Summary: The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. How can we fight the temptation to misuse money?
I discovered some fascinating statistics the other day. Did you know that out of 38 parables that Jesus told, 16 deal with money in some form or other? If you add up all the times that heaven and hell are mentioned, it comes to fewer times than money is mentioned. The New Testament says 5 times as much about money than it does about prayer. There are about 500 or so verses on prayer and faith combined, but there are 2000 verses dealing with money and possessions.
You can see from those figures that money must be an important issue for the Christian. But why is that? Is it because there’s something inherently wrong with money? No, the Bible never suggests that. In fact if you look at some of the Old Testament stories, wealth is often associated with God’s blessings. But what we do discover is that the love of money is the root of all evil. It’s when we elevate money to godlike status that it becomes a problem for us. As we read in our first reading, from 1 Tim 6, "those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction." Money becomes a trap, it captures us in a way that causes us to lose our perspective on life. In the end money becomes everything.
As you can see from those figures I just quoted this is no new phenomenon. Money has always been a danger to human beings. It’s a means of wielding power. It allows us to think we’re in control of our world. It frees us to spend our energies on ourselves. It can lead us to think that what we have is our right because we’ve achieved it. So the lure of money is a very subtle temptation.
But I can’t help but think that this temptation is even greater now than it was when those words were written. You see, of all the evils in the world, the love of money is perhaps the most promoted evil around. Other vices are looked down on. If you suffer from pride, someone is sure to cut you down to size. If you suffer from gluttony, there are plenty of organisations out there waiting to help you with your diet. If you have an alcohol problem, you’ll be reminded at regular intervals about the dangers of drink-driving, or of the effects on your family of alcohol abuse. Similarly if you have a gambling problem.
But no-one is going to help you if your problem is consumptive materialism or hedonism. You won’t find a "Greed Watchers" or a "Shopaholics Anonymous" being advertised on TV. On the contrary, what you’ll see is an encouragement to think about your need for money, to spend more than you really need to, to desire things that you don’t have, not because you need them, but for the status of owning. You’ll hear a subtle or even not so subtle message that money is the key to happiness and security, even to love and intimacy. So let’s think about how money tempts us and then we’ll spend some time thinking about how to combat that temptation.
First, lets think about 2 mirages that live in the modern mind, relating to money. You know what a mirage is don’t you? It’s something that looks substantial and real from a distance but just as you’re about to reach it, it vanishes
Money can make you happy?
The first mirage is the idea that money will make you happy. Now we all know that’s not true don’t we? Don’t we? So why do we envy those who have it? Isn’t it true that we’ve been sold this message that money is the key to our future security? Have you seen that long running ANZ ad? It’s in serial form, with the man who gives up his high pressure job to start a nursery, then his wife joins him with a coffee shop, then his son-in-law joins the business as well. And all because ANZ provided the money! And what’s the subtext of that ad campaign? Isn’t it that you’d be much happier if you had access to more money so you could follow your dream? That’s just one example, but there are countless others where the message is similar: Money will make you free and independent. Money will give you power over others and over your own life. Money brings you respect. People will treat you differently when you’ve got the big bucks. Money can solve all your problems. And people sit there in front of the box wondering whether the next contestant will become a millionaire, or who will be the one who’ll out-survive the others and walk away with the cash, all the time living vicariously on the fortunes or misfortunes of others. And that’s linked to the second mirage.