“But godliness with contentment is great gain…for the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pieced themselves with many pangs”- 1 Timothy 6:6, 10 (ESV)
“Money is a tool, a test, and a testimony”- Ron Blue
Let’s take a test together- When you think about money, what is the very first thing that comes to your mind?
- …Is it the comfort it can buy you?
- …Or the security it can offer you?
- …Or the power it can give you over others?
- …Or the status to which it can elevate you?
- …Or something else altogether?
Let’s face it- Each of us has a slightly unique answer to this question, a different thing that money does for us. This is critically important to pay attention to- because inevitably, for better or for worse, our perspective on money shapes our practice with it. Or to state it differently, our desires always shape our decisions. Consider a few ways this can play out financially…
- When money = comfort, we tend to spend big, and at our worst, without planning or discipline.
- When money = security, we lean hard into saving, and likely experience nagging anxiety no matter how much we have.
- When money = status, we often spend to make a statement, with mixed motives that can stain even our seemingly “good deeds” (“Have you seen how much they gave to ____________? Wow!”)
All of these scenarios- along with many others we could list here, but haven’t- are visible ways that what the Bible calls the “love of money” shows up in our lives. Notice that in each circumstance, it isn’t necessarily money itself that we “love,” but rather what money can get us. Money is like the “key” that promises to open up the doors that we want to walk through.
So why is this a problem? Because although money can often open the first “door” (and perhaps a few after that!)- be it the “door” of comfort, security, power, status, or something else- there are always more doors to open. There is never a point at which “enough” is actually enough.
- There will always be more comforts to be pursued.
- There will always be more emergencies to avoid.
- There will always be more people to influence, impress, or (if we’re being brutally honest) outdo.
Most of us, of course, don’t think this way. We believe the lie that one day, we’ll get “there” financially, wherever “there” is- and then we’ll be satisfied. But we never do- at least not for long. We always find ourselves standing at yet another locked “door,” with an insatiable craving for that which we believe will open it yet again. As Pastor Andy Stanley has said wisely, “Our appetites for more are never fully and finally satisfied.”
So what’s the alternative? How can we take what we’ve learned from this little exercise and put it into practice in a productive and God glorifying way? I believe there are three key steps each of us must take…
- First, understand and own your unique vulnerability in this area. If you’re prone to unwise spending, say it. If your lean is toward anxious saving, speak it. If you honestly lack a generous heart, admit it. I get that this can be scary and uncomfortable, but it’s critical if we are ever going to break out of the cycle in which many of us find ourselves.
- Second, shift your thinking on money from something you live for to something you live with. As Christian financial expert Ron Blue says, money itself isn’t evil, but it can never function as an end unto itself. It is, instead, “a tool, a test, and a testimony”- something that provides us with an opportunity to grow in maturity and trust in Jesus Christ, and to powerfully share His love with others.
- Finally, and most importantly of all, consider how Jesus alone can do for you what you’ve been asking money to do. Search His Word for promises that speak to the longings of your heart and mind, and replace your craving for money with a growing craving for Him. Make Him your comfort…make Him your security…make Him your worth and value. He alone can fully and finally satisfy. Don’t trade His truth for money’s lies!
I remember vividly when this became real to me. I had never thought of myself as a “lover of money” before, but a few years ago, after several years of disciplined budgeting and diligent saving on a relatively modest income, I was feeling pretty good about the “security” that our money had afforded us.
And then, in a rapid fire “series of unfortunate events,” it all went away- and I was incredibly bothered. Not that it was wrong to be bothered under the circumstances, which were admittedly unpleasant. But this went deeper than a mere, “Oh, that stinks.” What the Holy Spirit began to reveal to me was that, in an unconscious way, I had begun to place more trust in money- and in my own ability to manage- than I did in God, and in His ability to provide it. This was humbling to recognize and admit, but it became apparent to me at that point that this was my unique vulnerability, and I needed to repent and ask God to change my heart in this area.
A few years later, we are working toward some goals once again, seeking to be wise stewards of that which God has entrusted to us. This time around, though, my hope and prayer is that our ultimate confidence will not be in our own financial savvy, but in God’s good heart and able hand. We will do our best to be wise, but ultimately we are trusting in Him as our all-satisfying hope.
That’s my story in response to this little exercise. What’s yours? I pray you’ll take the time this week to consider it, starting with this simple question- What does money mean to you?