Money: Good or Bad?

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R Foster Book As Christians what we believe about money will have a dramatic influence on how we use money.  Here is a well known passage about money:

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)

Now here is the typical observation:

First, this passage is not talking about money, it is talking about the love of money.  Second, I don’t love money.  Finally, it is typically pointed out that money is neutral.  You can have money, even a lot, and not love it.

I struggle with two parts of this explanation: (1) Personally, there is always doubt – do I love money or not?  (2) Is money really neutral?

Is money neutral?

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.

Once I read Money Sex & Power: The Challenge of the Disciplined Life my perspective of money began to change.  In today’s article I want to introduce you to some of the many powerful ideas Foster presents in his book,  The section on money is divided into two sections.  The first is called the Dark Side of Money and the second the Lighter Side of Money.

Foster advocates that money is not a neutral passive item, but an active spiritual force.

Money is not something that is morally neutral, a resource to be used in good or bad ways depending solely upon our attitude toward it.  Mammon is a power that seeks to dominate us. pg 26.

Behind money are invisible spiritual powers, powers that are seductive and deceptive, powers that demand an all-embracing devotion. pg 29.

… behind money are very real spiritual forces that energize it and give it a life of its own.  Hence, money is an active agent; it is a law unto itself; and it is capable of inspiriting devotion. pg 26

For Christ money is an idolatry we must be converted from in order to be converted to him.

pg. 28

That is why so much of Jesus’ teaching regarding wealth is evangelistic in character.  He calls people to turn away from the mammon god in order to worth the one true God. pg 28

My Remarks:

  1. Obviously I mostly agree with Foster’s discussion on mammon (otherwise I would not have included the quotes for your benefit).  Furthermore, I have his writings on money as #1 in my books resource section in the Bible and Money page.
  2. I don’t know how far I am willing to go with the persona or personality of money. Do evil spiritual forces energize it?  While I agree that money is not neutral, currently I feel most comfortable saying – there is something more, something behind money that influences us.
  3. Foster presents a powerful relationship between money and discipleship. Consider the key words spoken to the rich young ruler in Mt. 19:21 Go – sell – give – come – follow.  One cannot completely follow Jesus until they have first released themselves from the grip of money.
  4. I continually ask myself – how free am I from the grip of money? Too often we simply dismiss the very difficult teachings regarding wealth and say, “I do not love money”.  Is the struggle against the power of money one we defeat or we need to defeat on an ongoing basis.

In order to balance this discussion a little I have included an exerpt from Fosters remarks on the lighter side of money.  Foster writes:

The call of God is upon us to use money within the confines of a properly disciplined spiritual life and to manage money for the good of all humanity and for the glory of God. And when this is done we are drawn deeper into the divine Center. We stand amazed that God would use our meager efforts to do his work upon the earth. . . Money is a blessing when it is used within the context of the life and power of God (pp. 46).

What are your thoughts?  Agree or disagree?

Comments

  1. JJ Johnaon says

    Craig, go back to your original understanding: Money is neutral!

    You might liken it to electricity. It can cook your food, heat your house, light the dark and ever so much more. It can also be used for harmful or even evil purposes (think torturing a cat).

    Turning away from Mammon means not putting money in the place of God (God should be in first place, money is somewhere around fifth place in the order of importance.)

    There are wicked spirit forces that promote a fleshly spirit among people and this influences their attitudes and use of money, (2 Timothy 3: 1-7) but the money is insensate, it doesn’t know or care what we use it for, anymore than a rock or hammer would.

    Scriptures that I have always appreciated include 1 Timothy 6: 9 & 10 where the Bible speaks of those who are DETERMINED to be rich being led astray from the faith.

    Also 2 Corinthians 9: 8-14 where it speaks about material giving to help needy fellow christians and how God will help cheerful givers abound in self-sufficiency in everything. Unless one envisions a pure barter system, money enters into it a some point. Would God provide christians something that is inherently evil? NOT!

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