Guess what: it’s not all about the benjamins!
The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil, (1 Timothy 6:10a).
This is probably one of the most frequently misquoted Scriptures of all times. People leave out those first three words and reduce it to “money is the root of evil,” as if something inanimate could really be the thing that brings all kinds of evil into this world.
But it is the love of money. Some people love money more than they love their spouse and children. I think this is why we see so many workaholics and gamblers. They are two sides of the same money-loving coin.
And many people trust money more than they trust God. This is because money is a god that they think they can control. Of course, money is probably the most fickle god there is. Riches can slip through your fingers all too easily.
Something that God has had me praying about lately is deception in the church. Of course you’re too smart to be drawn in by the prosperity gospel, and the deception that God will make you rich if you tithe. It’s true that God will bless tithers, and He will prosper you. But God’s idea of prosperity is different from ours. I’m sure that you have heard of the law of first mention, that the first time a word is used in the Bible it characterizes that word for its subsequent uses. The first use of the word prosper in the Bible has nothing to do with money:
But [Abraham] said to me [Eleazar], “The Lord, before whom I walk, will send His angel with you and prosper your way; and you shall take a wife for my son [Isaac] from my family and from my father’s house,” (Genesis 24:40, NKJV, emphasis and clarifications mine).
Abraham sent his servant Eleazar to find a bride for Isaac from among his relatives. Now, Eleazar could have spent months looking for the right family, but instead, God led him right to them. The family might not have had a young woman for him to marry, or Rebecca might have been too young, or might have been too ill (or ill-tempered) to go with him. Or Eleazar might have been attacked by bandits and robbed. Or Eleazar might have gotten sick along the road. You see, a thousand things could have gone wrong on this mission, and Eleazar knew it. But God prospered Eleazar’s way, just as Abraham had said—and it had nothing to do with money. This is the true prosperity gospel right here. I want God to prosper my way just like he did with Eleazar.
And even though most of us are not falling for the prosperity gospel, nevertheless many American Christians still think that their money can keep them safe in a crisis. How many of the 3000 people killed on 9/11 were able to save themselves by their money? Do you think that they would if they could? Of course! Sometimes bad stuff just happens—and it happens to good people as well as bad people. Jesus told us that there would be trouble in our lives (John 16:33). And if you’re living an authentically Christian life, you’re going to get push-back from non-Christians. Look at Paul, the super-apostle. He was being obedient to God, and he got stoned and shipwrecked and snake-bit and jailed and all sorts of crazy things. He didn’t get rich, but God did prosper his way. The exponential spread of the Gospel that has lasted to this day is evidence of that.
But let’s go back to 1 Timothy and look at that verse in its context:
True godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it. So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content. But people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows. . . . Teach those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which is so unreliable. Their trust should be in God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment. Tell them to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and generous to those in need, always being ready to share with others. By doing this they will be storing up their treasure as a good foundation for the future so that they may experience true life, (1 Timothy 6:6-10, 17-19).
Our attitude toward money should be that it is a useful tool—and especially a tool for spreading the Gospel, but our love and trust must be only in God. Without God, even the wealthiest people are hopeless. God is good!