Money: A Healthy Detachment
“Build your nest upon no tree here; for you see God has sold the forest to death.”
- Samuel Rutherford
If the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil that has led to the ruin and destruction of many, then we must ask the questions, “How does a Christian regard money? With what attitudes should we approach wealth?” While Jesus has taught much on money and has given us many cautions to heed, let’s take a look at 1 Timothy 6:3-10 for an answer.
Paul starts with the observation that anyone who “does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness” is high on themselves. They are conceited. They crave controversy and quarrels about words imagining that godliness is a means of gain. In other words, they are not satisfied with their position. They seek to put their apparent “godliness” on display through intellectual engagement as a mean of being “one up” on others. They are discontent.
Paul then says that “godliness with contentment” is great gain. Didn’t he just imply that godliness isn’t a means of gain when referring to the discontented person in vs.7? Godliness should not be used as a means of gain, but godliness is gain if it coupled with contentment. Godliness, you see, is an issue of the heart. A person with a hunger to prove their theological acumen may appear godly, but this masks a deep discontentment in their heart.
So, Paul illustrates what being satisfied with one’s position in life looks like by drawing on the illustration of wealth. He says, “if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.” He is not saying that we should seek only to have food and clothing out of some kind of minimalistic and self-deprecating mindset, but that if we only have a bare minimum we should be those who are still content. In other words, we should not be those who are discontent with our position in life.
How can Paul say this? What is the secret? In Philippians 4:12-13 Paul says that he has learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. What was it? It was that he could do all things through him who provided strength. In other words, unlike the person in 1 Tim. 6:4 who displays an “unhealthy craving” for controversy, he doesn’t have a craving for money at all because of his reliance on the provision of Jesus Christ for strength in every situation. Money did not hold sway over him. We could say that he has a healthy detachment from money. It could come, it could go, but he would keep focused on Christ.
Wouldn’t that be nice, having the attitude that it doesn’t matter if money came or went? How much time do you spend thinking about money? Do you long to win the lottery? Are you impatient for the day you will be getting a raise? Do you wait eagerly for an earthly inheritance? Are you overly tuned in to conversations about money? Are you obsessed with saving or making a dollar? Do you have re-occurring thoughts or worries about your investments, RSPs, pensions…? Does the thought of having to give up some comforts to pay necessary bills or keep financial commitments sadden you? Do you have a hard time giving because, at least in some part, money means security?
May God grant us freedom – not from money itself, but from the energy, thought and desire it so often commands. When it comes to money, may He grant us the attitude of Job who said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job 1:21).