By Pastor Glenn Pease
When a Mr. Blodgett won 25 thousand dollars on a TV program the master of ceremonies asked him what he was going to do with the money. He replied, "It will probably all go to charity." The audience broke into a tremendous round of applause while the band played for he's a jolly good fellow. After the excitement subsided the master of ceremonies turned to the winners wife and asked if that met with her approval. She responded, "Why certainty my name is Charity." Here was a man who knew how to avoid a fight about money. He simply surrendered. Most mates do not do so, however. Studies among students indicate that the cause for most arguments in the home are about money. One man said his home split up for religious differences. His wife worshipped money and he didn't have any. Many men complain that their wife's favorite book is the checkbook. Once they start one they can't put it down until they finish it. Robert Schuller said, "Whether a man ends up with a nest egg or a goose egg often depends on the chick he marries."
One of Henry Ward Beecher's favorite stories was about a young man who applied for a job in a New England factory. Asking for the owner, he was ushered into the presence of a very nervous man. He said to the young man, "The only vacancy we have is vice-president. The man who takes the job must shoulder all my cares." The young man responded, "That is a tough job. What is the salary?" The owner replied, "I'll pay you ten thousand a year if you will take over all my worries." "Where is the ten thousand coming from," the young man asked suspiciously. "That my friend," replied the owner, "Is your first worry."
Worry over where the money is coming from has always been a wide spread practice. Epicurus, the ancient philosopher, said that being rich did not end your worries, but just gave you different worries. A modern writer said, "I know at last what distinguishes men from animals: Financial worries." This is not the whole picture, but it is a fact, and the fact of men being worriers over money is becoming more and more evident as prices continue to rise and taxes threaten to gobble up what inflation has not already devoured.
Bird images have always been common on money. One of the famous coins of Alexander the Great had an eagle on it, which is also true of our American currency. A modern poet sees in this a symbol probably not intended by the engravers. He writes, "Eagles on dollars are proper and right, because they symbolize swiftness of flight." Money talks, but for most people it never stays around long enough for a good conversation. Richard Armor said, "That money talks I'll not deny, I heard it once: it said goodby." Money still talks today but it makes less cents.
All of this negative thinking about money as being a cause for worry and hard to hold on too is based on the assumption that money is good and nice to have in sufficient quantities. Why worry about it, or be concerned at its departure if it is not good? Christians have all the same complaints and so they too feel that it is good to have money, and that it is a positive good. Why then is the most famous statement in the Bible about money that, "the love of money is the root of all evil?" It is often misquoted as money is the root of all evil. But Paul does not intend to convey the idea that money is in itself evil in any way. It is the love of it, and the greed and avarice and covetousness this leads to that is the root of all kinds of evil. Failure to make this important distinction has led to many false attitudes based on this verse.
Before we look at what Paul is saying we must first look at what he is not saying. We must first speak in defense of money as a good thing. Paul knew that money was essential for maintaining the church. He urged Christians to give generously every week. He also sought to collect money for the poor Christians in Jerusalem. Paul was not anti-money man. He was only anti-avarice. Money can be used to fulfill the will of God and provide most everything man needs for happy and effective living. Even the higher things of life an spiritual experiences depend upon ones ability to buy good books, music, and art. But even the thousand and one commonplace necessities are not to be treated lightly. Many testimonies can be summed up in the words of an unknown poet.
Money ain't everything people declaim,
To which I offer a faint
And timid objection, and beg 'em to name
A few of the things that it ain't.
It's comfort and shelter from wind and from rain,
It's chickens that stew in the pot,
It's doctors and nurses when you are in pain
What is there that money is not?
Money ain't everything-money won't buy
Happiness, optimist shout.
Still, it will get quite a lot that a guy
Cannot be happy without;
It pays for the gas and the lights and the rent.
It settles your bills at the store;
Money ain't everything, but its percent
Is ninety-nine point forty-four.
