For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. 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. But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. (1 Timothy 6:7-11 NIV)
Maybe you remember a phrase similar to the one at the beginning of our passage this morning from the book of Job: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.” (Job 1:21 NIV)
One of the ongoing discussions in some Christian circles is the place of wealth in the life of a believer. I should add that this is not a topic of discussion in much of the world where families can only dream of running water and electricity. But for those of us who live in relative affluence (I call affluence having a roof over our heads, clothes to wear, running water, electricity, a refrigerator stocked with food and ice, and motorized transportation), we have the luxury of pondering how our money should be spent, and how we keep it from destroying our souls.
I will tell you up front, I don’t believe the amount is necessarily the issue. I have met very wealthy people who have given their lives to supporting the cause of Christ, and are generous to a fault… and I have known poor people who are filled with jealousy and greed, and wouldn’t let their own relatives sit at their supper table. On the other hand, I have watched money slowly lead people to a self-absorbed lifestyle and I have seen the very poor share everything they have with others.
It is the “eagerness” for money mentioned in today’s passage that is the problem. Please don’t feel guilty if you are eager to get paid for a day’s work, or if you are excited about a business deal that turned a profit. That isn’t what Paul is talking about here.
The key to interpreting this passage is the word “contentment.” Paul says, “If we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.” This doesn’t mean this is all we should have, but rather, this alone is cause for contentment. The person who is led into ruin is the one who never stops to rejoice and thank God for his blessings. He is the one who sees what he has as his own, and never asks God how it should be used. Soon, everyone who needs his money becomes a threat, and everything that brings him more money becomes an obsession.
Sooner or later, people who are obsessed with money lose something or someone valuable, and their lives become filled with plastic trophies devoid of any meaning or significance.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. It is possible to be rich spiritually and materially! I am convinced of it! However, I do believe it is easier for a rich person to create a fantasy world than it is for one who is poor. And in our fantasies, sometimes we think we are the only ones here.
We are not the only ones here.
Dear God, help me avoid financial ruin…by not knowing what to do with what I have. In Jesus’ name, Amen.