If your idea of serving God is to make lots of money so you can give a generous tithe to Christian ministry, you will be offended by what this essay has to say. Stop reading now.
If you believe 1Tim.5:8 requires you to earn a good salary so to provide a comfortable home and fine food and clothes to your wife and children, you cannot understand the Scriptural teaching about money. Go away.
If you want something for "free" then you love money.
If you paid into Social Security and you just want to get out what you paid in, then you love money.
If you think the income tax is the government "stealing" from the taxpayers, then you love money.
But there is a cure for the love of money.
Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matt.6:21
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. Matt.6:24
The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. 1Tim.6:10
Jesus placed a vast chasm between God and money. What is most important in your life? What do you think about most often, God's work or finances? If your answer is "Both," then money is too near the top. There is only one place at the top. It cannot be shared.
If God is God, then God can take care of funding everything God wants done, without your or my help.
If we worry about money, if we think incessantly about how to pay for this or fund that, then we are not thinking about God's business done God's way. The pagans think about money.
Some would say, "Money buys food and other necessities." That's only half true. Food and other necessities were available long before there was money to pay for them, and still are. If you have money to spend on food, well and good; if you don't have enough money, there are other ways to eat. Remember the 5,000? A half-year's salary wouldn't buy enough to feed them, yet they all ate and had leftovers, no money needed.
The point is not where the food comes from, but what are you spending your energy and effort on. What are you thinking about? What is at the top of your To-Do list?
Some people in Thessalonica were lazy. They weren't carrying their share of the work. They were freeloading. They weren't doing God's work, they were feeding their faces. They wanted "Free." The Apostle Paul told them to get to work [2Th.3:10]. When we want things to be "free" we are lazy, like those Thessalonians. That is the same as the love of money.
There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch [TANSTAFFL], somebody must work and pay for it. If it looks free, it's because there is a hidden cost, a deceptive gotcha. The Devil is the Father of Lies [John 8:44], you don't need to be doing the Devil's work, and especially you don't want to be sucked into his deceptions. If nothing else, "free" feeds on greed, and greed takes your mind off serving God. Don't go there.
Work for what you get. If you hope to get more than a fair wage for your efforts, then you love money. Jesus told a story about a rather successful businessman, a farmer who had a bumper crop. He loved money. He want to keep it all to himself, to retire and live a life of leisure. Jesus called him a "fool" [Luke 12:15-21]. The story was not about retiring, nor about luxury. It was about greed, the love of money. He told it in response to a fellow who wanted more money.
God is Good. God is gracious. God often gives us things we did not work for. That's OK, accept the gifts from God, but don't wrap your life around free gifts from God or anybody else. If you receive gifts, you are in a better place to give gifts. If you work hard and earn well, give the excess away. That's God's way of doing things, giving out of His bounty. We can do that too.
Somebody once told me he wanted to "earn lots of money so he would have more to give to God's work." His goal was to give 10%. What a puny gift! If he earned $100,000 more next year, he would be giving $10,000 more to God. That sounds like a lot -- until you realize it leaves him $60,000 more (after taxes) to spend on himself. He loved money.
Another guy told me that he wanted to "develop passive income so he
would have time to do God's work." Same thing. He even admitted that he
had to work for that income, so he really wouldn't have that much more
time. He just loved the money.
Social Security is one of those things called
an "entitlement," suggesting that people are somehow entitled to receive
it. They are just getting out what they put in, right? Wrong. Social Security
is a Ponzi scheme. What you put in is paid out in benefits to prior participants,
so that they can get out more than they put in. When your turn comes,
presumably you will get out more than you put in, too. Except that like
all Ponzi schemes, it doesn't work. The system is bankrupt. What it really
is -- nevermind what they call it -- is a tax-and-spend welfare system.
The government has the God-given right to collect taxes, and they can spend
the money on whatever they like, but social welfare of any kind feeds public
greed (the love of money), making the people dependent on the government
and stifling productivity. It gets a certain class of politicians elected
(for a while), but it destroys the economy.
