 22:3) However, Paul demonstrated where true riches were. After spending more than twenty-five years in the full-time preaching work, and being thrown into prison because of it, he wrote respecting his conviction, his decision in giving up a life of perhaps great material gain, saying: “I do indeed also consider all things to be loss on account of the excelling value of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord. On account of him I have taken the loss of all things and I consider them as a lot of refuse, that I may gain Christ and be found in union with him . . . to see if I may by any means attain to the earlier resurrection from the dead.” Paul showed where he had placed his heart, and what really was of value in his life. (Phil. 3:8-14; Heb. 6:10-12) Since his attitude toward material riches was wholesome, he could maintain a healthy view. During his life he observed the damaging effects that the love of riches had upon many.—2 Tim. 4:10.
THE SNARE OF SELFISH DESIRE
4. To what danger was Timothy being alerted?
4 Having genuine concern for the young man Timothy, Paul wrote to him when Timothy was in Ephesus, Asia Minor, which, at the time, was a very wealthy commercial city. Alerting him to the danger of cultivating a craving for material wealth and the disastrous results, he cautioned: “Those who are determined to be rich fall into temptation and a snare and many senseless and hurtful desires, which plunge men into destruction and ruin. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of injurious things, and by reaching out for this love some have been led astray from the faith and have stabbed themselves all over with many pains.” (1 Tim. 6:9, 10) Do you appreciate this counsel? Are you heeding it? Have you seen its truthfulness in the lives of many today?
5. (a) How can a desire for material wealth become a “snare”? (b) Why can one not serve two masters?
5 When your interest for money in providing for the necessities of life changes into a consuming desire to be rich, or to acquire things beyond your needs, money will cease to be your instrument, your servant. Instead, it becomes your master! It now becomes a “snare.” Jesus said: “No one can slave for two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will stick to the one and despise the other. You cannot slave for God and for Riches.” (Matt. 6:24) The Bible does not condemn riches; it condemns your becoming a slave to it. Why? Because when your covetous desire for material gain becomes so great that you become its slave, you no longer have Jehovah God as your Master. You cannot then “love Jehovah your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole mind.” (Matt. 22:37) Some say that “money talks.” But, when you become its slave, it will even do your thinking!
6. (a) What damaging effects can the love of money have on a Christian? (b) How is money viewed by some?
6 This craving for money (riches) can become so soul-consuming that it can eat away Christian qualities. It can degrade one to become beastlike. It can cause one to lose sight of justice, truth, honesty, of being generous and showing mercy. (Deut. 16:19, 20; Ex. 23:8) Having a strong desire for material abundance easily leads to indulging in the world’s dishonest business practices. “A man of faithful acts will get many blessings, but he that is hastening to gain riches will not remain innocent.” (Prov. 28:20) But you say, “This is not the situation with me; I can control it. How could I ever develop an affection for it? After all, money is only paper!” True, but how much time and effort are you spending to acquire it? Is it proving to be your master? David T. Bazelon, in his book The Paper Economy, makes an honest confession: “Money is a dream. It is a piece of paper on which is imprinted in invisible ink the dream of all the things it will buy . . . Most of us who are not outright losers in the Great American Scramble love money much more than any of the things it will buy. It is not a means to an end for us, it is a passion.” We are living in a time that Paul prophetically pointed to at 2 Timothy 3:1, 2, and about which he said: “In the last days critical times hard to deal with will be here. For men will be . . . lovers of money.” So, how important it is for a Christian to maintain the proper balance, guarding against this insatiable appetite for material wealth!
7. In what has the toiling for riches often resulted?
7 This toiling for and love of riches have caused no end of heartache, misery, suffering, unhappiness, frustration and bloodshed. Pitiful are the examples of those who have lost balance, who have cultivated covetous hearts. Let us appreciate, like Paul, that “the things that were written aforetime were written for our instruction” and that they are “for a warning to us upon whom the ends of the systems of things have arrived.”—Rom. 15:4; 1 Cor. 10:11.
“THE DECEPTIVE POWER OF RICHES”
8. (a) What heart attitude was manifested in Achan? (b) What lesson do we learn from this?
