When I asked him why he wanted to go to dental school, a good friend of mine told me “I need to make as much money as possible so that when I grow up I can avoid all the pain I felt as a child.”
“A yacht is something that we all should all own at least once in our lives,” said a friend of a friend who basically told me that his purpose in life was to be able to retire on a nice boat.
“I think that God wants us all to be able to live comfortably and have a vacation probably once a year,” noted a friend of mine during a sophomore bible study I’m a part of at UNC.
“Money can’t buy happiness but I’d rather cry in a Lamborghini,” I heard a freshman recite from a recent song.
I personally have felt that many of these statements are true at different points in my life. What’s the theme of all this? Everyone seems to value money more than they realize. Even some Christians that I know will recognize that they idolize money and they seem to be okay with it.
Jesus’s Thoughts on Money
So what does the Bible tell us about money? Jesus has a lot to say about it during his three-year ministry. Some of what he says is even threatening. One of the most well-known money-oriented phrases in the gospel is: “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” This is found in all three synoptic gospels, including in Matthew 19:24. It occurs immediately after Jesus meets a rich, young man who asks what he must do to inherit eternal life.
Jesus tells the young aristocrat that he must go home and sell all his things and give his money to the poor. The young man dejectedly walks away, at which point Jesus makes this incredibly profound statement. What does it mean though?
In Matthew 6:21 it is said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” From these verses, it can be inferred that when money is one’s greatest treasure, all of a person’s actions will be geared towards serving money and living for that heartless master.
Based on the nature of the young man who walked away in Matthew 19, his treasure was his abundant wealth and it controlled his actions, words, and almost certainly his thoughts. Money didn’t free him to the pleasures of life. Instead it enslaved him. This is not to say that one who owns significant wealth cannot enter into God’s kingdom. However, the presence of a vast amount of earthly riches can be very tempting and easily lead to idolatry.
Jesus as our Treasure
Conversely, when Jesus is our treasure, then our hearts will be turned towards him and our greatest desire will be to serve his kingdom during this season called “life”. Our hearts are freed from the cruel master of money that will never satisfy the God-shaped void within our souls. Tim Keller said it best when he stated that there is a hole in our hearts which only God can fill. I have fallen victim many times over the years to the great mistake of putting things which are less than God into this void.
The unknown writer of Hebrews states in Hebrews 13:5, “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’”
It should go without saying that God desires for us to love Him more than we love money, one of his many creations. But how do we go about a lifestyle that doesn’t glorify money and instead rightly places God as our greatest treasure?
John Piper, who I must reference in everything I write, has some amazing things to say about money. He emphasizes a certain “wartime” financial plan in which we should earn, save, and invest our money for the benefit of the Lord’s kingdom since surely not all those who have a significant amount of money are choosing to live in idolatry of money, but potentially using their vast wealth to benefit the Kingdom, Piper explains in detail what it means to live as if it is wartime. He says, “So what Paul is warning against is not the desire to earn money to meet our needs and the needs of others. He is warning against the desire to have more and more money for the security and the ego boost and the material luxuries it can provide with no plan for loving other people with your increase.”
Piper recognizes that there are wealthy Christians out there who are using their wealth to create businesses and organizations to bless their communities and the world.
In contrast, verses such as this one warn of the all-too-common path that most take when it comes to acquired wealth.
“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.” – 1st Timothy 6:6-9
In conclusion, I think that we must be reminded of the life that Paul warns many of us as believers are bound to face. In spite of the eternal riches and joy of heaven that Paul knows we shall enjoy, he states in 1st Corinthians 15:19 that “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.” This is a powerful verse that has convicted me more than any other in recent months. I want to challenge everyone to think deeply about this. How many people do you know who actually live in such a way that they would be “most to be pitied” if it weren’t for the truth that they profess on their lips and in their hearts? As Matthew 6:19 states, this life is not one that should be squandered on pointless subservience to money, or any other god that will never last.