The tax protesters have gotten amazingly creative. Larken Rose found an obscure section of the tax law, which he tried to twist into proof that he doesn't owe taxes. He was wrong. He went to jail. Phil Roberts loved money and tried to argue that the Fifth Amendment protection from self-incrimination meant he should not be required to sign a tax return. He also went to jail. Your or my opinion about the tax law is completely irrelevant. All that matters is what the government says is the law. They get to decide that. God said so. That has profound implications, most notably that the collection of taxes is by definition lawful. Individual tax collectors in their zeal to do their job may violate individual sections of the law, but referring to any statutory tax collection agency (like the IRS) as a whole by any words denoting or suggesting unlawful seizure is to love money more than God.
The stock market is another example of a good and useful idea, turned by the Enemy into an opportunity to love money. A few people are honest enough to admit that the market is essentially a zero-sum game. Most people think of it as "free" money. They love money.
The stock market serves an important social purpose. It provides a source of capital for companies -- not the market, but individual companies -- to create wealth and make the world a better place. It also establishes the value of ownership in those companies, which facilitates liquidation when the investor needs to allocate his resources in other ways, such as by feeding his family. These are good purposes, but they do not make wealth. They only move money around in useful ways.
The love of money is served when people expect to get more out of the market than they put in. Just about every investor expects to do that. Many -- perhaps most -- do not succeed, because the market is a zero-sum game, and every dollar of profit came out of some other investor's loss. But like compulsive gamblers, they love money too much to see the logic.
How does one survive in a money-driven economy unstained by the world? Not easy. The Mark of the Anti-Christ is a mark of commerce. Commerce is necessary to survive in a world of specialization. I have very specialized skills: I program computers. I do not grow food, I do not build houses, I do not weave and sew clothing. I must buy those things. I also buy gas for my car, so I can drive to the store to buy those other things. Money does all that. Therefore I should love money, right? Hopefully not.
I work hard at what God enabled me to do well, and people are often willing to pay well for that work. I don't do it for the money, I do it because it helps people; money is an objective way to measure how well people are being helped (they won't pay for what is not useful). Serving other people is the Second Great Commandment. It is a good objective.
When people believe they are being helped, they usually are willing to pay for it. Of course if they are selfish or lovers of money, they prefer not to pay, but they would rather pay for the benefit than not receive it at all. That is the great benefit of the market economy, that it establishes an objective value for goods and services. Farmers grow food that we all need to eat. We are willing to pay for our food, so the farmer is paid for his labor. It is possible to run a factory farm for the love of money, but most of the family farms here in the heartland do it because they love farming. The money is a bonus -- and usually too small to pay the bills (they all hold day jobs as well). Computers are able to greatly facilitate how businesses are run -- which especially helps the people who love money, but also those who just want to serve people -- so my services are in great demand. That establishes a fairly high market value on what I do, which means that I can work for a short while, and then go do unfunded projects like BibleTrans. Other people with my skills love money and become millionaires.
I am not a millionaire, but I am far richer than 90% of the people in the world who ever lived. There are people in the USA with less wealth than I have, but I don't see much of them. It isn't so much that I love money, or hate the poor people, but rather this is where God put me, and I'm trying to do the work God gave me to do. To focus on money is to love money. I try not to think about it. I want to focus on what God is doing, and especially what God wants to do with my skills and resources. If money happens to be part of the formula, that's OK, but it's not what life is about.
I do need to make sure that what I'm doing is not so much fun that it
serves no useful purpose, and money sometimes helps me know that.
When somebody has forcibly relieved you of something of value, if you love money you would be very angry. Jesus said to give him more than he is taking [Matt.5:40]. The additional gift is voluntary and unconstrained, and it frees you from the resentment. Jesus didn't say so, but it works. I know. If your gift is too small and it doesn't work, give more.
I knew a guy who had a widgit that he thought worth $116. His wife understood his love of money and told him to sell it for $95, but he resented the loss. The $21 was taken from him by constraint, so it did nothing for his love of money. Now he had a choice: he could sell it for $90 of his own free will -- the $5 difference isn't much, but if freely given, it can purge the evil from his heart -- or he can ignore his wife and sell it for the original $116 (or more) and keep the change. Jesus said of people like that, "They have their reward." Are you willing to sell your ticket into Heaven for $20 or $30? What do you think?
This essay could be part of a dialog. Can you add to the insights here? Tell me about it.
1st draft 2008 April 11
Rev. 2015 June 22