8 Let us remember the time when Jehovah God was leading the Israelites through the wilderness and they were about ready to take possession of the Promised Land. As firstfruits of the conquest, the city of Jericho “must become a thing devoted to destruction . . . it belongs to Jehovah,” they were told. God’s instructions forbade the looting of it, as was the usual procedure when capturing a city, but it was to be burned with fire. The silver and gold were to be given “into the treasure of Jehovah.” (Josh. 6:17-19) However, Achan, from the tribe of Judah, allowed his heart to become covetous. Later he confessed: “When I got to see among the spoil an official garment from Shinar, a good-looking one, and two hundred shekels of silver and one gold bar, fifty shekels being its weight, then I wanted them, and I took them.” (Josh. 7:21) The love for riches moved Achan to disloyalty, to dishonesty, to stealing from Jehovah. When Israel was attempting to capture the next city, Ai, Jehovah withdrew his spirit from Israel until Achan the wrongdoer was exposed. When singled out, Achan, his family and his entire livestock were stoned to death and burned with fire. What a price to pay for corruptible treasure!—Josh. 7:1-26.
9. (a) How did Gehazi show his “love of money”? (b) Similarly, what caused Ananias and Sapphira to lose their lives?
9 Take, too, the attendant of Elisha, Gehazi. After Elisha’s curing the Syrian general Naaman of leprosy, Naaman desired to express appreciation and make a gift to Elisha, but he refused it. Gehazi, however, had a love for riches. He tried to turn this miraculous event into one of personal gain. It led to his fabricating a lie both to Naaman and to Elisha. With what outcome? Elisha said: “So the leprosy of Naaman will stick to you and your offspring to time indefinite.” (2 Ki. 5:20-27) There was also Ananias and his wife Sapphira who “played false . . . to God” and secretly held back part of the price of their field, and lost their lives as a result.—Acts 5:1-10.
10. To what extremes can a covetous heart move one?
10 Then we have the example of one who had the marvelous privilege of being one of Jesus’ apostles, Judas Iscariot. Undoubtedly faithful and dependable at first, he undertook caring for the common finances of Jesus and the twelve; but later on he became a greedy, practicing thief. (John 12:6) For just thirty pieces of silver his covetous heart prompted him to betray his Master. To what end? After seeing that Jesus had been condemned, he went out and “hanged himself.” (Matt. 27:3-5) That is the danger with those who become slaves to riches!
11. In what way are material riches deceptive? Explain.
11 The Bible speaks of “the deceptive power of riches.” (Matt. 13:22) The reason it is deceptive is that the one who seeks or pursues it usually fails to realize its limitations. He becomes deceived because, in these riches that he so diligently seeks, he never really finds the satisfaction for which he hungers so much. He continually feels that what a little wealth fails to accomplish, a greater wealth will. So there is a constant hungering for more and more and more, one never being satisfied. Of interest is the fact that this hunger increases the more it is indulged in. As American statesman Benjamin Franklin once so truthfully recognized: “Money never made a man happy yet, nor will it. There is nothing in its nature to produce happiness. The more a man has, the more he wants. Instead of filling a vacuum it makes one. If it satisfies one want, it doubles and trebles that want another way. That is a true proverb of the wise man, rely upon it. ‘Better is little with the fear of the LORD than great treasure and trouble therewith.’”—Prov. 15:16, AV.
12. How will our understanding the limitations of material riches help in maintaining the proper view toward them?
12 Realizing the limitations of material riches will help us to maintain balance. Material wealth fails when the human needs are the greatest. As Jesus said, a person’s life does not depend on his material possessions. (Luke 12:15-21) When one loses a loved one in death, can money ease the pain of sorrow? Is there any amount you can give to buy that one back from Sheol, the grave? When one loses one’s youth and old age sets in, can stocks and bonds get rid of the wrinkles, make one young and strong again? When one’s health fails, what happiness is gained by having a whole bank full of money? If you were born blind, would all the money in the world cause you to see expressions of love on the face of your parents, a beautiful sunset or young animals at play? If born deaf, could mountains of gold substitute for hearing a beautiful symphony, the sound of the ocean or even your own voice? How limited are the powers of material treasures!