We might quibble with him on his percentage, but we must admit that even if money is not everything, it is plenty. All of the blessings of our heritage as Christians and Americans come to us because of money well spent. The first Christian church in Europe began in the house of Lydia. She was a woman of means who spent her money for the cause of Christ. Without men of means like Joseph of Arimathea, Jesus would not have had a tomb and a decent burial. Without men like Barnabas who gave so much to the early church, many who became Christians at Pentecost would have been poverty stricken. If time permitted, we could trace the history of Christian giving and show that everything we have to day for Christian growth is due to money well spent by those who have gone before. We have Bibles in abundance only because of wise Christian investments of the past.
Our political heritage is another story connected with money. In 1780 congress did not have enough gold and silver and had to go to paper money. Britain flooded the country with counterfeit money to try and paralyze business. The dollar sank to a worth of two cents, and there would have been economic collapse had not Robert Morris and a few other wealthy patriots come forward with their private fortunes to save the colonies from ruin.
Collectively we are all blessed because of the good power of money. On the individual level the same thing can be demonstrated from history. Abraham Lincoln at 18 was very poor. He had made a small boat and was asked by two men to take them to a steam boat out in the river. He did so and as he lifted up their trunk to them they each threw a silver half dollar in the floor of his boat. Later, looking back on this event, Lincoln considered it a turning point in his life and he said, "I could scarcely believe my eyes when I saw the money. I could scarcely credit that I, a poor boy, had earned a dollar in less than a day...the world seemed wider and fairer before me. I was a more hopeful and confident being from that time." Two unknown men spending fifty cents each changed the life a boy who went on to change the history of a nation, and whose image is now on our nations money. When was a dollar ever better spent, and who can deny the power of money for good?
The point of these illustrations is not to try and cover up the fact that the Son of God was betrayed for 30 pieces of silver, or the millions of other dastardly deeds done for money. The point is to give us a balanced perspective so that we are aware that the Bible and life support both a negative and positive view of money. In one situation money might represent the opposite of the kingdom of God, as when Jesus said, "You cannot serve God and mammon." In other cases the kingdom and money are made one, as when the kingdom is likened to treasure buried in a field, or to a pearl of great price. The biblical picture is not always one of God or gold, Christ or cash, salvation or silver. It is often master and money together, as when he who was rich became poor that we might be made rich, or as when we are said to be bought with a price. Jesus paid it all, and He was our ransom.
But you say, this is not the giving of money, but the giving of himself as a sacrifice for my sin. Yes, but this is precisely the concept of how money began in our heritage. It was in association with the sacrifice of life to God. In the ancient world food was the most important fact of life. It took most of man's time to supply himself and his family with food. Cooperation within the family in the getting and sharing of food was the first sharing of wealth. Rich men in the Old Testament were rich because of their large supply of food. Abraham and Job both had a great many cattle. The Roman word for money comes from their word for cattle. The word fee is believed to have derived from the Gothic word for cattle. The Indian rupee comes from the Sanskrit term for cattle. The word capital comes from a word which originally designated cattle counted by the head.
Why all this connection between money and cows? Because the original money was not coins but cattle. A bull was offered in sacrifice to a god with the idea in mind that it was an exchange for a good crop and protection. People gave their gods payment and expected something in return. The bull was the money they paid to their god. The bull became the standard unit of value in the Graeco-Roman world. At the sacrifice of a bull a man could invite his creditors, and they would be paid off with so much of the meat. The priest was likewise paid with part of the meat. When coins did develop they were made by the priests and minted in the temple. They had the images of bulls and the gods to whom the sacrifice was offered.
All of this helps us see the connection of Christ and money. As our ransom Jesus was our money. The lamb offered in the Old Testament was an economic sacrifice. You had to be well off to afford it, and if you were too poor you had to offer turtle doves or pigeons instead. The lamb was a significant part of your economic security. Jesus as the Lamb of God offered himself as a ransom price for all men. He did not buy us and redeem us with silver or gold, but with the original currency of life itself, which he gave in sacrifice. Economic terms are used all through the New Testament to describe this transaction. We are bought with a price, and our debt to God is paid in full. The cross settled our account with heaven, and now we can approach God, not as beggars and debtors, but as children of the kingdom. Jesus made us rich before God through His sacrifice. We have infinite credit in the bank of heaven and can draw on it daily as we pray for the forgiveness of our debts.
