Your Hope—God or Riches?
“For years she cowered in her fancy house surrounded by a chain link fence and sealed off by two locked iron gates.”
A NEWS report thus described a wealthy widow who had died at the hand of robbers who stole jewelry and $1 million from her house. After her body was found, the police used a grocery cart to take another $5 million in cash out of her home. The police also found thousands of “birthday gifts” with attached cards addressed “To Jesus Christ” and “To God.”
This heiress seemed to have no friends, and she lived in constant fear. Ask yourself, How truly valuable were the millions that she so highly valued? Moreover, How rich was she toward God? You certainly know that God cannot be won with “birthday gifts,” nor does the peace of God result from the possession of riches. That can be seen from the Bible’s counsel that we ‘rest our hope, not on uncertain riches, but on God, who furnishes us all things richly for our enjoyment.’—1 Timothy 6:17.
Why are riches so uncertain? Well, you probably know how true Jesus’ words are: “Stop storing up for yourselves treasures upon the earth, where moth and rust consume, and where thieves break in and steal.” (Matthew 6:19) As you realize, there is always the danger that fire will consume a home. Some people store their valuables in banks, but have not robbers stolen from these too? Even a new car will rust.
What about the economy of the nations? In many lands inflation is like a thief; it reduces a person’s assets. “After hyperinflation struck Germany during the early 1920’s, shoppers needed baskets of currency . . . to buy groceries . . . Prices in Germany increased more than 1 trillion per cent from August 1922 to November 1923.” (The World Book Encyclopedia) How disappointing trust in money can be!
Jesus wisely advised: “Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes, and where thieves do not break in and steal.” (Matthew 6:20) What are these “treasures”? They constitute our individual record of fine works, our being rich toward God. ‘What,’ you may ask, ‘does that require of me?’ In part, the Bible answers that it means “to work at good, to be rich in fine works, to be liberal, ready to share.”—1 Timothy 6:18.
Around the earth today, there are millions of Jehovah’s Witnesses who can honestly testify that sharing spiritual and material things with others—particularly helping people to learn about the Kingdom hope by engaging in preaching, teaching, and disciple-making activities—are fine works that have Jehovah’s approval and that bring real satisfaction. Not even death can rob a person of the rewards that such laying up of treasures in heaven brings. Why is that so? Jesus promised: “I am the resurrection and the life. He that exercises faith in me, even though he dies, will come to life.”—John 11:25.
Priceless Treasures We Can Enjoy Now
After saying that we should rest our hope “on God,” Paul continues that it is ‘God who furnishes us all things richly for our enjoyment.’ (1 Timothy 6:17) Besides the daily necessities of life, the Most High lovingly provides priceless treasures for those people whom he approves. What are such treasures?
Note what Proverbs 3:13-18 says: “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. . . . It is a tree of life to those taking hold of it, and those keeping fast hold of it are to be called happy.” So “wisdom” is a treasure that surpasses the value of all the world’s riches.
Wisdom is the application of knowledge in the right way. It is the ability to use knowledge and understanding successfully to solve problems, to avoid, or avert, dangers, to attain certain goals or to help others to do so. Do you not agree that today we need such wisdom in order to deal with life’s trials successfully and to maintain a good standing with God?
In describing wisdom, Proverbs 3:13-18 highlights happiness. Is happiness not a treasure that all of us desire? Godly wisdom will give us this happiness because true happiness can come only from its Source, Jehovah God. Experience has proved that true happiness cannot be attained apart from obedience to the Most High and yielding to the operation of his spirit. The happinesses promised in the Bible depend on our proper relationship, or approved standing, with our heavenly Father. (Matthew 5:3-10) Therefore, by applying what we learn from study of the Bible, we will be displaying “the wisdom from above” that will give us the happiness that all the riches in the world cannot procure.
Recall also, though, that Proverbs 3:16 states: “Length of days is in its right hand.” This is understood to refer to the right hand of protection, the hand that is ready to help and safeguard a person at critical times. Today many engage in loose living, sexual immorality, drug abuse, and so forth. Likely you have read that AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) is linked to such practices. From what you have observed, are people who practice those things truly happy? Or do they bring upon themselves and others much sorrow and pain, even death?
In contrast, the application of the wise counsel from God’s Word will always be at our “right hand” to protect us from such dangers. Therefore, wisdom can lengthen our life, guarding us from a course that would lead to a premature death. Thus, godly wisdom is certain to make our present life a more pleasant one.
Walk Wisely Now
The evidence all around us shows that we are living in “the last days” of this system of things. (2 Timothy 3:1-5) Hence, it is vital that we be on guard against succumbing to the spirit of the world. Such a spirit emphasizes material things by appealing to selfish desires. One charge brought up concerning Job, a faithful man of Bible record, was that this man served God for selfish considerations, for material gain. (Job 1:9-11) Could such a charge truthfully be brought against us?
If we answer no, we might be successfully resisting today’s materialism. But this danger, materialism, is one of the most subtle that we face. Jesus Christ said that “the anxiety of this system of things and the deceptive power of riches choke the word.” (Matthew 13:22) Clearly, we must constantly be on guard against “the deceptive power of riches,” for these are not truly valuable.
We need to remind ourselves of the relative worth of material things. God’s Word says: “The valuable things of the rich are his strong town, and they are like a protective wall in his imagination.” (Proverbs 18:11) Yes, the security that riches can provide is sheer imagination, a deception. It is not that the material things in themselves are bad. What is wrong is the centering of our lives around them rather than on gaining God’s approval. Jesus, who is recognized as one of history’s wisest teachers, pointedly said: “Even when a person has an abundance his life does not result from the things he possesses.”—Luke 12:15.
So let us pursue a course in life that will make us “rich toward God.” (Luke 12:21) Nothing is more valuable than an approved standing with the Creator. All efforts to maintain it contribute to our ‘treasuring up for ourselves a fine foundation for the future, in order that we may get a firm hold on the real life.’—1 Timothy 6:19.