Some rich people have money.
Some rich people don't.
Some poor people have money.
Some poor people don't.
Sound stupid? Perhaps ... but it's not stupid. It's true.
Money has nothing to do with either riches or poverty.
It's nice to know, though, that you can have money and still be rich. It's reassuring, because so many people who have money are poor ... very poor.
Take the believers in the Laodicean church, for instance. They had money. Lots of it. And because they had money they made the mistake of saying they were rich. But the Spirit said, "No ... you are poor and don't know it."
When the young man who had great possessions asked Jesus what he could do to inherit eternal life, Jesus suggested that he use his money to help the poor. He refused.
By so doing, he kept his money and joined the ranks of the poor!
Then Jesus reassured the dismayed disciples who were thrown by the apparent impossibility of men with much money entering heaven by saying, "With God, all things are possible" ... including the possibility of men with money getting into heaven. Happy possibility!
You see, if the young man had been willing to use his money to bless others, he could have been rich. But he chose to bless himself... and became poor.
Have I mixed you all up? I hope not. But unless we define riches, the matter of money and riches could be confusing. So let's define riches.
Paul said to Timothy, "Godliness with contentment is great gain." Great gain! Godliness is gain ... that goes without saying. But godliness with contentment... that is great gain! Think of it! Riches have nothing to do with money. Riches have to do with character and contentment. Godly people are rich people. Godly people who are content are very rich!
To be discontent, then, is to be very poor. This helps us understand how both the man with ten dollars and the man with ten million dollars can be poor. To be discontent is to be very poor no matter how much money you have!
Conversely, the man with ten dollars can be rich and the man with ten million dollars can be rich ... but only if both are content!
I guess that is why Paul said that "They that would be rich fall into divers temptations." Temptation comes to the discontent... to the "would be" rich ... to the guy who never has enough ... whether he has ten dollars or ten million dollars.
A Matter of Attitude
The problem, you see, is not money. It's our attitude toward money. It's easy to see why Paul said that the love of money is the root of all evil. Not money ... but the love of money. Money does not make one evil. The love of money does. The love of money makes a man ungodly. But godliness with contentment is great gain ... is true riches.
There is another Scripture that is significant. Paul says, in 1 Timothy 6:3-5, that those who "consent not to the doctrine which is according to godliness" make the mistake of supposing that "gain is godliness" ... and warns Timothy to withdraw himself from them.
"Supposing that gain is godliness." Isn't that like saying that money is the measure of godliness? And isn't that a materialistic self-serving doctrine? And isn't that exactly what Paul warned against? "Supposing that gain is godliness." Using money to measure spiritual maturity and blessing, counting those without money as lacking in faith and therefore lacking in godliness. I heard one fellow say that "it isn't a sin to be poor unless you settle for it." In other words, "To be content is to be poor!" The exact opposite of what Paul said! What a shame! What error! Godliness is gain ... but gain is not godliness. The fellow had it backward!
Some rich people have money. They are not rich because they have money. They are rich because they have character and contentment. They have the character to exercise the gift of giving. Whoever heard of the gift of receiving? Yet so many testimonials concentrate on blessing received. It doesn't take character to receive. Even a spoiled and cantankerous child can receive. But to give ... ah, it takes character to do that!
Some rich people don't have money. Don't feel sorry for them. They have more than the poor people who have money. Take the widow who gave the mite, for instance. She gave more than the men who had money. She was rich. They were poor. Look at the church at Smyrna. Jesus said, "I know thy poverty (but thou art rich)."
Some poor people have money. To be ungodly is to be poor. That is why we say, "Some poor people have money." We mentioned the Laodiceans in the fourth paragraph. They supposed that gain is godliness. They measured blessing by their bank account. Poor, wretched, miserable, blind and naked people! James had some harsh words for poor people who have money. "Go to now, ye rich men ... weep and howl, for your miseries that shall come upon you... ye have heaped treasure together for the last days ... ye have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton, ye have nourished your hearts as in the day of slaughter." James is speaking of the poor who will never make it... of whom Jesus spoke when He said, "How hard it is for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God! 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."
Some poor people don't have money. To be ungodly is to be poor. To be ungodly without money is to be doubly poor. How tragic ... how awful! There are millions ... yes, billions of poor people who don't have money. Lost souls they are ... facing damnation. What shall we do? Shall we give them money? Will our money make them rich? What do poor people without money need most?
The greatest need of poor people without money is the same as the need of poor people with money.
Godliness with contentment is their greatest need ... and godliness with contentment is the Church's message! Godliness with contentment is the gospel we should be preaching to the poor of the world ... to both the poor with money and to poor without money.
This brings up a problem. If believers do not understand the nature of true riches ... if believers measure blessings by their bank roll... if believers preach a "gain is godliness" gospel... what is going to be the result? Will such a gospel bring godliness? Will such a gospel bring contentment? Can discontented believers who trust in riches ... who "would be" rich ... say anything of value to the "poor without money"?
A world of poor people needs to know the nature of its poverty. Food, clothing and shelter ... these are all visible present needs that the believer should respond to. But having responded, he must remember that money will not make them rich. Only godliness with contentment will make them rich. Let us use our money to bring true riches to a world of lost and discontented people ... knowing that godliness with contentment is great gain!