What is the right way to be rich?
The right way to be rich is to be rich in good deeds. That's a quote from 1 Timothy 6:18. He says, "To the rich I say, do not trust in your riches, but be rich in good deeds."
So I'm assuming riches have come in some way, and now Paul is dealing with that. He's not saying that you should go there. He has said something about that, namely, "Don't want to go there. Don't want to be rich" (and I'll get to that in a minute).
But if a person is rich, what do you say to them? What you say is, "Don't trust your money and be rich in good deeds." Now being rich in good deeds is probably going to deplete their barns. I think it will. I think a person who comes to Christ as a very very rich person will start finding ways to divest himself of excesses.
Now he may start a foundation. That's what I do with my royalties. To protect myself from the royalties I created a foundation. So the royalties come to the foundation and then you give it away. You just have a ball giving the money away! But it's protected from me. I can't have it. It's not mine to have personal disposal over it.
I don't think God minds us being channels of a lot of money. You make a lot of money, and you give a lot of money.
R. G. LeTourneau invented LeTourneau earthmoving trucks which had wheels twice as tall as you are, and he started LeTourneau University. He used to say about his big earthmoving machines, "I love power." And the story is that he tithed to himself. He made so much money that he tithed to himself and gave the rest of it away.
Now my guess is that he was quite wealthy, probably, with ten percent of what he was making. And maybe that was enough and maybe it wasn't. But that's the kind of mentality you commend to a rich person. The world is telling you if you make a lot, own the symbols of the fact that you make a lot. That's the way the world thinks. All the airplane magazines say that: "You've earned it! Buy a La-Z-Boy!"
What does that mean? It means that the chair you sit in should look like what you make. And my answer is, "No it shouldn't. No it shouldn't. It should look like Jesus is valuable, more valuable than chairs. That's what it should look like."
So you say to rich people, "Be rich in good deeds," which means you start doing as many good deeds as you can and on the way there you live a kind of life that would make Jesus look like your treasure.
Now on the other end, should you ever want to go there (and Paul is just crystal clear), "Those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into many senseless and hurtful temptations that bring the soul into ruin" (1 Timothy 6:9). Wanting to be rich is dangerous.
So I preached that last Sunday, and a guy comes up to me afterwards and says, "I was kind of bothered by this sermon, because I'm just starting a business and I really want it to succeed." To which I said, "I don't think you were listening carefully," because in that sermon I had made it clear. I said, "Not a problem. I hope you succeed like crazy. I hope your business grows to be worth billions of dollars and that you employ 500,000 people! I've got zero problem. That's good for the world if you're making something worthwhile or you're providing some services worthwhile and your employees are being treated justly. My issue is, What are you going to drive? Where are you going to live? How many houses and boats and suits are you going to have? and so on. Because there is no problem with money flowing through your hands. The problem is wanting to be rich—wanting to have it! have it! and own! own!"
And I admit that it is a dangerous, dangerous call to say, "Go ahead, succeed all you want. Make all you want. But don't keep all you want, and don't buy all the symbols of wealth."