Monday, January 31, 2011

God or Money?

I was listening to Dr. Jimmy Jackson, senior pastor of Whitesburg Baptist Church in Huntsville, Alabama, on TV this past Sunday morning. The topic of his sermon was finding financial freedom. He discussed what people normally consider to be financial freedom, which is being totally free of debt and having enough money to live on for the rest of our lives without having to work. He said that this goal was fine, but the financial freedom he was going to talk about was the only true financial freedom, and that was depending upon God for our needs rather than ourselves, other people, or our finances. He quoted from Matthew 6 where Jesus says, "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness! No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money."

At one point in Dr. Jackson's sermon he said that if we put our trust in money, it will disappoint us, as it did in the recent financial crisis. However, if we put our trust in God, he will not disappoint. I understood the point he was trying to make, but I had to take exception with it. Just think a bit about it. Many people place their trust in God for many things. Sometimes it works out, other times it doesn't. For instance, a person places his trust in God to protect his children during those times when the parent cannot. Yet, the child ends up severely injured or dead. A farmer trusts God to protect his crops by not bringing severe weather, but the freeze comes and the farmer's crops are decimated. There are many, many ways in which people trust God, only to be disappointed. Some of these people become disillusioned, while others take the attitude that God knows what he is doing, and the bad things that have occurred happened for a reason. Now think with me further. If people took the latter attitude with money, they would find that they could trust in money just as much as God. For example, if a person trusts that his money will see him through his old age, but suddenly all is lost due to a severe economic downturn, the person could just say that it all happened for the best. His money has not let him down after all. So, the success or failure of the object of our trust is more in the eye of the beholder than in the object itself. If we take the attitude that things should always work out as we want if we trust in something or someone, then we can become bitter with that object should things so sour. However, if we take the attitude that the object of our faith can do no wrong, then regardless of what happens, we will consider the object blameless. This can apply to Yahweh, Buddha, Zoroaster, Zeus, money, or a totem pole.

Some of you might say that God cannot be compared with money since God is eternal while money is temporal. That is true, and that is exactly the point that Jesus makes in Matthew 6. Many people trust in God for eternal things, but I know of no one that trusts in money for eternal things. So, if we are to make a valid comparison between God and money, we must talk about temporal matters only. Who or what can be trusted the most with temporal matters: God or money. Well, there have been many people who have placed their trust in God for their temporal lives here on Earth only to be severely disappointed. Other have been extremely satified with God's provision. On the other hand, many people have placed their trust in money and finances for their temporal well-being and have been greatly disallusioned. There really are things that money cannot buy. However, others have been very satisfied, being able to live into old age with all their needs, and many wants, met, while perhaps being able to leave much of their wealth to children and charities.

So, it appears that there really is no person, thing, or deity that we can place our temporal trust in 100% and never be disappointed. Unless of course, you are one lucky dude.

I have spoken of money in this post as if it is some sort of conscious entity that can decide whether to benefit our lives or destroy them. Of course, it is no such thing. Money is simply a tool that we use to make it easy to exchange our labor for the labor of others. So, when money blesses us, that typically means that we have managed our money well and no one has been able to take it from us. When money fails us, it typically means that we have mismanaged our money or others have either stolen it or set in play the financial conditions that led to its devaluing. In the end, it is normally conscious entities, such as ourselves and others, that ultimately determine how well money works for us. However, there are also those chance circumstances, whether fortunate or unfortunate, that can make or break us.

Whenever I think about money and it's nature, I think of Francisco d'Anconia's speech about money in Ayn Rand's novel "Atlas Shrugged". It lays out how money arises and what its purpose is. If you would like to read this speech for yourself, it is available online at . While reading it, please keep in mind that Ms. Rand uses the common misquote of 1 Timothy 6:10A. She uses the phrase "money is the root of all evil" rather than the correct "love of money is a root of all kinds of evil". I am not sure if Ms. Rand was mistaken in her knowledge of what the Bible says or if she used the misquote because so many people have a misconception about what the Bible actually says.


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