13. What view does Proverbs 30:8, 9 give us?
13 Obtaining the approval and blessing of Jehovah does not depend upon what we may or may not have, but on how we use and view what we have. “Give me neither poverty nor riches. Let me devour the food prescribed for me, that I may not become satisfied and I actually deny you and say: ‘Who is Jehovah?’ and that I may not come to poverty and I actually steal and assail the name of my God.” (Prov. 30:8, 9) Whether we have little of this world’s possessions or an abundance, either can be dangerous if we do not keep balanced and maintain the proper view.
14. (a) What viewpoint do some who are poor in this world’s goods take? (b) Is this reasoning correct?
14 An individual who lacks in material possessions can manifest a very strong love for riches. Having nothing, he may feel justified in stealing, or being dishonest in other ways in obtaining what he craves. Envying what others have, he may feel completely justified in spending his entire time and effort toward acquiring the thing desired. Or, perhaps, like many today, he may feel that the world owes him a living. However, it is a matter of viewpoint. This very one who feels poor may, in the eyes of another living in a different country, appear to be rich in comparison. We must appreciate what we have and use it properly. “Let not the wise man brag about himself because of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man brag about himself because of his mightiness. Let not the rich man brag about himself because of his riches.” (Jer. 9:23) Here the right attitude is expressed regardless of whether one is wise, mighty or rich. Not that one has to be any of these, but that one needs to be balanced. Let him brag over knowing Jehovah.—1 Cor. 1:31.
15. (a) How does Paul show that having an abundance is not wrong? (b) What dangers, however, face those who have such?
15 God’s Word does not condemn one for having an abundance of this world’s goods. Acknowledging the fact that some were rich in his day, Paul did not instruct Timothy to advise these rich brothers to divest themselves of their wealth, to become poor and live a life of poverty. No! Rather, he urged them to maintain the right attitude toward riches. “Give orders to those who are rich in the present system of things not to be high-minded, and to rest their hope, not on uncertain riches, but on God, who furnishes us all things richly for our enjoyment; to work at good, to be rich in fine works, to be liberal, ready to share, safely treasuring up for themselves a fine foundation for the future, in order that they may get a firm hold on the real life.” (1 Tim. 6:17-19) Paul warns of the danger of possessing too much. One may have the tendency to put one’s hope in riches. They can distract one from spiritual things. One could become a slave in taking care of them, protecting them. Whether one is rich or poor, there is a limit to how much one can eat and wear. Whatever we have, we should be content, using it to further the interests of the Kingdom, getting “a firm hold on the real life.”
SEEKING TRUE RICHES
16. What view of the future should we take respecting material possessions?
16 To what extent, then, should we be concerned about material things? Paul counseled: “We have brought nothing into the world, and neither can we carry anything out. So, having sustenance and covering, we shall be content with these things.” (1 Tim. 6:7, 8) Instructing his disciples on how to pray, Jesus said: “Give us our bread for the day according to the day’s requirement.” (Luke 11:3) No mention is made of stockpiling. Just be concerned with your daily requirements, not making an issue of what you will have in the future. Why store up wealth for a time that may never come for you? Why store up treasures in a world that is passing away?—1 John 2:15-17.
17, 18. (a) How do we guard against anxiety? (b) What is the point of Jesus’ illustrations?
17 You can be assured that Jehovah will see to it that you will have material necessities if you put the interests of his kingdom first in your life. Jesus presents the proper view: “On this account I say to you: Stop being anxious about your souls as to what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your bodies as to what you will wear. Does not the soul mean more than food and the body than clothing?” (Matt. 6:25) Jesus emphasizes the important matters, spiritual ones, the “soul,” one’s life, not the material things that can cause such anxiety! He tells us to “observe intently the birds,” how Jehovah “feeds them,” and to “take a lesson from the lilies of the field, . . . not even Solomon in all his glory was arrayed as one of these.” Striking at the very basis for anxiety, he says: “So never be anxious and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or, ‘What are we to drink?’ or, ‘What are we to put on?’ For all these are the things the nations are eagerly pursuing. For your heavenly Father knows you need all these things. ‘Keep on, then, seeking first the kingdom and his righteousness, and all these other things will be added to you.’” (Matt. 6:26-33) Do you have such faith?
