The Love of Money

Original Date: 
Sunday, January 12, 2014

1 Timothy 6:9-10, 17 How to Be Rich: The Love of Money

Research Trip
My lovely bride and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary on New Year’s Day. (Thank you…that applause is more for her, she deserves it for putting up with me for that long.)

So, I thought such a momentous occasion deserved something special, so I told her I wanted to take a trip. Specifically, what I told her is that I thought we should go someplace cheap, and someplace warm. (Romantic, don’t you think? You can see why she’s stayed with me all these years.)

So, I told her I thought we should go to Las Vegas. It had the cheap part, at least as far as the airfare and hotel. It’s possible to get relatively inexpensive flights direct out of Sioux Falls, and combine them for pretty good hotel rates. Because, of course, when you’re dealing with Vegas their whole goal is just to get you there. And it sort of had the warm part. While we were there each day was around 60 to 65 degrees. Not exactly tropical, but still a good 80 degrees warmer than you guys were here.

Now, I know it is weird to think about your pastor going to a place they call “sin city.” None of the things that Vegas is really known for are things Beth and I do. We don’t gamble, we don’t drink, and we don’t go to nightclubs. In fact, each night we were in our hotel room by 10:00, which is right about the time things are really getting cranked up in Vegas.

But the things we do like to do when we are on vacation: sightsee, historical tours, and shows are all things you can do in Vegas as well. And, with the exception of the shows, those are things you can do relatively inexpensively as well. So that’s what we did. And we had a very nice time.

But what I didn’t really think about until I got there was that it could also be called a research trip of sorts.

We’re in a series about money right now, Jay got us started last week. And if there’s one place in America where you can learn about the power, and the allure, and the dark side of money, it’s Las Vegas. According to the Las Vegas convention bureau’s website, nearly 40 million people visit Vegas every year. Most of them are there to gamble, with dreams of hitting it rich. According to the website Vegas takes in nearly 10 billion dollars every year in gaming revenue. The average visitor to Vegas comes with a gambling budget of $485.

The resorts are huge, opulent, and constantly trying to outdo one another for extravagance. The dancing fountains at the Bellagio. The fake skyline at New York, New York. The flower sculptures at the Wynn. What I really wasn’t prepared for, though, was the shopping. Each resort, besides having a huge casino and hundreds upon hundreds of hotel rooms, also had its own, huge, shopping center. You could get lost in any one of them. Store after store, with every kind of product and every kind of price point imaginable.

So what Vegas is designed to do is get you to chase after money, lose your money, maybe win some money, and then spend your money. Everything about Vegas is about money.

So, like I said. It was a research trip. Deacons, you might find my expense report to be a little larger than usual this month.

Be Rich
The series we are in is one we are calling “How to Be Rich.” As Jay said last week, it’s a concept we picked up from Andy Stanley, who every year preaches a sermon based on the “Be Rich” theme. He just released a book of that name, and there is a good website called howtoberich.org with excellent resources on this topic. And it’s all based on this Bible verse, 1 Timothy 6:17:

17Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.

I like the series title, “How to be Rich”, because I think it is a clever play on words. You hear those words, and you think it might be a “get rich quick” kind of scheme. In fact, I typed those words into google looking for Andy’s website and 9 out of the first 10 hits I got were advice on how to make money fast. So you might think the point of this series is that we are going to give you Biblical secrets for gaining and sustaining wealth.

But it’s not “How to get rich.” It’s “How to be rich.” In other words, if you happen to be rich, or if you hope to be rich someday, or if you even think there’s a possibility you might be rich someday (since, as Jay told us last week, most of us don’t think of ourselves as rich)—but if you might get there someday—we want you to be good at. The point of this series is for us to think about how to handle our wealth well. Because, as Andy Stanley says, there are so many examples of rich people in America who are so bad at it.

So, notice what Paul is saying in this passage. He’s writing to his young friend Timothy, who is a pastor in a city called Ephesus. And he says to Timothy: “Timothy, as you pastor, as you teach the people under your care, you need to go to people who are rich in this present world and teach them how to be good at it.” Do you see that? It says: “Command those who are rich…” This is teaching for people who have money. Or, as I said, for people who hope to have money.

