Reflections on Christianity and Money

Part 1:

Too Much Concern about Money

(By Dr. Ron Woodworth)

Author’s Foreword…

Rather than overwhelm anyone with an extensively profound and clever article about money [which you can purchase from my website if you’d likeJ!1], I just thought I’d share some of the biblical truths which have helped shape my personal conviction at the precarious intersection where the issues of faith and finances cross. Also, I encourage you to read the article or at least the verses out loud since faith is quickened by God’s spoken Word (Romans 10:17). Enjoy!

A True Story…

A number of years back, I had the opportunity of sharing at a men’s camp in a beautifully wooded area in Northern California. Since the campground was large enough to hold multiple groups, a Presbyterian church had also rented the camp with us. During one of the initial combined meal breaks I purposefully sat with the Presbyterian leadership in order to establish a friendly rapport. During our mutually pleasant conversation, I inquired about the topic of their retreat, to which I was told, “We are studying the deep things of the Old Testament—specifically the theophanies2.  “Wow!” I said, “Now that’s a deep topic that I’m sure will engage everyone in serious Bible study.”

Feeling emboldened by my affirmation of their biblical pursuit of orthodoxy, they responded, “So what is your topic for the weekend?” Just then it occurred to me that my cleverness at choosing an intriguing topic for men might not be appreciated by such noble Presbyterian leaders as these. But rather than lie I reluctantly admitted—“Our topic is: Money, Sex, and Power.” The silence was agonizing…and the meal seemed to abruptly end. However, at our next session, I noticed that three of the younger Presbyterian leaders were in attendance at our side of the camp that nightJ I’m wondering which topic intrigued them most?

A Little (more) Humor…

  • Contentment is when your earning power equals your yearning power.
  • Most men would be willing to earn their money honestly if it didn’t take so long.
  • There’s no place like home especially if you haven’t got the money to go out.
  • Love is oceans of emotions surrounded by expanses of expenses.
  • An Oklahoma woman refused to marry on religious grounds: She worshipped money and he didn’t have a dime.
  • Martin Luther once observed: “There are three conversions necessary–the conversion of the heart, the mind, and the pocketbook!”

Amazing Facts: Did you know that…3

  • Two out of the Ten Commandments deal with money?
  • There are 700 direct references to money in the Bible?
  • 16 of the 38 parables of Jesus deal with the right and wrong use of material possessions and wealth?
  • 1 out of every 10 verses in the Gospels deal with the theme of money and stewardship?
  • Numbers 7, the 2nd longest chapter in the Bible, is a detailed description of the giving of offerings?
  • In the Book in First Corinthians, rightly reputed for its emphasis on love, there are 13 verses on love and 39 verses on giving?
  • The Sermon on the Mount mentions giving before prayer and fasting?
  • Jesus promised to withhold spiritual revelation of God’s Kingdom from the financially unfaithful?
  • Both the Apostles Paul and Peter refused church leadership positions to anyone who had not specifically overcome a “love of money”?

Reflections about Christianity and Money:

1. Our attitude about money is important to God

There are two extreme attitudes about money from which God wants to deliver us. The first is when we have too much concern about money. The second is when we have too little concern.

A. Too much concern about money

Too much concern about money can lead us to anxiety and/or idolatry. Anxiety about money is when we are plagued by worry that we will lack what we need. Such an over-concern drives us to anxiously acquire our daily bread—for which Jesus encouraged us to pray and also promised to provide…

“Give us this day our daily bread.” (Matthew 6:11)

“So stop worrying about what you will eat, or what you will drink, or what you will wear…For the pagans are driven by such needs, but your heavenly Father knows that you need these things—even before you ask him. So seek first his kingdom [his will] and his righteousness [bestowed and cultivated by faith], and all these things you need will be given to you as well. So don’t keep worrying about tomorrow”–[for I will be with you in every tomorrow you will ever encounter] (Matthew 6:31-33; 28:20b)

Admittedly, this was the hardest thing for me to overcome as a teenage and young adult believer. It seemed that I was plagued with a continual torment about how I was going to make a living and what my career path would be. Finally, after what seemed like countless months, by memorizing, meditating, and confessing Matthew chapter 6, I was finally able, with God’s grace, to be free from the stronghold of financial anxiety. Now I can say with confidence,

“The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.” (Hebrews 13:6)

Or again,

“I may not know what the future holds, but I know who holds the future!” (Anonymous)

