The Problem with Money

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The Problem with Money

1 Timothy 6:17–19

"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, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life." (1 Timothy 6:17-19, NIV)

Stewardship Series: Bringing Out the Best

1. Money: The Problem with Money (1Timothy 6:17–19)

2. Talents: The Joy of Investing Yourself (Matthew 25:14–30)

3. Time: Maximizing Minutes for the Master (Colossians 4:3, 5–6)

A wealthy Texan liked to give special gifts to his dad on Father’s Day. One year it was lessons on hang gliding. Another year, the father received the entire collection of Slim Whitman’s hits. But last spring the rich Texan felt he had topped all other years. He bought a rare kind of talking bird. Besides speaking five languages, this bird also could sing “The Yellow Rose of Texas” while standing on one foot. The talented bird cost $10,000, but the Texan felt it was worthy every penny. His dad would never forget this Father’s Day gift!

A week after Father’s Day he phoned his father. “Dad,” he asked, “how did you like the bird?” “Fine,” the father responded. “It was delicious!”

The problem you and I have with money is not with money itself. It is with what we do with that money. Like the rich Texan’s father with the bird, we fail to see all the possibilities to use money in God-pleasing ways. Instead, we see money as something to consume. When we learn what we have missed, we realize that the problem with money is not really with money, but with me.

We are tempted to think that if only we had enough money, we could really live. In the words of Paul in the second half of v 19, we think that money will make us able to “take hold of the life that is truly life.” But we leave God out of the picture. We’re like the little girl who was given two dollars by her father. He told she could do anything she wanted with one dollar, so long as she gave the other dollar to God on Sunday at church.

She nodded happily and started skipping toward the candy store, holding the two bills tightly in her hand. But she tripped and fell. Then the wind blew one of the dollar bills into a storm drain at the curb. The little girl rose to her feet, looked at the dollar still in her hand, then at the storm drain and said, “Well, Lord, there goes your dollar.”

That little girl had the same attitude toward money that you and I often have. We see what money can buy for us, and it becomes more important than God. Usually our love for money isn’t as bold or brash as the little girl’s. But it’s there. We make money into a false god, a little idol, which becomes more important than God. That’s sin.

The Uncertainty of Riches

It’s also foolish. To depend on wealth is to hope in something uncertain. That’s why Paul writes in v 17: “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant or to put their hope in wealth.” Riches are uncertain for two reasons. First, what they buy may not bring happiness. Have you ever bought a CD or an expensive meal or a car that you thought would make you very happy . . . and it didn’t? I have. What money buys can disappoint us.

Second, wealth is uncertain because it doesn’t last. When the stock market crashed in 1929, the newspapers carried stories in following days of persons who committed suicide because they were wiped out financially. Money can be stolen or burned or taken away by a lawsuit. If we depend on wealth to provide hope for our future, we are foolish.

The Generosity of God

Instead, Paul says in v 17 that we are to place our hope not on the uncertainty of wealth but on God, “who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.” What does God give us? Everything . . . but everything starts with Jesus. Because God supplies all our needs, Jesus came to pay the debt we owe to God because of our sin. In Matthew’s Lord’s Prayer (Mt 6:12), Jesus uses the word debt—what we owe—to describe our sins. Those debts are like a big minus sign in our account at God’s First Bank of Heaven. But Jesus comes through and puts a big plus sign in that account by going to the cross. By putting his body and soul right in the middle of our negative, our minus sign, Jesus makes our relationship with God positive. Our sins are forgiven, wiped out, the debt paid off.

Rich in Good Deeds

When we acknowledge that in faith, we are empowered to use our resources to be rich in good deeds. You and I are called to be stewards, or managers, of wealth. “But wait,” you may be saying, “I’m not rich.” No? If you or I make more than $25,000 a year, we are in the top 1 percent of income in the world. In the eyes of billions of other people, we are rich.

That’s why Paul really is talking to us when he urges in v 18: “Command [those who are rich] to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.” That is God’s will. It also is the way to be really rich, to be really blessed.

When Money Becomes a Foundation for the Future

For people who are willing to share their wealth with others, money may become a foundation for the future. Paul writes in v 19: “In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.” It is, of course, true that we cannot “buy our way” into heaven. But when we are cheerful, generous managers of what we like to call “our” money, then we are reflecting God’s great gifts of love toward us.

Then, in the area of money and other financial resources, we are “bringing out the best,” which is our theme for this year’s stewardship emphasis. We rejoice that the heavenly Father has brought out the best by giving his Son, Jesus, as our Savior, and so we respond by “bringing out the best” in ourselves by the way we manage the money he has loaned us for this life. Thus, the money problem has been solved.

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