By Jim Palmer
Last month, we examined the topic “Money: Servant or Master?” We explored what role money plays in our lives. We considered, “Does money serve my purposes (and God’s) or am I serving the almighty dollar in the form of either excessive debt or continually striving for more and more?” The question reminds me of a quote by the famous British statesman, Edmund Burke, who once said:
“If we command our wealth, we shall be rich and free. If our wealth command us, we are poor indeed.”
As a basis for our consideration this month, remember what we concluded last month:
- money is simply an amoral medium of exchange.
- money is a blessing from God; money is important; money can be of tremendous benefit or harm to its possessors.
This month, let’s spend some time thinking about money against the backdrop of this question: “What is God’s attitude toward money, wealth, and riches?” Is it safe to say that there is much confusion on this topic? When one has lots of money, he would consider himself to be ‘blessed’. Yet, oftentimes those with lots of money are considered greedy by others. Some say, ‘money is the root of all evil.’ But, the reality is that money affords humans food, clothing and shelter, so how is that possibly true? Throughout history, some religious leaders would even claim that to be godly, one must live in a state of poverty (going so far as to equate godliness with poverty). Of course, these same leaders would then pass around a collection plate asking their followers to give all that ‘evil’ to them so good might overcome it. Needless to say, the messages are mixed at best, and probably extremely misleading! So exactly what is God’s attitude toward money? A careful examination of what the Bible teaches helps reduce confusion and provides a blueprint for how we should view money.
God wants mankind, the crown of His creation (Psalm 8:3-8), to prosper. He is the very One who “gives us richly all things to enjoy” (1 Timothy 6:17). God has given each of us the abilities and opportunities whereby we might prosper and flourish (Deuteronomy 8:18). He has given us the tools and the instructions whereby we might live an abundant life here and in the hereafter (John 10:10). Psalm 8 goes on to teach us that God has put ALL things under our feet – that is, God has provided for our every need. Certainly, there are guiding principles that teach the correlations between sowing and reaping (2 Corinthians 9:6), giving and receiving in return (Luke 6:38), and scattering abroad yet increasing more (Proverbs 11:24) – which we will investigate in later issues. But the point for today is quite simply – blessings, yes, all good things (including monetary and material blessings) come from God (James 1:17). In fact, it is safe to say: “God wants us to prosper.”
God would have us know that material blessings are “not all there is to life” (Proverbs 13:7). Let’s face it. We should all recognize this fact. Think about the one who has lost his or her health and if they’d want more money or more health. Consider whether the one who lost his or her child would prefer a larger bank balance or their child back. Ask the one who lost everything of sentimental value (pictures, notes written by spouse and children, various keepsakes) if the insurance check takes away the pain. Jesus, while resisting the devil’s temptation to turn stones into bread, quoted from Deuteronomy 8:3: “So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord.” To paraphrase, human beings are not only to be about the temporal – we are to be about more than just food or anything else that perishes with using. At the same time, one should not discount the value of the temporal blessing. Consider if you had been part of the group wandering around the wilderness with nothing to eat. Surely you would have recognized the value manna had at the time. Manna was nothing more than a temporary blessing (its value faded over time – read Exodus 16), but it came from God and was to be used to serve a purpose. Likewise, money is a temporal blessing from God that has value when used correctly by its possessor. When we lose the proper perspective on money, riches, and wealth, we also cheat ourselves out of the truly valuable and abundant life God wants for us. Can we remember, in this age of unbridled desire for money, that we must “take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses” (Luke 12:15). Or, at least remember Solomon, who tasted everything life had to give— but realized that the whole of man was not a part of those material goods (The book of Ecclesiastes).
God stresses over and over that though He wants mankind to prosper and all blessings come from Him, there are distinct dangers associated with money. As society has changed through
the years, money has become more and more a symbol of status, power, prestige, and security. Three distinct dangers God would have us beware of include:
- The danger of the love of money (1 Timothy 6:9-10). As mentioned earlier, oftentimes this verse is misquoted. Nevertheless, the danger is evident: The love of money and the desire to become rich can be overwhelming. If this root of evil is allowed to grow in the heart of man, this can, and will, cause money’s pursuers to fall into many temptations and snares, many foolish and harmful lusts, and many will end up straying from the faith because of greed. Is it any wonder one cannot serve God and Mammon?
- The danger of covetousness, which is idolatry (Colossians 3:5). Like the rich fool who was said to have prospered in Luke 12:16-21, so too there is danger for us. Apparently, as this man’s estate grew, so did his unquenchable desire to store up more and more – for self (verse 21). He was like the one, who, according to Ecclesiastes 5:10-16, loves silver but then can’t be satisfied with silver, who, loves abundance, but just can’t get ‘enough’. Covetousness will destroy one’s relationship with God (Exodus 20:3) in as much as “riches can be kept for their owner to his hurt” (Ecclesiastes 5:13).
- The danger of misplaced trust in riches and wealth. In Matthew 19 we read of Jesus’ interaction with one we’ve come to know as the ‘rich young ruler’. In and of itself, the description of this man is not bad: there is no wrong in being rich, young, or a ruler. No, despite Jesus’ admonition to the crowd that indeed “it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:23) the key as to why is actually found in a parallel account of the encounter. In Mark 10:24 we learn: “How hard it is for those who trust in riches to enter the kingdom.” Riches can be deceitful (Matthew 13:22) and they can, in effect, trick one into placing trust in their security as a god rather than trusting in the One true God.
In summary, as we ponder God’s thoughts on money, riches, and wealth, and try to make His thoughts our thoughts, remember that God wants us to prosper “as much as our soul prospers” (3 John 3). He gives all good things into our hands that we might use them to the benefit of ourselves, our families, and the less fortunate. As Leroy Brownlow once wrote, “Unless God’s people make and save finances they will never have enough to give to His causes throughout the world.” When we use God’s blessings wisely, we can – and should – enjoy them abundantly, keeping in mind the brevity of life and assigning an appropriate value to the blessing. As we navigate through and around the dangers money can present and faithfully serve as stewards of His bountiful blessings, we can live a life of prosperity and give God the glory. For the Christian, financial success is possible!
God’s Word on Money:
Beware the dangers of it:
Ecclesiastes 5:10, 13
1 Timothy 6:6-10, 17-19
Be generous with it:
2 Corinthians 9:6-8
1 John 3:16-18
1 Timothy 6:17-19
Benefit from wise use of it:
Genesis 13:2, 24:1, 26:12-14
1 Timothy 6:17-19
2 Corinthians 9:8, 10,12-13