Too much concern about money can also lead to idolatry, or the placing of a pursuit of money above one’s pursuit of the Lord and his kingdom purpose for our life on earth. Consider this: An idol is any person, place, or thing we place equal to, or above, our devotion to Jesus Christ. Similar to an adoring spouse, so too God’s love toward us is spoken of as a perfect (vs. selfish) jealousy—in that he wants us for himself alone (See James 4:5). And, even though we may acquire many things (possessions, positions, spouses, children, pleasures, etc) on our earthly sojourn, each new acquisition should never turn our hearts away from the Lord—but only toward him in more grateful praise and reverent service. Too much concern about money can translate into a love for money that usurps even a love for God himself. As the Scripture warns…

“For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, by longing for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”

(1 Timothy 6:10)

Many have correctly noted that it is the love of money NOT money itself that is the root of all kinds of evil. The question is: Can you have money without money having you? Or as Jesus caution:

“Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

(Luke 12:15)

[A revolutionary thought: Life is a pursuit not a possession--A process of inquiry rather than an item of acquisition. In other words, life is a person we pursue (Jesus) rather than a possession we acquire (money).]

“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)

Notice how Jesus specifically identifies money as one of the primary competitors with God for man’s allegiance. Consider this: If you serve God you can have money. But if you serve money you can’t have God. The emphasis is on “serve”—which interestingly is central to the concept of worship. This is why greed and covetousness are tantamount to idolatry, or worship of a false god, specifically that of a physical object4 such as money.

Symptoms of loving money5

[Note: My only caveat6 to this section is that God and money must not be necessarily viewed as enemies. For as we shall see, prosperity (not poverty) is God’s desire and promise for all of his children and servants (Psalm 35:27). So long as one is wholeheartedly serving the Lord, the acquisition and utilization of money can and should be viewed as an extension of that service toward God. Additionally, every true follower of Christ must be vigilant to assure that money does not usurp one’s devotion to the Lord. To this end some of these “symptoms” can be instructive. The key is to maintain a kingdom balance that neither idolizes nor demonizes wealth in the name of spirituality. In other words, assertions of both poverty and hyper-prosperity proponents are to be equally shunned.]
  • Planning life around financial goals without regard to God’s goals (1 Timothy 6:9)
  • Relating success to outward gain rather than also tying it to inward character (Philippians 3:7-8)
  • Studying only the lives of rich rather than godly men (Proverbs 13:20)
  • Delighting in material wealth at the exclusion of spiritual riches (Luke 12:16-21)
  • Letting the cares of riches consistently choke time for God’s word (Matthew 13:22)
  • Compromising one’s ethics to avoid financial loss (Proverbs 21:6; 22:1)
  • Neglecting one’s family in the pursuit of wealth (Proverbs 10:22)
  • Transferring faith in God to faith in money (1 Timothy 6:17)

“So don’t worry about your life—what you will eat, drink, or wear…for your heavenly Father knows what you need. But seek first his kingdom and righteousness

and all these things will be given to you as well.”

(Matthew 6:31-33)

“Keep your life free from the love of money.”

(Hebrews 13:5)

 

Let the Lord be magnified!

Ron


[1] The series is entitled: The Kingdom of God and Money and is available online.  Click here for more information.

[2] Theophanies are visible manifestations of God to human beings such as to Moses in the burning bush (Exodus 3:4-6), to Abraham involving the covenant of circumcision (Genesis 17:1), and to Isaiah during his commission (Chapter 6:1-13). Many believe the O.T. reference to the Angel of the Lord is a theophany (appearance of God)—or more specifically a Christophany (a pre-incarnate appearance of Christ himself). Write me if you’d like a research paper on the topic.

[3] We are not suggesting that money is more important that love, prayer, or fasting. Rather, we are simply trying to demonstrate that money is a significant enough theme in the Bible as to warrant a measured consideration by the sincere disciple of the Lord Jesus. In other words, I thoughts these facts would be a great attention getterJ–nothing more, nothing less.

[4] Definition of idolatry from Merriam-Webster Online @ http://www.m-w.com/dictionary/idolatry

[5] This section is adapted from Bill Gothard’s Institute in Basic Youth Conflicts now called Institute in Life Principles.

[6] Caveat means “an explanation to prevent misinterpretation—[especially as in] a modifying or cautionary detail to be considered when evaluating, interpreting, or doing something.” Merriam-Webster Online@ http://www.m-w.com/dictionary/caveat