How big is your rug? This question, posed by my high school Bible study leader, refers to the old saying about having the rug pulled out from under you, of suffering the consequences after being caught off guard by something totally unexpected. This happens to all of us from time to time, but the question he posed had more to do with our source of ultimate hope than it did with our everyday experiences. And this is the same kind of hope that Paul refers to in his letter to Timothy:
As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. — 1 Timothy 6:17
Paul is warning us not to put our weight on the rug of riches. Though it looks plush and warm and inviting, it is actually quite slippery. Paul is not counseling us to avoid riches altogether, nor is he judging or condemning those who are rich. He is simply speaking the truth. His admonition is driven by both love and wisdom because he knows that, eventually, whether it’s in the next month, the next year, in a decade, or at the end of our lives, our wealth will be stripped away from us.
Jesus also taught this lesson when he told the parable of a bumper-crop farmer who had a scheme on how to cash in on his good fortune:
And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”
— Luke 12:16–21
This man’s rug was the big barns he was planning to build. But it wasn’t the barns themselves that Jesus was most concerned with. It was the man’s attitude toward them. In his imagined conversation with himself, the farmer addressed not his intellect, but his soul. His plan went beyond sound business sense and crossed over into soul security. At that point, he had gone from good stewardship to bad idolatry.
The problem with being rich is not the riches themselves, but the stories we tell ourselves about them. For some of us, those riches are acquired. For others, they are pursued or merely imagined. But regardless of our financial status, when riches become the source of our soul’s security, we turn them into something that they were never designed to be. After all, riches can provide for your earthly needs and desires, but they can’t love you unconditionally. Only God can do that. Out of his great love, he “richly provides us with everything to enjoy,” so why not put our hope in him instead?
At the end of the day (or the end of your life), you’ll find that his rug is much, much bigger than you ever imagined.