If the world were a village of 100 people, 11 would live on less than £1.50 per day. That’s a meagre £547 per year. And yet, seemingly no matter how much money a human being has, there never seems to be enough. One of the challenges of being a Christian is to see beyond the false security of wealth, set our affection on things above, and plot a path towards Godly contentment (1 Tim 6:6).
There’s a whole host of passages that give us advice about how to deal with money (all quotations from the NIV):
- Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income. This too is meaningless. (Ecc 5:10).
- No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. (Matt 6:24).
- Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Luke 12:33-34).
- If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me. (Jesus speaking to a rich young man, Matt 19:21).
- Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God. (Matt 19:24).
- But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort. (Luke 6:24).
- Those who trust in their riches will fall, but the righteous will thrive like a green leaf. (Prov 11:28).
We live in a material world, surrounded by clever direct and subliminal marketing messages designed to always leaving us wanting more. But these modern techniques really only tap into a desire that has been there from the start in the Garden of Eden: to covet and grasp greedily! The passages above steer us away from striving after material wealth and teach us to direct our energies towards godliness. Some argue that there are examples of people who are rich and faithful (e.g. Abraham, David, Solomon and others) – which is true of course – but this doesn’t mean we should actively seek riches! In fact, some of the passages above suggest that we should be actively shedding riches, and that what we traditionally think of as blessings from God (including a healthy bank balance) may actually be sent to try us.
I find two passages hugely helpful in working out my relationship with money and material things:
- Firstly, Paul in his first letter to Timothy describes how godliness with contentment is great gain (1 Tim 6:6). I especially like the imagery here: godliness is put in financial terms as profitable! The advice from Paul is to be content with food and clothing. For those of us living in developed countries, this is way way below the minimum basic needs that a materialistic society sets out (owned home, car, holidays, coffee machine, latest iphone…ok I’m being a bit hyperbolic, but you see my point). Would I really be content with simply food and clothing? The answer is categorically no – I have come to see the non-essential possessions that surround me as essential. The passage goes on to instruct those who are materially wealthy to be generous and share their wealth, and not to set their hopes on uncertain riches (1 Tim 6:17-19).
- Secondly, Agar the wise financial adviser recommends that we aspire to a middle ground between poverty and riches in Proverb 30:8-9 (not sure he’d get much business in this day and age). Too much money erodes our trust in God; too little money makes life so difficult that the pursuit of daily bread would detract us from our pursuit of godliness.
It is good to assess carefully our relationship with money. Do we have too much? Should we get rid of some? Most importantly, is our relationship with money detracting from our relationship with God?
Image: Blue Diamond Gallery.