18 This does not mean that we are to sit back, do nothing, and wait until God gives us food and clothing. Jesus’ illustration shows how the birds search for what they require. Jehovah gives them the ability and strength to do so. He will do the same for us. (Phil. 4:13) What is stressed is our not being overly concerned with material matters, but to make our service to God our treasure. Doing this will bring innumerable blessings. This is one’s going beyond the limitations of material riches and receiving the reward of things that money cannot buy, riches without comparison!—Rom. 11:33.
19. Why are spiritual riches not to be compared with material ones?
19 The surpassing value of these riches is well defined for us at Proverbs 3:13-18: “Happy is the man that has found wisdom, and the man that gets discernment, for having it as gain is better than having silver as gain and having it as produce than gold itself. It is more precious than corals, and all other delights of yours cannot be made equal to it. Length of days is in its right hand; in its left hand there are riches and glory. Its ways are ways of pleasantness, and all its roadways are peace. It is a tree of life to those taking hold of it, and those keeping fast hold of it are to be called happy.” From these riches come true peace and happiness, in fact, our very future life!
20. (a) What example did Jesus set in respect to material possessions? (b) What did he make available?
20 Do you appreciate these treasures? Jesus did! His treasure was the doing of the will of his Father. In fact, he said: “My food is for me to do the will of him that sent me and to finish his work.” (John 4:34; 6:38) Everything else in his life took second place. He properly evaluated true riches. Although he was the Son of God, we do not read of Jesus as having an abundance of material riches while on earth. But to the contrary! “Foxes have dens and birds of heaven have roosts, but the Son of man has nowhere to lay down his head.” (Luke 9:58) Though poor, however, he was rich. Consider his life and you will find that he was happy, peaceful, contented. He was as one with little of the world’s goods, yet he was able to redeem the entire human race, making available the greatest riches, namely, the prospect for his followers to become “sons of God.” Additionally, other spiritual riches became available to them.—2 Cor. 8:9; Rom. 8:14, 19; Jas. 2:5; Col. 1:27; 2:2, 3.
21. (a) How did Jesus’ apostles show appreciation for heavenly treasure? (b) What questions could we consider?
21 The same fact held true respecting the apostles. They, too, maintained the correct view by putting heavenly treasures first. Peter and his brother Andrew were fishermen, but, at Jesus’ invitation, they responded and “at once abandoning the nets, they followed him.” (Matt. 4:20) John and James responded similarly. “At once leaving the boat and their father, they followed him.” (Matt. 4:22) How they appreciated the opportunity to serve Jehovah God with his sent-forth Son! If you were there at the time, what would you have done? Would you have abandoned your nets right then and there? Or would you have delayed your decision, reasoning that, since the fishing business was so profitable, you would continue on a little while longer until you were in a better financial position to follow? How we need today to appreciate where the real treasure is! Are you proving by your course of life now that these spiritual treasures are the most important thing in your life? (Matt. 13:44-46) Are you growing in appreciation of the spiritual treasures, of seeking Jehovah’s favor and blessings? Do you recognize all the spiritual benefits flowing to us through God’s organization and are you taking full advantage of them?
KEEPING OUR “EYE” IN FOCUS
22. (a) How is our eye “the lamp of the body”? Explain. (b) What does it mean to have the ‘eyes of our heart’ in focus?
