I often sit down with young adults in college and ask them why they are in college? Their usual response is that they are trying to figure out what to do with their lives. I then ask them what major they think they will choose and why? They almost all tell me that they are choosing a career based on how much money they will make when they graduate. They may say that they are being practical, seeking to have wealth so that they can survive in this culture. Are they being practical? Is the pursuit of wealth all there is to this life? We live in a culture that says it is okay to pursue as much wealth as possible. The world says that without this wealth you will never be happy and satisfied with your life. How does a believer live in a Western culture that makes its focus the accumulation of money and possessions? How should we rightly view the money that we have?
What do you think about this statement, “Money is the root of evil.” Is this true? The correct answer is “no.” This is a misquote of 1 Timothy 6:10, “For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil” is what the verse really says. What do you think about the money that you have?
Is Money Bad?
The Real Issue is the Heart of Man
Money is not in and of itself bad. It is neutral. The real issue when it comes to money is not whether it is morally good or evil, but rather people and their hearts before the Lord. Money is a basic element of everyone’s life in that we need it to live each and every day.
Everything We Have Is a Gift of God
The important principle to remember is this: Everything that we have is a gift of God (James 1:17). It is by the grace of God that we have anything at all. One of the things that is ingrained in American culture is the idea of the “self-made” man. That if you work hard you can achieve much wealth in this life. That idea is inherently unbiblical.
In reality everything that we have received been given to us from God so that we acknowledge our Creator and magnify Him with our thanksgiving. Nothing that you have is purely by your own hard work; but rather it is given to you by God Himself. Money and wealth are given to us by the grace of God.
Think about this for a moment. Hard work is never a guarantee of success (Ecclesiastes 6:12). There are plenty of hard-working people that never achieve great wealth. The American Puritan Cotton Mather said, “In our occupation we spread our nets; but it is God who brings unto our nets all that comes into them” (Sober Sentiments, 312). John Calvin affirms the same, “We must recognize this as a general principle, that riches come not to all men through their own virtue, nor wisdom, nor toil, but only by the blessing of God” (Calvin’s Commentary on Deut. 8:14-20).
It is By God’s Grace
James speaks of this idea of God’s grace in James 4:13-16. He warns against presumptuousness and arrogance with God. You do not deserve wealth just because you are a Christian. As James says, you do not know what tomorrow will bring. It is God’s grace that you even live another day, much less gain riches. The real focus of our lives should not be on money and the acquisition and accumulation of it; but on Jesus Christ and His glory. Simply put, money is not good or bad; but rather it is a tool in the hands of both the righteous and the pagan to either glorify God or glorify themselves.
What About the Rich and Poor?
I know what you are going to ask. If money comes from God and is part of His graciousness toward mankind, then why are there poor people and rich? Is it a sign of godliness if you have received more money than another person?
God Gives to Each Man According to His Will
When it comes to the rich, God distributes wealth as He wills. Ecclesiastes 5:18-19 speaks about how God has given men wealth. When it comes to money, all that a man has is from God. It is by His grace that men receive anything at all. Hard work is not a guarantee of someone becoming rich. There are plenty of men and women that work hard and will never become rich. Godliness is not a guarantee that one will become rich. This goes against the prosperity gospel. Worldly success in life is not a sign of godliness.
The Rich Man Will Be Held Accountable
The person that has been given much by God will have to give an account of what he has done with his abundant resources. Luke 12:48, “…From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more.”
Paul say that all believers will stand before Christ and have their lives examined. 2 Corinthians 5:10, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.”
The rich man must be on guard because if he is not careful there is often an inverse relationship between wealth and godliness. The more wealth a man gets the less zeal he has for God.
Poverty is Not a Sign of God’s Disfavor
What about the poor? If riches are a blessings from God then is poverty a sign of God’s disfavor? The answer is a resounding “NO!” The Puritan Richard Ames says, “Poverty in itself hath no crime in it, or fault to be ashamed of: but is oftentimes sent from God to the godly, either as a correction, or trial, or searching, or both” (Conscience with the Power of Cases Thereof, 253). Poverty works for the good of God’s children. It leads to prayer and dependence upon God, and starves the fleshly desires,
That doesn’t mean the poor Christian shouldn’t be concerned when it comes to his pursuit of godliness. The danger for the poor man is that he can sin in his heart by his constant desire to become rich. He can look around him and see that many other believers have much more than he and covet what he does not have.
True wealth for the Christian is godliness accompanied by contentment. (1 Timothy 6:6) Whether God has give you much or little you must learn to be like the apostle Paul in Philippians 4:11-13,
…for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
What Do I Do With What I Have Been Given?
