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A Perspective on Money and Wealth

Some Christians believe that money and wealth is a form of evil and corruption. I believe to the contrary that money and wealth can very easily corrupt you, but it is not evil.

Recently teaching on this I was enlightened by one of Jesus’s more popular parables from Mark 4:3-8, 13-20. The story is about a farmer who goes out to his property and sows seed. The seeds fall onto different types of soil, some of which “fall among thorns, which grew up and choked the plant.” In verse 19 we get the interpretation. We learn that the worries of this world, the deceitfulness of wealth, and the desire for other things choke the word, making it unfruitful.

It is important to notice that wealth in itself is not what causes unfruitfulness. It is the deceitfulness of wealth. When people are deceived they believe something that is not true. Generally we are completely unaware of it until we are burned by the false belief.

Here are several ways money and wealth can be deceptive and consequently destructive.

First, it can cause us to be arrogant. Wealthy people are easily deceived into thinking that they created their wealth on their own. This in turn leads to an attitude of arrogance and superiority. Moses says you end up thinking in your heart, “My power and the strength of my hand made me this wealth” (Deuteronomy 8:17). But that is simply not true. Moses sets the record straight in the very next verse when he says, “It is God who is giving you the power to make wealth.” This is what is true! And when you recognize the truthfulness of this, it will humble you. It will give you a thankful heart, which is pleasing to God.

Second, wealth can deceive you into believing that it provides real security in your life.  But what is security? This is one of my favorite definitions, “Security is when you build your life around something that cannot be taken away from you.” Wealth can be taken away from you, and many people can attest to that. Furthermore, the day you die you will be separated from all your earthly possessions. Solomon makes this observation in Proverbs 11:4, “Your riches will not profit you in the day of wrath.” It will be of no value the day you stand before God.

Third wealth can deceive you into believing you are powerful and have no need outside yourself. You now have all you need. It causes you not to be able to see your need for God. Wealth can create the belief that you are sufficient and have no need for God. A wealthy man I know once said to his son, “Why do I need Jesus? I have everything I want.” This could very well explain why Jesus said it is hard for the wealthy to enter into the kingdom of heaven (Mark 10:23-5). They are blinded from seeing their need for Christ and the forgiveness of their sins.

Finally, maybe the most common deception is the idea that wealth can buy happiness.

In the September 7, 2003 edition of The New York Times Magazine, there was a fascinating article entitled The Futile Pursuit of Happiness. It is about our mistaken belief of what will produce happiness. The article is based on research by Harvard psychology professor Daniel Gilbert, and his fellow researchers – psychologist Tim Wilson of the University of Virginia: economist George Lowenstein of Carnegie-Mellon, and psychologist (and Nobel laureate in Economics) Daniel Kahneman of Princeton. They conducted an academic study to explore what produces happiness. In the study, they examined the ways we make decisions that we believe will lead to genuine happiness. And then they examined how people actually felt once they got or experienced what they wanted. Ultimately, they were seeking to find out, do our decisions about life give us the emotional happiness that we expect?

In the end, their research revealed that most people do not know what will lead to their ultimate well-being because our desires bear little relation to the things that truly make us happy.

There are a number of factors that contribute to a joyful, happy life. Wealth plays a minor role in impacting these various components.

Consider these factors that contribute to our happiness: A good marriage and family life, a meaningful life, friendship, wisdom, strong character, good mental health, and peace in your heart. All of these factors are powerfully influenced by our relationship with God. I believe that happiness is a by-product of living a life that is in the center of God’s will. Remember, God’s will fits your design. When you do what you are designed to do, your life will flourish.

Richard E Simmons III is the founder and Executive Director of The Center for Executive Leadership and a best-selling author.

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