And the verses that surround it are all about how to handle money well. How to be good at being rich. How to use your money in a way that honors God.

So that’s the concept for this series. And the big idea for the whole series, as Jay shared last week, comes right from this verse. I think Jay called it the “game changing declaration”. If you get nothing else from these four weeks, we want you to get this:

I will not place my hope in riches, but in Him who richly provides.

Root of All Evil
So, most of chapter 6 is about money, not just verse 17. Last week, Jay got us started with verses 6-8:

6But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 8But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.

The first part of learning how to be good at being rich is learning to be content with what you already have. Godliness with contentment is great gain. Now, this week we continue with verses 9 and 10:

9People 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.10For 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.

The main idea here, and the verse you’ve probably heard quoted many times before, is right in the middle. The first part of verse 10: “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” That’s what today’s sermon is about.

But before we get into it, I have to make two clarifications about this verse. I think it gets misquoted quite a bit. For one thing, this verse does not say: “Money is a root of all evil.” That is to say, it does not call money itself evil.

On its own, money is neutral. It is neither good nor bad. It’s a tool. An instrument. It can be used for great good—to buy food for a starving person. Or it can be used for great bad—to fund a terrorist attack. But money itself is not the problem. It is what we choose to do with it that is the problem. People are either moral or immoral, but things like money are morally neutral.

So understand, having money is not necessarily a bad thing. There is nothing inherently bad about being rich. This verse does not say that money is the problem. It’s the love of money that is problematic.

Or, again, this verse does not say: “Love of money is the root of all evil.” That’s how the Old King James Version translated it. But every modern translation uses “a” rather than “the”. In other words, “the love of money” is one way to stray into evil, but it’s not the only way. You may free yourself from the love of money, but that doesn’t mean you are completely without sin.

That being said, these verses still point to big danger area for our spiritual lives. “The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” As verse 9 says: “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.” Or, as the end of verse 10 says, the love of money has pierced many people with “many griefs.”

When we talk about how to be rich, then, we’re talking about navigating some dangerous waters. “Ruin and destruction” and “many griefs” sound like the kinds of things I want to avoid.

Let me take you back to Vegas. As we walked around this playground of excess with all these extravagant buildings and all these symbols of wealth, with all these people eager to make money and spend money, you know what we saw a lot of? We saw a lot of panhandlers. Like, a lot. Nearly every block you’d run into one or two or more people wearing ragged clothes and begging for coins and holding up a sign asking for help.

And, of course, I don’t know every story. There are probably lots of reasons those folks ended up in that situation. But I couldn’t help wondering how many of them came to Vegas thinking they were going to hit it big, with dreams and schemes of some big score, wanting to get rich, eager for money—only to find themselves in ruin and destruction. It was like God was saying to me: “See, this is what I mean in my Word. This is where the love of money can bring you. This is your illustration.” (Like I said, it was a research trip.)

So here’s the lesson we need to learn today. Here’s what God’s word is saying to us this morning:

If you want to be good at being rich, you have to learn to love money less.

It’s almost counter-intuitive. You would think that if you want to get rich, you really have to be driven by money. That you’ve got to make the bottom line the bottom line. Be all about the Benjamins. And, of course, this isn’t about how to get rich, but about how to be rich. But still, the Bible says if you happen to find yourself with wealth, or you hope to have some wealth someday, if you’re going to be good at being rich, then you have to learn to love money less.

Many Griefs
So, the Bible says that there are many griefs that spring from the love of money. All kinds of evil. I won’t try to cover them all. But let me share 6 of them with you.

First: The love of money is a game of Jenga. The love of money is an empty hope. It is a spiritually unstable place to be.

In Matthew 19 Jesus makes this statement to His disciples right after the rich, young ruler walks away:

23Then Jesus said to his disciples, “I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

It’s hard for a rich man to get into heaven. The rich are at a spiritual disadvantage.

