I used to think that money was a bad thing; that somehow people who had it must have done something wrong to get it. This negative view of money stemmed from jealousy and the belief that I was unable to overcome my poverty; that I was stuck in my place in life, economically speaking. In order to feel better about my lot in life, I demonized money as something evil, all the while desperately, and secretly, wishing I had more of it.
I used versus like Matthew 6:24 to support my position, which says, “No one can serve two masters, for 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 God and money.” It’s easy to read verses like these and think that one has to choose between following God and having money. However, verses like these couldn’t explain the many people I knew that had a lot of money and were incredibly devoted followers of God. If they were able to be wealthy and love God, then this verse must be describing a different perspective of money than whether or not we should have it.
In contrast, the Bible speaks about God’s people who were wealthy, like Abraham & Joseph, King David and King Solomon, as well as Paul’s charge to the Philippians when he writes, “As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share.” The charge is not to become poor, but to maintain a proper perspective of money, remain focused on God, and be generous with their wealth, using it for good. As the saying goes, if money was evil, they wouldn’t collect it in church on Sundays.
These passages and others, as well as the counsel of wise, godly men I respect on this issue, has forced me to consider a new approach to money. If money isn’t the problem, why did Jesus and other leaders of the Early Church feel the need to caution believers regarding money? More on that in just a moment.
It’s important to understand that making money is simply a skill to be learned, not a stroke of luck. People who have money also have a lot in common, and I have been most concerned as of late with those who have a sincere, passionate love of God. What is it about them that makes them able to be successful, make money and remain faithful to God? I’ve noticed a few characteristics of godly, wealthy people, such as:
- a deep dependency upon God and acknowledgement of His provision at all times
- a genuine care for the well-being of others
- a commitment to honesty at all costs
- a high level of integrity in all situations
- a spirit of generosity towards others, both with their money and their time
- an uncommon work ethic, focus & commitment towards a goal
- a strong desire to continually grow and learn
- an understanding of what people want/need and how to deliver on those in the marketplace
Making money truly is a skill, a choice, cultivated with practice over time, and most of the wealthy people I’ve had the chance to know are more concerned about the person they are than the size of their bank accounts. But what happens when success occurs and the bank account does begin to grow?
The problem in having money is not the money itself, but rather its the temptation to begin to trust in one’s money rather than in God. As the writer in Proverbs 30 pens, “Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ ” The writer acknowledged the challenge of having money while continuing to acknowledge God as the Provider of all things, which is why Jesus said in Luke 18, “How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” Notice He didn’t say it was impossible to enter the Kingdom of God as a wealthy person, just difficult, and this is because people have trouble separating the provision from the Provider.
Further complicating the situation is the definition of ‘wealth’ or ‘rich’. How much money does one need to have in order to be considered wealthy or rich, and who determines this? The truth is two people with the same amount of money may feel differently about what they have; one might consider himself rich while the other believed he was poor, and society may disagree with both. Although it seems counter-intuitive, wealth and riches are truly in the eye of the beholder.
In the end, it doesn’t matter how much money a person has. What matters is whether or not a person allows their financial situation to affect their devotion to following Jesus. As Paul states in 1 Timothy 6, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils.” If we love money for what it can bring us, it may cause us a lot of problems in life. However, if we love God and love people well, and we see money for what it can accomplish to further the Kingdom of God, it won’t matter how much money we end up having, as God is more concerned with what’s in our heart than what’s in our bank accounts.
Ultimately, money is not evil, it’s not the problem; I am.