Christians, Is Money Really Neutral and Amoral?

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I have an unpopular theory about money.  I know it’s unpopular because I’ve seen the exact opposite point made about a half dozen times just this week.  For those of you who say money is neutral, amoral, or just a tool, I’ll just say I love you, but I’m not sure that I completely agree.  So here’s my stab at challenging our conventional thinking.  (If I generate some thought-provoking discussion, I’ll consider this post a success.)

Money, so we are told, is amoral. It is a neither a negative nor a positive force. It simply is.

For a long time, I agreed with this assessment that money is completely neutral, neither good nor bad.  My thinking went something like this – money can be used for good.  Money can be used for bad.  Money must be neutral, and it only depends on whose hand it falls into if money is good or bad.

However, I now have the highly unpopular opinion that money is not neutral.  I believe that the Bible describes money as something more – something with a great deal of influence.  I know this idea is unpopular because almost every time I read a Christian book or post about money, people say it is amoral.  Dave Ramsey is one of the common proponents of this teaching. 

Once I read Money Sex & Power: The Challenge of the Disciplined Life, my perspective of money began to change.  I highly (very highly) recommend this book to any Christian who wants to challenge his or her view of money.

I’ve discussed more about that book and the topic money – good or bad.  The basic point is that, for Christians, money is an idol we must be converted from in order to be converted to him.  When we are fully committed to Christ, we master the power of money and put it in service to the Kingdom of God. 

What a Rock Teaches About A True Amoral Item

So I thought it would be beneficial to compare money to other undisputed amoral item – a rock.

Why didn’t Jesus teach about rocks as much as he taught about money? A rock can be taken and bashed against a vehicle and cause irreparable damage. A stone (just ask Goliath) can be flung into the air causing the death of another human being. The rock can be responsible for taking one of the things most precious to God – a life.

And yet, Jesus never talked about the dangers of a rock.  A rock in the hands of a bad person can be bad, but a rock in the hands of a good person can be used to craft a children’s home or any other wonderful building. 

But, Jesus did talk a lot about money.  I believe this is because money has the innate ability to be something more. 

The Bible Says Money Can Be A Master

Money is often in competition with discipleship. It often becomes a sort of idol or god people follow. In fact, in the deeply disappointing story commonly know as the rich young ruler, a man does in fact choose to follow money instead of Jesus.

What is it about money that would make that happen?

None us might have the vocabulary to properly explain it, but in our guts, we all know it’s true. There’s just something about money. Greed. Power. Accumulation. Wealth.  Even if you can’t articulate it, you know there is something different about a rock and money.

  • Our God has always been an unapologetically jealous God (Exodus 34:14). He refuses to be second on any list. And money, so it seems, from the pages of history, interrupts that order. Money has too often become the master.
  • Why, I wonder, would Jesus say, “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money. (Matthew 6:24 NIV)” if he considered money to be neutral?
  • The depth of the disciples’ commitment to Jesus was attested by the words of Peter – Master we left everything to follow you.  Peter showed that nothing is competing for his allegiance.
  • In Matthew, Jesus’ third temptation was to bow down to Satan in order to receive all of the kingdoms of this world. Jesus, however, felt like he must worship and serve God only. There is a parallel relationship between bowing down and getting money. The money is the temptation. Worshipping Satan is the vehicle to attain the money. (Mt. 4:8-11). In fact, it seems as though if Jesus cannot be convinced to turn down a money temptation, then he cannot be turned. So Satan leaves him.
  • Matthew 6:19-24 – where your treasure is, so also is your heart. Money and God cannot be served at the same time.
  • Matthew 19:16-25 – money was the stumbling block that disallowed this man to follow.

Money at the Site of the Accident: An Analogy

Imagine you are a police officer investigating a 5th accident in 6 months at a specific intersection without traffic lights.  Do you think you are going to request a traffic light to be placed at the intersection?  I think you would.  It is not a coincidence that so many people have had accidents at this intersection.  This is a dangerous intersection. 

When you look through the pages of history, I think you will find that money is an intersection where people often face spiritual destruction.  How, I wonder, does something amoral cause so much damage? 

I think it is time that as Christians we put up some flashing orange lights around money.  Time to say that there is something dangerous about this intersection, and if you don’t proceed with caution, you might be the next casualty.

Money Cannot Be Neutral

As a result, it seems as though money can never truly be a neutral, passive, or amoral thing. It must be slave or master. It is never simply in the middle. Christians are those who proclaim the Lordship of Jesus Christ (Rom. 10:9). Thus, the line has been drawn. The allegiance has been determined. With only one throne available, money must be relegated to servant.