I ran across an interesting word the other day as I was studying James 1:21. I was looking at different versions of the text and my eye caught the King James Bible version. In this verse the word “superfluity” is used. Naturally, I knew what this meant, with me being fluent in ye Olde English (not really). The word means “immoderate and especially luxurious living, habits, or desires.” This is a word that describes the exact opposite of how we should be living as a Christian in this world.
A key principle of living for the believer is the principle of moderation. 1 Peter 4:4 speaks of unbelievers being surprised that believers do not participate in their excess. Paul teaches Titus in his pastoral epistle that those in the church should be “sensible” or prudent (Titus 1:8, 2:2, 2:5, 2:12). This carries the idea of being self-controlled or practicing moderation.
Moderation Through Contentment
Moderation as a Christian matters very much to God, regardless of the amount of wealth you are blessed with. In order to live a life of moderation you must first live a life content with a simple lifestyle. This goes back to Paul’s words in Philippians 4 where he says he has learned to be content, no matter whether he is poor or has means.
Contentment is the key here to live moderately as a Christian. In order to live a moderate lifestyle one must set limits to one’s spending. Each person must examine their own lives to see what they truly “need.”
I can tell you from personal experience that losing a job and having to redo family finances really shows you where your true needs lie. We cannot trust our own desires, but instead we must see what it really takes to live in this world. Examine your peers that are the most sober-minded and modest and emulate them. Moderation in life means keeping everything in perspective. It means remembering that everything that we use and enjoy here on this earth is temporary.
Money is a measure of the priorities in your life. If you were to let me look at your bank account, I could tell you very quickly where your heart is, because there your money will flow. There is an old proverb, quoted by John Calvin (Institutes, 710), “those who spend much time in soft treatment and ornament for their bodies have scarcely any concern for their souls.”
What Is Money For?
The Puritan Richard Baxter wrote in his Directions Against Covetousness, or Love of Riches, and Against Worldly Cares, “The question is how they use that which they labor so hard for, and save so sparingly. If they use it for God and for charitable uses, there is no man taketh a righter course.” Money is for the glory of God and service to mankind not for the personal use of whomever happens to be in control of it at the moment. Just because you have earned money through your labors, does not give you the right to spend it on your own desire. John Calvin agreed in his commentary on 1 Timothy 6:18, “For the richer any man is, the more abundant are his means of doing good to others.”
How Is Your Giving
The primary way that a Christian glorifies God with money is supporting the work of the Kingdom. How many of you know if your pastor is doing okay financially? A friend of mine struggled a long time with making ends meet at the church he pastored. He loved the church, and yet felt immense pressure to provide for his family. After receiving government support for a while he eventually took up a part time job to supplement his income. My heart went out to him because it was not the church’s size that prevented him from making a salary that met his needs. It was a lack of maturity and priorities for those that were members of the church in regards to the money that God had entrusted to them.
Is your pastor in the same situation? Does his wife have to work outside/inside the home to supplement the family income? Any money that you have been given is for you to use for your needs, and then support the advancement of the Kingdom of God. 2 Corinthians chapters 8-9 describe the mature perspective on giving. Paul tells the Corinthians (who were selfish and immature) to look at the Macedonians as the example of giving to support the work of God. They gave, even though they were poor, liberally and joyfully (2 Cor. 8:2). They desired to give even more at the next opportunity (2 Cor. 8:4). They sowed little, but they knew that their future reward that they reaped would far outshine anything that this world had to offer (2 Cor. 9)
It is not how much we have, but how much we love the Lord that truly matters. Giving to your local church is the most important avenue for your money. God says that He shall build His church. If you want to know where God is moving in this world, then look no farther than your local body of believers. Jesus says that He will build His church (Matt 16:18). Churches need members that will support the proclamation of the gospel and the edification of the saints, all to the work of service to Christ. It is a truly covetous man who holds on to what he has and thinks not of service to Christ and His church.
Richard Baxter says this, “When the riches we have, are used but for the pampering of our flesh, and the superfluous provision for our posterity, and nothing but some inconsiderable crumbs or driblets are employed for God and his servants, nor used to further us in his service, and towards the laying up of treasure in heaven. These are the signs of a worldly covetous wretch.”
If you cannot give (cheerfully and generously) to support the ministry of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, then I suggest that you examine your priorities and your spending. Most Christians carry way too much debt in their pursuits of worldly things, preventing them from fully supporting the church as they ought. Examine your finances. Where does the majority of your money go? Remember, just because you have little doesn’t mean that you cannot give to Christ.
My purpose here today is not to make you feel guilty about your lack of giving or your personal spending. My goal is to help you think Biblically about the money and wealth that you have been given so that you can evaluate your own lives. My prayer is that you would have a heart that seeks to glorify and honor God in all things, especially your wealth.