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3. Wealth is Not Always a Blessing

Bible reading 1 Timothy 6:10.

“For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs”.

This Bible verse is often misquoted. Some people make it say that “money is the root of all evil” which is not true. Please read it again!

Our Lord Jesus encouraged different right uses of money, showing how the currency we have can be used in good ways:

1. Pay tax when due

In a context when asked if it was right to pay taxes to a non-Christian government, Jesus showed Caesar’s image and inscription on the Roman denarius coin. He said, ‘Yes’, “give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s”, Matthew 22:21; Mark 12:17; Luke 20:25. Christian people who are made (at creation) and remade (at conversion) in God’s image, display their good citizenship by paying taxes when due. Doing so shows they take seriously being made in the image of God, Genesis 1:27; 2 Corinthians 5:17.

2. Support your church

While watching people donating as they entered the Jerusalem Temple Jesus highlighted a poor widow. Mark 12:41-44; Luke 21:1-4. She did not put into the treasury nearly so much as wealthy people, yet Jesus said her gift was more acceptable to God because He valued it differently to its basic monetary value. Our worship of God and most witnessing for God does cost money. It is for Christian people to support their local churches and her wider mission.

3. Master money, don’t let money master you

Jesus also speaks of the shrewd manager in a parable about looking after someone else’s possessions, Luke 16:1-15. There are two verses especially we must understand. “I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings”, verse 9. This tells us there are right and wrong ways to use this world’s wealth. Jesus continues, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money”, verse 13. This warns Christians about what our text at the start of this chapter also warns about, we must ensure that our personal love for God always keeps our money under control. Money will keep trying to take God’s rightful place as the first love of our lives. Just when we think we have it sorted Satan will use – even people close to us – to ensnare us into spending what we have, in ways that we shouldn’t.

4. Help the really poor

In the following verses Jesus introduces the Rich Man and the Beggar, Lazarus, Luke 16:19-31. The former lived in the luxury of ‘good wealth’ while he ignored the life-needs of Lazarus and other impoverished people. The sinfulness of misusing his money was one reason why the Rich Man was tormented in Hades when he died. Christians who are blessed with some assets by God, are also responsible to Him for how those material benefits are used. This leads on to a Christian’s motives regarding money – a heart test for each one of us if you like:

5. Invest for heavenly returns

Our Lord Jesus said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also”, Matthew 6:19-21. ‘Storing up’ speaks of keeping items safely for yourself probably to use later on also for yourself. You keep something until you think it is right to use it. Of course there is nothing wrong with planning and providing for your future and for your family. But, if God prompts you, are you willing to use what you have stored to help someone else with their need? You can do it still trusting God to meet your needs of later in life. Don’t keep too hard a grip on legitimate possessions that you have. Jesus strongly suggests right use of our ‘things’ as heavenly investments is a far better guarantee for eternity.

6. Be aware you are accountable to God

Jesus had said earlier in the Sermon on the Mount, “Be careful not to practise your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honoured by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you”, Matthew 6:1-4. Once again Jesus is teaching His disciples to steward their share of this world’s goods knowing that Almighty God is always watching us and has His will for those things He has entrusted temporarily to us. He may be choosing to meet someone else’s need through what He had earlier lent to you or me. We will never lose out if we let Him be our Chief Accountant.

7. Do business for heavenly treasure

“Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”, Luke 12:32-34. Think a moment on everything God has provided for you in your life this far. He has even brought you into His ‘born again Kingdom’! We owe Him far more than we can ever repay, and He doesn’t want repayment anyway. What He does want is that we become His heart and His hands in caring for “the poor”. These are ‘the needy people, collectively. Those with very little money and few possessions, with an obvious low quality of life’.[1]Always keep in mind that ‘our’ money is actually ‘His’ money on loan to us for wise and life-changing use.

8. Do not let money hinder your following of Jesus

A man once came to Jesus wanting to know how he could follow Jesus and gain entry to heaven. Jesus looked at him and loved him. ‘One thing you lack,’ He said. ‘Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me.’ At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth. Jesus looked round and said to His disciples, ‘How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!’” Mark 10:21-23. Notice, this man’s “great wealth” of this world was stopping his spiritual progress. ‘Wealth is the possession of a large amount of money, property, or other valuable things’.[2] Notice also that Jesus did not say a rich man could not enter heaven. He merely stressed that it was very difficult, though not impossible. This man wanted to get into heaven but he wanted to keep all his money and possessions too. These two things were mutually exclusive. The man chose to keep his wealth and walked away from Jesus with a heavy heart, because he really and truly did want to have eternal life in heaven. But he could not have both. Even his great worldly wealth could not buy that. Jesus told him what to do but money had such a hold on him he could not (perhaps I should say, he would not) break away from it. Keeping hold of his cash ‘bought’ him a lost everlasting future. Make sure that does not happen to you, however much or little of this world’s goods you possess. God wants nothing less than all of you and what’s yours.