Now, this doesn’t mean that God has no love for the rich. That’s not the case at all. The problem is that the rich tend not to love God. That’s the danger of having a lot of money. You might be so in love with it, so trusting in it, that you’ll fail to trust in God. You might become so spiritually self-sufficient that you think you can buy your way out of every problem.

But, of course, your money means nothing when you die. That’s why I call the love of money a game of Jenga. Eventually, the blocks all come tumbling down. Like the verse says: “we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.”

Go back to our theme verse. 1 Timothy 6:17:

17Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God…

We’re supposed to put our hope in God. But too many rich people put their hope in their wealth. That’s why there are so many rich people who are bad at being rich.

Andy Stanley calls this the “migration of hope.” He says that as we begin to earn, as we begin to make money and establish our assets, our hope tends to migrate from hope in God to hope in stuff. And we tell ourselves, “If I can save enough money, if I can put enough away, if I can have a retirement plan…” And the problem, as the Apostle Paul says, is we are putting our hope in something that is uncertain.

But then, at the end, when we’re laying on our death beds, or we’re in that hospital room, or at the moment when the car veers out of control, then, suddenly, at the moment of our death, our hope is going to shift back to hope in God. So, if we’re going to hope in God at the end. Why not start hoping in Him now?

Second: The love of money gives you ulcers. The love of money brings unhappiness and anxiety. The love of money does not reduce your burdens, it increases them.

Let’s put 1 Timothy 6:17 up there again. This time, pay attention to that little phrase: “which is so uncertain.” Don’t put your hope in wealth, “which is so uncertain.”

Dr. Aaron Beck conducted a ten-year study of patients hospitalized with suicidal intentions. Then he published the results in The American Journal of Psychiatry as a list of 15 major risk factors contributing to a suicidal frame of mind. One of the 15 risk factors was “financial resources.” As the doctor put it: “Risk increases with resources.” (Randy Alcorn, Money, Possessions, and Eternity, p. 47-48)

Listen to these quotes from some of the wealthiest Americans of their time: John D. Rockefeller said “I have made many millions, but they have brought me no happiness.” W.H. Vanderbilt said: “The care of $200 million is enough to kill anyone. There is no pleasure in it.” John Jacob Astor said: “I am the most miserable man on earth.” And Andrew Carnegie said: “Millionaires seldom smile.” (Ibid, p. 47)

I know it’s hard to feel sorry for a bunch of rich guys, but when your love is for money you spend an awful lot of time stressing about it. How do you get more? When do you have enough? How can you be sure not to lose it? It’s enough to give you an ulcer.

Ecclesiastes 5:12 puts it like this:

The sleep of the laborer is sweet, whether he eats little or much, but the abundance of a rich man permits him no sleep.

That’s a wisdom saying. That means it is not a universally true statement. But it’s observable enough to be usually true. An increase in resources often results in an increase in worries.

Randy Alcorn writes:

The hopes of a person with primary investments in the stock market will rise and fall with the market. The one whose greatest riches are deposited in the bank will be destroyed when the banks fail, as will the farmer whose greatest asset is in crops when the crops fail or when the commodity markets fall. In contrast, the one whose hope is in God will be devastated only if God fails—and he never does. (p. 48)

Third: The love of money makes you cocky. The love of money can lead to pride and elitism. One of the perils of being rich is that you’ll start to think of yourself as better than everybody else.

Back to verse 17:

17Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant…

Money, and the love of it, can make you arrogant. An illusion of superiority over others just because you have more resources than they do.

This is pretty much how wealth worked in the culture in which the Bible was written. It was a patronage culture. A view of wealth that revolved around the Latin word “Liberalitas”, which basically means giving to someone in the hopes that they would return the favor. In fact, that word was printed on a lot of the Roman coinage. “Liberalitas.” And whenever a new emperor was crowned, he’d print new coins with his face and that word on it, and then he’d go through the streets throwing coins to the people. And the idea was that he would give to them, and now they would owe him. It was a way of buying their favor.

And in a culture like that, then, the only people you would be generous to would be people who could in turn, do something good for you. Consequently, it was the people who had the most who would often receive the most. Because they were the ones who could return the favor. And you can see how that would make the rich cocky.

