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2.09.2008

The LOVE of money is the root of all evil...

"As a Christian, I am amazed how certain political and religious groups have decided that wealth is evil. Many of the heroes of biblical faith, of world history, and of our nation were very wealthy, including Kind David, Solomon, Job, and most of our Founding Fathers. There is a negative mind-set justifying money mediocrity that is maddening. Wealth is not evil, and people who possess it aren't evil by virtue of the wealth. There are rich jerks and poor jerks. Dallas Willard, in his book Spirit of the Disciplines, says to use riches is to cause them to be consumed, to trust in riches is to count upon them for things they cannot provide, but to possess riches is to have the right to say how they will or will not be used.

If you are a good person, it is your spiritual duty to possess riches for the good of mankind. If you are a Christian like me, it is your spiritual duty to possess riches so that you can do with them things that bring glory to God. The bottom line is, if you take the stand that managing wealth is evil or carnal, then by default you leave all the wealth to the evil, carnal people. If wealth is spiritually bad, then good people can't have it, so all the bad people get it. It is the duty of the good people to get wealth to keep it from the bad people, because the good people will do good with it. If we all abandon money because some misguided souls view it as evil, then the only ones with money will be the pornographer, the drug dealer, or the pimp. Simple enough?"

Just a thoughtful snippet from Dave Ramsey in Total Money Makeover. Sure gets me thinking about how I'd rather have the opportunity to get on my feet financially so I can give generously, of my own volition, than have my paychecks taxed away to go to government-run programs that exist but do very little to alleviate real problems, or that simply go against my value system by the essence of their existence. More thoughts on that later... maybe. Right now it's bedtime.

6 comments:

--jeff said...

right on. i get tired of hearing how "rich are oppressing the poor". generalities are evil, not people who make money. evil also personifies itself in the poor people who HATE people who have money. it works both ways.
"seek first the kingdom of god and his righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you." god is the priority. when you focus on him you will be blessed beyond what money could ever do for you anyway!

ktjane said...

in matthew 19 jesus told the rich man the commandments he should keep and the man had kept all of them (which i believe implies he was of the "good" variety of rich that the author you quoted was writing of) and he asked "what else?" jesus answered, sell your possessions, give to the poor & come follow me. the rich man couldn't do it. jesus said it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. sounds to me like even if you are "good", being wealthy will come between your relationship with god. am i misunderstanding this scripture?

as a biblical example the snippet you quoted referenced king david as a wealthy man. now while david was a man after god's heart, he was also a murderer, adulterer, etc. not all things we should be striving for. so i would argue that just because david was rich, doesn't mean we should try to be too. now, conversely, i'm not saying it's necessarily always virtuous to be poor. you can be poor and still miss god, too. but do you know some scripture that says monetary wealth is something to strive for? and if so, why did jesus never do this? also, this idea that there is a finite amount of money available, and the "good" people should get as much of it as possible to keep it out of the hands of the "bad" seems like a strange idea to me. could you please expand on that? especially since most people who earn their paycheck by doing good get paid peanuts. so would it matter how you acquired this wealth, such as doing business with, or supporting the "bad"?

something else that troubles me is what you said about wanting the opportunity to get financially stable. were you implying that you are unable to do so because your paycheck is taxed? (and i'm not even going to get into the fact that you think the programs that are run by tax dollars don't do any significant good...) first of all, just because you're not on welfare (or some other low-class government-run program) doesn't mean you aren't benefiting from tax dollars at work, EVERYONE does. think highways, airports, libraries, schools, the military, the border patrol & immigration police that you love (ha!), etc. secondly, i don't know about you, but if i took home my gross paycheck i'm sure i would spend it all the same as i do with my net paycheck now. the idea that my financial situation would be so much different because i had been saving more money all this time if i hadn't had to pay taxes seems like a great idea, but is not likely!

i know i'm guilty of making generalizations about rich people and it's certainly something i am aware i need to work on (i am called to love my neighbor as myself), but i feel the way i do because of my understanding of the bible. i really wish you could spend some time in a third world country and see just what it's like when a government doesn't help and everyone is on their own, or experience what it's like to be born into poverty. not everyone is poor because they are a drug dealer, or some other "bad" type.

aea said...

Katie, regarding your understanding of the Scripture you referenced, I must respectfully disagree with your interpretation of it. Jesus used it not to demonstrate that we all should just automatically give up all of our possessions and riches by virtue of being His follower; instead, I think he was illustrating that when we choose our riches over obeying God (and, in the case of the rich man Jesus spoke directly to, it was a specific request of this man and he chose otherwise- it was not a general request of all who know Him), that is where we err. This parable ties in to 1 Timothy 6:10, where Paul writes that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil (and I know you are aware of that distinction... it's a common misunderstanding of those outside the Christian faith). Also, Ecclesiastes 5:10 states, "Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. This too is meaningless." The man in the parable loved his money and possessions more than he loved Jesus, and he lost life because of that choice.

