Not long ago someone came up to me and said, “Money is the root of all evil! It’s in the Bible you know!”
Well, people like to tell me all the time what’s in the Bible. But lots of times they are dead wrong.
Mostly, I grin and keep walking. It really burns people’s biscuits to correct them. This time I kind of thought it was important to offer a slight adjustment with regard to that passage about money.
Actually the line is, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil (1 Timothy 6:10 NIV).” That one word love may appear small but it makes a huge difference.
Money is not a problem. Money is a tool and it is how we desire and use money that could create the evil.
For example, if we approach money from a scarcity attitude, then we will never have enough. This is a fear-based stance and it can lead to dangerous greed.
We can live life similar to that foxhound that my granddad once owed. You may recall that a few months ago I mentioned a foxhound that lived all of life out of an attitude of scarcity.
This dog would drag food to the corner of the dog lot and hoard it. Then it would stand over its stash and growl.
That dog found himself on a train out of there, expelled from the pack. A hoarder will break the unity of any group, lessening its ability to function.
So, let’s look at this complete block of Scripture:
“For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. 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 (1 Timothy 6:7-10 NIV).”
Paul is not decrying money. He is speaking out against spiritual poverty that tempts us to mistakenly believe that our happiness lies in the meaningless accumulating of stuff…things, materialistic goods…mammon.
There is another fable that I want to debunk today. It is often said that money cannot buy happiness.
Well, that statement is true and not. Most people who say that money cannot buy happiness are people with money.
But, check this out; the main reason that John Wesley was drawn into forming the Methodist Movement was because of the poverty he saw firsthand, sitting in the pews of the church.
He commented in his journal; and, I will paraphrase this a wee bit, but he said that it is difficult to hear a sermon when one’s stomach is growling too loudly to hear it. In answer to poverty, Wesley took the church out into the mission field and began what is called the Social Gospel.
The Social Gospel seeks to actually be the hands and feet of Jesus out in the world and to take seriously, “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
`Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, `I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’ (Matthew 25:34-40 NIV)
Funny thing here…this message really is in the Bible and you’d be surprised how many Christians ignore it. Come to think of it, we ignore lots of Scripture when it suits us.
But, back to our discussion on money; and, from a certain point of view, money cannot buy happiness. And, that point of view is household income above $250,000 per year.
According to a study that I read recently, happiness for a family of four plus one cat or dog increases as income approaches $75,000 per year. At this level, a sustainable way of life can be achieved with the proverbial mortgage, reliable transportation, vittles in the fridge and the typical two-weeks of vacation per year.
But, the flip side is that when income approaches $250,000 per year the correlation drops off. The raw data suggests that as income approaches six figures, money cannot in fact buy more happiness.
So, what to do? What to do? How would you define wealth?
Is wealth loving your work? What if you are employed doing what you’d love to do such that the hours just fly by? Is this wealth?
If you are doing volunteer work, perhaps ministering to prisoners and this rewards your soul but puts zero in your wallet, is this wealth?
Is wealth time? What if you had sufficient the time to spend with the people you love? Is this wealth?
What if you could chose to spend your time as you’d like; and, plot the course of most days to follow your joy? Is this wealth?
Maybe you can see where I am going here. You and I are only given a finite amount of time in this life. If we fall into the love of money, this path will wander from the faith and we will be pierced with many griefs.
The cable news channel aired a story last Sunday night about a semi-retired couple who started a llama ranch. Get this…they barely broke even. Even so, they were doing work that brought them the greatest joy they knew. And, they listed off a litany of positive intangibles they received from this work.
So, sometimes it pays to read the Bible carefully. Missing out on a word or two can send us down a dead end road.
It also pays to heed the things the Lord actually says. Christ’s universe is much larger than money. His universe is pure joy.