1 Timothy 6:17–18—Should wealth be avoided or retained?

Problem: Jesus urged the rich young ruler to “sell what you have and give to the poor” (Matt. 19:21). The early disciples sold their possessions and laid the money at the apostles’ feet (Acts 4:34–35). And Paul warned that “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” (1 Tim. 6:10). However, God blessed Abraham and Job with riches, and Paul does not instruct the rich to give away all they have, but to use and “richly enjoy” (1 Tim. 6:17–18).

Solution: It should be observed, first of all, that Jesus’ instruction to “sell what you have and give to the poor” (Matt. 19:21) was to a rich young man who had made money his god, not to those who have not. There is nothing wrong with possessing riches—there is something wrong with being possessed by riches.

Further, there is no indication that the early disciples in Acts were either urged to sell all, or that they actually did. The land sold (Acts 4:34–35) may have been extra property. It is noteworthy that it does not say they sold their homes (see discussion on Acts 2:44–45). Finally, Paul does not say that money is evil, but only that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. Seeking riches for their own sake is wrong, but seeking to have something to share with others in need is not. Thus, while God “gives us richly all things to enjoy” (1 Tim. 6:17), in the same breath He warns, “not ... to trust in uncertain riches.”

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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.