Jesus knows that human nature holds HIGH value on possessions and wealth, which is why he followed up that story saying that it is easier for a rich man to go through the eye of a needle than to enter the kingdom- so many out there would choose as this young man did, and Jesus knows it! Money is the number one topic covered by the Word for a reason. God wants us to make that distinction, and he knows that will be the thing that holds us back the most.

Secondly, the book I was quoting is not a Christian book, although you would find it in most Christian bookstores because it does use biblical principles as a guide in many areas. Dave Ramsey was writing to a secular audience, many of whom do not have a Christian understanding of human nature. You and I both know that all of humanity is sinful by nature, not inherently good. But many of his readers do not view things that way. I'm sure that is why he chose to use the "good vs. bad" analogy in this section of the book. But I think he does have a point- money can be used for good or it can be used for evil. I think we would agree that we would rather see it put to use to help the needy and the poor rather than any of the alternatives he listed at the end of the quote.

Like I said before, it is an unfortunate reality that many wealthy people are going to choose to keep their money to themselves and will do nothing to help the less fortunate among us and abroad. It is the world we live in. So I would agree with you entirely that wealth has enormous potential to come between your relationship with God. But just as we have the opportunity to choose Jesus in the first place, we have the opportunity to honor Him with our choices concerning the money and possessions we own. It may not say anywhere in Scripture that we should seek wealth. But neither does Scripture condemn wealth. It calls those of us who do have money to honor God by sharing with those who do not. If we did not seek some form of wealth, how could anyone ever do that in the first place?

Regarding taxes, I was not implying that I think there should be NO taxes. I didn't have a chance to expand on my thoughts regarding the tax system because I didn't want to stay up all night researching and writing out my opinions on this. I am aware that we all benefit from many tax-funded entities- we couldn't function as a society without them! I will, however, say that there are tax-funded programs out there that I do not support and do not want to contribute to, but am forced to because of the law- for example, Planned Parenthood, because I do not in any way, shape, or form support abortion (THAT is a whole other blog). I will admit that writing further on that subject will require a lot more time and effort than I have at this moment, but stay tuned ;)

And whether or not I have spent any time in a third-world country has nothing to do with my perception of injustice or poverty in this world. Cody and I want to become financially stable enough so that we can do just that- go out into the world and share the light of Jesus, whether it is through physically going somewhere or supporting a cause financially. We are seeking "wealth" right now, as quickly as possible, so that we can share it with others and leave a legacy behind for our future children. Are we, and people like us, going against the Word by doing so?

ktjane said...

i am extremely perplexed by how we can read the same scriptures and come out with completely different takes, but i suppose this has been going on for centuries. it's good to be able to talk it out, but i'm not sure what to even say. it's almost funny because when i read 1 tim 6 and ecc 5 it reinforced my beliefs all the more! i guess our difference is in the definition of loving money.

i would say show me someone with money and i'd show you someone who loves it. my response to your question about going against the word by trying to gain wealth i would reference you right back to 1 tim 6...

"but godliness with contentment is great gain. for we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. people who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction."

not, "some people might fall into temptation" but "people who want to get rich fall into temptation." it's not even written as a possibility. and i would say that i don't think temptation necessarily means they are doing something we think of as obviously sinful, but could be as harmful as loving their money more than they realize (which is exactly where the adversary likes to get you), and therefore losing life.

so, if your intention is to earn money for what you need and not attempting to earn more money for a so called "comfortable" life, then i'd say you will have great contentment with god! that legacy will last far beyond your possessions and i'd take that over a big house or nice car any day of the week.

--jeff said...

ktjane--
i'm a little offended by the tone i seem to pick up on. it feels like i'm being condemned. i make a good living. does the paycheck i deposite make me a sinner? what SPECIFIC standard must i live up to in order for you to accept/bless/endorse my lifestyle or bank account? am i to feel guilty? do i need to tell my boss that instead of a raise that he should donate to a charity in my name? i'm sure that compared to 90% of the world you are rich. am i to judge you for not giving even more than you already do? no. how much money, or what percent must i give? i would really appreciate it if you would show me that verse, but i know you won't be able to. in the new testament "tithe" is definded by three things. give cheerfully, give frequently, and give sacrificially. if your theory is true, why would the writers of the new testament be so vague?

also- just to make sure this blog doesn't put any "spin" on scripture, the verse you quoted IS correct. it is HARD, DIFFICULT, NOT THE NORM, for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven, NOT IMPOSSIBLE. it's sinful when you place more value on money than you do god. are you saying that god doesn't use money to bless people? are you saying that if he does, we're required to give 100% of it back?

