Money is a sinister thing: If you don’t control it tightly, it can come to control you. If you’re not careful, it can even kill your faith.
As Christians, we all have a sensitive relationship with money. God wants us to be prosperous workers, diligent stewards and generous givers, all of which involve money. And yet Jesus is also clear that money can make slaves of us. We must walk a tightrope between these two ideas.
This balancing act comes with high stakes: Ignore money, and you could do a lot of damage to yourself and your family. Fall in love with it, and you could do a lot of damage to your faith.
We’ve written before about how loving money can threaten your faith. Whenever we let money take the place in our hearts that God rightfully deserves, we’ve created an idol out of gold and distance ourselves from the One who loves us most. Loving money, the Bible says, leads to all kind of evil, and along the way it can rob us of our relationships with God.
Today’s lesson is very similar, although it comes from a different part of the New Testament. In Matthew 13, Jesus gives us the Parable of the Sower, describing how different kinds of hearts respond to hearing the word of God by using a metaphor of seed growing in different types of soil.
In verse 13, Jesus tells us about how wealth can distract us from the word that we’ve received:
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.
Jesus specifically calls out wealth in this part of the parable. He’s not saying that all money is evil; what He is saying, though, is that wealth can be deceptive.
In the parable, the deceitfulness of wealth is equated to thorns, which can choke out the healthy plant that God wants to grow in our lives. If we let this deception take root in our hearts, it’s very difficult for God’s work in our lives to be fruitful.
The Deceitfulness of Wealth
How is wealth deceptive? There are many ways. Perhaps the most destructive is that wealth can convince us that money is the only thing that matters. We want to become wealthy for wealth’s sake. We become willing to do whatever it takes to acquire more money, even if that means doing things that we know are wrong, or neglecting things that we know are good for us, like our relationships with God.
Acquiring wealth can also give us a false sense of independence. When we have a lot of money, we can feel powerful and untouchable — nothing on earth can threaten me as long as I have plenty of money to fix my problems and defend myself. I can also come to believe that I have provided everything that I have for myself. When I have a ton of money, I don’t need God.
And one of the saddest deceptions of wealth is that it can cause us to become closed-handed and selfish. If wealth is all that matters to me, I’m not very likely to share my money with those in need.
These deceptions are so dangerous because they can cause us to develop characteristics that are direct opposites of what God wants for our lives. Where wealth can make us become morally bankrupt, God wants us to be strong in righteousness. Where wealth can make us feel independent in our own power, God wants us to depend fully on His power. Where wealth can make us selfish, God wants us to generous givers.
God wants us to succeed with money, but that requires us to understand its power and put it in its place. If we let wealth lie to us, we can become slaves to money, and lose the power of God in our lives.
If we master our money, however, we can use it to further the Kingdom of God, and reap the fruit of His blessings in our lives.
Photo by Les Chatfield. Used under Creative Commons License.