Money is slave when it is used in ways unnatural to its nature.  To give is to use money in an unnatural way.  When we give, we show our mastership over, not our slavery to money.

Bible Says Money Must Be Removed As Master and Positioned As Servant

As our lives are daily put in service to Jesus Christ and his kingdom, our money also must be put in service to Jesus Christ and his kingdom.

But, you thought money was something negative? That’s the beauty of our God.  He can take anything and use it for his glory. Have you looked in the mirror lately? Just like God took us despised and rejected, hideous creatures and gave us new life, new meaning, and new purpose. We now take that which Satan loves to master, and we restrict it to a place of servitude. Our money is now used for the purposes and glory of God.  This is most clearly done through the act of giving. 

When you take out your checkbook, your credit card, or a dollar bill, you are entering into an epic spiritual battle. Sure, no one is going to get popcorn and watch you, but in that moment, you are deciding if money is your master or slave.

Alright … let me have it.  What have I missed?  Why does everyone else say money is neutral?  Is there any possibility that money is something more?

Comments

  1. Donna says

    Well Craig, you got me thinking at 7:45 in the morning! Well-written article and thought-provoking too. I see your point, and I have to say I believe you are on to something here. When I have often been at my lowest point financially is when the call to give comes. Is that an accident, I think not. Keep up the good work. I will check out the book. God bless.

  2. says

    Craig, I definitely see your point. BUT I think there’s a difference between money (the thing itself…paper, metal, whatever) and the personification of Money (Mammon, greed, envy, the deceitfulness of riches, the lusts of this world). Just as you can’t serve a rock, you can’t serve a dollar bill. But you can be a servant to anger (killing with a rock), and you can be a servant to greed and envy (loving money, using it inappropriately).

    In that sense, it’s coming down to semantics. What do we mean when we say “money” is amoral? Are we talking about the stuff in my wallet, or are we talking about the feelings I have about it in my heart? I doubt any Christian would say greed is amoral.
    .-= Paul Williams´s last blog ..What Should a Christian Retirement Look Like? =-.

  3. Gholmes says

    What is money? For me money is a belief in the governments economy that I exchange my labor and goods for a note. The note allows me to go to the grocery store to exchange my time for ice cream. So what is my wallet/bank account is my faith in country and fellow countryman that they will barter with me when I present them with enough notes. Money is representation of faith in a financial system.

  4. Jonathan says

    Craig, I see your point in that there is a significant amount of cautionary teaching regarding money in the Bible in comparison to some other topics, and that it therefore should raise a red flag. However, it seems to me that this fact is not sufficient to demonstrate that money is NOT amoral or neutral, but rather that man is innately more predisposed towards an abuse of money than other things. To me, money is merely a tool and a technology man uses to interact with other human beings in certain and particular ways. Because of how important money and commerce is to living (and living in the way that he wants to), it is easier for man to transfer his loyalty away from our true Sustainer to a mere tool which we happen to use in the absence of something more. Man is constantly tempted to substitute God with something else, and money is one element of our fallen world which man is more predisposed to use than others. To say that the disproportionately high amount of Biblical teaching against money is dispositive of its moral status seems to assume that man is predisposed to all temptations equally. If, however, money is itself a greater temptation than others (perhaps because of its impact on more aspects of life than others), then disproportionate treatment in Biblical teaching would seem to make sense. It may not be that money itself is immoral, but that man in his fallen state is more inclined to sin in his love of money than in other things. Scripture teaches us (and constantly reinforces) how to have an appropriate relationship towards money, and what its proper place in our lives is. In our sin, we can have an improper and idolatrous relationship with anything, and this does not impute moral status to those things. We must constantly be searching our heart and praying for the Spirit to show us our sin so that we do not treat amoral objects in an immoral way.

    I do appreciate the perspective you cast this in, though. I will certainly be reminding myself of how dealing with money is, in fact, a spiritual battle, which is a fact I do not often think of.

    • says

      @Paul – I thought about getting into the money vs. mammon topic, but ultimately felt like the article was too long already. I do agree that using the word mammon in each of these contexts would have been more appropriate, but I also felt like that would have generated a whole different discussion.
      @Gholmes – You are right about money. It is nothing more than a currency that we believe has value for exchange. When I talk about money I was referring to it in a deeper biblical sense (i.e. mammon, not the currency itself.
      @Jonathan – I can accept the statement, “man is innately more predisposed towards an abuse of money than other things”. Ultimately, a view of man or money that causes us to treat money with an added dose of caution is (IMO) moving in the right direction.
      Really, this closely parallels the biblical discussion about idols. Paul says idols don’t exist (in that there are not other God’s). Yet, idolatry was the greatest constant sin issue in Israel. Whatever it was about idols they challenge the human heart in a unique way.
      @All
      I could have mentioned this to each commenter, but it would have taken a lot of time. I have so much respect with how each of you have stated your thoughts, beliefs, and opinions. Too many of these types of conversations turn nasty. You are some of the best readers in the world because you respectfully focus on the topic. I am honored to have such Christ-like readers.

