Sometimes as Christians, we get a bit too caught up in the world, doing what the world does, striving after that which the world desires and even believing that we can create some sort of long-term security for ourselves. Money is often the way we do this.
The world tends to measure everything in terms of money. It defines the power of nations, the size of businesses, the influence of individuals, and even where and how we live, and who we associate with. It’s hard then not to see money as something special, something almost mystical in power and scope. But is that how God wants us to see money?
In 1 Timothy 6:17-19 (NIV) Paul gives us this advice:
”Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.”
This passage gives at least three messages in regard to money that we should examine more closely.
We shouldn’t put our hope in wealth
Notice that the first sentence in the passage is directed toward “those who are rich in this present world”? Money really can have a corrupting influence! It can change what we do, how we live, how we see others and how we see the world. Money has tremendous capacity to change the way we think. As Christians we need to be aware of that potential and guard ourselves against it—it’s extremely easy to fall into that trap.
Money is often seen as something that can fix just about anything. Poverty, disease, inequity, unhappiness—what ever the problem, money is the answer. And on an individual level, it can be a true insulator. Not only can it keep us out of poverty and give us many of the things we want in life, but it can also afford us the freedom to go where we want and to do the things we want to do.
But let’s take a look at what money can’t do:
- It can’t make people like us—it might attract more people to us, but that doesn’t make anyone like us better
- It can’t give us true freedom—investments and possessions need to be managed and guarded, and high income situations can trap us within them
- It can’t keep our loved ones alive
- It can’t keep us alive
- We can’t take it with us when we die, and it will have no value beyond this life
- It cannot buy us a place in Heaven—only faith in Jesus Christ can do that, and that doesn’t require any money at all
We also need to ask ourselves an important question: what would become of my life if I lost all the money and assets I have?
Most people tend to dismiss this question without serious reflection, perhaps because they know only too well that the consequences would shatter their lives. In a world that seems to be ruled by money, we can easily get trapped into measuring our own self worth by the strength of our financial positions. We probably do this with the people we know too. And why not? Money is one of the primary objective measures the world judges us with, isn’t it?
Money is important, no doubt about it, but we should never put it on an altar and give it an exalted place in our lives. It should never define who we are at the core.
Generosity should increase with wealth
The second verse in the passage instructs, “Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.” It’s clear that God’s concept of being rich and the worldly view are quite different. God wants us to use our money to bless others through generosity and sharing. And as we increase in wealth, the command becomes greater:
”From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”—Luke 12:48 (NIV)
Faith is about willingly giving away that which we’ve been given, and the more we have the more generous we’re expected to be. If we can’t bring ourselves to give away at least some of what we’ve been blessed to have, then we’re putting too much faith in money. We’re saying, in effect, “I can’t give away my money because I can’t live without it.”
Taking hold of “the life that is truly life”
The passage concludes with “In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.”
What is the “life that’s truly life” and how is that different from the life we know?
- Eternal life—we begin letting go of the treasures of the physical world and place our trust in God himself, whose blessings and “treasures” never end, not even at the grave
- A life lived for others—we begin living a life where other people are more important than money and possessions
- A life without dependence on earthly wealth—and all of the mental, emotional and social attachments it can hold us in
- A life of self-acceptance—God accepts us just as we are, irregardless of our financial status, and we should accept ourselves in the same way
- Freedom from constantly striving for more money—the dirty little secret of money is that enough will never be enough, no matter how much you have you always want more—society will always tell you that you need more
Everyone recites that well-worn cliché, “money can’t buy happiness”, but does anyone really believe it? Money is the usual vehicle by which people seek to create happiness, and from there it’s a very short walk to believing that money equals happiness. At that point—what ever your good intentions—the quest for happiness has been lost and replaced by the quest for money.
Alas, money is just a tool—and nothing more
Money is important—it’s the way we transact business in today’s world. But at the same time we can’t elevate it to an article of faith. When all is said and done, money is just a tool, much like a house, a car, a computer or any other possessions we have in life. It’s just a medium of exchange.
Though having money may enable us to have and to do a lot in life, it isn’t magical, it can’t solve all of our problems, it won’t win us favor with God, and it can’t even necessarily give us a happy life. And worse, it isn’t even permanent!
What do you think the proper view of money is for a Christian?