God of Money

God of Money

Money talks, they say. I think they are right. Although, I am not sure money has a very large vocabulary. All I’ve ever heard it say is “good-bye”.

Listen to this dollar speak: “You hold me in your hand and call me yours. However, could I not as well call you mine? See how easily I rule you. To gain me, you sacrifice all but your life. I am invaluable as rain, essential as water. Without me, men and institutions would die. Yet, I am not the giver of life; I am futile without the stamp of your desire. I go nowhere unless you send me. I keep strange company. For me, men mock, love, and scorn character. Yet, I am appointed to the service of missionaries, to give education and food to the poor. My power is terrific. Handle me carefully and wisely, lest you become my servant, rather than I become yours.”

Jesus put it this way in Matthew 6:24, 'No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money."

Why is money so often portrayed as God's primary competition? Because we look to money to do the very things for us that only God can do. This is where money, or the god of money, really does speak to us. There are at least three lies that the god of money tells us everyday, and most people believe them and live accordingly.

First, money will satisfy you. If we only had enough of it, we think happiness will come. We think that money can make us significant. We often judge our worth by how much money we possess. However, one of the richest men in the world, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. said, “The poorest man I know is the man who has nothing but money.”

Unfortunately, instead of looking to God as their source of identity and satisfaction, people look to money. Jesus said: Matthew 6:31-34 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

God says, “Identify yourself with me and I will satisfy your needs.” Do we believe Him? Are we focusing on God, trusting Him, and pursuing the things that God considers precious: righteousness, faith, love, patience, and gentleness? If we will do this, God will supply all our needs. There is no reason to worry.

However, the god of money tells us “you need me, you need to focus on me, you can’t live without me, what will happen to you if you don’t have me, you are nobody without me.” Most people are listening to that voice.

As Christians, we must reject this lie from the god of money, listen to the Holy Spirit, and trust God. If we are worrying about money, it is an idol in our lives. We need to be concerned about obeying God, having our identity in Christ, and trusting Him for our daily “bread”.

The second lie is money will make you secure. The truth is that whatever we put our security in ends up being our god. It reveals where we’ve put our hope. With enough money God doesn't seem all that necessary. We wrongfully assume that we can have enough or save enough to take care of ourselves.

Again Jesus says in Matt 6:19-21"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Money is nothing more than paper and coin, and yet, Jesus warns us that we can get a too attached to money and what it can buy. After all, money cannot buy the really important things in life. For instance, money can buy a bed but not sleep; books but not wisdom; food but not fellowship; luxuries but not love; a house but not a home; medicine but not health; amusement but not happiness; a crucifix but not a Savior; a church pew but not heaven.

Luke 12:15 “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

Paul warns Christians in 1 Tim 6:3-10 If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, he is conceited and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction between men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain. But godliness with contentment is great gain. 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.

Paul is saying some Christians walk away from their faith, their salvation, and their relationship with God to pursue financial gain. Later, they realize what they have lost and suffer many griefs from the consequences.

That is a terrible thing. Why would Christians even consider casting away their faith for the sake of earthly riches? What mysterious power does the god of money have, that it could cause someone to do a thing so foolish? I suspect they don’t know what they are doing. They are trying to serve two masters. They fail to realize they have an idol, something they love more than Jesus.

Paul tells us it is the “love of money,” the “eagerness for money,” the "desire to get rich" that causes Christians to wander away from their God. Why? Because you cannot "serve two masters… you cannot serve both God and money."

Again, Jesus warns believers in Matt 13:22 The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful.

The third lie is money will save you. The real problem with idolatry is that we look to something other than Jesus for salvation. We are worried, our faith is weak, and we look to money for salvation.

Prov 11:4 Wealth is worthless in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death.

You see, the idolatry of money is the belief that – if I have enough money, I can take care of all my wants and needs. If I have enough money I won’t have to worry, I can enjoy life, I can do the things I’ve always wanted to do.

For those who claim to worship Jesus, there is this command in 1 Tim 6:17-19, Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.

You might be thinking that’s just a command for the rich. Well then, consider this command from Ephesians 4:28 “He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.”

Why must the thief stop stealing and go to work? So that he can make money to share with others. Why does the thief steal? Because he is controlled by the desire to have money – your money. How does he cure himself of this desire? He repents, makes Jesus his God, gets a job, and learns to give money away.

It is not only the rich who are controlled by the god of money. All we have to do is go to the nearest convenience store and watch people stand in line to buy a little piece of paper for $5, or $10 or $20. What are they buying? Lottery tickets – even for gamblers, lottery tickets are a poor gamble. Why do they buy them then? Because poor people are worshipping a god of money just as the wealthy are?

