Money is one of our top worries, often second to health or safety. Money divides families, breaks up marriages, and turns gentle dispositions into fits of rage. How we handle our money says more about our priorities than any words we could ever speak.
A survey by the American Psychological Association shows money as a “perennial” source of stress in the lives of Americans year after year. Surprisingly, the stress is not limited to lower-income households. Even those with $1 million or more net worth worry about their financial future.
From CNBC in 2015:
It’s only natural to sweat the phone bill when there aren’t enough nickels to rub together. But what explains the millionaire who agonizes over the cost of new curtains, or the homeowner of sufficient means who can’t pull the trigger on a long-overdue family vacation?
Indeed, a surprising number of Americans who are otherwise financially secure are quite literally worried sick about money.
The stress, divisiveness, and heartache associated with money has existed for generations; remember the rich young ruler (Matthew 19:16-22), the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-16), or long before them, the conflict between the herdsmen of Abraham and Lot (Genesis 13)? The heart condition characterized by the love of money is the same heart condition that continues to afflict us today.
Is Money Your Master?
Jesus warns that serving money means we are not serving him. In other words, money cannot be our top priority.
“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” (Matthew 6:24)
Matthew Henry describes the conflict between two masters like this:
While two masters go together, a servant may follow them both; but when they part, you will see to which he belongs; he cannot love, and observe, and cleave to both as he should. If to the one, not to the other; either this or that must be comparatively hated and despised.
A master is the one we trust to lead us and bring order to our lives. He is the one with control and is the one to be obeyed. Even as Christians, we can find ourselves drawn to serve the master of money. But God’s Word is clear:
Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)
Three Signs That You’re a Lover of Money
From the scriptures, we find some common themes that describe lovers of money. Here are some signs that money may be the master of your life:
1. Lovers of money exalt the things of man.
In Luke, the Pharisees are described as “lovers of money” who hold in high regard the things that are important to others.
The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things, and they ridiculed him. And he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.” (Luke 16:14-15)
Modern examples of the things that are “exalted among men” include the prestige that comes with a position of leadership; the ability to buy nice clothing and eat at fine restaurants; an excellent education or family pedigree; or having the resources to go on vacation, stay in nice hotels, and buy theme park tickets.
Of course it’s not sinful to have quality clothing or visit a theme park. The question is, what do you “exalt”? Are you driven by a love of money? Is it important to you that people think highly of you based on what you have?
Or do you love God more than money and the high opinion of others?
2. Lovers of money place their confidence in what they possess.
Men and women who lived through the Great Depression saw their financial security wiped out. With unimaginable unemployment rates and food shortages, they learned that the confidence that comes with a steady paycheck can disappear without notice.
[Tweet “Are you waiting until you have “enough” before you can be satisfied?”]
God’s Word reminds us to place our confidence in God, who provides for our needs, and not to pin our hopes on the uncertainty of jobs, pension plans, and property.
As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life. (1 Timothy 6:17-19)
Where is your confidence? Do you tell yourself that once you’ve paid off the house or gotten a promotion or built up your 401k that you’ll feel secure?
Or do you trust God more than wealth to give you a “good foundation for the future”?
3. Lovers of money never have enough.
In the words of Bob and Larry of Veggie Tales:
Bob the Tomato: “Larry, how much stuff do you need to make you happy?”
Larry the Cucumber: “I don’t know. How much stuff is there?”
We live in a society marked by consumption. Electronics that cost us hundreds of dollars are obsolete within two years, only to be replaced by fancier electronics that quickly become obsolete themselves. Entire industries are built on updating fashion, home décor, and entertainment trends. Even the secular world is getting sick of our consumerism as evidenced by the tiny home movement and minimalist trend sweeping the nation.
King Solomon said it best:
He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity. (Ecclesiastes 5:10)
Are you seeking the comfort and leisure that comes with money? Are you waiting until you have “enough” before you can be satisfied?
Or are you content with what God has given you?
Freed From the Love of Money
The American Psychological Association survey reveals what God’s Word told us all along, that money is indeed a fickle master. It promises security, safety, and enjoyment, but the more we chase it, the more we learn that money cannot be trusted to provide what only God can give.
The habit-forming quality of money appeals to our sinful nature. So how can we be free from the love of money? By turning our focus on the only God who provides all we need. To serve God and not money, we count him as more reliable, more satisfying, and more permanent. “And this is how we know [daily, by experience] that we have come to know Him [to understand Him and be more deeply acquainted with Him]: if we habitually keep [focused on His precepts and obey] His commandments (teachings) (1 John 2:3, AMP).
Jesus satisfies our greatest need when we come to know him in salvation, and he transforms our desires, focus, and pursuits through sanctification. That is, he first saves us from the penalty of our sin by his “atoning sacrifice that holds back the wrath of God that would otherwise be directed at us because of our sinful nature—our worldliness, our lifestyle] (1 John 2:2, AMP). Having been saved from the penalty of sin, we are being saved from the power of sin, and are increasingly freed from the love of money, as Christ shifts our focus from the “things in the world” to himself.
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. (1 John 2:15-17)