The Deceitfulness of Wealth

What is your highest purpose in life? And what part does money play in it?

Wealth is a tricky thing: Handle it right, and it can empower you to make a great impact on the world around you. Handle it wrong, however, and it can rob you of your true purpose. When we have financial abundance, we can do a lot of good with a generous heart and wise giving. But as wonderful as those things are, there’s a deceitful side of wealth that can steal your soul and cut you off from your truest inheritance if you’re not careful to stop it.

While money is an important part of life, there’s much more to life than money, and a much higher calling for you than simply to acquire riches. God wants your heart to be fertile and fruitful. To keep it that way, you have to keep the deceitfulness of wealth in check.

This idea of “the deceitfulness of wealth” comes from something that Jesus told His disciples when explaining the Parable of the Sower. You’re probably familiar with this parable — a farmer goes into his field to sow seed, and the seed falls on a number of different soils. In several of the soils, problems prohibit the seed from growing; in the fertile soil, however, the seed reproduces abundantly.

Later, in Matthew 13, Jesus is explaining this parable to His disciples. The seed represents the word of God and the message of the Gospel, and each different type of soil represents a common heart condition among humans. Let’s look at Matthew 13:22-23 to see what Jesus said about thorny soil and good soil:

22 The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. 23 But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”

I added the italic emphasis there to point out how Jesus specifically identifies the deceitfulness of wealth as a hindrance to spiritual prosperity. This is a pretty dire warning: If you let wealth deceive you, it can choke out the power of God’s kingdom in your life.

How does this happen? I think the key is the two parts of Jesus’ explanation: “the worries of this life” and “the deceitfulness of wealth.” We’re certainly all familiar with the worries of life — in ways large and small, we face them every day. Many of those worries have to do with providing for ourselves and taking care of our families in the future. Will we have all that we need? Will we be able to get everything done?

Worries happen in life, but the situation gets tricky when the deceitfulness of wealth enters the picture. You see, wealth can seem to be a silver bullet when it comes to our everyday worries. The more money that you have, the more problems that you can seemingly solve. The more wealth we acquire, the more protected we are against emergencies. So in order to ease our minds and to escape the worries of life, we look to acquire more wealth.

The problem with this, of course, is that wealth is deceitful. When you don’t have much money, it’s easy to think that making more money would solve all of your life’s issues. But that’s not the case: As the rapper famously said, “The more money we come across, the more problems we see.” You see, wealth may make some things in life easier or more convenient, but it doesn’t really solve our biggest problems and worries. Our biggest issues as people come from within our hearts, and wealth and poverty don’t change that. Having money only amplifies what is going on inside a person. If you have a great heart that is positioned to do God’s will, money will help you do that more effectively. If you’re a selfish shrew who never thinks about others, making a lot of money will only make you more selfish.

This problem is profound today in America and other wealthy Western societies. We enjoy so much prosperity that we see money as the solution to pretty much any problem we face. We have worries in this life, but we are convinced that wealth is the way to fix them. And so the deceitfulness of wealth chokes out the only thing that has the real power to change our hearts and solve our greatest problems: the power of the Gospel.

In the parable, the person who is entangled in life’s worries and deceived by the false promises of wealth ends up with an empty heart. Meanwhile, the person whose heart is open to the Gospel ends up prosperous. “But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it,” Jesus said. “This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”

True prosperity always comes from the heart. Allow the Gospel to infiltrate your heart and it will change who you are, make you fruitful and give you the keys to overcoming life’s worries along the way. If you allow the deceitful promises of wealth to take the place of the Gospel, though, you risk ending up with nothing at all.


Photo by Steven Depolo. Used under Creative Commons License.