God and money at odds in the Bible

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Despite the number of times Jesus is quoted as having spoken about money in the Bible, it’s not His primary focus. That being said, it is mentioned enough to cause the reader to take note. Below are three categories of topics about money and money management mentioned in the Bible.

The temptation of money

In a letter to Timothy, the apostle Paul writes, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.” (1 Timothy 6:10 ESV) Notice Paul does not say that money itself is evil, only the love of it. It is likely these words called to mind a story for Timothy, the story of how Judas agreed to betray Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. In Mark’s gospel, he tells of how Judas decided to betray Jesus after a controversy regarding money and worship. (Mark 14)

Solomon, in the book of Ecclesiastes, speaks of the futility of money. “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)

Neither Paul nor Solomon condemn money itself. Both simply point out the lure it is for some. Jesus Himself expanded in the Sermon on the Mount. “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)

Money is a temptation because it causes a division among the loyalties of individuals. According to these passages, the pursuit of money and wealth is distracting, disappointing and divisive. For the follower of Jesus, it should not be the ultimate goal.

Money is not the ultimate goal

The prophet Isaiah, speaking on behalf of the Lord, poses this question: “Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?” (Isaiah 55:2) In other words, what’s the point?

With more advice in his letter to Timothy, Paul writes, “But godliness with contentment is a great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.” (1 Timothy 6:6-8) In his letter to the Philippians, Paul says he counts everything else as garbage compared to knowing Christ. That’s the message of the Bible.

Jesus preached that message, too. Immediately after telling listeners that they cannot serve God and money, He tells them not to worry about what they will eat or drink or wear. “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33)

To hammer home the point, Jesus made a point to draw attention to a widow who gave her last two coins as an act of worship. He didn’t chide her for her gift or for being poor. In fact, He applauded her whole-hearted devotion, even though her offering was not as much as others’. (Mark 12:41)

The emptiness of money in the Bible

In Luke’s gospel, he gives an account of a man asking Jesus to get his brother to split their inheritance. On the surface, it seems like a reasonable request, but Jesus got to the heart of the matter quickly by pointing out the uselessness of wealth in the long run.

He tells a parable about a man who acquired so much that he decided to tear down his barns and build bigger ones so he could store his excess and relax in his final days. While it sounds like a reasonable retirement plan, God called him a fool! The man’s life would end that very night. (Luke 12:13-20) Jesus ends the parable by saying, “So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”

Earlier in the Sermon on the Mount, recorded in Matthew’s gospel, Jesus advises, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.” (Matthew 6:19-20)

God and money cannot be the object of worship. One is eternal and the other fleeting. The ultimate goal of life, then, according to Scripture, is a pursuit of God rather than a pursuit of wealth.

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