Perhaps you’re familiar with this verse?
1 Timothy 6:10 – “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil…”
And of course, it’s often misquoted saying that “money is the root of all evil.” But that’s just silly and the verse doesn’t say that. Money is just a neutral tool that can be used for good or evil. This verse is speaking about the heart behind the dollars, and if that is something so potentially awful well then…
How do I know if I love money???
This is a question I’ve struggled with for a long time. I’ve never taken a job just to get rich. I’ve always been driven by purpose and calling. And like most millennials, I’m desperate to find the area of passion and find a way to spend most of my life working in that niche. So money in a way seemed to take a backseat when compared to purpose and passion. But despite this altruism, I still find I am very concerned with money. I check my bank account and retirement accounts almost every day. Not that I have money to invest right now, but I’m constantly wondering how I could start investing in real estate. I’m continually looking for ways to earn additional income, and my wife and I are always reorganizing our lives so she can work overtime shifts. And while we’re being honest, there are some really shiny things that I want and a few stores at the mall I wish I could give my wife shopping sprees to. Any Anthropology fans here?
So, do I love money? I mean, I love going on trips and going out to eat, and cool clothes, and comfortable furniture, and on and on and on. But that’s materialism and not exactly the same as the love of money (although they can both start from the same root weaknesses). Materialism is dangerous in its own right too. Jesus spoke of this specifically when he said you can’t serve God and Mammon. “Mammon” is a funny old English word which literally nobody uses anymore, and so many Bible translations have simply placed the word money in that verse now. But there is more to Mammon, than just money and perhaps you could also think of it as “stuff”. Stuff and money. So Jesus said this stern warning because he knew that God’s biggest competition for your heart isn’t the devil, or sex, or power… it’s stuff! Many people are materialistic without necessarily having a love of money.
So, do I love money?
No. I don’t.
BUT here is the kicker about the love of money, AKA “greed”, it’s one of those vices that people can hardly ever identify in themselves. That’s because there’s always somebody richer than you around so you can justify the amount of money you are collecting or spending on yourself. My own experience as a pastor validates this typical human behavior. I’ve had many people confess and seek help with their anger, jealousy, lust, fear, depression, guilt, and shame but never once has anyone confessed to me they are struggling with greed. One of the reasons for this is because greed is always looking for something “good” to hide behind. For example, someone who is greedy might just claim they are just saving carefully or preparing for their future. In the end, though, there is an insecurity at the core of greed. It causes a pursuit of money in an effort to try and satisfy the need for safety, control, or even approval. So now in light of the self-deception that’s inherent with greed I need to take a step back and ask…
OK… am I sure I don’t love money?
Here’s the best way I’ve found to be able to tell whether or not you personally love money. I do it by rephrasing the question, around the idea of control, instead of love. This is an appropriate logical connection to make because things we love tend to take some sort of control over us. Through our attention and our affections that we voluntarily give them, the things we love will steer our lives. And so when we love money, money will begin to input its own influence over our lives through our attitudes and mindset. Jesus said himself, where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. When money gets our attention it will take our direction with it also. So here are the best questions* I’ve found that can help you figure out if you love money and if money has control over you.
Do you disdain rich people?
If you gawk when people drive by in cars you couldn’t afford, if you’re secretly bitter about the success a peer has had, if you see a big purchase someone makes and find it difficult not to say “look at all the money that could have been given to charity instead” then money still has control over you. (Remember that Judas the Betrayer said a similar phrase (Matthew 26:9) when an irrational exorbitant expense was spent to wash Jesus’ feet.)
Do you not respect poor people?
If you show contempt for people who live in poverty, if you struggle to have empathy for the poor, if you are convinced that if they only worked harder or pulled themselves up by their own bootstraps, they would be fine like you, if you have a critical spirit (different than being critically minded) towards donating to charity for fear of them not using your money efficiently enough, then money still has control over you.
So think for a second… These are deep questions, and I really need to think back about my behavior towards certain people, and certain classes of people throughout my life as well as my current treatment of these people. What I’ll say here is that I know I have struggled with feeling disdain and disrespect when comparing myself to someone else’s situation. But I don’t think these moments of weakness and pride are characteristic of me. So to finally answer my originally posted question…
No, I genuinely don’t think I love money.
Here is how I would phrase it though…
I feel like I have a deep respect for money.
And that’s ok to do that. Respecting money is important and Biblical. Respecting money means being a good steward of all that God has entrusted to you. Proverbs 27:23-24 speaks to the wisdom of respecting money and yet simultaneously not loving it.
23 Be sure you know the condition of your flocks,
give careful attention to your herds;
24 for riches do not endure forever,
and a crown is not secure for all generations.
I often see these two verses presented separately and think it’s bad Bible teaching to do so. There are two complimentary points being made in this one proverb and both are necessary! Verse 23 simply is saying that we should count our wealth carefully. We need to make sure we are keeping a good ledger of everything under our care. But verse 24 is reminding us to not care too much because, like a game of Monopoly, it all goes back in the box at the end. Be shrewd with the management of our accounts, and yet also have a certain level of unattachment to it. Both of these verses being remembered together are crucially important because while I think that the vast majority of Christians are struggling with greed and materialism, there are still some Christians who are showing contempt and irresponsibility for the wealth God is entrusted to them.
Please remember though that while respecting money is important, it’s not nearly as important as not loving money!
And so to end this post, here is a charge. Respect money. Don’t love it. Don’t let it control you and influence who you are and what you serve. But also don’t neglect it. Recognize it as a powerful tool that when harnessed properly can do great things for the Kingdom of God.
Do you agree with this idea? Here’s a fun question… Is it possible to be a Christian and be too rich? Comment below! Please Share this post with your friends to help them get Biblical teaching about money.
* The two questions I heard originally from a Tim Keller sermon, “Treasure vs. Money.“