A Love That Can Steal Your Joy
Scripture: 1 Timothy 6:10
A Love That Can Steal Your Joy1 Timothy 6:10
Sunday, June 13, 2004
Pastor Randy Smith
From the first day I have entered this blessed pulpit, my greatest passion every Sunday morning is to bring to you a message from the living God. I have refrained from entertainment, current trends, popular opinion and "man-pleasing" in order to proclaim God's Word as clearly, accurately and applicably as I know how. I desire to be found faithful in God's sight to "preach the Word" (2 Tim. 4:2). For I am confident that true spiritual growth will only occur through the preaching of the Book inspired by the Holy Spirit. And I am confident that your joy, if it is to be experienced to its fullest extent will only come as a fruit of the Spirit of God (Gal. 5:22) as He uses the Word of God in your lives.
Sadly, we as humans are indifferent to our joy and too often settle for the second rate treasures of this world. Many Christians care too little about their gain and fail to experience the joy promised by Christ Jesus. "These things I have spoken to you (Jesus said) so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full" (Jn. 15:11). We, as C. S. Lewis once said, "(Settle for) making mud pies in a slum because (we) cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased" (Lewis, The Weight of Glory and other Addresses, p. 1-2).
Believe it or not, God gives us money to further our joy, but the blessedness as Jesus says, comes from giving and not receiving (Ac. 20:35). Therefore, recently we have embarked on a short series entitled, "The Joy of Giving." Two weeks ago I shared with you the abundant joy experienced by the Macedonian church as they gave "beyond their ability" (2 Cor. 8:3) with much "begging" (2 Cor. 8:4), giving themselves first to the Lord (2 Cor. 8:5). Last week we learned about the joy that results from storing our treasures in heaven (Mt. 6:19-21).
These two principles of financial stewardship are directly from the Word of God. Obedience to them furthers the glory of God and increases your joy. Friends in Christ, I hope you wholeheartedly agree with these comments. As I have carefully unfolded the Word of God, I hope our Lord has been teaching you the past two weeks His radical principle of joy in giving. And based on your comments the past few weeks, I believe He has!
As human beings, we naturally pursue comfort, security, satisfaction, joy and love. The world tries to meet these desires with money. As Christians, we find these desires met in Jesus Christ to the praise and glory of His sufficiency. Therefore, since we no longer need the superficial promises of money to meet these needs, we can now see our money as a means to perform the greatest service - Helping others satisfy these desires through a relationship with Jesus Christ. In doing so, God promises to break us of our bondage to money and deliver us to true joy in a dependence on Him. We are delivered from pursuing the tin of this world to pursuing priceless treasures forever enjoyed in His presence.
Money can further our joy if it is used according to God's design. But money, when handled incorrectly, can be disastrous. This morning, I'd like to present to you the greatest way that money can steal your joy. It is not often that I break from exposition to a topical approach, but today I'd like to cover the seven pitfalls that result from a love of money.
John Wesley once said, "The fault does not lie in the money, but in them that use it" (Wesley, The Use of Money). We must first understand that money in and of itself is not evil. Money is one of the great gifts given to us by the Lord (Jas. 1:17). God does not give us what is evil; rather He gives us what we need to bring Him glory. In 1 Timothy 6:10 Paul did not say money is evil, but rather, "The love of money is a root of all sorts of evil." God never condemns money nor does He condemn wealth when it is used properly. What God condemns is the love of money. In 1 Timothy 3:3, Paul says any man aspiring to the office of elder must be, "Free from the love of money." In 2 Timothy 3:2, Paul warns us in the last days that "men will be lovers of self, lovers of money." (In regard to the Pharisees see Luke 16:14).
Additionally, Paul does not say that the love of money is "the" root of all evil, but rather "a" root of all evil. In other words, the love of money is one among many roots of evil. Secondary sins come to birth in many ways, yet it is difficult to identify one sin that has not been committed for a love of money - selfishness, neglecting our children, injustice, pornography, prostitution, envy, jealousy, robbery, perjury, cheating, coveting, fraud, hatred, violence, murder, greed, betrayal, drug dealing, blackmail and exploiting the poor.
Let's begin with our seven pitfalls that result from a love of money. May the Holy Spirit convince you as to what degree the love of money has possibly taken root in your lives.
1. A LOSS OF DEVOTION TO GOD
Our first pitfall is the most significant. A love for money results in a loss of devotion to God.
