Freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom to choose – we hear much about such freedoms today. There’s another freedom that’s rarely spoken of – being free from the love of money.
Improving our lot is something that’s taken for granted in Western society. We are expected to climb the ladder in our careers – and thereby earn more money. Advertising is based on the premise that we are not satisfied with what we’ve got – we need this new product or the latest version. We anticipate there’s something better ahead, which needs more money to realise.
Paul was unequivocal in his letter to Timothy when he said that the ‘love of money is the root of all evil.’ (Note it is not money per se that is the root of evil – Paul is often misquoted here.) It is the LOVE of money he is referring to.
Christians often focus on other sins, but how often do we hear greed being spoken about? Christians often show no difference from anyone else in their pursuit of material benefits.
Often it’s an unconscious pursuit – and it is only when we encounter people from another culture who are very poor materially, but rich in life and community that Western Christians are brought up short to think about their attitudes to money. (I remember seeing Ugandan children playing soccer – enjoying immensely their participation ‘in the beautiful game.’ Then I noticed their soccer ball – it was plastic bags tied up with string.)
Learning to be free
Being free of the love of money is wonderfully liberating. It means we share what we have with an open heart. It leads to a generosity of spirit, and a gratitude to God for what we do have. How do we cultivate such an openness?
It begins with recognising that we don’t actually own anything at all – we are simply stewards of the good gifts of God. Everything we have comes from him. We arrived into this world with nothing – and there’s nothing material we can take with us. Anything we have been given during our lives, or earned through our labours, is sheer gift.
Our attitude of gratitude is honed also by being aware that we are responsible for what we do with what we have been given. How does God want us to use his gifts? Whether we earn pocket money or millions of dollars, we are equally responsible before him.
Nothing we have is ours
How we use what we have been given is the subject of many books and sermons. For a really committed Christian it is second nature to give a proportion of his/her income as a tithe, to some Christian work or cause that the Lord leads us to. But that doesn’t mean that the rest is ours to do what we like with. It is still the Lord’s.
And because we live in a material world in bodies that need to be fed and clothed and housed we do have expenses that have to be met – meeting such needs is part of his provision for us. Providing for our dependants is also part of those needs.
Needs vs wants
What is difficult to discern at times is what are not needs and which may be termed extras. At one time I struggled with the thought of owning a dishwasher – we had always done the dishes by hand, there were often good conversations to be had while doing the dishes, so did we really need a dishwasher? There was space in the kitchen for one in the vicarage we had moved into, and life was busy.
After some soul-searching and prayer I somewhat reluctantly decided that perhaps it would be beneficial to get one. The day the dishwasher was installed we had unexpected guests arriving for lunch, and then leaving to travel onwards immediately afterwards.
As I stacked the dishwasher after they had left, I had a strong sense of the smile of God – ‘Yes, I knew you could do with one!’ I was able to see the dishwasher as a gift from God. (Now though there’s just the two of us – and no, we don’t have a dishwasher now.)
God – the good Giver
Sometimes God chooses to give us far more than we could ever ask for. He is a wonderful Giver! We have seen times of special provision. Other times we have run very close to the wind financially and I have wondered how we would meet a particular need. I’m grateful for such times, because if we’d had plenty, then we wouldn’t have had to rely on God in the same way to meet that need.
The more we are given, then the more responsibility we have. That’s a big task, if we have been given a lot of money. It’s no wonder some Christians give it all away. (Think of Francis of Assisi.)
Does having money – or the lack of it – impoverish our spirits?
One girl on a camp said about her father, when she was asked what job he had, ‘Oh, Dad just plays with his stocks and shares.’ It became clear that her father had sufficient wealth to not need to work, and he spent his time managing his share portfolio.
I gather there’s a challenge in that – getting the best deal and so on. But does that kind of occupation lead to an impoverished spirit? Getting the best deal may mean there’s a loser somewhere. Wealth is not worth anything if it tarnishes our souls.
For those without much money, the temptation is to covet what others have – and to be preoccupied and anxious about not having enough. That too can depress our spirits. We can be encouraged by the promise found in Luke – ‘Your heavenly father knows you have need of these things.’ We need though the encouragement of others – and sometimes their gifts – in order to be able to trust that God will provide.
No matter how little or much we have, there’s always a temptation to focus on money. The temptation is always there – and it’s always possible to succumb to it. (I have – and probably will do so again.) No wonder the 10th Commandment is the only one that deals with our attitude – ‘Do not covet…’ it says. How do we deal with that?
One of the proverbs says, “Give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonour the name of my God.” (Prov 30:8-9)
Is that a prayer we can pray?
Liz Hay is grateful to live in a mountain village where is no opportunity to spend any money (except maybe online!) She and Ron are grateful too for the ‘treasures’ to be found in the natural environment, in family life, and in church and community.
Liz Hay rejoices in living in a beautiful part of God’s creation in a high country mountain basin; and she also rejoices in hearing stories of God at work in people’s lives. One of her favourite activities is reading fascinating biographies that illustrate the wonderful ways God works uniquely with each person.