This week's Bible Study - July 5, 2015
Hold Money Loosely
1 Timothy 6:6-10
Quotes of the Week:
I'll never forget a conversation I had with the late Corrie ten Boom. She said to me, in her broken English, "Chuck, I've learned that we must hold everything loosely, because when I grip it tightly, it hurts when the Father pries my fingers loose and takes it from me!
Charles Swindoll, Living Above the Level of Mediocrity, p.114
If you had a million dollars, what would you do with it? I searched online and found a man on the street interview with some 'interesting' people in New York. They were each asked what they would do with a million dollars. There were some that said that they would give to the homeless or would build a homeless shelter. Others spoke about going to the casino or perhaps a trip to Vegas. Many of them said they would buy drugs, and one of them that said that acknowledged that it would cause a lot of problems in his life, due to his lack of control. Others would pay off debt and some would keep a portion and give the rest to others. How might you answer that question?
Some of us might be able to answer a question like that in just a few seconds, but there are others that might stop and consider what they would really do. As we legitimately think about this question, our priorities begin to surface. If you asked that question to others that you know, some of their answers might be the same as in the interview online (depending on who you ask). Hopefully every person would first pay off any debt. Some might invest it and live off of interest earned. Some might donate it to a good cause. Some might spend it all, not realizing that a million dollars isn't as much as you think, especially if you start spending it in massive quantities. Others might act like nothing changed in their lives. Most would acknowledge that friends and family that may never otherwise speak to them would suddenly desire a relationship.
Even the title of this lesson is somewhat interesting, as it says to hold money loosely. It does not say that we should not hold money at all. As much as we each hate to admit it, we love the things we possess so much that letting go of them can become unbearable, even impossible. It's like the quote by Corrie ten Boom, saying that it hurts when the Father pries my fingers loose and takes it from me. This may apply to all areas of our lives where we take the things that God has given us and have made them an idol in our lives. This could be a wide range of things, but for this lesson, we will talk specifically about our finances.
There certainly are things that money can do, but we realize that there are other things that no amount of money can handle. You may be able to pay down debt, afford the best school for your kids or loved ones or just be able to buy what you want. However, money cannot cure disease or change the weather. Money cannot restore a relationship (and if it is used in this manner, is buying off a person really a relationship?). Having money can cause a change in one's priorities and it can cause some people to become more selfish than they would care to admit. Money is essential for our lives, but we need to learn to hold it loosely. What does that mean to you, and more importantly, what does God's word say about how we should hold money?
We read that godliness with contentment is great gain. This would imply that one without the other (godliness without contentment or contentment without godliness) is problematic. The problem that you will find outside of church are those who are seemingly content, but have no desire for a relationship with God. In fact, many nonbelievers can seem content, but when problems hit that they are no longer able to control, contentment is easily lost and they have nowhere to turn. The problem with many people within the church is that they desire the relationship with God but never seem to be content. They may agree that contentment should be part of their lives, but their lives belie that very statement.
Contentment is closely related to satisfaction or having an ease of mind. What do you have to have to be content? Are you content when you have your needs provided, or are there other things in life that must be present for you to be content? Is it solely that your needs are provided for, or are there other things that have to happen?
We come into the world with nothing. We are born into a family (and some even lose that early in life). As far as financial issues go, some are born into families with money. Some use skills and abilities to make money - you've heard of self-made millionaires. Some work hard throughout their lives to provide for their needs, but they may never be able to save much more than that. Over time, we all seem to accrue possessions and things, which, in and of themselves are not bad, unless they begin to own us in some way. The things that we need are food, clothing and shelter. Anything beyond that is a bonus. I remember hearing once that one must only look a sunset and decide if they can be content. Throughout life, it is only a surety that the sun will rise in the morning and set in the evening.
When we leave this world, we take nothing out of it. When we die, nothing goes with us. People may be buried with things, but all that does is take those things out of circulation. If you go to a cemetery, other than the size and words on a gravestone, you know very little about the financial condition of that person when they were alive. There is no difference between the owner for thousands of acres and the person who worked on that farm.
The desire to get rich leads to temptation. This desire isn't to do well in a career or to be able to provide for needs and to the ability to save. When getting rich becomes the ultimate goal, people tend to be tempted to take shortcuts or do things that they might not normally do. We read that it is a trap and harmful desires plunge people into ruin and destruction. One bad choice often leads to another bad choice, hoping that it covers the first. We have seen obsessive gamblers that have lost everything that they own, in the hopes of that one big win. On the other hand, even becoming rich can lead to many other problems, largely focused on the danger of losing everything that has been gained. In a more automated world, people can easily track their investments and other money, which is a good thing to do from time to time. However, those who think that they have to keep their finger on the pulse of the rises and falls end up rising and falling daily based on where things stand. When we focus more on keeping what we have, that in and of itself can become an idol.
We read that the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. First, we need to realize that money in and of itself is neither good nor bad. It is necessary for us to provide for ourselves, but having money, whether a little or a lot, is not a bad thing. The problem is the love of money. A poor person who has desires to become rich is as guilty of the love of money as is the rich person who wants to hold onto it all on their own. We also need to realize that the love of money is a root of evil, not THE root of evil. There are many other roots of evil in lives where other things take the place of God. It can be jobs, health, relationships and status. There are many good things that, when sought inappropriately, will result in damage. For example, a fire in a firepit or a fireplace can be very warm on a cool night, but a fire out of control in a home can be very destructive. When we use what God has given us appropriately, they are a benefit, but if we use them in a different manner than intended, they become somewhat of a curse. When we focus more on the things or circumstances in life and do everything we can to engineer their outcome, this will become another root of evil.
There are people who, in their eagerness for more and more money, have compromised themselves and ended up wandering from the faith. Distorted priorities often end up causing more and more grief. If the focus is not corrected, people can find themselves wandering away from the truth of the gospel and the other things in life that should be important.
If you had to assess your own situation, would you say that a desire to become rich is something that you struggle with? I believe it is something we all deal with at different points. We may not be trying to become one of the Top 50 Richest people in the world, but we may be thinking that we can have enough to provide for whatever we need. In many ways, there is a fine line here. We should be making wise investments and trying to ensure that we can meet our needs in life. However, when we put all of the priority in what we have or what we save, we end up idolizing that false security. This takes us away from contentment. It takes us away from reliance upon God and causes us to falsely believe that if we only had enough, we could weather any storm.
Do your best in your job. Make the best wage that you can make. Be careful of how you spend it. Make sure that you are saving money for the future. Be willing to help others in need. Use money as a commodity that is very useful in life. In all of this, use money, but be wary of making money to be your God, believing that it can provide for your needs better than God can.