The point is self-explanatory. If I look to money as my source of satisfaction, I am no longer looking to God. Money has replaced the living God as the primary affection of my heart. And the moment I depend more on my money is the moment my money has become my god. The First Commandment teaches us that the glorious God will not permit other gods before Him (Ex. 20:3). Polycarp, the early church father brought out the severity of those who worship money. "If anyone does not refrain from the love of money, he will be defiled by idolatry and so be judged as if he were one of the heathen" (Polycarp (70?-156?), Bishop of Smyrna. "Money II," Christian History, Issue 19).
Millions of Americans forsake all priceless treasures that God offers them in Christ in return for the all-mighty dollar. They pore over the Wall Street Journal and the Sears Catalogue with the same fervency they should be investing in the Scriptures. How sad is it for those who believe gold brings forth greater joy than God.
Listen to this quote by Mark Twain. It epitomizes modern culture. "What is the chief end of man? To get rich. In what way? Dishonestly if we can; honestly if we must. Who is God, the one and only true? Money is God. Gold and Green Backs and Stock-father, son, and ghosts of same, three persons in one; these are the true and only god, mighty and supreme" ("Reflections," Christianity Today, 6-12-00).
John Piper once said, "The root of all evil is that we are the kind of people who settle for the love of money instead of the love of God…God increases our yield so that by giving we can prove that our yield is not our God" (Piper, Desiring God, p. 159, 169). Our affections must never be carried away from the Giver to His gifts. In doing so we commit idolatry by violating the greatest commandment. Jesus said, "You shall love the Lord your God (and not your money) with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength" (Mk. 12:30).
As a matter of fact, two thirds of all our Lord's parables dealt with money. Jesus was well aware of our tendency to depend on our money. That's why in Matthew 6:24 He said, "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth." Jesus was well aware that the allure of money can demand from us a heart of worship. He was well aware that money can make us its slave. And He was well aware that our heart can only be in one place at one time. He was well aware that if we choose to love money, we will naturally hate God whether we, through deception, realize it or not.
"It's been said, 'Money often comes between men and God. Someone has said that you can take two small ten-cent pieces, just two dimes, and shut out the view of a panoramic landscape. Go to the mountains and just hold two coins closely in front of your eyes-the mountains are still there, but you cannot see them at all because there is a dime shutting off the vision in each eye.' It doesn't take large quantities of money to come between us and God; just a little, placed in the wrong position, will effectively obscure our view" (Cedric Gowler).
Even the writer to the Hebrews stated, "Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have" (Heb. 13:5a). Why? Because as it says on my American dollar, "We trust in God," and not money (1 Tim. 6:17). God is most glorified when I turn fully to Him and find in Him all that my heart ever desired. I do not need to trust in paper. Why? Because I can trust a God who is faithful to keep His promises. The writer to the Hebrews continues in verse 5, "For He Himself has said, 'I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you'" (Heb. 13:5b).
2. A LOSS OF CONTENTMENT
In addition to a loss of devotion to God, a love of money brings a loss of contentment.
Money is a self-defeating pursuit. In my efforts to find contentment in money, I actually become more discontent. The more I believe money will satisfy my needs, the more I will depend on money, only to realize that I never have enough. As long as there is always a new item to purchase, I will never be satisfied with what I possess. John D. Rockefeller was asked, "How much does it take to satisfy a man completely?" His response, "It takes a little bit more than (what) he has."
This vicious cycle was learned all too well by Solomon. In Ecclesiastes 5:10-11 he said, "He who loves money will not be satisfied with money (The more you have, the more you want) nor he who loves abundance with its income (The more you have, the less you're satisfied). This too is vanity. When good things increase, those who consume them increase (The more you have, the more people (including the government) will come after it). So what is the advantage to their owners except to look on (The more you have the more you realize it does you no good)" (Parenthetical thoughts taken from: Alcorn, The Treasure Principle, p. 53)? In pursuing satisfaction through riches Solomon said, "All that my eyes desired I did not refuse them. I did not withhold my heart from any pleasure, for my heart was pleased because of all my labor and this was my reward for all my labor" (Ecc. 2:10). The following verse gives his conclusion: "Thus I considered all my activities which my hands had done and the labor which I had exerted, and behold all was vanity and striving after wind and there was no profit under the sun" (Ecc. 2:11). How depressing!
On the contrary, listen to the Apostle Paul who reveals the secret to contentment. "Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need" (Phil. 4:11-12). Regardless of his circumstances, Paul found his contentment not in money, but rather in Christ. The following verse gives his conclusion: "I can do all things through Him who strengthens me" (Phil. 4:13).
Contentment is simply acknowledging that God has given me enough. It is understanding that all of which I have is a gracious and sovereign gift from His hands. It is accepting what the Lord has entrusted to my care with an attitude of gratitude.