James 2 gives a pretty good idea of how this would work even within the church, where rich people were often given preferential treatment and often expected preferential treatment:

3If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” 4have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?

Jesus came to die for every person of every social and economic level. The Bible often highlights how Jesus came especially for the poor. And yet wealthy pride and elitism boosts our egos and makes us think we are somehow more worthy than others. Few things are more repugnant to God than the rich despising the poor. Yet our clubs and social circles, and sometimes even our churches, foster this very attitude. (Alcorn, p. 52)

This leads to grief number 4: The love of money hurts others. The love of money can lead to injustice and exploitation. Those with money often acquire it at the expense of those who have less.

Stay in the book of James, and jump ahead to chapter 5:

1Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you. 2Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. 3Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. 4Look! The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. 5You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. 6You have condemned and murdered innocent men, who were not opposing you.

How much of what we have, in our relative comfort, comes at the expense of those who have much less? Our name brand shoes assembled in a third world sweatshop. Our fresh lettuce picked by undocumented workers in California. Our unpleasant tasks done by workers who have no choice but to work for barely livable wages.

Or, number 5: The love of money is a gateway drug. That is, the love of money leads to all sorts of immoral activity.

Back to 1 Timothy 6:9-10:

9People 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.10For 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.

It’s not a surprise that Las Vegas, which has made a god out of the Almighty Dollar, is also known for prostitution, strip clubs, alcohol, drugs and quicky divorces. A lifestyle built around wealth can often be hedonistic and sinful.

For years, studies have shown that “among both men and women the incidence of marital infidelity rises in conjunction with an increase in income.” Indeed, of men whose income isn’t far above minimum wage, 31 percent conduct adulterous affairs but of those with triple that income the number committing adultery increases to 70 percent. (Quoted by Alcorn, p. 54)

Again, it’s not wealth that is the problem. But the sense of entitlement that often goes with it. Randy Alcorn writes:

Much can be determined about a nation’s ideals and future welfare by the character of its models. Who are the most admired people in America? Spiritual leaders, civil leaders, altruistic social reformers? Hardly.

The heroes and idols of America are actors and actresses, jet setters and yacht owners, entertainers and rock stars. With a glass of wine or a joint in one hand and somebody else’s mate in the other, they prance, jiggle, curse, and swindle their way into the heart of Americans. Our homage to such celebrities tells us as much about us—and our probable destiny—as it does them. (p. 54)

Then, the sixth and final grief I’ll mention that comes from the love of money, though certainly not the last of them: the love of money is a major distraction. The love of money leads to all kinds of evil because it pulls our focus away from why we’re really here.

Our chief purpose here on earth is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. Or, as we say in our church mission statement: “We are here to bring joy to Jesus and experience joy in Him.” Our job is to know Him and make Him known. To make much of our Lord and Savior.

But when our hearts are set on things below, when our concern is money and the stuff it can buy, then we become distracted from our calling.

Paul puts it like this, in 2 Timothy 2:4:

4No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs—he wants to please his commanding officer.

We need to keep our focus on the mission, we need to remember what is most important, we can’t let money or anything else pull us away from God.

Thirst
So what’s the solution? If we want to be good at being rich, we have to learn to love money less. And the best way to love money less is to love God more. To go back to our game changing declaration:

I will not place my hope in riches, but in Him who richly provides.

So let me conclude by arming you with some verses. Here are some scriptures to remind you to put your hope in God. Scriptures to help us long for what truly satisfies. 1 Timothy 6:17 again:

17Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.

Psalm 42:

1As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for Thee, O God…2for the living God.

Psalm 63:

1My soul thirsts for Thee, my flesh yearns for Thee, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

Psalm 36:

7How priceless is your unfailing love! Both high and low among men find refuge in the shadow of your wings. 8They feast on the abundance of your house; you give them drink from your river of delights. 9For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.

John 7:

37Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. 38Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.”

Revelation 21:

6I am the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life.

And Revelation 22, the fifth to last verse in the whole Bible:

17The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.

The best thing there is, the most important thing in all the world, is a relationship with Jesus Christ. It’s the water that quenches every thirst.

And it’s free.