Flee from riches?
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For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content. 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 the root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.As I was reading through the above passage this morning, I was caught a bit off guard by Paul’s tone in discussing the desire for earthly riches.
But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness. ~ 1 Timothy 6:7-11 (NAS)
I have grown up hearing the paraphrase: the love of money is the root of all evil. This proverb is tossed here and there around the church. Everyone is warned; don’t love your money.
I was struck this morning, though, by the cautionary tone Paul takes in not only forbidding the desire for wealth but also instructing Timothy to actually “flee” from such a desire.
Flee from even the desire for wealth?
I look around me at my often prosperity driven Church culture, and I have to wonder.
Far from a “fleeing” attitude, many churches promise earthly riches as a part of God’s blessing to a believer. Other churches seem to condone the pursuit of wealth, providing that people don’t love their money once they get it.
Christian entertainment often highlights families living in material prosperity. Last year’s big hit “Fireproof” showed how the pursuit of wealth added stress to the couple’s marriage, but there was no mention made of how such a worldly attitude ought to be repented of.
I can hear the questions. “How can it be wrong to want to live in comfort? Doesn’t God want me to be happy? Look at Jabez, God blessed him didn’t He? The Bible says I will be repaid for my generosity, doesn’t it?”
It seems that we are missing the point entirely. Paul and Timothy seemed to grasp an idea that we in the modern Church have quite forgotten. That truth is this: we belong to a different kingdom. We aren’t of this world, and we ought to remember that. Our eyes shouldn’t be on things below, but on things above. Later on in chapter 6 of 1 Timothy, Paul reminds people who are rich in this life to keep their hopes fixed on God and to store up treasure in heaven. And Paul says in 1 Corinthians 7 that we should buy as if we did not possess, not making full use of this world.
Indeed, Christ Himself repeatedly told people to give up all worldly possessions to follow Him.
We have come a long way from Paul’s admonition that we should be content with food and covering. Today, “successful” Christian leaders live in million dollar homes, drive luxury vehicles, and wear designer clothing.
But at what cost have we tossed aside Paul’s warning?
Most obviously, the answer is time. The time that we should spend on our families, churches, and ministries is spent working long hours. And that’s saying nothing of the Spiritual wasting that results when we give our attention to anything other than our Lord and Savior.
It’s not that we shouldn’t strive for financial security. Paul wrote to the Thessalonians that they were to work with their hands so that they would behave properly toward outsiders and not be in any need (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12).
The point is that we shouldn’t desire earthly wealth. Instead, our desires have to be centered on our true kingdom – we should “pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness.” Only then will we live lives truly rich in Christ.