Christians often have a complicated relationship with money. A wrong attitude toward it can mean having a wrong attitude toward giving. For example, many Christians think the Bible teaches that money is evil. Is that true? Is that what the Bible says? You need to know to develop a proper view of giving under grace.
The idea that money itself is evil can be traced to a misreading of something that Paul wrote to Timothy:
But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out. If we have food and clothing, we will be content with these. But those who want to be rich fall into temptation, a trap, and many foolish and harmful desires, which plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and by craving it, some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs (1 Tim 6:6-10, emphasis added).
Instead of seeking wealth, aim to be content with what the Lord, in His providence, has provided. Paul says, “godliness with contentment [autarkeia] is great gain.” The word autarkeia was a favorite virtue of the Stoics and Cynics (Dunn, “1 Timothy,” p. 828). It means “contentment, satisfaction in one’s circumstance or position in life…adequacy, sufficiency” (Swanson, Dictionary of Biblical Languages). This is the virtue of self-sufficiency—not depending upon others for your necessities. When you have that kind of contentment, you find value in life rather than in things, in having enough rather than seeking excess.
Taking that approach requires an eternal perspective on finances. Echoing Job, Paul reminds us that money did us no good before we were born (“we brought nothing into the world”) and won’t do us any good after we die (“we can take nothing out”). Paul says he’ll be content with his food and clothing, especially in light of the gain to be won later, presumably in the kingdom.
But if money is what you crave, you’ll fall into temptation. How many avoid grosser sins simply because we can’t afford them? But the rich can indulge every “foolish and harmful desire,” only to become “trapped” by them, like animals in a snare.That sinning will be plunged you into “ruin and destruction.” We can all think of examples of that. The tabloids love to report on the self-destruction of Hollywood stars. But the financial scandals of celebrity preachers are just as scintillating. If you want to ruin your life, put money at the center of it.
Now, read carefully what Paul says next. Did he tell Timothy that money itself is evil? No. He warned that the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. It is a root, but not the only one.
Paul was probably citing a popular piece of moral wisdom, recorded by Diogenes taught that “the love of money is the mother-city of all evils’” (see here).
As Paul warned, craving wealth can lead you to wander away from the faith. Church history is filled with examples of the State churches being filled with faithless men who were only interested in getting a paycheck. If money is your motivation, you’ll follow it rather than the Lord.
With Paul’s warning in mind, should grace believers love money? Of course not. But should we think that money itself is evil? Again, no. Money isn’t evil. Paul doesn’t target the rich but the discontented. Money is a tool you can use to bless others or pierce yourself with grief.
As grace believers, we live by faith in God, not faith in money. That faith protects us both from lusting after money and being morbidly afraid of it.
Thought for the day: Instead of craving cash, but content with Christ.
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