THE PARADOX OF MONEY
By Pastor Glenn Pease
Someone said, life is an everlasting struggle to keep money coming in, and teeth, hair, and vital organs from coming out. Few have known this better than General Ulysses S. Grant. He led the armies of the North to victory in the Civil War, and was twice elected president of the United States. He was a fairly wealthy man when he retired from public office, but he proved that the wealthy have problems with money too. They make mistakes on a grander scale. Grant invested his capital in a new Wall Street investment firm operated by a smooth talking young man, whom Grant considered a financial wizard. If the ability to make money disappear was what he meant, then he was a wizard, indeed, for Grant lost everything, and at 62 he was penniless.
Among his many friends was Samuel Clemens who had published many successful books under the name of Mark Twain. Clemens convinced Grant he should write about the Civil War, and he would publish his book. Grant signed the contract and got to work producing two volumes that rank among the world's great military narratives. Grant got 10 thousand in advance, and his widow got 200 thousand in royalties. His heirs also got close to half a million. Clemens made a fortune on the deal, and he decided to try it with two other famous generals. It didn't work, and Clemens had some reverses that led him to go bankrupt at age 59. He too made a come back, and when he died in 1910 he left his heirs over half a million.
These two famous men illustrate the universal battle of life-how to make money; how to keep it, and how to make it count. The Christian does not escape this battle at all. The Christian spends a large portion of life engaged in making, spending, giving, saving, and losing money. What makes this hard is the Christian is not endowed with any special gift that enables him to be any wiser than the non-Christian in his management of money. That is why the New Testament is so full of warnings about money, and the danger of being obsessed by it. There is also, as in our text, a lot of New Testament advice on how to use money wisely.
All of this would be unnecessary if Christians were just naturally financial wizards, but this is not the case. Martin Luther was one of the great theological minds of history, but he had no skill whatever with money management. At age 42 he had not yet saved a penny. When he married Katherine Von Bora she discovered he was a money management drop out, who let money slip through his fingers with no accounting for where it went. She had to tell their banker not to honor a draft unless she first approved it. She had to take over to protect him from himself. This story has been repeated over and over again in the lives of Christian leaders.
C.S. Lewis was one of the most brilliant Christians of the 20th century, but he had no sense of money management. When Joy Davidman married him, she found that he had thousands of pounds he didn't even know he had. He also had a small fortune in his checking account, and this was back in the day when there was no interest on it. She quickly got it into a savings account.
One of the reasons many genius type people are not good money managers is because money is not that important to them. They are preoccupied with other and greater things. Einstein, for example, sometimes used his check as a book mark, and then turned it into the library. Robert Frost wrote,
Never ask of money spent
Where the spender thinks it went.
Nobody was ever meant
To remember or invent
What they did with every cent.
It is admirable to be preoccupied with values greater than money, and not to be obsessed with it. Prov. 3:13-14 says, "Blessed is the man who finds wisdom, the man who gains understanding. For she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold." Luther and Lewis were wise in devoting their minds to greater values than money management. But the higher wisdom yet is to know how to use money wisely without it being the dominant occupation of your mind. The Proverbs also speak highly of the values of money. Prov. 10:15-16 says, "The wealth of the rich is their fortified city, but poverty is the ruin of the poor. The wages of the righteous brings them life, but the income of the wicked brings them punishment." The balance life calls for both the avoidance of addiction to money, and the application of the advantages of money. In other words, money is a paradox. It is both dangerous and delightful; a curse and a blessing.
Paul says the love of money is the root of all evil, and Mark Twain said, the lack of money is the root of all evil. The one does not eliminate the other, for Twain's remark compliments Paul's. It is lack of money that leads people to such an obsessive love of it that they do all kinds of evil to get it. The point is, it is hard to say anything about money, either negative or positive, that cannot be demonstrated to be a valid statement. The poem, The Song Of Silver says,
Doug from the mountain-side, washed in the glen
Servant am I or the master of men.
Steal me, I curse you,
Earn me, I bless you;
Grasp me and hand me, a friend I shall possess you.
Lie for me, die for me, covet me, take me,
Angel or devil, I am what you make me.
This is just what Paul is saying in our text. Paul recognizes fully the paradox of money, and so he covers both sides by sharing warnings as to its dangers, and wisdom as to its delights. If we are going to open our homes to Christ, we will have to be aware that He is aware of how we see and use money. This is a vital part of our life for Him, for money is a major means by which we become a part of His upper class, which is the servant class. It is important that we have a good grasp of both the dangers and delights of money. First lets look at-
I. THE DANGERS OF MONEY.
The primary danger is in its power to deceive us into believing it is a substitute for God. Paul says the eagerness to be rich has led some to wander from the faith. Moneytheism-the almighty dollar replaces monotheism. Christians can be deceived into thinking of it as a substitute for their love. They expect money to convey their love, and solve all problems in relationships. Joyce Landolf in her book, Tough And Tender writes, "We seem to have accepted money as the cure-all for every disease, need, or problem imaginable. A man who has not said one real thing to his wife in years shrugs his shoulders and says, 'I don't know what she wants-she's got everything. She can go out and buy anything. She's got the house, clothes, and tons of things. What else does she need?' He has made the money, bought the myth, and paid for it. All he has to show for himself is a large brick wall made up of material possessions which stand solidly between him and his wife. He thought his money would buy a bridge; instead it has built a wall,...."
