Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Love of Money

We have all heard the proverbial saying "the love of money is the root of all evil." This is taken directly from Paul's first letter to Timothy. "For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith..." 1 Tim. 6:10 It wasn't until recently that I realized what was meant by it.

For most of my life I have had a dichotomous view of money: one side held a utilitarian view; money is good and useful, and the more you have, the more you can accomplish while the other side held a mystical view; money itself is evil and should be shunned. Quite naive, I realize. Over the course of my seminary career, however, money grew to be a primary focus. I needed to work to help provide for rent, books, tuition, and other necessities and desires. Any spare moment that was not spent studying, should be spent working and earning. Money was becoming my idol. The problem was that I was running down the road Paul warned about. I did not feel my demands were that unreasonable, I wasn't asking for $50k or a beemer, I just wanted to fix the cars we have and upgrade the electronics that were burning out.

These desires were not evil in themselves, but they were a sign that my focus was off. It got to the point where I felt that God had failed me and that I had to take matters into my own hands. This was the place I had sunk to when God began to really go to work on me. Through some political wrangling at work, my position dissolved. I interviewed for other positions but could not land much, the one position I did get fell apart quickly. Nothing was working out and I was angry! I felt God had abandoned me. I had a point of breakdown where I had nowhere to turn, but to God. That was the turning point.

Over the next several weeks, God brought godly friends to me through meetings, planned and unplanned, in which the topic consistently turned to idolatry. I began to see that I had made myself a god and my power (or lack thereof), money. I was losing my faith. Their admonition? Go back to the basics! Get back to scripture meditation and spend time in prayer. Look at the passages that first brought you hope.

All of this is to say that money itself is not evil, I still need it to pay the bills, but not everything is necessary. We don't need a new T.V., and the cars still run, even if not perfectly. And God has provided work for both Jenny and me (after the breakdown of course!). But money and the things it can accomplish must not be my primary focus. God is the provider, not me. It is through his merciful hand that we receive our sustenance, not through my power to work.

Thinking on these things consistently brings me back to Matthew 6:19-34,

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness! No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money. Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

How comforting! God has never let us down. Why would I ever think he had begun to now? The sinfulness of men's hearts know no bounds. Yet the grace of God overcomes even idolatry and he rips us from it through loving bruises. Remember Proverbs 27:6, "Faithful are the wounds of a friend, But deceitful are the kisses of an enemy." Satan had given me a kiss full of the desire of money, while God abused me and robbed me of it. Yet it was God's faithfulness in doing so that preserved my life. What a good and faithful God we serve, who keeps his covenant with us, even when we leave it to prostitute ourselves to idols! Now I can agree with John Piper who wrote in Desiring God, "The chief end of man is to glorify God BY enjoying him forever." Indeed!

While my heart is still fickle and undisciplined, and growth takes commitment and time, I can follow Hebrews 13:5, "Let your character be free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, 'I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you.'" Hallelujah! Our God is Yahweh Yireh, the God who will be seen to provide. Apart from him, wealth is meaningless. With him, wealth is nothing. I will seek the God who is my only needed reward. Soli Deo Gloria!

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