But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith, and pierced themselves with many a pang. (NKJV)
Wanting RichesThe story of Lot is a prime example of choices that lead people into trouble. Abram and Lot had too much in the way of livestock to sustain them together in one camp. So Abram gave Lot first dibs on the land and Abram would go the other way. I’ve previous mentioned that when sin is sin it should be identified and not called a choice. Lot had an amoral choice where to live but his choice didn’t have to be sinful. Was it a sinful choice?
And Lot lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered every where, before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, even as the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt, as thou comest unto Zoar. Then Lot chose him all the plain of Jordan; and Lot journeyed east: and they separated themselves the one from the other. Abram dwelled in the land of Canaan, and Lot dwelled in the cities of the plain, and pitched his tent toward Sodom. But the men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before the Lord exceedingly. (Gen 13:10-13 KJV)
Lot’s choice turned to sin as soon as he made his decision in a selfish manner. He was looking out for his own interest and ease instead of others (Phil 2:4). He was already rich, but saw this opportunity to acquire more without the work and nomadic life he had while living with Abram. He now lived in the cities of Sodom. Later, we find that his tent became a house (Gen 19:3). His choice is in stark contrast to the way Abram selflessly offered the first choice to Lot even though he could have insisted on it as the elder member of the family.
We are warned in 1 John 2:15-16 that when we desire the things of the world, when we look with our eyes at the good life, the green pastures that Lot wanted, that these desires don’t come from God. Lot’s choice didn’t have to degenerate into sin. He could have made the same choice without the lust. Maybe it wasn’t quite as bad as I’ve painted it, but where the riches were, there were also wicked men. Lot’s longing led him in the wrong direction and he was pierced with much grief.
Peter says that Lot was righteous and was distressed by the wickedness of the people that surrounded him (2 Peter 2:6). Why did he stay there? When the two angels came to rescue him from the city before it was destroyed, they had to drag him out (Gen 19:16). The snare of riches and ease kept him captive even though he was described as righteous. What a sober warning for all of us!
A faithful man will abound with blessings, but whoever hastens to be rich will not go unpunished. (Prov 28:20 ESV)
Riches are not evil and people who have them are not automatically evil. Abram was rich but his heart was in the right place. He didn’t put his gain before his nephew’s interests. Proverbs is clear that it is the intent of the heart that causes the problem with riches. There are many ways to get rich but those that are eager for riches want to take shortcuts and they won’t go unpunished. They will reap the consequences of their ungodly desires. Lot eventually lost everything. We have another example in Balaam who pushed God to the limits so he could gain from cursing Israel (Num 22:17-21). When he wasn’t allowed to curse Israel, he taught Balak how to entice Israel into sin. His reward was being killed in battle. God healed Naaman from leprosy and Gehazi took riches from him when Elisha had refused any reward. Gehazi was then struck with leprosy (2 Kings 5:20-27). It makes me wonder what the punishment will be for those who push the limits of God’s grace by selling prayer cloths and other things on TV.
Sometimes, it isn’t the money that people want, but the appearance of money. They want stuff. They want people to think they have money or they are willing to live as if they have money.
Woe unto them that join house to house, that lay field to field, till there be no place, that they may be placed alone in the midst of the earth! In mine ears said the Lord of hosts, Of a truth many houses shall be desolate, even great and fair, without inhabitant. (Isa 5:8-9 KJV)
Does this describe the housing boom and bust? What is the deal with always wanting a larger house? What is the purpose? One family has six children whose mother stays at home raising them. They have a modest house with three or four bedrooms and are satisfied. Another childless couple has a house with twice the floor space but wants a bigger house while both work and can barely make the payments. Woe to those with desires that take them to the brink of bankruptcy and beyond. Their beautiful mansion in this world will stand empty owned by the bank while others who are living in one-room shacks in the slum of a poor country will be living in a mansion in eternity.
One man pretends to be rich, yet has nothing; another pretends to be poor, yet has great wealth. (Prov 13:7 NIV)
We’re not just talking about material wealth; we’re talking about true wealth that brings wisdom and salvation. Jesus had a hard time with the Pharisees because they pretended to have great spiritual wealth yet they had nothing. They were the recipients of Jesus’ woes. The couple that is on the verge of losing their great house live as if they have much but are in debt; they will never be able to repay it if they keep seeking the same lifestyle. This is very likely a reflection of their spiritual condition. They may have made a commitment to Christ at some time in their life, but the desires of the world have choked out all outward appearance of faith. They have wandered from the faith and are going through all sorts of grief even while they want more. If they have never committed their lives to Christ then they truly have nothing.
