Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5
“The love of money” must not surface in the lives of God’s servants. Especially those who desire to serve as overseers of God’s work (cf. 1 Timothy 3:3). So what is “the love of money” and how can we stay free of it? I used to think it was the vice that consumed greedy Wall Street tycoons or Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, but certainly not me. Then I studied first century examples of it. Here’s a vivid one.
“[Those] who are possessed by that grievous malady, [the love of money], though they have no wealth of their own on which they may bestow worship as its due, pay awe-struck homage to that of their neighbors, and come at early dawn to the houses of those who have abundance of it as though they were the grandest temples, there to make their prayers and beg for blessing from the masters as though they were gods. To such He says elsewhere, “Ye shall not follow idols and ye shall not make molten gods,” thus teaching them in a figure that it is not fitting to assign divine honors to wealth.” (Philo, Special Laws 1.24.3)
This ancient illustration sounds strikingly similar to the mindset I had about “major donors” for many years as a development officer. Perhaps you have thought this way too? What should we do? If we find ourselves in a board or staff meeting and we hear ourselves or others say “all we need is more money,” rather than beg from wealthy people as though they are gods, let’s take some intentional steps to protect our mind and ministry!
Step #1: Tell God what you need.
The Apostle Paul instructs: Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (Philippians 4:6). This shows that we believe that God is the Sustainer of ministry. And don’t just pray once. Persist and don’t lose heart (cf. Luke 18:1-8). Hudson Taylor once said: “Since the days of Pentecost, has the whole church ever put aside every other work and waited upon Him for ten days, that the Spirit’s power might be manifested? We give too much attention to method and machinery and resources, and too little to the source of power.”
Step #2: Tell God’s people about the situation.
In the New Testament world, when God’s people were in crisis, they shared openly about it. Most notably, when the Jerusalem Christians were starving, Paul spread the word and encouraged contributions from willing Christians. Alternatively, today communications experts often teach that our messages should focus on the recipients. “You can make a difference through your gift! Others say, “Unless you give, this need will go unmet.” These messages seek to manipulate a response, and it seems like “the love of money” saturates their thinking. Don’t fall into it! Encourage voluntary Christian giving.
Step #3: Put to work what you have with contentment!
This step echoes Hebrews 13:5 above, though it sounds contrary to current perspectives. A ministry mailing that I received recently used such strong words that it sounded like the organization would go under if I did not give. While reading it, I thought, “Have they forgotten that God is with them?” Adoniram Judson rightly notes: “It is true that we may desire much more. But let us use what we have, and God will give us more.” Rather than focus on what we don’t have, perhaps let’s give thanks for what we do have, and put it to work trusting that God is with us and will provide for us.
Step #4: Praise God for His provision.
When giving met needs in the NT, God, not the givers, received all thanks and praise (cf. 2 Corinthians 9:12). Friends, God does not share glory! Even as Philo noted that it’s not fitting to assign divine honors to wealth, we must direct our trust and praise to Him, and not money.
How do we keep our minds and ministries free of the love of money?
As God’s servants, let’s pray fervently, communicate to God’s people honestly, put to work all God provides contently, and praise Him faithfully. And in the crisis situations when we are prone to forget (or freak out), let’s remind each other that God is with us, and He will never leave or forsake us.
To explore the theme of this article further, check out the EFCA Press book I co-authored with R. Scott Rodin and Wesley K. Willmer entitled, The Choice: The Christ-Centered Pursuit of Kingdom Outcomes.
Gary G. Hoag, Ph.D. (New Testament, Trinity College, Bristol, UK), serves as a visiting professor at various seminaries, part-time as ECFA International Liaison, and is known widely as “the Generosity Monk” as he’s dedicated his life to encouraging Christian generosity. Visit www.generositymonk.com to subscribe to his daily meditations.
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