22 Jesus said: “The lamp of the body is the eye. If, then, your eye is simple [sincere; all one way, in focus, generous], your whole body will be bright; but if your eye is wicked [selfish, Moffatt], your whole body will be dark. If in reality the light that is in you is darkness, how great that darkness is!” (Matt. 6:22, 23) How appropriate this counsel is! Can we not all appreciate a light in a dark place to prevent us from stumbling or walking into something, doing damage to ourselves? To have proper vision, our eye must be simple, that is, all one way in performing its function. It must be in focus, faithfully catching all the light rays it can from an object and being able to register them in such a way that objects are seen as they really are. Likewise with the ‘eyes of our heart.’ (Eph. 1:18) They too must be in focus, must be all one way. We must consider matters in their proper perspective to make proper decisions. Having a sincere (generous) eye will help us not to be overly concerned with ourselves. We will desire to share with others. (Phil. 2:4) Having a ‘bad eye’ or one that is out of focus will result in our pursuing a course of self-indulgence, making wrong choices. Our whole body will be totally “dark.”
23. (a) How can we, as being poor, make many rich? (b) What view can we take toward full-time service?
23 Possessing this ‘generous eye,’ we are able to appreciate Paul’s statement that he was “as poor but making many rich, as having nothing and yet possessing all things.” (2 Cor. 6:10) Paul had no financial obligations that required him to maintain regular employment at tent-making, but at times he made tents so as to be no financial burden to local congregations. No amount of money can compare with the treasure of serving Jehovah with your complete attention. Like Paul, there are thousands today who, by keeping their eye “simple,” are able to devote all their time to preaching and teaching as pioneers, special overseers and workers in Bethel homes. Having the proper perspective toward money, they consider these spiritual blessings of far greater value than the material possessions that they could have if they were spending most of their time in secular pursuits.
24. How can giving be a treasure?
24 Having our eye ‘in focus,’ we can appreciate the unsurpassed joy of aiding others to learn God’s wonderful truths and of witnessing the change that it brings in their lives. Here is the basis for real happiness! As Jesus said: “There is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.” (Acts 20:35) The joy and blessing of aiding others, especially in a spiritual way, make one richer than any amount of material wealth does. Do you “see” and appreciate this?
25. In what way is the “fruitage of the spirit” a treasure? Why so, especially today?
25 Consider, also, the treasure of God’s holy spirit. It cannot be bought. (Acts 8:18-20) Neither can any amount of money buy the fruitage of God’s spirit. Describing this treasure, the Bible says: “The fruitage of the spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, mildness, self-control.” (Gal. 5:22, 23) In this day of worldwide strife, think how valuable these qualities are! How precious it is to have the “peace of God that excels all thought.” It “will guard your hearts and your mental powers by means of Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:7) By shunning the money-loving spirit of this world, by conforming to God’s will, by constant prayer, by asking for his spirit and understanding and by letting it be the dominant force in your life, you can also realize the blessings of this treasure.
26. What is the reward for those “other sheep” who keep their eye “simple”?
26 Having your spiritual vision clear, can you see this other treasure—the prospect of everlasting life? Yes! Imagine, living forever on a paradise earth! This is the reward for those “other sheep” who now keep their eye “simple,” all one way. (John 10:16; Titus 1:2; 1 John 2:17; 1 Tim. 6:12) No amount of material riches could ever obtain this. (Luke 12:15-21) For “God loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, in order that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) This is God’s promise to those who love him and do his will, including the “other sheep.”
27. (a) In view of the time in which we are living, what view of material wealth should be maintained? (b) What joy and privilege are ours?
27 May we all, then, keep our spiritual vision clear by maintaining the proper view of riches, remembering that all the money of this system of things is destined to become a thing of the past, worthless. (Ezek. 7:19; Luke 16:9) Soon, when the “great tribulation” puts an end to all the nations of the earth, gone will be the value of this world’s riches, both for the dead and for the “tribulation” survivors. Let us heed the counsel of Jesus and use what we have to glorify God. (John 15:8) May we show, not only by our words, but through our actions that we are putting spiritual riches first by fully taking advantage of the many provisions Jehovah has made. Let us share with others the good news of the Kingdom, helping them to obtain spiritual riches, and continually keeping our material possessions in their place and building up a record with our Father in the heavens. May it be ours to have the joy and privilege of being “as poor but making many rich, as having nothing and yet possessing all things.”—2 Cor. 6:10.