1 Timothy 5:8—Does this contradict Jesus’ instruction about not storing treasures on earth?
Problem: Jesus exhorted His disciples, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth” (Matt. 6:19). Luke added, “Give to everyone who asks of you” (Luke 6:30). By contrast, Paul affirmed that “If anyone does not provide for his own ... he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Tim. 5:8). And Proverbs 13:22 claims that “a good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children.” But how can we give all our treasure to God and others and still have an inheritance left for our family.
Solution: The Bible does not command us to give away all our money to God and others. The OT laid down the tithe as the minimum all should give (cf. Mal. 3:8), and proportionally blessed those who brought more offerings (cf. 1 Cor. 16:2; 2 Cor. 8:14–15). In addition to this, we should help those in need, especially our own family and other believers (1 Tim. 5:8).
Jesus in no way intended that we should give away all that we possess. His advice to the rich young ruler to do so was a special case, since money had become an idol to this man (see Luke 18:22). Jesus encouraged prudence and economy and forbade making “treasures” our chief good. He encouraged us not to be unduly “anxious” about our earthly provisions (Matt. 6:25) nor to selfishly hoard treasures for ourselves on earth (Matt. 6:19–20). But in no way did He say we should not invest our money or plan for the future. Indeed, He gave parables about investing our treasures (Matt. 25:14ff) and about counting the cost before building a tower (Luke 14:28).
Neither is there any indication that the early believers ever took Jesus’ statement (to give to those who ask) to the extreme of giving away everything they possessed. In spite of some misunderstood verses to the contrary (see comments on Acts 2:44–45), the early church did not practice any abiding form of communism or socialism. Most of them apparently owned their own homes and/or other property. Otherwise, how could they have fulfilled the command to provide for their own and to leave an inheritance to their families. The prudent believer gives of his or her possessions first to God (see Matt. 6:19, 33), then for family and other believers (1 Tim. 5:8), and then, as much as is possible, to help the poor (Gal. 2:10).
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This excerpt is from When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1992). © 2014 Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Click here to purchase this book.