Before we wrap up this series, we need to address a very important truth: Money has a “dark side.” You can see this in the unhealthy way our culture relates to money. It seems like we constantly hear stories about people mistreating one another or exploiting one another for money. We hear stories about corporate greed, political corruption, and dishonest gain. Many of us are guilty of forgetting how rich we are because we are a part of a system that constantly tells us we do not have.
The Bible understands this tendency in our hearts. Paul wrote to his protégé, a young pastor named Timothy, trying to protect his heart from this lie of lack. Some false teachers at the time had fallen into the trap, and they began twisting God’s word to support their lifestyle of greed and exploitation. 1 Timothy 6:6 – “Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, 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.”
Hungering for Money: Greed – Greed is listed in scripture right alongside sins that generally get a more severe treatment from people – like sexual immorality, lust, idolatry, and evil desires. Even if it is such a common trait in our culture, the Bible does not find it acceptable. Greed is a dangerous thing. It has a numbing effect on your heart. What used to satisfy you cannot satisfy you anymore. Ecclesiastes 5:10-15 states this so poetically: when you love money, it will never be enough! As goods increase, so does consumption. This is the story of our culture – more, more, more. Everyone always feels like they don’t quite have enough money, no matter how much they have. We tend to just live right up to (and even beyond) however much money we have. So, there is an insatiable desire for more. It seems like in the eyes of our culture, success is the same as how much you have! Stuff is nice! We live in a world that values its stuff! We are a little bit backwards, in that we work so hard to be able to buy and upkeep all are stuff that we don’t have any time to use any of it…like we water our grass so it will grow just so we can cut it down again. A huge percentage of the gross national product is stuff. Not food, resources, materials, even labor. It is “consumer goods,” which is a fancy name for smart phones, video games, blue jeans, and other stuff. They need to sell you this junk, so they need to convince you that you need it. And we buy the lie all the time. What Paul taught Timothy here is so important: contentment. It is a choice of the heart that declares: what I have is enough. Listen to this: “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said: ‘Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you.'” (Hebrews 13:5) FREE is the right word there. FREE as in not ensnared, not trapped, and not controlled by our desire for more.
Slavery to Money: Debt – Debt is very simply something that you owe. It is a tough spot to find yourself in. We have enough money for what we need, but not always for what we want, and this is where they get us. If you want something you cannot afford, you will buy it with “credit.” That is how money works: if we get it, it gets us. If we don’t have it, our lives are spent trying to get it. When we do get it, we don’t own it as much as it owns us. Check out Proverbs 22:7 – “The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender.” Another word for debt would be obligation. It is especially troublesome when your obligations or debts prevent you from going after what God wants for you. Debt takes away your choices. You might want to give, or to change something about your career or your life, but you can’t because you have someone else calling the shots. Whoever you owe has a claim on you. Even the stuff you have on credit actually has someone else’s name on it. According to Dave Ramsey’s FPU, the average college student has $2,200 in credit card debt and will graduate with $20,000 in student loans. Can you imagine starting your adult life with no job and $22,200 of debt? That’s a terrible way to enter adulthood. That debt will just hang around your neck like a boat anchor, always dragging you down and limiting your options. We are called to excellence, to lead the world and not be in bondage to it. Don’t buy something if you cannot afford it. Remember our vision for money: to be blessed by God to be a blessing to others. Hard to do when you are broke or in debt. People used to talk about “good debt:” debt that will later make you money. This includes school loans and mortgages. I wonder if there is any such thing as “good debt.” Home mortgages are not always good investments and the same is true of college loans. The prevention for debt is simple wisdom. No one really thinks it is a good idea to spend more than we have on stuff we don’t really need, but we do so little thinking, if we really stop to think about it. Thinking didn’t get us into debt – lack of thinking did. We have to think! This involves discipline and vision. It takes courage to do something different.
Questions for discussion:
-Do you feel rich? Why or why not? Why do you think we have a hard time recognizing our own wealth?
-What are some examples of why greed is so dangerous? Can you think of an example of people being mistreated for money?
-Why is debt dangerous and dumb?