We’ve heard of bag ladies with a cartload of money, old men living in squalor with a stash of gold coins, and other stories. These are few and far between. There are many more people who have learned to be content with what they have and that is a greater wealth than gold and silver. They don’t pretend to be poor but others may think they are because they don’t buy a new car every two years. Instead they choose to use their vehicles until the maintenance cost dictate a better one. They are frugal in many areas except when it comes to giving to the poor or the advancement of the Gospel. They regularly give a significant portion of their income, even as much as 90%, regardless of the tax credits. Their wealth isn’t measured in the abundance of things but in wisdom, peace, graciousness, and eternal life (Prov 3:13-14).
By humility and the fear of the Lord are riches, and honour, and life. (Prov 22:4 KJV)
Their appearance of having a lack of wealth is really a measure of humility. They don’t brag about their wealth. This is born of a fear of the Lord. They give the glory to the Lord and it can only come from a relationship with Jesus. Eternal riches, honor, and life come from God.
Root of Evil
One of the most misquoted verses in the Bible is the first half of 1 Tim 6:10. Most people leave out the words love and kind saying that money is the root of all evil. It is subtle but it is the same kind of distortion that Satan loves to use when he alters the Word. A thinking man will quickly understand that money is neither moral nor immoral. It is a tool that can be used for good or bad. He will also know that there are many other evils that have their roots in other things. Therefore he dismisses the whole Bible and rejects salvation because he may think but doesn’t investigate to find the truth.
No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. (Matt 6:24 KJV)
The truth is that the love of anything placed before the love of God is more likely the root of all evil. The love of money is just the root of one kind of evil. Jesus used the word mamonas which is broader than money.
Mamonas, a common Aramaic word for "riches," akin to a Hebrew word signifying "to be firm, steadfast" (whence "Amen"), hence, "that which is to be trusted"; Gesenius regards it as derived from a Heb. word signifying "treasure" Gen 43:23; it is personified in Matt 6:24; Luke 16:9,11,13.
As you look at what Jesus said, you can see that He made a play on words by using mammon instead of another word for money or riches. We can’t serve God and “that which is to be trusted.” When we love or put our trust in riches we can’t love and trust God. Our allegiance will always be in the wrong place. “That which is to be trusted” can certainly be applied to much more than money.
Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. (Ps 20:7 NIV)
What are you trusting in? Do you believe what is written on the money of the U.S. “In God we trust” or do you trust the money? Ps 33:16 says that a king isn’t saved by his army and a soldier by his strength. What makes us think that our government will save us or a different president will do any better than the current one? If we trust in God, we may not have the fleeting riches of this world but we will have godliness with great gain.
Money is a root of one particular kind of evil that God warned against when He gave the Law to Moses. People in positions of authority should not accept bribes. It distorts justice, removes impartiality, blinds the eyes of those who are ordinarily wise, and even causes a righteous person to word things in a way to accommodate the briber (Deut 16:19). It certainly explains one of the reasons that our country’s laws are so messed up and confusing. Activists storm Washington, D.C. with highly paid grifters – oops, I mean lobbyists. With few exceptions, these people are working to influence the laws of this nation for one primary reason – to make money for themselves and the companies they represent. They convince the senators, representatives, and their staffs to include languages in the bills that will favor their company or force projects to be done in specific locations so that their companies will benefit. The bribes come in the way campaign financing and promises to get the politicians elected again. Some of the bribes aren’t as legal as others are. The point is that they are all done for the love of money.
For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. (Matt 6:21 KJV)
Jesus told us to lay up treasures in heaven so that our hearts would be there also. What is your greatest treasure? Is it money, or your spouse, your kids, your work or something else? I knew one guy whose greatest treasure was his Porche. That and his other treasures kept his heart firmly on this earth. Heaven was not a consideration.
One of the pastors at our church, Mark Barrett, has reiterated on various occasions that our greatest treasure needs to be Jesus. Jesus must be our Lord so that we are willing to obey Him. If we don’t obey Him then our salvation can be questioned (Luke 6:46-49). Jesus alone must be our Savior for there is salvation in no one else (Acts 4:12). This requires us to repent of our sins and ask for His forgiveness. We can’t trust any religious system or our own goodness for salvation, only Jesus. But when we add that Jesus must be our treasure, it adds another dimension to our salvation.
When Jesus is our treasure, it shows where our love is. Jesus quoted the Old Testament when He said we must love the Lord with all our hearts (Matt 22:37). Jesus also made it clear that He and the Father are one (John 10:30, 14:9-11) and that when we honor Jesus we honor the Father (John 5:23). Our motivation in wanting to go to heaven is to be with our treasure, Jesus. We may be looking forward to all the other benefits to heaven as well, but if we aren’t looking forward to being with Jesus first and foremost, then our relationship with Jesus could be questioned.
We need to make sure our salvation is intact by having this threefold description of our relationship to Jesus. He must be Lord, Savior, and Treasure.
 From Vine's Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words, Copyright © 1985, Thomas Nelson Publishers. (Strong’s NT:3126)