“As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty…”
The sin addressed here is being haughty, not being rich. Beware of haughtily rebuking the rich. It’s easy to look down on a person with a big head and a big wallet with a big plank in our own big head because of our thinner wallet (Matthew 7:1–5). But righteousness cannot be measured in correlation to the thickness of wallets. Always more obnoxious than arrogant materialism is arrogant legalism.
The reason we so often revolt against pride isn’t because we think it’s a sin against God, but against us. The reason we don’t like materialistic pride is because we have the same ego, but we can’t pull off the dress, or, at least, we can’t afford it. “Who do they think they are? Do they think they’re me? I’m me, and I’m humble. They’re not me, and they’re arrogant. How dare they.”
Materialistic pride is a sin because it’s against God. It’s an expression that one is finding their identity in money. This is like a grown man finding his identity in a Batman costume. Come back to reality. The young man strutting his stuff down the street because he is something big in some virtual video game world, needs to wake up, as do any who place their identity in wealth.
Our identity is first found in this, we’re made in the image of God. Finding your identity in anything else, save one related thing (see number three below) is finding our identity in something less. Imagine a guy with several wonderful children. His quiver is full of golden arrows (Psalm 127:4–5). “You’re children are so well-behaved and talented.” “Yes, but… but… have you noticed my oil can collection?” Likewise, “You’re made in the image of God.” “Yes, but look at this green! Look at all these pieces of paper with no intrinsic value.”
Second, and more detrimental to our ego, devastatingly so, is that we’re all born legitimate sons of Adam, inheriting his guilt and corruption. It’s because of the first identity marker that this one is so serious. It is because we are made in the image of God that our rebellion is so vile. In Adam, we’re covenant-breakers, law-trespassers, and God-haters. Thus, morally bankrupt, at best,and only by grace, we’re beggars.
Third, for the saints, we are a new creation in Christ. He is our righteousness. In Jesus we’re adopted as sons, fellow heirs with the Prince. Therefore, for a rich Christian to boast over a poor Christian is like once billionaire boasting over another billionaire because he has more Monopoly money. Come back to reality.
Imagine two pilgrims journeying to an eternal kingdom of bliss where they are to both be joint heirs with the prince of that realm. One chap is dressed exquisitely, the other in rags. The richer joe’s nose is upturned during the journey. Finally, though sinfully, the guy in rags responds, “You know, your clothes are so this age—faddish. They’re going out of style because of the prince. That swoosh won’t mean anything there.”
But, if indeed we are joint heirs in Christ, there is no need to respond in sinful, haughty, insecurity. We can rebuke our brother in love, because it’s not about us. The gospel strips all of us of our green fig leaves, and clothes us with the Lamb.