The pull of the wallet or pocketbook (or the credit or debit card, PayPal or other payment tool) is great. The power of money is – or should be – frightening to any observer. In fact, fright, or fear, is a good point to start almost any article or conversation about money. In 1 Timothy 6, Paul started his teaching with a warning intended to instill a degree of fear into readers:
2b These are the things you are to teach and insist on.
3 If anyone teaches otherwise and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching,
4 they are conceited and understand nothing. They have an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions
5 and constant friction between people of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.
Paul is warning that anyone teaching anything else is a false teacher. His comments directed to those who disagree are strong and insulting as well as true. What topic was so important for Paul’s teaching to carry such a pointed introduction? Paul was writing about money and possessions.
2 Timothy 6:6-10
6 But godliness with contentment is great gain.
7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.
8 But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.
9 Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.
10 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.
That is a warning apparently intended to create a sense of fear about money. Paul’s apparent concern on this topic was well-founded. Money and possessions have the power to deceive the heart and mind of even mature believers. Reformer Martin Luther said, “There are three conversions necessary: The conversion of the heart, mind, and the purse.” Luther was right. The heart and mind may want to be right, but the power of money is deceptively sneaky and strong and can overcome even good hearts.
Almost half of Jesus’ parables addressed money and possessions. He understood the power of money over the human heart. Money was a factor in Judas’ fall, a fall known to and observed by Jesus. Judas betrayed Jesus right after a woman anointed Him with oil in what was seen by Judas as a waste of wealth. This waste led to objections by unnamed disciples in Matthew 26:6-16 and Mark 14:1-10. It is only in the book of John that we learn the name of one of the disciples objecting to the “waste” of the oil; it is Judas. John 12:4. Immediately after that, Judas took 30 pieces of silver for his treachery. Matthew 26:15.
There is far more evidence that God is fully aware of the power of money over people. Money, wealth and possessions take up more verses than the topics of heaven and hell combined, more than 2,300. Why so many? Because we need it! And because our minds and hearts can be so easily fooled by the power of money. What we think about money, how we handle the temptations and traps of wealth, and how we spend our money speaks very loudly about our relationship with Jesus. There is no middle ground. It is either Jesus or the almighty dollar in first place in life.
24 “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.
One excellent illustration of a 180-degree change in devotion can be seen in the life of the tax collector Zacchaeus. Zacchaeus was saved after he was called down from a sycamore tree by Jesus. When Zacchaeus accepted Christ as his Lord, he immediately shifted his devotion from money to Christ. He stated without prompting that he would repay those he had cheated back – four times! Luke 19:1-10. Money lost its grip over Zacchaeus.
Instead of an attitude such as Zacchaeus’ or of the early church, Acts 4:32-37, where money was a topic of restoration and joy, in the modern church, money becomes a topic to be avoided. While some of the avoidance of talk about money is said to be Biblically based, at least somewhat, see Matthew 6:1-4, that is a weak excuse at best.
1 “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.
2 “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.
3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,
4 so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
Money can be a topic of preaching, teaching, and encouragement without anyone ever sharing whether or how much he or she gives. There is no implication in the words of Jesus that money or giving should not be a topic of preaching and teaching in His church. In fact, with over 2,300 verses on money, wealth and possessions in the Bible, avoiding money as a topic for preaching or teaching would require avoiding much of the Bible, including almost half of the parables of Jesus.
Instead, the topic of money must focus on the heart of the giver, not the height of the giver’s wallet. Jesus came back to the topic of the heart in Matthew 6, so we have to keep going back to the heart to keep ourselves straight. Having a right heart about money and giving with a right heart matter to God – a lot! It also matters that God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Corinthians 9:7.
However, that focus on the heart raises a basic question in the minds of many church-goers, “Why give to the church?” Over years of teaching and asking this question, I have heard many answers, including the following:
God said we should;
It is an act of my worship;
To be a part of the mission of God;
To give God glory;
It is the right thing to do;
To please God;
Because God has given so much to me;
Someone has to give so the church’s bills will be paid;
I want to be a witness to God as a giver;
To be faithful to Him;
To walk hand-in-hand with God.
I have also witnessed negative reactions to that simple question, “Why give to the church?” I have watched some choose to hide their failure to give behind Matthew 6:1-4 and the privacy demands of our modern society. No one asks if they give. In fact, I have laughingly suggested that they could appear to be giving by putting an empty offering envelope in the offering plate. However, they know God isn’t fooled by deceit like empty offering envelopes. And they can’t lie to themselves either.
Every believer who has any heart for the teachings of Jesus and the Word of God (and I struggle to imagine a true believer who does not), should join the Lord and His church and give. In a country where even the safety nets yield more income than daily hard work in many countries, everyone can give. If anyone does not want to give, or feel that he/she cannot afford to give, they should see Ideas for Living Better Through Stewardship as well as other articles in our Resources for You part of our web page. It may be time for an examination of the priorities of the heart and of the family financial choices. Matthew 6:19-20.
To continue these thoughts, take 16 minutes and watch the online video teaching of Tim Keller, The Gospel, Grace and Giving. That is one of the best teachings on the heart, the gospel of grace and giving and may help you examine where your heart and heart weaknesses are. For more thoughts, please give us a call and stay connected with us at idlewildfoundation.com. We will be adding new articles and teachings regularly.
About the Author
John Campbell has retired from a 40-year legal practice as a trial attorney in Tampa. He has served in multiple volunteer roles at Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Florida, where he met Jesus. He began serving as the Executive Director of the Idlewild Foundation in 2016. He has been married to the love of his life, Mona Puckett Campbell, since 1972.