The intersection where money and the human heart meet is a dangerous one.
In every town around the world, there are intersections that are identified as the most dangerous. Those intersections get a lot of attention from law makers as they attempt to find ways to make them safer.
While traveling from Rotorua to Auckland, there’s an intersection that has more warning signs than I’ve ever seen before. Almost a mile out they start explaining what’s going to happen. Then meters out, there are signs on every side of the road and the road is even painted.
It’s a dangerous intersection.
During our lives, we’ll find that money and the human heart often form a dangerous intersection. I’m inclined to say that the reason is because money is not neutral. Even if you disagree, you’d probably have to agree that the fault lies either with money itself or with the vulnerability of the human heart (in the presence of money).
Since I’ve been back in the US for two weeks now, the biggest thing I’ve noticed is that people treat money like a best friend and seem to forget the bitter poison that hides just below the surface.
So, for today, let’s remind ourselves of the ways wealth will tempt us.
5 Ways Wealth Can Tempt Christians
At times, the wealthy entertain the question: who needs God?
Never formally, of course.
However, we have the car we need to get where we want. The Super Wal-Mart or Target or King Soopers is always stocked. The fridge (or fridges overflow). The gas pumps are always full. It’s easy to think we have what we need.
Agricultural societies’ dependence on God is more fundamental in nature.
If they don’t get rain, they don’t have a crop. If they don’t have a crop, they don’t eat. They don’t get a crop unless God provides it. Agricultural people groups will find it easier to depend on God (for the rain they cannot control).
If you are wealthy, check you heart every day to be sure you’re not developing an attitude of independence.
You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your forefathers, as it is today. (Deuteronomy 8:17-18 NIV)
Related to independence, we find that the wealthy are accustomed to being in control.
Don’t believe me?
When you have money, you have choice:
- You can influence what types of food you’ll eat – spicy or sweet.
- You can influence what types of smells you’ll enjoy – cinnamon or summer breeze.
- You can influence what type of medical care you receive.
- You can influence what type of decisions government officials make.
On and on the list could go.
It’s hard to have so much control over your destiny and simultaneously maintain the action and attitude that you are a broken vessel placed here on this earth to do the will of God.
It’s hard not to think that you deserve more or have earned more. It’s hard to keep it all from going to your head.
Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” (James 4:13-15 NIV)
Being back the US, I find it interesting how much more we value people who have money.
At a recent high school graduation, the speakers talked about making a difference and changing the world. They then talked about being lawyers, doctors, and other ‘successful’ people. The underlying motif was that success was measured by occupations that made the most money.
What a lie.
To be successful is to have a relationship with the Creator. To be successful is to pass along your values to your children. To be successful is to selflessly love your spouse.
Money might make you more important in people’s eyes. However, we must remember that in God’s eyes, our value is intrinsic and does not come from what we have or what we do.
But the one who is rich should take pride in his low position, because he will pass away like a wild flower. For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich man will fade away even while he goes about his business. (James 1:10-11 NIV)
I’ll define indulgence as putting yourself as the primary focus of your finances – when the kingdom is not the center.
When we seek first the kingdom that does not mean we don’t ever spend money on ourselves and our needs, but it means we are not the center.
Money wants us to use it. To want it. To spend it. To enjoy it. To strive for it.
When any one of those things become the center, we’ve fallen into a deep and often never ending pit.
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:33 NIV)
5. Denial of Responsibility
I have a simple belief about money.
I believe prosperity is both a blessing and a burden.
This belief is founded on my understanding of stewardship. The equation is quite simple: the more one is entrusted with, the more responsibility she has. I don’t know about any of you, but sometimes I find that to be a burden.
We often wonder what is our responsibility to our families and what is our responsibility to others.
The more one receives, the more God expects from them.
From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked. (Luke 12:48b NIV)
Are there other common temptations that money brings that I’m missing? Which one do you think is the most dangerous?