Finance Matters and the Love of Money

Bernie Diaz, July 24, 2019

Even many secular, non-Christians have heard or uttered the familiar biblical phrase, “The love of money is a root of all kinds of evils” (1 Timothy 6:10, ESV).

Unfortunately, too many people- Christian and otherwise have failed to heed that statement as I preached to my church this past Sunday in launching a new, brief series on money (Finance Matters).

To little surprise, the Lord Jesus Christ and the apostle Paul, the first theologian and missionary of the church did not give very specific direction to first century believers as to how to manage their money or on personal finance, not that citizens of the time would have many options.

However, in making the case that loving money begets evil and sins like coveting and idolatry amongst others, the biblical point is clear that covetousness, that unhealthy lust or craving for riches and wealth in and of itself, is a matter of the heart like any other sin:  

For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person (Matt. 15:19-20a). Theft is just one “evil”- that manifests itself from the love of money. Money can also influence or as Paul argued, produce a “rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction” (1 Timothy 6:8).

In fact, Christian counselor and long-time author and speaker Paul David Tripp in his latest book, Redeeming Money: How God Reveals and Reorients Our Hearts, lists five dangers that disciples of Christ should be aware of and guard against as they look to manage their personal finances in these uneven, economic times:

Even many secular, non-Christians have heard or uttered the familiar biblical phrase, “The love of money is a root of all kinds of evils” (1 Timothy 6:10, ESV).

Unfortunately, too many people- Christian and otherwise have failed to heed that statement as I preached to my church this past Sunday in launching a new, brief series on money (Finance Matters).

To little surprise, the Lord Jesus Christ and the apostle Paul, the first theologian and missionary of the church did not give very specific direction to first century believers as to how to manage their money or on personal finance, not that citizens of the time would have many options.

However, in making the case that loving money begets evil and sins like coveting and idolatry amongst others, the biblical point is clear that covetousness, that unhealthy lust or craving for riches and wealth in and of itself, is a matter of the heart like any other sin:  

For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person (Matt. 15:19-20a). Theft is just one “evil”- that manifests itself from the love of money. Money can also influence or as Paul argued, produce a “rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction” (1 Timothy 6:8).

In fact, Christian counselor and long-time author and speaker Paul David Tripp in his latest book, Redeeming Money: How God Reveals and Reorients Our Hearts, lists five dangers that disciples of Christ should be aware of and guard against as they look to manage their personal finances in these uneven, economic times

5 Dangers of Money:

1. Money can cause you to forget God.

Physical neediness can cause you to cry out to God for help, and as you cry out for help, you come to realize that you need it not only physically but also spiritually. A pastor of a church in an extremely affluent community told me that since his people are able to buy their way into or out of just about anything, it is hard for them to think of themselves as needy.

… Money can allow us to afford a self-centered way of living that acts as if nothing is greater than us and more important than our individual wants, needs, and feelings.

Now, don’t get me wrong here. There is no teaching in Scripture that would lead us to believe that poor people are better off spiritually than others. My point is to alert you to one of the dangers of money. Money can function as an ingredient in a lifestyle that, at street level, forgets God’s existence and his plan…. Those caught in that lifestyle may not theologically deny the existence of God, but their money supports a lifestyle that ignores it.

As money redefines your identity, it can also change the way you look at others.

2. Money can change the way you think about you.

Money is a stimulant. It will be used to stimulate a Godward way of life or an inward way of life. A friend told me that for years he had prided himself on being committed to and contented with a “simple” lifestyle, that is, until he came into money. Suddenly he found himself wanting the more luxurious car; he was attracted to the more expensive shirt, and he wanted to eat at the better restaurant. He said, “It was humbling to admit that I hadn’t been living the simple life because I was spiritually committed to it. I’d been living the simple life because I was poor.”

Money can encourage you to be more self-focused and demanding; it can edge you toward being discontent with what once made you content, and, even more dangerous, money can move you to begin to expect from life what you should not expect and to feel that you deserve what you do not deserve.

3. Money can cause you to look down on others.

What was going on was very clear and very sad. The affluent kids stood around and made fun of a homeless man who was doing his best to get out of their way. What was the difference between the kids and the homeless man? Well, in the deepest and most profound way, there was no difference. The kids and the homeless guy were all made in the image of God and meant to reflect his glory. They were all sinners in desperate need of redemption.

Neither the homeless man nor the affluent teenagers had been in charge of all the circumstances that had led them to their place in life. Neither the kids nor the man could stand before God and say they deserve anything. But the boys didn’t see themselves as similar to the man. They saw themselves as a higher order of human being, and they treated the poor man as less than human.

… As money redefines your identity, it can also change the way you look at others. Money can stimulate the prideful prejudice that lurks somewhere in the heart of every sinner.

4. Money can weaken your resolve to fight temptation.

When my friend made his simple-life admission, he was saying something else. In a real way, his poverty had protected him from being able to fully follow the trail of his greed. No, it hadn’t protected him from being envious and discontented at points, but he simply did not have the money to pay for what his selfish heart could imagine. This point is precisely why the Bible does alert us to the danger of riches. We come into this world as people who need to be retrained. We come into this world as a danger to ourselves. We are naturally more discontented than contented. We are naturally attracted to what should scare us. We intuitively push against God’s boundaries. So anything in our lives that protects us from us, anything that restrains us, or anything that makes it hard to go where our desires wander is a blessing.

5. Money can finance your allegiance to the kingdom of self.

Well, this is the bottom line. I’ve already said much about it, but this point too requires more special attention. There is no neutrality when it comes to your relationship to and daily use of money. As you hold and use your money, you must constantly remind yourself that the holding and using of money are acts of worship. That’s just how significant this issue is.

Either you are using your funds in the worship of yourself, even if you don’t know it, or you are using your money in the self-conscious worship of God.  This is the temptation that every sinner faces, to use the resources he has been given to finance the wants, needs, and desires of the kingdom of self, and the more money that is in his hands, the more power this temptation tends to have.

So, money really does matter. Finance matters, and as Tripp concludes in his section of money’s dangers, “God’s grace matters even more. It alone provides both the strength and the freedom we will continue to need until the dangers of money are no more.”

As I attempted to make the case to my congregation last Sunday in setting the tone for the rest of the series of Finance Matters, contentment in God’s providence and promises (Matthew 6:33; Philippians 4:19; Hebrews 13:5) I found to be the attitude which defeats the love of money in the heart of a Christian. It is the Bible’s “Secret of Satisfaction.”

Puritan preacher and author Jeremiah Burrough’s The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment (Banner of Truth) is a classic book that I commend to all of you who strive to have a heart of contentment dominate your perspective on money management.

In the book’s first chapter Burroughs begins with Philippians 4:11 and seeks “to show what a great mystery there is in Christian contentment, and how many distinct lessons there are to be learned, that we may come to attain this heavenly disposition, to which St. Paul attained.” He demonstrates four things: what Christian contentment is, the art and mystery of it, what lessons must be learned to bring the heart to contentment, and in what qualities the glorious excellence of this grace chiefly consists.

Burroughs defines contentment in this way: Christian contentment is that sweet, inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit, which freely submits to and delights in God’s wise and fatherly disposal in every condition.

My prayer is that God’s people begin to do business and manage money God’s way, beginning with a heart or disposition to trust by faith in his providences – however painful they may necessarily be at times, understanding his purposes and sweet promises for his own.

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