Thursday, November 09, 2006

175: The Dark Side of Money

When it comes to religious matters, tell people what they WANT to hear and there will be a seemingly endless line willing to break the church door down, if need be, to get front row seats so that they won’t miss a word of what will be preached. Tell people what they NEED to hear and understand, and the likely result is that the pews will be near-empty. This post will be the type that NEEDS to be heard and understood. Takers will be few. Just remember this: God weighs His (quality), while Satan rejects no one, since he is interested in large numbers (quantity). Actually, it would be more complete to say that all the devil’s cohorts are rejects.

Do you know of any churches on earth today that do like Satan does, rejecting no one? I know of many. Reason: It is in vogue to be tolerant of other religions, regardless of what they teach or believe. The word “tolerate” is a kissing cousin to “condone”; by our silence we condone the ungodly. What is needed in its stead is to expose instead of tolerate. You say, “We can’t do that; who are we to judge another’s beliefs?” Who said so? Actually, everyone whose life is lived in obedience to the New Testament of the Christian Bible (taking plank out of one’s own eye first) has a holy obligation to publicly bring to the surface the heresies or sins of other churches.

That was what Jesus and Paul did, and that duty was passed onto His disciples (us). Remember that whatever else anyone tells you, that book is the only reliable spiritual touchstone in existence. It tells us, plain and simple, what is right and what is in error. And for those verses which are hard to understand, this post can help. No excuses.

Everyone in the world, regardless of their religion—even skeptics, atheists, and agnostics—needs to know what the Bible, especially the New Testament (N.T.), teaches. But along with that teaching, they should also know there are many extremely important N.T. verses that seem absurd and nonsensical. These unique verses are difficult to understand as to their true meaning, except for what the PAID clergy has taught for years; many times the cleric’s interpretation of such verses is watered-down, or worse yet, completely ignored so as not to offend the laity and loose members.

What is needed is an unbiased understanding by some spiritual organization that is not paid to preach, though still has a thorough knowledge of Scripture. For those who cannot tolerate compromise, this post comes to the rescue as a unique resource.

The verses which are most contentious and difficult for many to accept/obey, or to understand as to their function and how they apply to the lives of genuine Christians, are: money, wealth, riches, material prosperity and possessions of monitory value, etc. I will mostly use the word “money,” which will apply to these various terms. Those who ignore these verses will, most certainly, inflict a deadly breach on their relationship with Jesus Christ. In other words, these scriptures have an extremely crucial purpose for their presence in the N.T.

This message is not for people who, by the way they live, are silently rejecting Jesus Christ as the only source for their existence. For those without Christ, the desire for money (wealth, riches) is an absolute necessity. For them, their rewards in life are material and worldly.

How God views money in the N.T. is by all means a concept which is extremely unnatural to our human nature (survival of the fittest). There are many ways money can/will damage or destroy a person’s relationship with God through Christ. This section will bring them to the surface.

Of all the powers that exist on this earth, money is God’s most formidable competitor. It is Satan’s secret trump card. Whenever money is involved as to its place in the Christian life, the devil, most likely, has his way 99 times out of 100.

Some may ask, “How can money be more powerful than God?” Actually, it isn’t. But the great trickster has the cunning power to make money, monetary and material possessions seem indispensable, and because of our survival instincts, he doesn’t have to say a word—“Money is the most desired commodity in existence”—then tricks us to use it in ways that trump God’s purpose and all He stands for.

There are over two dozen verses that will be displayed at the end of this post, telling the harm/danger money can have when in the hands of Christians. Nevertheless, there aren’t many that will agree with them, but they still must admit, as it will be described in detail, that money has the potential to make God second in one’s life. The only thing is, God can’t function as required in one’s life when He is in second place–if even that. Remember that all-important verse “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.” That doesn’t leave much, if any, room for love of worldly attitudes, things, etc. other than love for one’s neighbor (anyone) who is in need.

