We’re looking this week at how our views of money change as followers of Jesus. Here are the words of Paul, one of the first Christian leaders, to his protégé, Timothy.
But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. (1 Timothy 6:17-19 ESV)
A Christian author, NT Wright note that we give lip service to the maxim that “money can’t buy happiness” and then give life-service to the opposite.
We don’t need to prove it, we’ve all seen this kind of thing.
One example, when someone is quite wealthy, they might buy more homes. But since they can’t be everywhere at once, they need to get security systems or guards, repair people, landscapers and more.
With more wealth comes the need for lawyers, accountants, investment advisors, and all the work and stress of coordinating them properly.
A friend owns a home by the lake, which is beautiful. But the amazing view comes at a cost, as they are constantly replacing shingles after every windstorm.
Another example: Justin Bieber’s incredible success and wealth may also be his downfall. He is able to try and buy happiness in cars, drugs, and surround himself with friends so dazzled by it all that they won’t try to stop him. But we’ve seen recently, that it’s not working. His wealth has turned into a trap, a snare.
Is Paul saying money is bad? Or houses by the lake, or pop music? No, but money is also not good, or happiness, in and of itself.
This is why Paul says carefully, the love of money is the root of many evils.
Money isn’t the good to be loved. It represents the good, it’s just a piece of paper, metal or computer data used to exchange for actual goods and services. The further our modern currency gets from the actual goods it was meant to represent, the closer it gets to an idol for worship in and of itself. Money is a stand-in for actual goods, and becoming less and less grounded in reality since treasuries no longer actually have to have gold on hand for every dollar they print.
What are idols? They were things like statues worshipped for rain, sun, fertitility, whatever people wanted to control. They stand in for a real relationship with God who can’t be controlled. They allow us to become ungrounded from reality, since we elevate ourselves to the status of controlling nature through our gods.
If we pursue money alone, we are pursuing something at the whim of the markets that is ultimately meaningless. We can see this as the Canadian dollar recently plugned below 90 cents US. Manufacturers who signed contracts at $1.00, bought supplies at $0.95 and got paid at $0.90 have all seen just how subjective money can be when it’s unhinged from the actual goods it is meant to represent.
The risk is that we’ll pursue this kind of thing in life, and worship things in our lives whose value is constantly in flux, hardly eternal. They may not be little statues anymore, but idols are very much objects of worship today.
That’s why Paul states the obvious truth: we brought nothing into this world, we cannot take anything out. Despite that, we regularly treat money, possessions in life as if they are permanent and of eternal value.
Question: When have you seen someone’s love for money lead to evil?Read the Bible in Sync Today