Published: 25 December 2023

Chasing Money: Trading Peace for Pennies

Money

Though centuries of wisdom scream against it, money remains our modern idol. In the time that has elapsed since Paul wrote to Timothy, people have written volumes about the dangers of the love of money. Adding my voice is probably redundant.

Nevertheless, I have recently been made aware of a money problem which festers in the Western church like cancer. This silent scourge distorts our message, undermines our credibility, and leaves us slaves to a master we may not be aware we are serving.

I’ll elaborate on this later, but first let’s heed the wisdom of the Scripture lest this insidious problem grows worse.

True wealth results in contentment

6 Of course, godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into the world, so we cannot carry anything out of it. 8 But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these. (1 Tim. 6:6-8 BEREAN)

A true minister of the gospel, such as Timothy, is unlikely to grow rich from his efforts. What Paul wishes for us to know is that true gain is godliness and the contentment that comes with it. Paul defines contentment as having food and clothing. Ironically, those who possess nothing but food and clothing often appear to be the happiest. It is clear that Paul is urging us to have an eternal outlook. 

Being solely concerned with comfort in this life is short-sighted and foolish. Paul’s logic is that since we can carry no material gains into the next life, they have little value. They are worthless in eternity, so their only value is in the here and now. What we profit from greediness is temporary and the sin of greed has eternal consequences.

Materialism’s Trap

Those who want to be rich, however, fall into temptation and become ensnared by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction. (1 Tim. 6:9 BEREAN)

We pursue material wealth because we think we will be happy and content when we achieve some measure of it. Ironically, the pursuit of money actually causes us pain and suffering. How much mental anguish do we bring upon ourselves because we want a nicer house, and fancier car? How many households have we been deluded into destroying because family members neglect one another in order to work for a “better life?” 

We take these words of Paul to heart: “If anyone does not provide for his own, and especially his own household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Tim. 5:8 BEREAN). Yet, at the same time, we use them as an excuse for seeking riches while ignoring Paul’s warnings about the love of money. Striking a balance involves both responsibly providing for our families and diligently steering clear of materialistic mindsets. What we American Christians may fail to recognize is that we are those who are pursuing material wealth. 

Self-inflicted wounds

For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. By craving it, some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows. (1 Tim. 6:10 BEREAN)

“Most commentators are quick to point out that the topic is not wealth but the love of wealth, the pursuit of wealth at all costs. While this is correct, it must be noted that especially the OT is clear that the mere possession of wealth has its own set of temptations (e.g., Pss 39:6; 49:6–10; 52:7; Prov 11:4, 16, 28; 23:4–5; Eccl 5:12–13).”1

Mounce makes an excellent observation; it is not just the pursuit of money that is injurious, but also the possession of it. Consider two the of the Old Testament passages he cites in the quote above:

When you glance at wealth, it disappears, for it makes wings for itself and flies like an eagle to the sky. (Prov. 23:5 BEREAN)

The sleep of the worker is sweet, whether he eats little or much, but the abundance of the rich man permits him no sleep. (Eccl. 5:12 BEREAN)

Do you think it is hard to acquire wealth? Ask those who have it and they will tell you it is equally hard to keep it! Notice that Paul said it is not the devil who pierces those who love money. These are self-inflicted wounds!

Christians are not immune from chasing the almighty Dollar

Christians, especially ministry leaders, are as susceptible to the lure of money as anyone else. Earlier I mentioned a problem in the Western church that grows like an undetected cancer which eats away at our spiritual credibility. What am I referring to? It is the proliferation of charging money for religious “goods and services.”

Whenever I have seen Christians charging money for Bible teaching it has always gnawed at me. This seems fundamentally wrong. It is now more common than ever to find Bible teaching, especially online, that is locked away behind a paywall. Jesus said, “Freely you have received; freely give” (Matt. 10:8 BEREAN). On the basis that verse alone, Bible teaching should always be free. 

While I questioned the motives of those “selling” God’s word, I also recognized there are also the practical concerns of printing, publishing, distributing, etc. Even for online material, contrary to what most people think, there is a cost (sometimes significant) associated with maintaining an online presence. And of course, there is the biblical principle that “the worker is worthy of his wages” (Luke 10:7 BEREAN). Despite my misgivings, I never spent much time trying to resolve these tensions. Until now.

I recently encountered a book that has caused me to study, contemplate, and reevaluate the outlook Christians, especially those in ministry, should have on money as it pertains to funding Bible teaching and related religious activities. It has been several years since a book has caused me pause like this one has. That book is “The Dorean Principle.” I’ll be posting a series of articles highlighting how it has helped me gain a more biblical perspective on ministry fundraising.

Until the next blog post, I want to leave you with this verse to ponder especially as it pertains to Christians and money:

The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? (Jer. 17:9 BEREAN)

References

  1. Mounce, William D. Word Biblical Commentary, Pastoral Epistles, Vol 46, Nelson, 2000, 675.