Actually, money, per se, by itself is not the culprit; it is the power money has to buy or do whatever. How can that offend God? Answer: The primary reason is that when there is no limit as to how much money one can possess and still be a Christian, having money and the nice things, attitudes and feelings it can give becomes a distinguishing mark to others, as if it has God’s favor and approval. Let’s put it another way: Then, instead of seeking holiness, obedience, humility, love, etc., wealth becomes a sign that God is blessing that person. That is exactly what has happened in the Christian world today. Having extra money and all that it can procure has become the Christian paradigm. Repeating, then, genuine Godly attributes would have been slowly but surely snuffed out–if there ever were any in the first place—as being of primary importance.

There are many essential ingredients in the Godly lifestyle: One of the most crucial is Christian humility. This type of humility is different than all other forms of being humble. It is not a false humility, just acting humble as a paid actor, or acting humble to get another’s favor. It is not the humility of an uneducated or partially handicapped person who gives -in to the wishes of whomever; it is actually being humble in a way that considers/esteems others over self.

That trait is badly missing in America. We are proud people, where humility has no part. And guess what makes us proud? Our wealth, strength, and superior technology. That is one reason why having more than needed is a destroyer of humility. Said another way: What reason or need do most Americans have to be humble when they have all they need and then some? Money makes people feel–actually believe—that they are better than many others who are not as well-off as them. Listen to this verse in Philippians 2:3. “Do nothing out of selfish ambitions or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourself.” To the word “better” I would add the words “more important.” Consider others more important than self.

It would be next to impossible to live as is required by God and not have Christian humility. The reason is because we are here to serve others. Matthew 23:11-12. “The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” Then, for the next 23 verses, Jesus rips on the rich Teachers of the Law and the Pharisees for their hypocrisy, because they truly believed God was blessing them with wealth for their adherence to the law. Jesus dispelled that notion. Therefore, in a direct way, all other Godly attitudes depend on genuine, God-given humility.

Here are just a few attitudes that spring from having more than necessary: Everyone desires to be successful in life, and when one is successful, they believe they have done just about everything perfect to acquire that success. This feeling of perfection that money gives is where much of the damage originates. I don’t know if any of you remember that country-western song popular 30 some years ago; it goes something like this: “ Oh Lord it’s hard to be humble when you’re perfect in every way . . . I get better-looking each day.” That says that being perfect/successful in one’s own eyes is a destroyer of humility. And wealth gives its benefactors a much higher esteem than anyone deserves.

I believe a person can be greedy without knowing it. The reason is that their wanting more wealth is camouflaged by their use of many different euphemisms; ask them why, and they will give an assorted number of excuses. Money, and what it can do, has greed as a tagalong—which is almost impossible to shake off.

Money makes people feel secure in more ways than one. And who doesn’t want to feel secure in such an uncertain world? Then what happens is that worldly security lessens the need for the security that God gives. Result: mediocrity.

Pride is one of the most desired attitudes that money easily gives to those who have more than enough. That pride may be openly displayed, or attempts can be made to keep it a secret and remain silent. Proverbs 16:18. “Pride goes before destruction . . .” In fact, there are many verses in the Bible, especially in the Old Testament, warning of the danger of that wonderful feeling when pride sets into a life.

Contentment that worldly wealth gives is a sure thief; it robs us of the NEED and desire for contentment that come from belonging to Jesus Christ. 1Timothy 6:6. “But godliness with contentment is great gain.”

Another thing that happens when people have extra money is this: Aside from saving some, they spend it on things they WANT but don’t really need; then with time, those “wants” get transformed into “needs.” To put it more bluntly, extra money gives many the incentive to buy unneeded items. The N.T. tells me that no Christian has the right to have more than they need while a multitude of Christians, etc. don’t have the bare necessities. This truth will never fly in the majority of Christianity.

