“It is not money that is the root of all evil. It is the love of money.”
Ever heard that phrase? Ever said it?
EVERY TIME I have taught a class on Christians and money, someone has said that or a similar phrase. They usually say it as early into the class as possible so that everyone can breathe a collective sigh of relief. This effectively lets everyone off the hook so they can listen without actually wondering if they might be a lover of money. The phrase is, in fact, true and accurate.
The Love of Money is the Root of All Kinds of Evil
For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. (1 Timothy 6:10 NIV)
On the other hand, Jesus says:
“I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 19:23 NIV)
How can Jesus say it is hard, yet we’ve all mastered it so easily?
Having money is not sinful. Loving money is. So all we do is we tell ourselves that we have it, but that we don’t love it. And then we go on our merry little way. But Jesus says that this is hard, oh so hard.
Jesus says it is a fine and difficult line to walk, (being rich and entering the kingdom of God) and yet rich Christians all think they have mastered it – having, yet not loving, money. It is possible, with the strength of God, but difficult.
One day. Just one day. I want to hear someone stand up and say, “You know, Craig, I think I might actually love my money. I love having a nice home, and I love having a nice car, and I love the freedom that comes with money. Do you have any advice for me?”
That would be a refreshing break.
So, I’m here to say it. I fight daily against a love of money. Perhaps it is not the money I love, I love the comforts money buys. I love the conveniences money buys. I love emotional peace that money buys. I love the freedom money buys. I love the safety money buys. And I’m compelled by the love of Christ to fight that battle on a daily basis. For me, having money and not loving it is hard. I’m just thankful for these words:
Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26 NIV)
Wouldn’t we all be better off being ‘recovering money lovers’ instead of living in denial? Couldn’t more be done for God and his kingdom if we stopped saying we have all easily mastered what Jesus said would be hard? Wouldn’t we be better off if we admitted we need the presence and strength of God to help us stand against the temptation of money?
But, that could just be me standing foolishly sinful in your presence.
The Relationship Between the Heart and Action
You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. (Matthew 12:34 NIV)
Jesus cares most about the heart and the attitude. But, Jesus does not care exclusively about the heart – for changes in the heart result in changes of action. The heart is the seed that grows into action.
If you want an action to change, there are two approaches:
- Focus on changing the action – this approach is a fundamentally flawed as changes in action without a change in heart are of little value to God. Typically, this leads to legalism.
- Focus on changing the heart, and the proper action will follow.
Many times people in the Bible got it wrong by only trying to change the action. God said to go back and work on the heart. I believe the assumption is that when the heart is right, the right actions will follow.
Is Jesus’ gospel message – keep the money and change the heart?
“This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:21 NIV)
Which of the following describes the intention of this passage?
- If, when you store up for yourself, you must also be rich towards God.
- Don’t store up things for yourself, but instead be rich towards God.
Perhaps, if we keep reading it will give us some perspective:
Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. (Luke 12:22-23 NIV)
As this story continues, it seems as though God is promoting being rich towards him instead of storing up things for yourself. For, why would anyone worry if they were rich towards God and had stored things up for themselves? Why ask “What will I wear?” if there is $10,000 in the bank?
Change the heart – change the action.
If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. (James 2:16-17 NIV)
Now I leave you with the difficult job. Apply this to your life and your financial practice.
Alright, I officially open the door once again to your perceptive, wise, and helpful replies. What are your thoughts?