If your Bibles are still open to 1 Timothy, look at the few verses in chapter 6 that proceed verse 10, which warns of the love of money. Interestingly, the topic is contentment. Beginning in verse 6, "But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment. For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content" (1 Tim. 6:6-8)
3. A LOSS OF INTEGRITY
The love of money shatters a life of contentment. As we move to the third pitfall, let's see how a love of money leads to a loss of integrity.
The unknown author said, "When money speaks the truth is silent." I'm sure all of us can testify, possibly in our own lives, when the love of money lead one to do something in violation of his or her convictions. Possibly it is stealing from our parents or cheating on our tax return or not reporting that dent we placed in another's car or failing to tell the store clerk about that item for which we were undercharged or stealing at the workplace.
"According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, employee dishonesty costs American businesses over $50 billion annually. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce estimates that 75 percent of all employees steal at least once, and at half of these steal again and again. The chamber also reports that one of every three business failures are the direct result of employee theft" (Bob Mather, Employee Theft: Prevention Beats Apprehension).
Many know how such actions steal their peace (Phil. 4:9) and violate their conscience (1 Tim. 1:9), but the powerful love for money still drives them to do otherwise. Is a few hundred dollars worth excessive guilt and sleepless nights?
When I was in college I had in my possession some items that properly belonged to the Illinois State football program. Additionally, I had about 250 golf balls that were stolen from a local driving range. Once I came to Christ a few years later, the Holy Spirit greatly convicted my conscience. The pain outweighed the joy incurred from these stolen items. It was such a blessing of freedom when I returned the merchandise and shared with rightful owners my new faith in Jesus Christ.
A story is told about a wealthy author who sat next to a beautiful woman at a dinner party. He leaned over and asked her if she would spend the night with him for one-hundred thousand dollars. She dropped her head, blushed and acknowledged her willingness. Then the author asked her if she would spend the night with him for ten dollars. The offended woman immediately protested and said, "What kind of person do you think I am? The man gently replied, "We've already established that, now we're just negotiating the price."
If you have ever compromised God's Word for to a love for money, may I say the price was far too cheap?
4, A LOSS OF PERSPECTIVE
Fourth, a love of money leads to a loss of perspective.
The philosophy of the world often goes like this: If you earned it, it belongs to you to be used according to your own desires. The Scriptures are emphatically opposed to that mentality.
First of all, the Scriptures teach us that everything in the world ultimately belongs to God. Psalm 24:1, "The earth is the Lord's, and all it contains, The world, and those who dwell in it" (cf. Job 41:111 Chron. 29:14; Hag. 2:8; 1 Cor. 4:7). Second, that which we have has been entrusted to our care as God's steward. 1 Corinthians 4:2, "In this case, moreover, it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy" (cf. Lk. 12:42; 1 Cor. 4:1; 9:17; Eph. 3:2; Col. 1:25; Tit. 1:7; 1 Pet. 4:10). Third, as God's stewards we will be held accountable as to how we spend His money in the furtherance of His kingdom. 2 Corinthians 5:10, "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad" (cf. Lk. 16:11). By the way, the Scriptures declare this is a time when our money will provide us no assistance (Pr. 11:4; Zech. 1:18).
Adopting a steward's mentality toward all that God has entrusted to us provides us with a sense of peace and joy to give God's money back to God to do God's work. Seeing our earthly possessions from this perspective, delivers us from a possessive attitude toward all we think we own to a freedom that treasures the Giver more than the gifts.
5. A LOSS OF GREATEST GAIN
A fifth pitfall that occurs when we love money is the sad loss of our greatest gain.
According to God's economy, we settle for less if we love money more. As we learned last week, God has given us a choice. We can store up for ourselves treasures on earth only to see them destroyed or left behind when we die or we can store up for ourselves treasures in heaven that will be enjoyed for an eternity (Mt. 6:19-21). To love money and the things it can buy on this earth is not only contrary to God's commandment, it is also contrary to sound logic!
Not all of us can be earthly millionaires, but all of us in Christ have the potential to be heavenly millionaires because God's disposal of eternal treasures are not based on amount, but rather motives and sacrifice. I have no doubt that the poor widow praised by Jesus who dropped 2 small cooper coins in the temple treasury (Lk. 21:2-4) will be rewarded in greater extent than many who have contributed thousands to the church. John MacArthur once said, "Many millionaires will be heavenly paupers, and many paupers will be heavenly millionaires" (MacArthur, Matthew 1-7, p. 411).
Thus when we love God and His kingdom and invest our money accordingly, God promises to bless us with our greatest gain. Gain that includes eternal treasures in heaven and gain that also includes a heart that is devoted to the things above rather than the superficial things of this world. Remember, Jesus said, "Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Mt. 6:21).
