“Woe to those who are at ease in Zion and to those who feel secure on the hill of Samaria — the notable people in this first of the nations, those the house of Israel comes to.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
One of the things Jesus talked about more than just about anything else was money. He spoke frequently about our attitude toward our money and condemned our tendency to trust in it more than we ought. He warned against trying to serve two masters—God and money. On one occasion, He commanded a rich young man to actively sell all of his possessions before he could come follow Him. It’s almost like He was trying to say something. It wasn’t something new though. He was right in line with what the prophets of old had been saying for a long time. Amos gives us a great example here.
When I am asked to do a wedding, I make the couple go through several hours of counseling with me beforehand. One of the topics we cover is finances. As a part of that particular conversation, I make the couple do an exercise called “The Meaning of Money.” The goal is to help them see how they each think about money so they have a better sense of that when they have conversations about it. The idea is that if they think differently about it, one of them can adjust somewhat how they make their case to the other in order to foster an atmosphere of greater understanding leading to better communication and fewer conflicts.
Except it’s never quite worked like I plan for it to work. This routine failure has forced me to adjust how I present and talk about the exercise. You see, the exercise offers four basic approaches to thinking about money. It can either be for you a primary source of entertainment, status, control, or security. In counseling more than twenty couples, with a single exception, every single person has indicated that they view money primarily as a means of security.
The first couple of times it happened I figured it was just a fluke. By couple number ten I realized this wasn’t just a pattern, it was a trend. More than that, it was a reflection of both where our culture is and of human nature generally. What I’ve learned is that most people in most situations view money as a means of making sure they can handle whatever happens to be going on in life in a given moment. In other words, we put our trust in our stuff. This is the case for both people who wouldn’t count themselves to be followers of Jesus and those who would count themselves faithful followers.
The most secure that most people ever feel in life is when they have the most money in the bank. And, if we think about it for even a little bit, this makes perfect sense. If you have lots of money, and because of that good insurance, and you have a car accident, you’re perhaps dismayed over the accident itself, but you don’t worry about replacing the vehicle that was damaged or the medical bills. If you’re in that situation and don’t have much money, you’ve got a whole other world of concerns to face.
If you have lots of money and something happens to damage your house, you’re going to be frustrated over the inconvenience of living in a work zone for a while, but that’s about it. If you don’t have money, you may be looking at how to live in a house in some barely manageable state of disrepair indefinitely. Then some other bills start to mount because of the state of the house and now you’re possibly looking at losing it and then what will you do?
If you have lots of money and you suddenly and unexpectedly lose your job, you’ll be disappointed and angry, but you won’t sweat the time between employment. You’ll actually enjoy the extra time you get to have with your family. If you don’t have money and suddenly lose your job, your world can start to feel like its spiraling out of control. The weight and pressure of the things you have to manage without the resources to manage them can be intense.
Are you with me? There is an incredible tendency to trust in our stuff because life with stuff is easier than life without. We can handle whatever happens if we have enough money. With God, though…well, we never know for sure what He’s going to do or if He’s even real. But with money we can see it. We can feel it. We can smell it. We can hear it. We could even taste it (though I would recommend that). It is real. It won’t leave us or forsake us.
Do you see where we’ve arrived? Now money isn’t just some convenience or means of engagement with civic life, it has become something more. It has become our means of sustenance. It has become our hope for tomorrow. It has become our comfort in times of trial. It has become our god. Are you with me?
The problem is, money isn’t a god. It’s just human-created means of engaging in interpersonal interactions involving the transmission of goods or services from one party to another. Money doesn’t create anything. It doesn’t think. It doesn’t care. It cannot provide. It simply is. Money cannot comfort us when life gets hard. It can’t encourage us when we are feeling low. It can’t solve the problem of sin in our hearts or in our lives. It just is.
When we treat money like it’s a god, this without a doubt makes the real God angry, but perhaps even more than that, it breaks His heart. It breaks His heart because He knows that our trust in money is wildly misplaced. It will fail us eventually because in treating it like a god, we are expecting it to do things it simply cannot do. And when we’ve placed the weight of our life on something that cannot hold us, the collapse that will inevitably come will leave us wounded and broken, and what parent doesn’t get heartbroken about and angry at something that has hurt his children even if the wounding is their own fault?
I know the temptation is powerful—I’ve felt it myself many a time—but we absolutely must not look to our money, our resources, our stuff to provide what only God can. It is an idolatry of the most potent and pernicious kind, and our loving heavenly Father will bring judgment if we do. This may only be the judgment of smashing our idol in order to help us see clearly its impotence, but that will be bad enough. Let us place our trust in the God who is and receive the blessings that only come from Him.