why do you have the right to judge my contentment? the issue of my heart is between me and the father. sometimes money will be waiting for us on the path god has, in his divinity, laid out before us.

i would like to respond to your call. i "have money" and i love god much more than i love money. IF (big if) what you're saying is that it's wrong to love money AT ALL, then i would ask you if money is important to your well being. if your answer is "yes", then you love money too. it provides for you. that's not a sin. it's a sin if you worship it. i love money because it provides for my human needs. i love jesus and his work on the cross much, much more because he provides for my spiritual and eternal needs. i understand what's more important.

by you making the judgment that because i make more money than you think i should, i am a sinner/not going to heaven/a bad person etc, etc, you have brought condemnation upon yourself and YOU YOURSELF have driven a wedge between yourself and brothers and sisters.

if i've misinterpreted your thoughts please forgive me.

this is not intended to offend, just stand up for the things in which i believe. NO MATTER WHAT, i love you (and every other brother and sister i disagree with) by the power of grace extended to me through jesus.

aea said...

Katie- at the risk of making it seem like you're being ganged up on (which I'm not doing- debating this stuff can, after we all calm down, help us understand each other better!), I have to address a couple of things you said.

First, I do want to point out that your assessment feels a bit judgmental- it seems as if you are assuming that someone seeking out wealth or a "comfortable life" are naturally sinful and are incapable of having contentment with God. It is common knowledge that having all the money and possessions in the world do not bring contentment in life; only a full relationship with the Lord can do that.

Imagine two believers with the strongest of relationships with the Lord- one living in an AIDS orphanage in Malawi (convenient example, I know) and one a multi-millionaire living in the States. Both are so content in Christ alone that nothing- NOTHING- can come between them and their relationship with God. The Malawian's life circumstances continue on as usual- surrounded by people suffering, dying, and losing everything, but he fears nothing because he knows the Lord and the life that awaits him when this one passes. The American, due to circumstances beyond his control, loses EVERYTHING, and is forced into a lifestyle change so drastic that a common person would contemplate suicide. But, armed with an unalienable faith and trust in the Lord, he starts over, knowing that he may or may not succeed in his own efforts; but that he, like the Malawian who has always lived in crisis, has Christ by his side. He knows that this life of circumstance will pass, and a better life awaits him.

But let's play out another scenario- let's say that the American doesn't lose everything. Does that change his love for Jesus? Does it mean that he wouldn't be content with just knowing the Lord, whether he has money or not? Does it mean that he is less forgiven or less loved by God because he has money? Would someone with that kind of faith and with that much money never give sacrificially, or give whenever and wherever he sees a need? We may not know any of them personally, but those people are out there (maybe by not knowing them personally, this was a bad made-up example, haha).

On that note, I'm not sure exactly where I'm going with this example. I guess my point is that you need to be careful when making assumptions regarding people's hearts and contentment with God in relation to their possession, or lack, of money.

The verses that you pointed out in 1 Timothy 6 are powerful reasons to never worship money, and of course, I think they are valid. Unfortunately, when read alone, they are a bit out-of-context and are not the final say on the matter. Later in that same chapter, in verses 17-19, it says, "Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life." It doesn't say, "Command those who are rich in this present world to give everything they own away for the sake of my name." It doesn't say, "Tell those who are rich that they can never know me completely or be content in me alone because they have money." It doesn't say that they are sinful because they have more than others. It tells them to be "generous and willing to share." It tells them not to trust in their riches, because money does not last. It says not to be arrogant or flashy with money (like creepy pictures of married couples flashing their handfuls of money and claiming to be godly- you know who I'm talking about). But nowhere does it say that wealth is sinful. It also doesn't say how much they should give away. It simply says that they should be generous and willing to share- which seems to give us a little breathing room as we choose the lifestyles we want to lead.

Jesus cautions us against loving money more than Him, constantly, and for very good reason. It's easy to worship money. He knows that there are those who have money and those who do not, and that both types of people can and will worship money- those who have it by hoarding it all for themselves at any cost, and those who don't have it by doing anything to get it. He says that there will always be poor in this world, and we are to help them. In the parable of the talents (Matthew 25), Jesus illustrates the importance of what we do with what we are given by God. If we do good with what we have, we will be entrusted with more (and that can manifest itself in many ways having nothing to do with money). The essence of being rich does not automatically take away a person's ability to be content in Christ alone. But the bottom line is that we are called to do good with what we have, whether it is a lot or a little (and I have always watched you do great things with your resources- money and time- in ways that I can only hope to aspire to at this point :).