Has Money (or the lack thereof) Become an Idol?

Written by Gary Foreman
From his column Life Stewardship

One of the most commonly misquoted scriptures is 1 Timothy 6:10:

          “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.”

A common misconception is that money itself is evil. But scripture doesn’t say this. Of course, it’s the "love of money" that is the problem. How we apply that information can make a big difference in our financial and spiritual lives.

The fact that someone has accumulated resources does not make that person either good or bad, unless the wealth has been made dishonestly. And, conversely, forsaking material things does not make a person virtuous. One might take a vow of poverty, and still be very proud in spirit for the “sacrifice” they have made. A person might also be envious of others who have more wealth. Both greed and envy are included among the seven deadly sins.

But money is not the problem. It is just a tool. We wouldn’t say someone is a bad person because they had too many tools. Money is a medium of exchange. In itself, it has no value and is not intrinsically good or bad. The problem comes with the ways in which we use money and because of the value we may place in it or in the items it allows us to acquire.

And while seeking poverty is not a widely held view, there are Christians who act as if it is somehow improper to want to gain more wealth. It’s not uncommon to hear Christians say, “I’m not worrying about the future, because God has promised to provide all our needs.” Such thinking might cause a person to have to work deep into their retirement years, or suffer financial hardship if they are unable to do so.

So what do you think about money? Has accumulating or repelling money become a problem? Is it time to reconsider what you believe and act on it?

Money is not evil... but we can take steps to maintain balance regarding finances in our lives.

Economists used to think that people primarily made rational financial decisions, but they came to realize that emotions play a significant role when it comes to money matters. We can make very bad choices in the heat of situations, so it’s usually better to plan ahead. With this in mind, here are a few ideas to help us think more rationally about money and how we can use it in ways that make us better stewards of the gifts God provides.

1. Pray before deciding on a purchase.

Establish a dollar amount (like $100) over which we won’t make a purchase unless we pray about it. Then, when we are thinking about buying that new gadget on Amazon or the giant recliner at the furniture store, we should pray about it. Let the Lord help with our decision.

2. Put good financial behaviors on “auto pilot.”

Studies have shown that making automatic deposits to savings and retirement accounts can be very effective in building financial assets. When money is set aside before we receive it in our paycheck, we are less likely to spend it on impulse. (Editor’s note: the Nazarene 403(b) Retirement Savings Plan is an excellent way for ministers to do this and take advantage of Annual Pension Supplements and tax savings even in retirement.*)

3. Don’t check balances too often.

Once we have done our homework for investing (i.e., research, working with a reputable advisor, etc.), and started placing money in our accounts, we should not check the balances too often, and realize that fluctuations in the markets are normal.

This doesn’t mean we should ignore our retirement accounts. We still need to periodically make sure that our plan is appropriate for our circumstances. We sometimes need to make adjustments, but we shouldn’t spend time worrying about the ebb and flow of markets.

4. Leave the credit card at home.

Studies have shown that we are much less likely to make an impulse purchase if we have to pay cash for that item. The convenience of credit cards makes us susceptible to emotional impulses.

Of course, emotions aren’t always bad. The Lord gave us emotions for a reason. The problem occurs when our emotions cause us to take actions that might damage our walk with the Lord and His plan for our lives. If we are deep in debt, we may lose flexibility in choices for our future.

Money is not evil, and we all need it to get by, but we can take steps to maintain balance regarding finances in our lives. As in all matters, God will help us in this area if we take time to seek His guidance.

Gary Foreman is an assistant pastor, author, former financial planner, and founder of TheDollarStretcher.com and after50finances.com.

*Note: investing involves risk. You could lose money.