Money, it’s a crime. Share it fairly but don’t take a slice of my pie. Money, so they say is the root of all evil today. -“Money” by Pink Floyd (1973).
The entire world, particularly the body of Christ, seems to be divided across a giant chasm in regards to money. On one side, money is believed to be a grievous evil, and on the other, a mark of godliness. What gives?
A certain famous preacher, indicted in 1988 and sentence to prison on multiple counts of fraud (and who paid himself millions of dollars in bonuses), later published a book admitting that for the first time he read the bible all the way through while in prison, and discovered that he had taken certain passages out of context-passages that he used as proof texts to back up his teachings concerning money.
On the other side of the continuum exists a church in a small town in mid America whose doors are on the verge of closing due to an impending bankruptcy because the church leadership believes and teaches that money is the root of all evil, and as a result, doesn’t have the cash flow necessary to pay its bills.
It is important to note that the primary mark of a false teaching is that it lies on an extreme edge, like a pendulum ball fixed to one side which doesn’t swing across the entire council of the Lord. Pilate once asked Jesus, “What is truth”? This question had actually already been answered a few thousand years beforehand by an Israeli king: “the sum (total) of your word is truth”.
The objective of this teaching is not to provide detailed guidance on money management (there are far more qualified individuals to teach such a subject), but to answer and hopefully clarify some key questions which most people have concerning God and money.
Question #1: Does God desire that we prosper?
Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers – 3 John 1:2.
Clearly the apostle John wouldn’t pray a prayer for someone he undoubtedly knew was contrary to the will of our Heavenly Father. Neither would David in Psalms 122:6 when he said “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem, may they prosper who love you”. We can be certain His will is that we prosper. In this sense, prosperity is intrinsically apart of the new covenant. The question is however, what does it mean to prosper? Simply put, it means to “succeed or to obtain a desired result”. This can include and result in an increase in wealth, but in the majority of scriptural instances, it doesn’t.
The phrase “prosperity gospel” is faulty to begin with because the definition we assign to the word ‘prosperity’ is often skewed. We can be sure that we will prosper at whatever we put our hand to when we meditate and apply the principles outlined in the written word of God (Psalm 1). God’s will is that we have success (prosper) in whatever we do. What loving earthly father wouldn’t want his children to succeed? How much more our Heavenly Father?
Question #2: Does God want us to seek riches?
But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction”. – 1 Timothy 6:5
Let’s define ‘riches’. Riches in the New Testament come from the Greek word “Plouteo”, which means abounding in wealth and possessions. It’s crystal clear: God does not want us to waste our energy trying to obtain an abundance of wealth. Consider the following:
Do not weary yourself to gain wealth, Cease from your consideration of it. – Proverbs 23:4
Instead of seeking riches, we should seek wisdom. As a general principle, when wisdom increases in our lives, wealth (increased cash flow) may also. When we receive and walk in heavenly wisdom (2 Chronicles 1:11-12, James 1:5, Proverbs 3:16) it often opens doors for us to obtain wealth and riches:
Riches and honor are with me (wisdom), enduring wealth and righteousness.” – Proverbs 8:18
Regardless of whether we obtain wisdom, at times wealth may be gifted from God (Ecc. 5:19) as an expression of His kindness. However, the absence of wealth does not indicate one is godly and the presence of wealth does not indicate one is wicked. Likewise, the absence of wealth does not indicate one is wicked and the presence of wealth does not indicate one is godly. There are 15 examples of saints in the bible who were classified as rich and 7 examples of wicked men that were as well.
Question 3: Is money the root of all evil?
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 and pierced themselves with many griefs. – 1 Timothy 6:10
The phrase, ‘money is the root of all evil’, is probably the most misquoted saying in the entire bible. Read the scripture above carefully. It says the love of money is a root of sorts of evil. If money were THE root of all evil, it would imply that greed is responsible for all evil in the world. We know this is not the case. Money is simply a neutral medium for exchange, being neither good nor evil.
Question #4: Who is rich?
We often think the rich are those individuals that live lofty in mansions, drive expensive cars, and eat filet mignon daily. It’s time we change our perspective. While some may be richer than others, anyone possessing anything beyond life’s necessities such as food, clothing, and shelter is rich. I imagine this includes most of us in America. Despite how little or much we have in our bank account, we are rich and therefore Jesus’ teachings on wealth apply to us.
Question #5: What does it mean to store up treasures on earth?
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. – Matthew 6:19
The mere fact that Jesus received treasures at his birth of gold, frankincense, and myrrh (Matthew 2:11), indicate treasures themselves are not evil. These treasures however were used to take care of Jesus’ family and carry Him across the land. Should not we do the same with our treasures? Jesus is saying here not to be about investing in items that are sure to depreciate to the point of worthlessness. Moths eat clothes which are rarely worn, rust appears on items which are rarely used or enjoyed, and you never see a thief breaking into a building to steal a coffee pot; it’s the high dollar items they go for. Jesus is also teaching us to redirect our use of highly valued items for kingdom purpose.