Have we settled for less and shortchanged ourselves long enough with the love of money?
6. A LOSS OF HAPPINESS
As we move to the sixth pitfall, I want to show you another way the love of money is self-inflicted harm. Not only does the love of money reduce our heavenly treasures, the love of money also reduces, or should I say, eliminates our earthly happiness.
In the verse we have been examining from 1 Timothy 6:10, Paul says, "For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs."
Notice carefully Paul's choice of wording in verse 10. The love of money causes people to "pierce ("pierce through," "impale") themselves. Paul says those who have been burned by money have no one to blame but themselves. The love of money is self-inflicted destruction. Additionally Paul says they "pierce themselves with many griefs." The Greek word translated "griefs" in the NASB and NIV is odune. It denotes an intense, deeply felt pain. It is translated "sorrows" in the Living Bible and King James Version. It is the same word (in the verbal form) that speaks of the agony the rich man was experiencing in hell in Luke 16:24-25.
The Bible is not without examples of those who have suffered many griefs due to their love of money. "Achan's love of money brought disaster to himself, his family and his nation (Jos. 7:1-25). Balaam's love of money caused him to foolishly attempt to curse God's people (Num. 22-24), which resulted in his death (Num. 31:8). Delilah's love of money led her to betray Samson (Jud. 16:4-6). Judas's love of money caused him to betray the Lord Jesus Christ (Mt. 26:14-16). Ananias and Sapphira's love of money led them to hypocritically lie about their giving (Ac. 5:1-2), resulting in God's execution of them (Ac. 5:5, 10)" (MacArthur, 2 Corinthians, p. 272).
When we love money, we bring upon ourselves unnecessary sorrows that are inherited consequences of this sin. Grief, guilt, dissatisfaction, remorse, lack of fulfillment, worry, disregard, despair are some of the many wounds caused by the sword of money love.
For example, I read this week that the love of money causes one out of every 70 Americans to declare bankruptcy. Since 1996, more Americans have filed for bankruptcy than have graduated from college (De Graaf, Wann, and Naylor, Affluenza: The All-Consuming Epidemic (Berrett-Koehler, 2001), p. 20).
You've heard it said, "Money cannot buy happiness." The Bible goes further saying, "Money can steal your happiness." One author commented, "Money. 200 proof. Taken straight or mixed with many lovely things, it's the most intoxicating substance known to man" (David Augsburger, source unknown).
7. A LOSS OF HEAVEN
Finally, we reach the seventh and most dangerous pitfall that results from a love of money. We can say this is the ultimate grief that a love of money brings - Eternal torment in hell.
In 1 Timothy 6, verse 9 we read, "But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge (the same word used to describe the sinking of ships-Lk. 5:7) men into ruin and destruction (the standard terms for the eternal destruction of the wicked-Heb. 10:39; Rev. 17:11). In verse 10 Paul said, "For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith." The faith that Paul is speaking about is the Christian faith in the objective sense (Jude 3). Jesus spoke of this in His parable of the four soils that many will apparently trust Christ, but then walk away from the faith due to the "deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things" (Mk. 4:19). The love of money rears its ugliest head when people choose it over the eternal riches of heaven. Money becomes their god, and they depart from the faith.
Simon Magus was such a person. In Acts 8 he appears converted under the ministry of Philip (Ac. 8:13). But when Simon saw Peter and John bestowing the Spirit through the laying on of their hands, he offered them money (Ac. 8:18). Peter's response is riveting. "May your silver perish (apoleia - the same word from 1 Tim. 6:9 translated "destruction") with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money" (Ac. 8:20). A literal translation, "To hell with you and your money!" Early Church tradition claims that the unrepentant Simon traveled to Rome and founded Gnosticism. Today we call the purchase of Church offices "simony," in memory of this greedy man.
My friends, I hope you are convinced! The love of money is not only a sinful pursuit; it is also a foolish pursuit. It results in a loss of: devotion to God, contentment, integrity, perspective, greatest gain, happiness and heaven. Why pierce yourself, beloved, with all that comes from the pursuit of riches?
It was George Bernard Shaw who said, "The lack of money is the root of all evil, not the love of it." He and countless others have been deceived by the lies from the "god of this world" (2 Cor. 4:4). Maybe you have as well. Maybe it's time to turn to the God of the Bible and submit yourself fully to the truth. In doing so, you will demonstrate that God and not gold is the Master of your heart. Furthermore, you will experience a joy that all the treasures of the world could never achieve. You will be like Moses who "(considered) the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward" (Heb. 11:26). May God find you looking to the true reward as well.