“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”Matthew 6:24
Who your master is will be evident by what drives your vision. Either wealth is a tool, or it will make you a tool. We print “In God We Trust” on our money, but what “god” are we trusting when we live lives characterized by materialistic consumption? To start your day, do you reach for your Bible or do you reach for the Wall Street Journal? Do you spend more time worried about your stock portfolio or how best you can be of service to the Kingdom of God? Or how about this: is your faith characterized by what “blessings” you hope you gain from the Father more than how you can be a blessing to others?
The basic philosophy of humanism, as it is defined today, is that people are gods unto themselves. However, human nature is also a slave to the evolutionary philosophy of “survival of the fittest.” And how do we effectively define who is the fittest? By the amount of earthly treasure that we horde to ourselves. Even our modern concepts of philanthropy and benevolence in society are defined by the amount of “disposable wealth” we have that we can “graciously” bestow upon others – most often out of our excess. We celebrate large donors who contribute multiple figures of monies towards worthy causes, but rarely give credence to the “widow’s mite” offerings that carry more spiritual value as a result of the relative sacrifice that is made. We exalt those who give much, while pushing those who give everything to give more. We entice larger donations with promises of greater benefits to be earned from the larger “sacrifices” given.
Now please hear me clearly, wealth in and of itself is not a sin. Rather it is the obsessive drive to horde money for oneself out of fear and anxiety and a desire for self-preservation that corrupts the heart. The apostle Paul puts it this way:
If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions, and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment. For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content. 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. 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 6:3-10
This passage speaks to a few different things as it pertains to wealth. First, it addresses the idea that there are some within the body of Christ who treat godliness as a a means of personal gain. They seek to argue the letter of the law yet do not honor the spirit of the law. The totality of the Hebrew law is summed up in two commandments: love God and love other people. However, when we look to God’s word as a means to our own personal ends, we tend to distort and corrupt the heart of Scripture. In so doing, we give rise to heresies that detract from the truth of the Kingdom and put ourselves on the throne rather than humbly acknowledging who really is the only one worthy of the Throne of grace. The primary message of the Bible is not about us, but rather it is about God revealing Himself to us, desperately crying out for us to come to Him.
Secondly, the so-called heretical “prosperity gospel” is nothing new. In fact, it was prevalent enough in Paul’s day that he specifically called attention to it in his letter to Timothy. He warns that there are teachers who will teach that godliness is a means of personal gain. But he also reminds Timothy that while godliness does bring great gain to the individual on a spiritual level, it must be accompanied by contentment with what God has entrusted us to steward. A lack of contentment is a sign of anxiety and misplaced priorities that put the self before the good of God’s kingdom.
Finally, he describes how those who are rich fall into temptation that “plunge men into ruin and destruction.” But it’s not the fact that they are rich that is the problem. It is when they allow the size of their bank accounts to supersede the size of their vision for the kingdom of God. It’s when they allow their love of money to become an idol rather than a tool to be used to further the interest of God’s kingdom that the temptation comes and destroys them.
I happen to have friends and colleagues who I would consider to be wealthy people. But it’s not the size of the bank accounts that make them wealthy in my eyes, but rather it is the size of their heart. If your view of your personal wealth is a means of drawing attention to yourself, then your vision extends no further than yourself. However if your view of your personal wealth is as means of being a steward of God’s resources for the advancement of His purposes, it makes a world of difference in your vision of life.