Question #6: What does the love of money really look like?
The love of money is not a single event, but an ongoing process which is driven by an unhealthy desire to purchase, accumulate, and acquire more. It can be expressed in terms of loving ourselves more than loving God and one another. This process at its core is fueled by covetousness, and covetousness is rooted in idolatry (self-worship). It manifests itself like an addiction, where complete satisfaction is never realized. The love of money commonly results in:
- Conceit/pride (Eze. 28:5)
- Excessive working (Proverbs 23:4)
- The continuous seeking of pleasure upon pleasure (James 2)
- Forgetting, rebelling, and denying God (Deu. 43:15, Neh.9:25)
- Violence (Mic.6:12)
- Oppression (James 2:6)
- Chokes out the ability for the Word of God to take effect in our lives (Matthew 13)
- Emotional pain and anxiety (Ecc. 5:12)
- Fraud (James 5:4)
- Sensual indulgence (James 5:5)
- Sumptuous living (Luke 16:19)
Those that have a love for money cause self-inflicting wounds and have a strong propensity for steering themselves out of the faith. One reason for this is because the object of our trust can so easily shift from God, who supplies us with wealth, to the wealth itself. We begin to trust more in the gift than the gift giver. If the gift of God becomes our god then the Lord God may very well remove it so He can take back His rightful place in our lives.
Question #7: How do I stop loving money?
Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share.- 1 Timothy 6:17-18.
If you feel that money has a tight grip on you and has become master of your life, you can be liberated by developing a heart of giving and generosity. Giving is the key that unlocks the prison that greed throws us in. Notice in the above scripture that the rich are not instructed to stop making money; but simply to be richly generous.
Question #8: How do I optimize my giving to ensure I am actually storing up treasures in Heaven?
“But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; – Matthew 6:20
When we make withdrawals from our banks on earth and give, we make deposits into our bank in Heaven. This causes us to store up a good foundation for the coming kingdom. Over time our lives should shift toward giving more and keeping less.
What are some areas that we are instructed to give toward? Here are few:
- The needs of the saints (2 Corinthians 9:10)
- Widows and orphans (1 Timothy 5:3)
- Those that work hard at preaching and teaching (1 Timothy 5:17)
- Ministries that further the gospel (Philippians 1:5)
The more we practice joyful giving the more seed we receive to give:
Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. – 2 Corinthians 9:10
How you can practically accomplish this?
- Seek wisdom first and give as you are able. Wisdom prevents you from becoming overly zealous in giving to the point where you cannot meet necessary obligations (bills, debt, etc.). For what good is it if your giving reliefs others but creates hardship for yourself?
- Review your monthly expenses. Analyze which ones can be reduced or eliminated to free up cash to give more.
- Review what items/possessions you have which you are not currently using or enjoying. How can you sell them or give them away to meet a need?
- If income increases, consider maintaining your current standing of living, and increase your standard of giving.
Be practical on new purchases. Ask the following questions before a large purchase (derived from a teaching by John Wesley):
- In spending this money, am I acting like I own it, or am I acting like the Lord’s trustee?
- What scripture requires me to spend this money this way?
- Can I offer up this purchase as a sacrifice to the Lord?
- Will God reward me for this expenditure at the resurrection of the just?
Question 9: Why is it so important to God that I give?
Most importantly, giving is God-like, and when we live a life of giving out of a heart of love we are reflecting the nature of our Father. Think about it: The Father expressed His love toward us by giving the most valuable asset of Heaven, His Son Jesus, to meet humanity’s greatest need. After He gave Him, He received Him back into eternity unto Himself. Whenever we give to the world like the Father does, what we give we shall receive again in the coming age and it shall be unto us the very basis of our future life in the Kingdom.
As it is widely known, no outlet exists in the Dead Sea. This causes high amounts of salt wherein no life can survive. Interestingly because the rate of evaporation of the sea is faster than the Jordan River’s flow rate going into it, it doesn’t overflow. Furthermore, the sea’s shorelines are receding by about three feet a year due to a reduction in the inlet’s water supply. The Dead Sea is actually dying! Here’s the point: Wealth flowing in our lives but not flowing out does not improve our quality of life; it reduces it. Without giving, wealth will eventually recede from the shores of our lives.
Giving is the best investment we can make because it accrues a heavenly interest and demonstrates to our Master a wise stewardship of His resources. When we give, God increases our capacity to give. When we hoard and withhold, our giving capacity gets reduced. Let us press on unto maturity not being deceived by teachers of sordid gain. Let us develop the heart of the Father and be faithful servants over that which He entrusts to us.
Let us seek God’s Kingdom, His hand for success, and His heart for wisdom. Not riches. If wealth does come, we are to be rich in giving to the things of the Lord, thereby ensuring we are making a genuine difference in this world and an eternal deposit into our account in Heaven. Concluding, we should earn all we can, save all we can, and give all we can (John Wesley).