  5. says

    Craig, I can appreciate where you are coming from but I think that Paul sums it up best. Just because one’s view of money can relegate the purpose of money as either a slave or a master certainly does not turn an inanimate object into some sort of immoral or moral entity because it’s not the money itself that is acting as a master or a slave it is the person’s own sinful heart, thoughts, and attitudes about money. What the Bible stresses over an over again is that ones view & use of money is what is important not that money itself has any type of inherent immoral or moral qualities. The way someone thinks about and uses money is an exact index of that person’s true character. That is why the Bible talks about money so much.
    .-= Credit Card Chaser´s last blog ..Warren Buffett’s $50 Million GEICO Credit Card Business Loss =-.

    • says

      @Joel – I think your comment would be similar to my reply to Jonathan – the key is the human heart. As a result, the question is – why is the human heart, historically speaking, so predisposed to follow money?
      Wherein does the problem lie? In the heart? Or in money? Whichever one someone believes ultimately does not impact their actions. As long as we have a open realization about the deep dangers of money (or the human hearts propensity to seek money) then we will be able to honor God with our money.

  6. says

    You’ve got a great discussion going here, Craig. Thanks for your thoughtful replies.

    I second what Jonathon said about how you approached the topic. You make a very good point about the caution we should use when we approach money decisions and such. It’s an area we all must deal with at some point, and it’s extremely easy to fall away from Christ when we’re dealing with money.
    .-= Paul Williams´s last blog ..What Should a Christian Retirement Look Like? =-.

  7. Arthur @ FinancialBondage.org says

    Interesting Craig. I’d have to say that you may be on to something. What you say does make sense.

  8. says

    Wow. I like ” Money is slave when it is used in ways unnatural to its nature. To give is to use money in an unnatural way. When we give, we show our mastership over, not our slavery to money.” That is a deep statement right there.

  9. says

    Thought provoking article Craig! and great comments too.
    I would personally agree with Jonathan above and say that money is a ‘powerful tool’. Christians who master the real use of this tool become great and faithful stewards. The condition of the heart is one big thing that comes to mind when we talk about money and @paul above noted that very well. Jeremiah 17:9 says “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it”
    Let’s assume the rock comparison above was a gold rock or diamond rock; then the equation changes because we have the ability to convert it into dollar amount. The same rock that can kill is actually a diamond rock that can make me very rich, and i am now very obsessed with this rock because it has the ability to make me filthy rich…. (because i know it’s value)
    I guess my point is..it’s not about the object /tool; but the heart’s condition. But also anything, that can take the place of God in our hearts as Christians we need as you said to put some flashing lights at those intersections (hobby, power, job, money)
    .-= Joseph @ kickdebtoff´s last blog ..Getting Out Of Debt – What Motivates You? =-.

  10. T.E. says

    Money is always to be used to further the Kingdom of Heaven. That’s the only thing money is for in God’s plan. Just as Jesus washed the feet of His disciples as a lesson on service to your brothers and sisters, that is what we should all do with what God has given us. We are not the owners of that money, God is. To forget that is to be proud and greedy. There is no other option. The world of flesh is poverty, and if you can’t realize this it is because you hold the things of the earth in higher esteem than you do God.

    John 13:14 If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. 16 Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. 17 If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.

    Luke 16:10He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much. 11If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? 12And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man’s, who shall give you that which is your own? 13No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

    Matthew 6:19Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: 20But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: 21For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

    22The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. 23But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!

    24No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

    25Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? 26Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? 27Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? 28And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: 29And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? 31Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? 32(For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. 33But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

    34Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

  11. says

    Thanks for the post Craig. I like the fact that you chose an unpopular stance here and I do see your point. However I still believe that money is amoral but in no way irrelevant. I think when we talk about money we have so many emotional and spiritual ties that it almost makes it impossible to think about money as an inadament object.

    I believe money is more important than a rock because we do not attach value to a rock and a rock does not have the ability to get into our hearts like money.

    Thanks for sharing. It got me thinking!

