The many references in the Bible to material possessions—money, treasure, things—indicate a divine recognition of their importance, not only from the standpoint of economics, but also because of the bearing they have on the spiritual life of the individual.
Money itself has no spiritual significance. Wealth means nothing, for it cannot be taken out of this world. Poverty has no claim to merit; it too is a transient condition.
But man’s attitude to the material is of the gravest importance. Where in the scale of values do we rank money? Is it our master or our slave? Do we desire it for what it can do for us or for what it can do for others if placed in our hands? Is money a first consideration in our lives or merely incidental to our living for the honor and glory of God?
The Bible makes it plain that money can be either a curse or a blessing; a menace or a means of grace; a lubricant to grease the skids to hell or incense to perfume the way to heaven.
Nowhere does the Bible say that money is the root of evil. But it does say that the love of money is a root of evil.
Love of money becomes an obsession, for within the human heart there is a strange acquisitiveness which is never satisfied. Get one hundred dollars and we immediately want two; secure five hundred, and the desire for one thousand wipes out that satisfaction. The Chinese have an old proverb which expresses this truth: Ren hsin puh choh—“The heart of man is never satisfied.”
The heart of man can be satisfied, but only when material and spiritual things are placed in their proper perspective and we are more concerned about things unseen than with things seen.
The Christian philosophy of money is very important. Many is the Christian who has lost his peace and his witness to others because the love of money has come between him and his Lord. Speaking of this, the Apostle Paul says: “But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”
What should the Christian’s attitude to money be? How can we honor God with material possessions, great or small?
Money is a trust from God. It is something which he places in our hands to be used for his glory. The farthing which the poor widow cast into the treasury of the temple was, in our Lord’s eyes, a large and precious gift because it represented great sacrifice on the part of the giver. A million given from many millions is less in His sight.
Stewardship bears not only on the work of God’s kingdom but also heavily upon the spiritual life of the steward.
During the Great Depression, a friend of the writer was financially destitute. He remarked to another friend: “All that I have saved is what I have given to the Lord’s work. I have just one thousand dollars in cash left.”—And he gave that to the cause of world missions.
This man had a deep sense of Christian stewardship. Little wonder that since those days God has prospered him greatly and today he continues to give most of his income to the work of the Church.
Even a casual study of the Scriptures will show that money is also a grave danger to those who possess it. In fact money shuts the gates of heaven to those who become its slaves. Our Lord exclaimed, “How hardly shall they that have riches enter the kingdom of God!”
Christ put the test of desire for possessions to the rich young ruler, and he went away sorrowing.
Our Lord told of the man whose wealth increased and, seeing it all, he became selfish and boastful. But God said to him, “Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee.”
From beginning to end the danger of money is one of attitude, not of dollars, Does desire for it possess us, or do we demonstrate at all times that it is more blessed to give than to receive?
God has ordained that the work of his kingdom shall be carried on by men and women who give of themselves and their means to that end.
The entire work of the Church rests, from a practical standpoint, on the gifts of God’s people. It is through the use of money that Christian enterprises of every nature are carried on. The spread of the Gospel across the world depends on money given by those who have themselves received God’s greatest Gift and who know that this entails a responsibility to make Him known to others.
In our day no Christian need lack for avenues of Christian work to which he may give—they are legion. It is not a question of whether one should give but how one should take advantage of the multiplied opportunities for giving.
The power of money is an awesome thing. For coveting this power to buy things and gratify the desires of the flesh, men will kill, lie, steal, and break every law of God and man in order to obtain.
But the power of honestly gained wealth is also awesome. How best can it be used for the glory of God and the welfare of mankind? How can it be dispensed without injuring those who receive it? How can it be administered lest it become a weapon for evil?
Many have used wealth to further evil causes. Others have used it to bring untold blessings to millions. However, the problem confronting the average Christian is not the use of great sums of money, for few of us are confronted with that problem. Rather, the question is what we should do with that which God has placed in our hands.
In First Corinthians 15, we have the thrilling treatise on the Resurrection. It is of more than minor significance that immediately after this discussion Paul turns to the subject of money: “Now concerning the collection for the saints … Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him …”
It has been stated that the extent of a man’s conversion is often indicated by its effect on his pocketbook. There is a truth in this. Certainly the grace of giving is a grace to be cultivated by every Christian. “The Lord loveth a cheerful (or hilarious) giver,” probably because such a person senses the privilege of giving and because in a very real sense it is an act of worship.
The temptation, power, opportunity, trust, danger, and privilege of money are things from which none of us can escape.
Some day each of us will hear one of two pronouncements: “Well done,” or “Thou wicked and slothful servant.”
The time to lay up riches where they can never be disturbed or lost is now.
L. NELSON BELL
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