The value of all this is to see just how positive and precious the whole concept of money can be in relationship to the plan of salvation. It also helps us understand the negative of money better. Anything that has the power to counterfeit the power of Christ tends to become a great idol in competition with Christ. Because money does have great power, and because Christ has entered into an identification with riches as the Pearl of great price, it is very easy for man to slip from the worship of Christ to the worship of cash. Money can easily become the master of one's life, and that is why in spite of all the good things we can say about it we must also take heed to the negatives and see that the love of it is the root of all kinds of evil. Many feel that Paul was simply stating a common proverb of his day.
Democritus said, "Love of money is the metropolis of all evils." Phocylides put it, "The love of money is the mother of all evils." Philo spoke of, "Love of money which is the starting place of the greatest transgressions of the law." What Paul says here is not a special revelation from God, but a matter of observation which can be verified by men everywhere. From the biblical perspective, however, money is seen as a rival to God when it is loved. The love of God is the first commandment, and whatever causes men to deviate from this is a root from which every evil will spring.
Love for God must be supreme and exclusive. You cannot love and serve two masters. If you love God, you will use money as a means of expressing that love. If you love money you will use God as a means to increase your store of money. These are the very people that Paul is warning in this passage. It is dangerous to associate gain with godliness, and in verse 6 Paul warns Christians to stay away from those who do this. This is hard advise to follow when Christians get so filled with the world's values that they equate success with one's income bracket and promote tithing as a means of getting rich with God's help.
If money was evil in itself it would be easy to avoid its danger, but it is a powerful force for good too, and that is where the problem lies. Satan's best weapons are good things that can be abused. He comes as an angel of light, and this is what deceives the believer who is not aware of the danger of good as a source of evil. It was the goodness and beauty of the fruit that God had made that caused it to be such a temptation to Adam and Eve. The fall of man came by way of goodness misused. Evil is a parasite in this world, and it cannot survive on its own. It can only live and grow on that which is good. Evil that has no connection with good cannot last.
It is money's goodness that makes it a root from which all evil can spring. Money has very godlike qualities, and those who worship it could very well sing, "On cash the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand." They can point to the proof of their faith and show that money is the means by which man has gained all the things that he calls precious. There motto is expressed by Mark Twain who said, "The lack of money is the root of all evil." Money worshipers have their concept of sin also. Listen to George Bernard Shaw when he says, "The evil to be attacked is not sin, suffering, greed, priest craft, kings craft, demogogy, monopoly, ignorance, drink, war, pestilence, nor any of the other scapegoats which reformers sacrifice, but simply poverty."
Poverty or the lack of money is the root of all evil, and so the love of money is the key to salvation. Money can lift men from the miry clay of poverty and set them on the solid rock of plenty. What of those who are not of the elect, and who will not be good even when they receive the salvation which money offers? Shaw says that the god of money is a just god and will weed out the non-elect. He writes, "Not the least of its virtues is that it destroys base people as certainly as it fortifies and dignifies noble people." The god of money has its hell as well as heaven. Those on their way to the paradise of plenty have their high priests, who is the banker. He can intercede for all of their needs, and when they enter the temple of his bank he can supply all that is necessary for forgiveness of debts and the purchase of happiness. Money can empower and lift from the burden of taxes, rent, doctor bills, and all other obligations. It can clothe the naked, feed the hungry, and supply all our wants. A worshiper of money can say, "I can do all things through cash that strengthens me."
It is plain to see that money is an easy god to love, and the worshiper of it can easily win converts to it. It is likely the most popular of all the religions of the world, even though it is never listed among the world religions. There is no doubt that we live in a materialistic world, but there is likewise no doubt that this has always been true. Jesus said in the parable of the sower that some who believe the Gospel get choked out by the deceitfulness of riches. Paul says in our text that believers who coveted riches had wondered from the faith. One of the main causes for people drifting from Christ and the church has always been the love of money. This precious friend can become our pernicious foe if we let it win our lives over to it rather than to Christ and Him alone. The goal of the study of money is to lead us to become good stewards in which we and our money become servants of Christ. Money then becomes a source of much good and blessing to us and through us.