Then there are those who are super-wealthy and still claim to be Christians. They continue to receive all kinds of accolades from the Christian community for all the work they are doing for Christ. They, with their great wealth, have the means to support the spreading of the gospel in countries all over the world. That giving is above and beyond what large amounts they give to their local churches as a form of tithe (10 % of earnings).

That seems all well and good. But is it? The harm they are doing, without even trying, is making the N.T. a joke. They are setting an example–contrary to Scripture—for all other Christians who don’t know better to have a desire to become rich like them, so they too can give large amounts in the name of Christ wherever it is needed. Then, they also can receive all kinds of praise and standing ovations for all the work Jesus Christ is doing through them. As I have already mentioned in paragraph 9, what happens is that becoming rich automatically takes priority over the many Godly qualities that are absolutely necessary.

Then, everyone will be aiming for wealth as a Christian attribute. Isn’t that where the majority of organized churches are at this time? Therefore, having money or the desire for it could be the slyest trick the devil uses. The truly disheartening aspect of this scheme is that these rich people actually believe God will continue to bless them financially since they feel they are special in God's sight.

The only way for those with extra money to conform with Scripture is to be generous and willing to share to the point where they sell their palatial mansion, their luxury vehicles and all other signs of wealth, to the point where people would talk, saying, “With all their wealth, they should live as wealthy people do, and not as if they are paupers.” That is the kind of example the rich should set for all others that desire to be rich for Christ’s sake. I say, “Sure; that will be the day.” It just won’t happen. Living a wealthy and flamboyant lifestyle is the main perk, as it were. Without the privilege of sitting on top of the world with their wealth, who would want to become wealthy?

Here are several N.T. verses that will substantiate the above.

1st Timothy 6:17-18. “Command 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. Command those to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and be generous and willing to share.”

2 Corinthians 9:11. “You will be MADE RICH IN EVERY WAY so that you can be generous on every occasion . . .” [emphasis added]. There are many other ways of being rich besides material wealth.

Webster defines generous as: 1) “of noble birth [I like that. Jesus is nobility]; 3) giving or sharing liberally and willingly.” Generosity is the key for all people who claim to be Christians. Repeating, along with that, the rich must not live in a way that glorifies wealth, because it is the poor that are blessed.

James 2:5. “Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?”

Luke 1:53. “He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.”

Matthew 11:28. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Did you notice Jesus did not call those who are rich, prosperous, and are living the “good life”? This tells me that Jesus Christ is for those who truly have needs in their lives which this world cannot suffice. Are you one of them? I am.

Money per se is not the culprit, but as I have already mentioned, it is the power money has to have and do whatever one pleases. Of all the ungodly attitudes money creates, the most destructive is the example it leaves for other would-be/existing Christians. Therefore, if a Christian wasn’t rich but lives as a wealthy person, that person would be just as guilty as the one with money. This is done is with good credit. On credit, a person can have a gigantic mortgage on a splendid home in a rich neighborhood, new vehicles on low-interest payments, credit cards taken to the max, and other commodities that display wealth. Of course, this type of non-wealth doesn’t give the security that real money gives, but it does give the people many of the other attributes of just having these things that give an appearance of wealth. Most likely there are more of these credit-rich Christians than the actual wealthy ones. Try to convince them of the harm they are doing to the cause of Christ.

As you read the following two dozen verses, keep in mind that God's perspective is TOTALLY opposite from what our human nature dictates. At least now some will be able to understand why the N.T. denounces and condemns wealth and prosperity. Should we obey our sinful human nature, or obey what God dictates in the N.T.? For Christians who are truly serious about their relationship with Jesus Christ and believe what the N.T. teaches, this has to be a poignant topic. For others, this subject will, most likely, soon be forgotten.

Click on the Table of Contents. There are two other posts: #153: “The Anatomy of Wealth” and #116: “What Money Can and Cannot Buy.” These are a bit redundant, especially with similar N.T. verses, but there will be many insightful truths that this section did not mention.

As you read the following N.T. verses, let God’s Spirit guide everyone as to the course which is correct for them.