  12. James Orcutt says

    Is money amoral?
    I am struggling with this notion that an inanimate object such as money cannot be considered amoral for the simple reason it can be used for good or evil. Now an object such as a rock really can be used for good or evil depending on who has it in their hands, basically the same as this gun issue, however money as we use it today (Federal Reserve Notes) or FRN’s unlike gold and Silver has no intrinsic value in and of themselves, and even in scripture Gold and silver are used as a medium for exchange (a tool) but FRN’s are printed on paper and can be increased in number with little or no effort on behalf of the printer. Scripture has forbidden uneven weights in Deut. 25:13-16; Lev. 19:35-36, where in vs. 16 it is considered an abomination to even possess these items. Even our own Constitution has forbidden the printing of Notes as a medium of exchange because our founding fathers knew the results of such actions. Most people do not know that the concept of paper money was began in ancient Babylon and scripture speaks much about this City and the ideas that came out of it even uses the term mystery Babylon in prophecy. These things we call money (FRN’s) are very much evil and therefore should be considered amoral. So I believe that to say something that is forbidden in scripture to be considered amoral is silly and borders on false teaching.

  13. James Orcutt says

    Opps I meant to say : These things we call money (FRN’s) are very much evil and therefore should be considered MORAL.

  14. Tammy James says

    I attended my first Financial Peace seminar last night and listened to the “brick is amoral” talk. I do agree that money is amoral, but I also think I have a very different perspective about money. I don’t think money is ever really ours. I believe that we are custodians of God’s wealth and riches, and however we choose to manage HIS finances is one of the true tests we face in life. The Bible gives us all kinds of instructions on how to manage these units called money, but because WE put so much value on it, we lose sight of its original and actual intended use.

    Money is an inanimate object, as are drugs (which is more what I would compare money with, rather than rocks, as the level of obsession is about the same). Human obsession with inanimate objects do not make the inanimate objects evil – it makes humans evil. And, well, we all know where the Bible stands on that one. :-) . Our society seems to fail to understand that if person A kills person B with a hammer, outlawing hammers won’t fix the problem. The hammer is an amoral object. Logic dictates that if person A ruins person B’s and person C’s life by cheating them out of their finances, it’s not the money’s fault – - – we need to look at person A instead. And honestly, if money is thought to be evil and is banished in some way – don’t you think humans will find something else to obsess about and kill over? God knows our lack of discipline will get in the way of things. If it wasn’t money He’d use for the test, it would have been something else.

    Great and thought-provoking article. Thank you so much for pulling me out of my status quo morning. :-)

  15. John S says

    ‘The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.’

    The problem is not with gold and silver, it is with the love of it. The issue is man’s heart. This is a clear principle from Scripture. ‘Do not handle! Do not touch!’ Does zero to stop the ‘indulgence of the flesh’, the sinful bent of heart. This is the work of God. It is possible to go hard after money as a good thing, so one can use it toward advancing the kingdom of God not one’s own pleasures. It is not easy or often, but possible with God!

  16. says

    Rather than comparing money to a rock, it may be better to compare it to wine. There are similarities between money and wine; both can do good things (the widow’s coin, the calming effect on Timothy’s stomach), and both can do bad things (the rich young man, the drunkards).

    The issue is not the thing itself, it is our reaction to the thing (“love of money”). And frankly, ANYTHING can become an idol; look at all of the rocks piled up in Egypt in pyramid form.

    However, these items are not necessarily amoral. The rocks, the grapes, and the metals are all good; God said so.

  17. An says

    It is probably too late to comment on this blog.
    But I just though of sharing my own input.

    I think that its okay to say that money is neutral since it can be use for both good or evil (depending on the user). But it can also be “not neutral” because it creates a strong struggle inside. It is a struggle of determine who is truly the master : money (and what it can give on its own) or God (who may choose to not give you earthly wealth for your own good).

    Let me give you an example.

    The rich man that rejected Jesus declared that he was obeying the commandments (Luke 18). It is probably safe to assume that at the very least he is consistently giving out his tights. This means then that the money was being use for good. Yet, Jesus knows that the rich man has made an idol of money in his heart. Jesus challenge for him to give up his wealth was to open up his eyes to this sin.

    So then while the rich men made good use of the money, he has also made an idol out of it so much so that he can’t give it up to follow Jesus. Thus, I think that it is very possible to be using money for all kinds of good work yet still love it more than God himself – sin of idolatry.

    So then there are 2 ways to view money.
    Money as a tool is neutral. It can be use both for good or evil.
    But Money as a spiritual measurement can never be neutral. It is either your master or your slave.

    Am I making sense?

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