9. The Bible tells us the earliest Christians followed these practices that Jesus encouraged.

Read these five Scriptures in Acts. All italics are my emphasis:

“All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved”, Acts 2:44-47.

All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there was no needy person among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need. Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means ‘son of encouragement’), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet”, Acts 4:32-37.

“In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenistic Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, ‘It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word”, Acts 6:1-4.

“During this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. One of them, named Agabus, stood up and through the Spirit predicted that a severe famine would spread over the entire Roman world. (This happened during the reign of Claudius.) The disciples, as each one was able, decided to provide help for the brothers and sisters living in Judea. This they did, sending their gift to the elders by Barnabas and Saul”, Acts 11:27-30.

“After an absence of several years, I came to Jerusalem to bring my people gifts for the poor and to present offerings”,

Acts 24:17.

These words of our Lord Jesus and the Acts' Scriptures quoted above, surely tell us that it is not money or wealth by itself that is evil. However, when we find ourselves setting our hearts on the things of this world, rather than on heavenly things, we have begun to stray away from the narrow road that leads all true Christian disciples into eternal life, Matthew 7:13-14.

This is one reason why the so called ‘Health and wealth prosperity’ teaching, in my view, cannot be from God and must be deliberately rejected. Big money, business successes, everything you have ever wanted and more, are offered by preachers of such lies, appealing to the worldly, fallen humanity desires of gullible Christians. Frequently the Bible passages quoted are taken out of context or only prove one side of the whole truth Scripture presents.

Those of us seeking to live with God-fearing Christian desires remember, for example, that “godliness with contentment is great gain”, 1 Timothy 6:6. Being a Christian, or being godly, are not means to financial gain as verse 5 warns. People who teach such things, in churches, conferences, books or the internet, are “conceited and understand nothing”, 1 Timothy 6:3-4.

To understand more of this issue you will find it invaluable to read carefully the whole of 1 Timothy 6. Verses 9-11 say, “Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness”.

The chapter comes to an end by warning that this world’s wealth is uncertain and very easily lost. Learning the lessons we have seen above, from our Lord Jesus and the earliest Christians, Paul wants “those who are rich in this present world … to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, when our Lord Jesus returns, 1 Timothy 6:14, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life”, 1 Timothy 6:17-19.

Sometimes today ‘the cost of following Jesus exceeds the commitment that people have’ to Him, and so these ‘easier gospels’ are invented.[3] Jesus warned about this in His parable of trying to build a tower without correctly calculating the cost and discovering part way through that there was not enough money to finish it, Luke 14:25-30. Christians should concentrate on being ready to give up everything for Jesus, not seeing what they can demand from Him. “Whoever does not carry his cross and follow Me cannot be My disciple”, Luke 14:27.

Discussion guide

1. Explain the difference between the popular misquote of 1 Timothy 6:10 and what the Bible actually says.

2. Why is paying due taxes properly a Christian duty? Give Scriptural support for your answer.

3. What is the value of money according to Lord Jesus? Again, give Scriptural support for your answer.

4. I have listed eight things our Lord taught about the ‘right use’ of money. Share which do you find the most difficult? Can you analyse why? Discover if other group members able to help you deal with this, especially using biblical advice when they can?

5. In your experience which of the five Acts Scriptures (I quote in point 9) does the Christian church in your area need to practice more today? Why?

6. How does the “contentment” of 1 Timothy 6:6 square with the ‘Health and Wealth’, ‘Prosperity’ gospel being promoted in some Christian circles today? Read the surrounding verses for some clues.

7. Discuss Craig Evans’ comment, Sometimes today ‘the cost of following Jesus exceeds the commitment that people have’ to Him, and so these ‘easier gospels’ are invented. Use the Bible to comment on it where you are able.

End notes: [1] [2] [3] Craig Evans Luke, New International Biblical Commentary (Paternoster Press: Carlisle) 1995, page 229-236; 248-251


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