1st Timothy 6:17-18. “Command 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. Command them to do good and be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.”

Mark 4:19. “but the worries of this life, the DECEITFULNESS OF WEALTH and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful.” [emphasis added].

1st Timothy 6:6-10. “But Godliness with contentment is great gain. 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.”

Luke 16:15. “What is highly valued among men [money] is detestable in God’s sight.” [emphasis added].

Mark 10:21-23. “. . . ‘One thing you lack,’ he said. ‘Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’ At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad because he had great wealth. Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, ‘How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God.’”

James 5:3. “Your silver and gold are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days.”

Matthew 19:21-24 is similar to the verse above. “Jesus answered, ‘If you want to be perfect, go sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’ [There are prerequisites before following Jesus]. When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth. Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again 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.’” Jesus, in essence, is saying that it is impossible for prosperous, rich, or wealthy men/women to be Christians.

Hebrews 13:5. “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have.”

James 5:1 “Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you.”

Luke 16:13. “ You cannot serve both God and money.”

Luke 16:14. “The Pharisees [the guys that Jesus loved to bad-mouth], who LOVED MONEY, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus.” [emphasis added]. Will some readers also sneer at Jesus and me for being so hard-edged? I think so.

Luke 6:24. “But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your reward.”

James 1:10. “In the same way, the rich man will fade away even while he goes about his business.”

Luke 12:15. “‘Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.’”

Luke 12:16-21. “The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ Then he said to himself, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to myself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself and is not rich toward God.”

Matthew 6:19-21. “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven . . . For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

2nd Timothy 3:1-5. “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, LOVERS OF MONEY, boastful, proud, . . . lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.” [emphasis added].

1st Timothy 3:3. “. . . not a lover of money.”

Luke 14:33. “In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.” Some may be thinking, “Does this leader of His stupid religion think we are jerks? What we have worked hard for all our lives, he wants us to give it to some poor bas . . . .? No thanks, I’ll stay where I am and enjoy listening to a pleasing and relaxing Gospel.”

Luke 16:19-25. “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. . . . The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. In hell, where he was in torment, . . .[Abraham speaking to the rich man in hell] ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony.’”

1st Peter 5:2 “. . . not greedy for money, but eager to serve;”

Luke 12:33. “Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted . . . ”

1st John 3:17. “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?”

This is not a complete list of verses that do not speak nicely of the wealthy; there are many more.


Anonymous said...

Money is the root of all evil? Or is it also...Lack of money?

There are no true wealthy Christians.

Is it a crime to have a nice home, nice car, nice possessions, food to eat?
NO, it's a crime when there's too much home, too much car, too many possessions.

B. Gates has 47 BILLION dollars, the wealthiest man in the world,
and he gave 200 million to help the children of the world.
That's like a nickle in a bucket.

Yet another man may only have three dollars in his wallet,
and gives it all to a good cause.

Which man is greater in the eyes of God?

In the end, WE ALL DIE, wealthy and poor alike.
In the end, WE WILL ALL BE JUDGED, by the one true judge.
Your money won't save you,
Your money cannot buy everlasting life,
and you won't be able to buy you way into Heaven.

As far as I'm concerned,
all the wealthy can go to hell,
because they have no excuse.

In the end, only ourselfs are accountable for the way we lived our lifes.
Poor and wealthy alike.
It's gonna be one on one with the one true judge.
Where are YOU going to spend eternity????

And just for the record, I'm a man who raised three children
and most of the time only had a quarter in his pocket in case the truck
broke down. But then later there were times I walked around with nine thousand
dollars in my pocket, new BMW and a rolex.
I've been at the bottom and at the top,
but I was always the same person.
And to be honest, being at the top left a bitter taste in my mouth.
If God decides to put some serious money in your hands,
use it wisely and don't forget to help others in need.
Money will not always be there, but Jesus will.

JC said...

I say Amen to all you said!