“… in their eagerness to be rich, some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.” (1 Tim. 6:10b)
From the prophets to the epistles, the Bible is studded with teachings–and warnings–about wealth.
There are teachings about poverty, too; exhortations that care for the poor is caring for Jesus himself, and reminders that in the coming Kingdom the poor will be blessed. Why and how we provide for the poor is a constant conviction and an ongoing conversation for people of faith. But our convictions and conversations about wealth seem to be fewer and further between.
Maybe it’s easier to pay attention to those who need help from us than to realize that we ourselves are in trouble. We cannot help living in a culture of commodity and capital; but can we help the ways that culture impacts our personal faith, our communities’ choices, and even our nation’s priorities?
Can we spend Monday through Friday pursuing dreams of financial independence and material luxury, then gather on Sundays to contemplate the dangers of wealth?
Can our churches build costly sanctuaries and build up healthy bank accounts, then claim to be invested only in lives of faithful discipleship?
Can we wish for our country be a “Christian nation” and at the same time be the wealthiest nation in the world at any cost?
1 Timothy contains one of the most often misquoted texts in the Bible: it’s not money but rather “the love of money” that is “the root of all kinds of evil.” (1 Tim. 6:10a) Love is the root that feeds us, runs through our veins and stimulates our growth. The object of our love, whatever it is, becomes part of us, the source that keeps us alive and flourishing, and the flavor that imbues our fruits.
When we love something–our family, our friends, our church, our Lord–we savor it. We spend time and energy enjoying and enriching it. We kneel to serve it, following where it leads. We yearn for more of it. We give ourselves to it. Our love for it runs through our veins.
The love of money is the root of evils that are so common we barely even notice them anymore.
The love of money is the root of evils that we’ve invited into our homes, welcomed into our churches, and nominated to run our country. When the love for money runs through our veins, then it will run us, because when we love money, we savor it. We give it our time and energy, our service, our commitment. We strive to increase it, to enrich ourselves, and finally we give ourselves over to it. In our eagerness to be rich, we will follow where it leads: “away from the faith,” and down a dangerous path where we have only ourselves to blame for the painful wounds we inflict, and for the scars that disfigure our communities, our country, and our souls.