Serving money rather than God is a core problem
Remember the Bible story of the sincere and virtuous rich ruler who was serving money and wanted to be sure of his salvation (Luke 18)? Jesus said, “Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” But the man wouldn’t do it. Money and the things that money could buy were more important to him. He was happy to walk the “religious” path as long as he could do it on his terms; as long as it didn’t take complete devotion.
And remember what Jesus said after this man walked away? “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” Even though Jesus offered this man eternal life, the man chose to serve money instead of God.
And in Matthew 6:24, as Jesus speaks about clinging to money instead of building treasures in heaven, he says, “You cannot serve God and money.”
So, how do you know if you are serving money? Here are four questions you can prayerfully ask yourself:
Do you want the wrong things?
“Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” – Luke 12:15
Jesus would have us be very aware of our tendency to find fulfillment in earthly stuff. The difficulty is that our desire for money or the things that money can buy is deceptive and we tend to be easily compromised, and we’re experts at rationalization. The good news is that we can simply look at where our money is going or take inventory of our possessions to understand if we serve money. In a very real way our lifestyle and bank account show our priorities and our deepest desires.
In the end, the issue is idolatry. When our lives are greedy, we are seeking satisfaction in a false god and often we’re serving money.
For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. – Ephesians 5:5
Do you ignore the needs of the poor?
Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. – Ephesians 4:28
The Apostle Paul said that sharing with those in need is important enough to be a motivation for work. God clearly cares about the poor – spiritually and physically – and we should too. Since this is so important, if we don’t care, we may be serving money. But there are conflicts at every turn when we seriously consider giving to the poor. It’s difficult to give when we have no short-term, tangible gain in return. And there is often conflict between giving to the church and giving elsewhere. Here’s an article on The Struggles with Giving to the Poor.
Blessed is the one who considers the poor! In the day of trouble the Lord delivers him; the Lord protects him and keeps him alive; he is called blessed in the land; you do not give him up to the will of his enemies. The Lord sustains him on his sickbed; in his illness you restore him to full health. – Psalm 41:1–3
And he answered them, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.” – Luke 3:11
Are you joyfully generous?
You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way… (2 Cor 9:11)
Serving money and being generous are sort of mutually exclusive. But being generous is NOT giving from our surplus. We cannot judge our generosity by the way it impacts the recipient(s). In other words, even if we really change someone’s life through our giving, that does not mean we’re generous.
Generosity, or not, depends on personal sacrifice. Remember the poor widow who only gave two copper coins in the offering (Luke 21)? Jesus said that she gave more than everyone else because she gave out of her poverty, and everyone else gave out of their surplus.
Paul used the example of Jesus (2 Cor 8:9) as the primary example of generosity when he urged the church at Corinth to meet the needs of suffering Christians. Jesus generously moved from unimaginable wealth to poverty and persecution and death so that we could have life.
He, who gives what he would as readily throw away, gives without generosity; for the essence of generosity is in self-sacrifice. – Jeremy Taylor
Do you work for earthly treasure or heavenly treasure?
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” – Matthew 6:19–21
Jesus is saying a couple of different things here: First, he is telling us that the right thing to do is to store up what is permanent – treasures in heaven. Second, he is telling us that when your heart isn’t producing this right action, it’s because you’re fixated on the wrong treasure.
Jesus is saying that our hearts follow our treasure, and we can understand our hearts by looking at what we value. He doesn’t excuse the way we live by asking, “Do you believe?” He says that you can tell what you believe; you can find out if you’re serving money by looking at your life.
The focus for those who live for Jesus will be heavenly treasure and not earthly treasure.
Money helps us carry out our mission here. It can buy houses, cars, vacations, retirement, convenience, pleasure, power, and almost everything this world offers. Money is so attractive that even the strongest of us are tempted to serve it, to kneel at its power to . But our call is to serve the Lord God; the great Sovereign who is worth more than we can imagine. Through the saving and keeping power of the Holy Spirit, our money is here to help us serve King Jesus.
You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve. – Luke 4:8