As a personal finance advocate, I have written over a thousand articles, columns & blogs, given over a thousand talks & lectures over a dozen nations, written and published four books on managing money and building wealth. However, if you have heard me you know that I often remind people about the true purpose of money and a stern warning about the worship of money. Instead of just being a tool, money to others becomes an idol wether they realize it or not.
Jesus knew all about gods such as Baal in the Old Testament, who tempted the Israelites to worship him for the sake of wealth. The Lord also recognized that people in his day faced a new, subtler, and perhaps even stronger temptation: to treat money as an idol like Baal, an idol to worship as a god to get what they wanted.
But humans cannot serve two kings. Jesus reminds us that when we try, we risk devoting ourselves to money and hating him as mentioned in Luke 16:13, ESV: No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. In fact, the New Testament teaches that money and greed are often the loudest and most appealing idols seeking to steal our attention. Paul declares that greed is idolatry, that to be greedy is to worship other gods: …Don’t be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world” (Colossian 3:5, NLT).
Once we remember that the Jews saw idolatry as the ultimate sin that put one outside the community of faith, we can hear the full force of Paul’s words. Idols had always threatened to steal the love, trust, and service God deserves and demands. By equating greed with idolatry, Paul provocatively told the church they didn’t have to go into a rival temple to worship another god. Their greedy hearts created other gods out of every coin in their coffers.
That is why Jesus warned his followers to watch out for all kinds of greed. His parables tell of farmers destroyed in the midst of their prosperity because they hoarded wealth and failed to be rich toward God (check out Luke 12:16–21), of rich men sent to hell for their failure to let go of their wealth for the sake of their neighbor (check out Luke 16:19–31), and of eternal judgment declared on the basis of one’s willingness to share with those in need (check out Matthew 25:31–46). All these parables point in the same direction: money wants our worship. But every bit of ourselves we give to our stuff we snatch away from our true King.
Because our material possessions so often seduce us into worshiping them like gods, they pose possibly the preeminent threat to worshiping Jesus. When we worship money, it mauls us. Money becomes a spiritual power that too often uses us rather than the other way around.
Don’t get me wrong, money is important but it should not be the end goal and it will be an idol. Here is something I need to remind myself all the time: Wealth and the ability to create wealth comes from the Lord, and it is not for our own purpose but for His. Building wealth without the gospel makes money a hard task master and we get sucked into a whirlwind pursuit of earthly treasures.
Let us ask ourselves this question — in what ways are we tempted to worship money? Maybe it is time for a heart check.
(Randell Tiongson, RFP is an advocate of Life & Personal Finance. With nearly 30 years of experience in the Financial Service Industry – Banking, Mutual Funds, Insurance and Financial Planning, and Management Consultancy – he has become one of today’s most respected personal finance coaches in the country. His writing appears here with the author’s permission. Check out his website for more financial advice www.randelltiongson.com)