That is why money is so dangerous. It makes so many people sincere in their conviction that it will be the cure-all. There are few human beings alive who have not sincerely thought that a million dollars would solve all of their problems. It could, in fact, do just that, but it could also add a whole new batch that you never dreamed of having. Paul says those who desire to get rich mess their lives up good. Paul must have had some good examples in his day, but we have many more in our day. Kit Konolige has written a book called, The Richest Woman In The World. It is a fascinating book, not about common place millionaires, but about those more rare people who have over 150 million. There are only between 400 and 500 such people in the United States, and 58 of them are women.
Before you turn green with envy, you need to know how much it cost to be this rich. First of all, you are usually widowed or divorced. If you are still married to a man who has not worked himself to death, you probably have an unfaithful husband, and a very unhappy relationship. There is an excellent chance that you hate your kids, and the feeling is mutual. Many are the stories like that of John Dodge of the auto fortune, who in 1983 sued his mother for 4 million. She had just gone on a world wide shopping spree and had spent 11 million, so she was short of cash. She gave him 500,000, and that started a fight. The feuds and scandals, and the disgraceful behavior of the rich is all on record. We don't have to go by faith in Paul's warning, for we have all we need by sight.
Palm Beach Florida is the home of the super rich where their motto is, anything worth doing is worth doing to excess, and they lived by that motto. It is a materialistic paradise, but it is an Eden after the fall, with drugs, divorce, immorality, suicide, prejudice, and all of the miseries of the heart that you find in the ghetto. They drowned their sorrows in expensive champagne rather than cheap wine, but it does not lead to anymore happiness.
Many of those rich people spend a fortune on psychoanalysis. They have guilts that rob them of their peace of mind, and they can't be bought off. They live so often in fear. They have fear of someone kidnapping their children; fear of being robbed, and all sorts of fears about losing their money.
They are often depressed, for they have nothing to do. They don't have to do anything, and so they do those things that people do who don't have to do anything: They play, go to balls, socialize, and seldom do anything creative. This leads to them missing so much of the joy of life, for they miss creative work. They never know if anyone likes them for themselves, rather than their money, and they usually learn the hard way that they are targets of many fortune hunters and con games. Their temptation to do evil is overwhelming, because they can afford to do anything, and few can escape being corrupted by such power.
The point of all this, and we haven't started to cover it all, is that Paul is right, and it can be documented by history and contemporary life-money is dangerous. If you start falling in love with it, you will end up married to a financial frankenstein. It is a monster of a monster that will make you pay a price to be rich that is not worth it. Most people can't afford to be rich, but they do not realize it until it is too late. It is true that all of these problems are experienced by the poor and the middle class as well, but they have the hope that money will solve their problems. The rich have no such hope. Let's look now at-
II. THE DELIGHTS OF MONEY.
In verses 17-19 Paul stresses two positive delights of money by saying it is the key to enjoyment, and to the service of others needs. God has given us everything He says for our enjoyment, and with the excess we can pass it on and help others to enjoy life. Money wisely used is a major factor in happiness, both for time and eternity, for a wise use of it in time will lay up treasure for you in eternity. In this chapter where Paul warns about the danger of the love of money, he also makes it clear that money can be a powerful agent of love. Paul's point in saying the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil was not to get Christians to hate money, but to get them to see that a proper use of money can make it the root of all kinds of good. You cannot serve God and mammon, but you can serve God with mammon.
This paragraph of Paul deals with the other side of the paradox, and makes money the friend of the Christian, and the tool by which he does the will of God. The majority of the things we enjoy in life, and which give us pleasure and grateful hearts, are those things that we have been able to make our own because we have had money. There is joy, not only in having food, shelter, and clothing, and all the security and self-esteem these provide, but there is joy in being able to provide these for those we love. Paul says that those who do not provide for their own are worse than infidels. Our happiness as people, and as Christians, is directly involved with the money we have to provide for our family.
In order to be generous you have to have an excess of money. It is hard for a starving man with a piece of crust to be generous. Only those who have more than they need can do good deeds, and meet the needs of those who do not have the necessities. In other words, one of the delights of money is that it gives you the ability to be a source of enjoyment for those beyond your family. The reason it is more blessed to give than to receive is, because when you are a giver it means you have been blest with excess wealth, and you already enjoy what the receiver does, plus you get the added joy of being the source of their enjoyment. The receiver is blest, but the giver is doubled blest, and this is one of the delights of money being wisely used. It is a powerful force for good in the world.
