1 Timothy 6:6-10 – On the love of money
The Bible allows no room for ambiguity on the dangers of money. Jesus says, “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money” (Matt. 6:24). Elsewhere, Jesus says “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” (Matt. 19:24). No ifs, no buts, no maybes. No excuses or get out clauses. Jesus is refreshingly frank. Here in 1 Timothy 6, Paul reiterates Jesus’ teaching by saying, “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. (vv.9-10)”
Wealth can become a god, an idol that ensnares us. To get more money, we can fall into the trap of doing things that are harmful to our families, our friends, ourselves, and, most importantly of all, our relationship with God. When we start focussing on money, we stop focussing on God.
Looking around my city of Norwich, wealth (and spending it) is certainly the most prominent and publicly worshipped god. On a Sunday morning on my way to church, I drive past the long queue of cars waiting to get their place in Chapel Field Shopping Centre. In the city’s many supermarkets, there are mountains – literally – of sweets and treats stacked to the ceilings as you walk through the doors, and aisle-upon-aisle of goods that we simply don’t need. I often wonder what these places must feel like to those who have little or nothing. What would an Indian Dalit or starving African child make of our extravagance and gluttony? We earn more money to spend more money to accumulate more things that we don’t need. Last year, £594 million of Christmas presents were unwanted (not to mention those that weren’t needed!). 1.5 million new items were listed on eBay on Boxing Day. What a ridiculous world we live in!
As Christians, it’s easy to get sucked in to the greed and consumerism of our society. I admit that I struggle. It happens almost naturally. Who – if they’re totally honest – doesn’t want to live as comfortably and as well as possible? Who doesn’t want the same gadgets and lifestyle as everyone else around them?
We need a regular reality check. We need to hold one another to account. We need to stop, stand back, and ask ourselves the difficult questions:
- What really drives us in life? Is it really God and our faith in Christ?
- What do we really want, and what, by contrast, do we really need in our lives?
- How is God asking us to use our money?
Paul, in his first letter to Timothy, reminds us that “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” (vv.6-8).
‘Contentment’ – ‘autarkeia’ in Greek – is the key word. This was a great watchword of the Stoic philosophers that meant ‘self-sufficiency.’ They meant a frame of mind which was completely independent of outward things, completely satisfied with what it already had and not ‘needing’ anything else.
How do we get this contentment? Quite simply, from God, through Jesus, and in the power of the Holy Spirit. When we are focussed on God, our meaning for life is found in Him. We realise that this life is only a test for the next one. Jesus is all that matters; everything else is fluff that gets in the way.
As the Westminster Shorter Catechism so brilliantly puts it: “the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” You don’t need an iPad, a flashy car, a big house, a higher bank balance or a larger pension to do that. All you need – this Christmas and throughout the year – is the one who said, “I am the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6).