“Now, the Pharisees who were lovers of money, were listening to all these things, and they were scoffing at Him” (Luke 16:14).
“But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money….” (II Timothy 3:1-2).
We are conditioned from infancy to love money.
In childhood: Family and friends come to the house and they give the kids money. You go into the hospital for a tonsillectomy and people give you money. You go to church and they ask for money. Your dad takes a job in a distant state and the family relocates there, all for money. A few years later, the business shuts down and dad is jobless and the family moves back South and you say goodbye to your friends, because there is no money.
And later: You go to college and they ask for money. You take a part-time job to make spending money. You are walking along the sidewalk and you find money. You take a job working in a church and to your surprise, they pay you. You go to a larger church and they pay you more, which is a good thing since you now have to buy a house and send kids to school.
And so goes life.
When you are as rich as Donald Trump, the actual money no longer matters. One can only eat so much food, wear so many clothes, drive so many automobiles, and live in so many houses. “Money is how you keep score,” Mr. Trump says.
It turns out money is the smoking gun. The Pharisees who were the Tea Party of their day–and by that we mean the diehard conservatives, the only true traditionalists, they felt–could be almost excused for their opposition to Jesus on the grounds that He was reinterpreting all the scriptures as they understood them. Except that their motives were not quite that pure. They lived for money, in the same way untold generations before and after have done.
A love for money–if you happen to be so devoted–means you measure everything in life by that yardstick: “How much is it worth? How much will it bring to us? How much does he earn? How much is he worth?”
For such people, money colors everything they do in life.
Pastors know the pain of going up against members of finance committees who have more familiarity with dollars and cents than with faith. “We don’t have the money for that” or “what will this cost us?” are their mantras.
For the Pharisees, a love for money explains why they were “scoffing at Him” (Luke 16:14). This hostility was provoked by the Lord’s teachings on the Prodigal Son, followed by His instructions to the disciples regarding money. “There was a certain rich man who had a steward….” (16:1).
The Lord was teaching the disciples (16:1), but was being overheard by the Pharisees (16:14).
We must never forget that the world is always listening in, trying to pick up on the inside dope of the gospel, looking for excuses to reject Jesus’ message.
They were lovers of money.
Judas loved money. In Matthew 26:14ff, he bargained to betray Jesus into the hands of the authorities for silver. John 12:6 says Judas was a thief, which explains everything. (So much for noble motives, the way some novelists, movies, and even scholars have tried to attribute to him. Those who knew him–and I’d venture that their assessment should be given greater weight–said, “He loved money.” Period.)
Ecclesiastes 5:10 tells us “He who loves silver will not be satisfied with silver.”
And I Timothy 6:10 calls the love of money ‘the root of all evil.”
There is a huge problem, as you know.
I love money.
And so do you.
Just out of college and working to support my little family, when I used to get a paycheck every two weeks, I anticipated it. When the boss said he had given me a raise, that thrilled me.
When I opened the mail and found that someone had sent me a check for something or other, that was pretty wonderful. If I do a revival and the offering is unusually generous, that is extremely pleasing.
The old joke is “I don’t like money; I just like what money can do.” Same difference.
When the foundational slab on which your life rests is a love for money, you do many things you wouldn’t have done otherwise….
–You scoff at One who teaches that money is not the true riches (Luke 16:11).
–You are constantly trying to justify yourself, as the Lord said the Pharisees were doing. “You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your heart” (16:15).
–You fail the greatest test of all, investing your life in perishables. Jesus said, “For that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God” (16:15). It’s as though you withdrew all your savings and invested the money in the garbage which trucks were hauling to the landfill.
–You scoff at anything instructing you to give money away, to invest it in people, to lay up treasure in Heaven. “Scoff” here in Luke 16:14 literally means to “turn up the nose.” They sneered at Jesus.
If money is the supreme thing in your life, everything about you freezes at that point. There is no more growth, no further spiritual insight, no usefulness to God, no spiritual blessings.
Those of us who need money and depend on money and look forward to getting money and who grow depressed when the money does not come and yet call ourselves disciples of Jesus Christ must fight a never-ending struggle to keep money in its place.
“Without money, we can’t do anything.” Those startling words came from the lips of a well-known evangelist who had taught faith and faith principles for decades. And yet, because his vast television ministry and huge investments of buildings in colleges and hospitals needed a constant inflow of cash, he appeared to lose his focus in his latter years and made this audacious statement.
How to kill this lust for money
1) Recognize that in this life, you’ll be dealing with money from the cradle to the grave and will probably never reach a point where it does not present temptations to you. So, plan to be on your guard forever.
2) Start giving. Give like you’ve never given before. Plan to give throughout the day. Have money handy so you can share with the bell-ringers in front of stores and the charity-people at intersections. Write checks to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, to Global Maritime Ministries (www.portministry.com), and to New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (www.nobts.edu). Write checks to the Baptist Friendship House in New Orleans and to the Louisiana Baptist Children’s Home in Monroe.
Give to your family and to needy people you know. Don’t try to keep track of it either. You see someone at church you know who is constantly living near the poverty level, so you reach in and pull out a couple of twenties and slip to them without a fuss.
3) Plan to tithe and more to your church. Find out if your minister is being taken care of sufficiently–a retirement account, a book allowance, an allowance for taking people to lunch, car mileage reimbursement, etc. If not, talk to the people who set these things up and start designating money toward it.
By the way, you don’t have to be rich to love money, neither do you have to be poor.
And, you do not need to be rich to give money, nor does being poor help.
It’s all irrelevant. Give, give, give. That’s what the Christian life is all about.
“Give, give, give! That’s all I ever hear at my church,” someone complained. A friend answered, “I want to thank you for the best three-word description of the Christian life I’ve ever heard.”
Oh, one more thing. When you have begun giving right and left, try to keep the news to yourself. The temptation will be to make sure others know what you are doing. Squelch it. Let it be a secret thing between you and your Lord. Give as unto the Lord. Be generous as you would if that were Jesus Himself behind the counter serving your bacon and eggs.
Have fun giving. It’s a great life.