Obedience to all of Christ's commands to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and in general meet the needs of suffering people, all depend on having money. The Good Samaritan could not have taken the beaten man to a inn and paid for his care had he not had enough money. His loving heart would not have mattered had he been broke, for he needed money to adequately meet this man's needs. Jesus could feed the 5,000 without an investment of funds, but He knows we cannot feed anyone without money, and so He knows that money is the key to caring about needy people. The ministries of the church all over the world depend upon God's people sharing their wealth.
Good money management enables the Christian to have more to give, and it helps the body of Christ do its job more effectively. Pharaoh saw in Joseph a man with a mind for management. He let him take over the management of Egypt's agriculture. Joseph developed a massive savings program, whereby he would save the abundance of the bountiful years to supply the need in the barren years. We do not know how many lives he saved, but on top of the Egyptian's, he saved his own family, and thereby the survival of God's people.
God's plan of salvation does include the idea of saving money, and the wise use of money. Jesus needed to earn money as a carpenter, and He needed a treasurer to take care of the purchases made for His band of disciples. There is no escape for the need for money, but if we have the right attitude, we can see it is a tool to help us be all that God wants us to be. You cannot be a steward of God if you do not have any money to manage.
Well done thou good and faithful servant was spoken to one who had managed his master's money wisely. The wise use of money is a key measure of our maturity as stewards of the master. Every ministry in history has had to deal with money, and when it is not done wisely the kingdom suffers, but when it is done wisely the kingdom prospers.
Evangeline Booth after 30 years of leading the Salvation Army had 70 million dollars in capital and property to leave to her successors. She lived a life of very careful economy, and even though she was offered the chance to live like royalty, and was given the chance to stay in the most luxurious places, she refused lest people think she was using donations for her benefit. Rich people knew she used her money to help the poor, and that is why she received checks for up to a half a million dollars.
R. G. LeTourneau was one of the greatest stewards of God in history. When the book, God Runs My Business, was published in 1941, he had already given 10 million to the cause of Christ. His motto was, "Not how much of my money do I give to God, but how much of God's money do I keep for myself." He recognized that all he had was a gift from
God, and his job was to use it wisely for his master, and he did.
When Billy Graham and George Beverly Shea and Cliff Borrows, and others, sat down to plan the strategy of their evangelism, they looked at the issues that had to be corrected that made evangelists unpopular. The number one problem was money. The constant begging and manipulation of people for money gave evangelists a bad name. They wanted to be different, and they wanted to use money wisely, and this made Graham the major evangelist of this century. Back in 1952, a millionaire came to Graham. He said he would underwrite his ministry so that he would not have to worry about finances. Graham refused the offer, for he said he gets thousands of letters a week with a dollar of five dollars in them, and he said, "My work would nose-dive immediately if they knew that a rich man was underwriting me."
All of live on both sides of the paradox of money, but the more we become aware of the presence of Christ in our lives, the more we will move from the dangers of money into the delights of money. One of the most dramatic examples of this is the life of Mary K. Beard. Evelyn Christensen titles her story in her book, What Happens When God Answers. She was abused by her alcoholic father who broke her back, all her ribs, and her nose twice.
She ran away from home at 15 and married the first man she could find. He was a gambler and a thief. For 5 years she followed him in a continuous crime spree. She lived with beautiful clothes, jewels, and a costume built car. They lived for money, for it was their God.
They were eventually arrested and sentenced to 21 years in prison. Mary repented in prison and fell on the concrete floor, and gave her life to Christ. On March 16, 1973 this money worshiper became a worshiper of Christ, and what a chance this made in how she saw and used money. She first of all became the first woman in the United States to receive a graduate degree while serving time in prison. She gave her mind to Christ. She then decided to minister to people who did not have the money to enjoy some of the common blessings of life. Many prisoners families do not have money for Christmas presents, for example. She started what is called Angel Tree. Children of prisoners write down on a piece of paper what they would like, and these are hung on Christmas trees in churches, shopping malls, and public places. People take an angel from the tree and purchase the gift written on it. This nation wide project has provided presents for 31,500 children, as of 1987.
Jesus enjoyed being rich, for it was only by His infinite worth that He could purchase our redemption. If He had no worth, He could not have been our Savior. All giving depends on having. Having can be a delight as well as a danger. It was Christ's delight to give up His riches and become poor that we might be made rich. One of the reasons we can rejoice at communion is because it represents the basis for our inheriting eternal life and all the riches that accompany it. Thanks to Jesus we who love Him will be rich forever.
The question for us is, is Jesus pleased with how we use what He has given us? Are others blest because we have learned to use money wisely? If so, then we are on the right side of the paradox of money.