What Money-Love Means
When you first read it, it doesn’t seem that it could be true. It seems as if there are all kinds of things more evil then loving money. And on the surface it doesn’t seem that loving money could lead to all other kinds of evil. So it is important to take time to unpack the spiritual dynamics of the love of money. Let’s examine 1 Timothy 6:6–10:
Godliness with contentment is 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. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 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.
If you read those words carefully, you begin to get a clue that the love of money is connected to things significantly bigger than money. Consider the profound connections Paul makes in this provocative little passage. The love of money is fundamentally not an overspending problem; it is a contentment problem (“Godliness with contentment is great gain”). The love of money is also an identity problem (“. . . for we brought nothing into this world”). The love of money is a fallen world problem (“. . . fall into temptation”). And the love of money is a worship problem (“But those who desire to be rich . . .”). The root system of the love of money runs deeper and wider through the soil of the human heart than we tend to think.
What Lies Beneath the Love
Paul begins his discussion with contentment because the roots of our problem with money are found there. Discontentment is the soil in which the love of money grows. I don’t think that we value-rate discontentment properly. Discontentment seems like an inconsequential sin. For most of us, it means little more than wishing we had more, and the only negative aspect of our complaining is that we won’t be the life of the party. But the discontented person lacks something more fundamental and life-shaping than happiness; the discontented person lacks humility. He really does think of himself more highly than he ought to think. He really is convinced that he deserves what he doesn’t actually deserve. He lives as though he is entitled to things to which he’s not entitled, and because he feels entitled, he thinks it’s his right to demand them. He can’t handle the guy next to him having what he has been unable to acquire, and his discontentment will ultimately bring him to question the goodness of God. Discontentment is very significant.
The love of money sits right in the middle of a lifestyle that forgets eternity, lives selfishly, prioritizes the present, and is more focused on physical comfort than on eternal destiny.
The lack of humility that fuels discontentment is about more than being a bit full of ourselves and bragging too much; it’s about a heart that has been captured by self-glory. Its life has turned inward, when we have been created to live an upward (love for God) and an outward (love for neighbor) life. It really is making it all about us. It is a lifestyle shaped by the unholy self-love trinity: my wants, my needs, and my feelings. It is about making my personal definition of happiness the most important ethical commitment of my life. It means that my every day is spent in the pursuit of my pleasure, my comfort, and my ease. It is me in the center of my world. It is “I love me, and I have a wonderful plan for my life.”
Who’s at the Center?
Because I am in the center of my world, and because that means that God isn’t, money can’t possibly be in its proper place. You see, if God is in the center of my world and I acknowledge that I was created to live for him, then I look to him to provide in his grace what I need, to be what I’m supposed to be, and to do what I was designed to do. But if I am at the center, if it really is all about me, then money can become my surrogate, my replacement savior. It’s worth stressing again that when our happiness is at the center and the Creator is out of the picture, then we look to creation for our happiness. So money becomes the savior that delivers all the things we think will bring us joy. No longer living for God’s glory but obsessed by our own, we daily ask money to save us from the want and discomfort that we view as the principle evil to avoid.
Would you not agree that living for self rather than living for God is at the core of all kinds of evil? Well, that is exactly what the love of money is all about. When I rather than God am in the center of my world, I live an entitled, self-focused, demanding life marked by the discontentment that selfishness always produces. Self-glory is at the center of the original sin in the garden of Eden, and it is the soil in which all sin has grown ever since.
The Problem of Identity
But there is more. We noted earlier how identity factors into our issues with money, so the love of money is also an identity problem. The love of money is connected to forgetting who we are and what our life is about. Since we have been created for a life beyond this one, hardwired for forever, it makes no sense to view life as being all about the pleasures, possession, experiences, and power of the moment. It is true: we brought nothing in, and we’ll take nothing out, and when we’re making our exit, what we have amassed won’t do much or mean much.
If you forget who you are, if you deny what life is about, then it will be very hard to keep money in its proper place. You will love it, crave it, do everything you can to get it, envy the guy who has more of it, and judge the goodness of God by his willingness to deliver it. The love of money sits right in the middle of a lifestyle that forgets eternity, lives selfishly, prioritizes the present, and is more focused on physical comfort than on eternal destiny. This right-here, right-now, “you only go around once” way of living is a vat of all kinds of evil.
How Sin Interferes
There is something else Paul wants you to know. The love of money is a fallen world problem. The love of money is such a significant issue because we live in a world that doesn’t function as God intended, and because it doesn’t, it is a place where temptation is all around us. We cannot get up in the morning without being faced with devious, deceitful, and seductive temptations of some kind. Ten thousand voices whisper in our ear, each calling us away from the life God designed for us to live and enjoy. And what is the temptation that Paul talks about in Romans 1? It is the temptation to replace worship and service of the Creator with worship and service of the creation. It is attaching our identity and our inner sense of well-being to something in the creation. It is asking the creation to give us what only the Creator can—life.
What Do You Adore?
I remind you here that ultimately the love of money is about worship. It connects us to the evil of evils, offering the love, adoration, worship, and service that we were meant to give to God alone to something that he created. Because love of money sits at the dark intersection of love of self and worship of the creation, it doesn’t lead us to keep the two Great Commandments, and because we don’t, we will do many things that are evil in the sight of God.
The love of money is not a little thing; it really is a portal to all kinds of evil because it connects us to foundational, life-shaping issues of the heart, such as contentment, identity, how we understand and relate to the world we live in, eternity, and worship. If we get these issues wrong, there is no way that we will live as God intended.
This article is adapted from Redeeming Money: How God Reveals and Reorients Our Hearts by Paul David Tripp.
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