The proper attitude toward money is this prayer found in Prov 30:8-9 Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, 'Who is the LORD?' Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.

A good clue that we are in danger of idolizing money is if we find it hard to give money away. Money is either a god in our heart or it is God’s tool in our hands. It all depends on WHOSE money we think it is.

That’s the importance of verses like Deuteronomy 8:10-18 When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you. Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day. Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. He led you through the vast and dreadful wilderness, that thirsty and waterless land, with its venomous snakes and scorpions. He brought you water out of hard rock. He gave you manna to eat in the wilderness, something your ancestors had never known, to humble and test you so that in the end it might go well with you. You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today.

A man once said “All money is tainted. It taint yours and it taint mine.” The Bible says it belongs to God. And this is particularly true for those of us who are Christians. After all, what does it mean to call Jesus our Lord? It means we give Him authority over everything we possess.

As a Christian, everything I have in this wallet should belong to Jesus. I give a certain portion to God as an offering each Sunday… but it’s all His. I use HIS money to pay my bills, to pay for my home, vehicle, and other items. He owns everything I possess.

Now, that’s the THEOLOGY of money. But how do I know if my theology is my reality?

In other words: How do I know if money has me… or if God has my money?

Until we learn to listen to the Holy Spirit and respond obediently and joyfully to His prompting in giving money away, money owns us. That’s why Paul tells the rich to share their wealth.

He’s saying: IF you want avoid worshiping money... IF you want to start trusting in God and taking hold of the life that is truly life…THEN – you need to be rich in good deeds and be generous and willing to share.

You see, giving is the cure of having a love for money. We are to hear and obey the Holy Spirit when He tells us to give it away. Money can control anyone in any walk of life. So, if giving money away works for the wealthy – to deliver them from the worship of money– how can the poor give money away?

Well, fasting is a great idea for those of us without a lot of money. Isaiah 58:6-9 "Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I…”

You see, we don’t have to be rich to use money for God. We don’t have to be rich to free up resources to help others. Fasting for one day or longer frees up money that we would have spent for food. So, if we miss a few meals, we now have money to share with those in greater need.

But, what if we can’t fast. What if we have diabetes, or some other condition that requires that we eat regular meals? Well, we can fast from things that we indulge in every day. Things like buying a newspaper, or buying a meal at a restaurant. If we want to please God and be delivered from the god of money, then these forms of fasting will work as well.

Now - the point is this: money is either a tool for God, or an idol for us. If we don’t find a way to use our money for God… we’ll end up letting it be our god. Let me illustrate the difference with a “Paul Harvey type” story.

The very first person to reach the status of billionaire was a man who knew how to set goals and follow through. At the age of 23, he had become a millionaire, by the age of 50 a billionaire. Every decision, attitude, and relationship was tailored to create his personal power and wealth.

But three years later at the age of 53 he became ill. His entire body became racked with pain and he lost all the hair on his head. In complete agony, the world’s only billionaire could buy anything he wanted, but he could only digest milk and crackers. An associate wrote, "He could not sleep, would not smile and nothing in life meant any-thing to him." His personal, highly skilled physicians predicted he would die within a year.

That year passed agonizingly slow. As he approached death, he awoke one morning with the vague remembrances of a dream. He could barely recall the dream, but knew it had something to do with not being able to take any of his successes with him into the next world. The man who could control the business world suddenly realized he was not in control of his own life.

He was left with a choice. He called his attorneys, accountants, and managers and announced that he wanted to channel his assets to hospitals, research, and mission work. On that day John D. Rockefeller established his foundation. This new direction eventually led to the discovery of penicillin, cures for malaria, tuberculosis, and diphtheria. The list of discoveries resulting from his choice is enormous.

But perhaps the most amazing part of Rockefeller’s story is that the moment he began to give back a portion of all that he had earned, his body’s chemistry was altered so significantly that he got better. It looked as if he would die at 53 but he lived to be 98.

You see, God knows us. He created us. He created us in His image to be giving, loving creatures. That’s why He set us the example of what it meant to give things away. After all, God is the most powerful being in all the universe. He owns everything. And yet, He loved us so much... that He gave... His only son, so that we might have eternal life.

The question then becomes: what God are you worshipping?

Are you looking for your chance at wealth?

Are you seeking that winning lottery ticket?

Are you intent on finding your pot of gold at the end of the rainbow?

Or are you looking for Jesus, the giver of an abundant life?

Jesus is the only one who will satisfy your needs, make you secure, and save you. Come to Him today. Repent of all your false gods and confess Jesus as Savior and Lord. Give your life to Him in baptism and receive His Holy Spirit.

  December 2017  
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