In the book of John, shortly before the account of the events that we sometimes call Palm Sunday, is the following comment made by Judas Iscariot, after a woman (named Mary) had anointed Jesus’ feet at dinner with expensive perfume:
But Judas Iscariot, one of His disciples, who was intending to betray Him, said, “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and given to poor people? ” Now he said this, not because he was concerned about the poor, but because he was a thief, and as he had the money box, he used to pilfer what was put into it.
John 12:4-6 NASB
The suggestion to sell things and give money to the poor sounds good on the surface, but Judas wasn’t thinking about doing good for others with the money – only in helping himself.
I imagine the apostle John writing down this account in his gospel, several years after it happened. If we choose to give John the benefit of the doubt, and expect that he had found forgiveness in his heart for Judas, I think that this would have brought up sad memories of a partner in ministry who went down the wrong path. Perhaps John and the other apostles (maybe Matthew, since he knew about money) knew that Judas was stealing money from the group’s purse, or maybe they suspected it but never proved it until later. Either way, I have to believe that, if they had learned from Jesus’ teachings, took the time to understand the necessity of His death for the salvation of humankind, and let the Holy Spirit influence their lives, they were working to forgive Judas.
Whether in church leadership or our own home, money is necessary to keep the lights on and the pantry stocked. However, when considering new sources of income, let us consider the reason why we want more.
To be clear, I understand that there are many who need extra just to get by. I’m not questioning their motives (and, I would expect the church, when operating like the example we find in the book of Acts, to help out those within its body who are in need). But if we have enough and still want more, what do we intend to do with “more”?
I believe that there are those who want to increase their income so that they can do more for others with it. This includes the parents who want their children to get a better head start than they had, as well as those who believe in a ministry enough to want to see it grow for the glory of God.
Those in this first group may experience the blessings that Paul talks about in the following passage from 1 Timothy (after contrasting it with those who seem to think that following or teaching about Jesus is just a way to get rich, in 1 Timothy 6:3-5):
But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment. 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.
1 Timothy 6:6-8 NASB
There is a fine line between taking care of one’s self and one’s family, versus just plain greed, but I think that a key step is having contentment (per the verses above) where we already have enough.
Then, there are others – because I have been known to fall into this category – who want a little more for themselves. We look for more security (with more money), less stress, or nicer stuff. However, Paul warns us:
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 a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
1 Timothy 6:9-10 NASB
As Admiral Akbar said, “It’s a trap!” Note that the problem is not money. There have been well-to-do followers of God throughout history (see Matthew 19:23-26 for the key to making this work). Jesus’ disciples even carried some money, as mentioned above. The problem is the love of money.
So, if you are doing ok with what God had provided for you, consider doing something different with the next raise, refund, bonus, or earning opportunity. Or, maybe you are inspired to go out and proactively look for a chance to earn some more, after pre-committing the entire amount to a cause outside of yourself. (Even a percentage is fine: remember the account of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5:1-11. Their sin wasn’t in not giving all of the money they got from the sale of some land; instead, it was in lying about the amount to look good.)
Don’t be afraid to earn money legitimately, or receive help from others at the right time. However, when you have been blessed with enough, be content, and spread the extra around a little!
If you’re interested in a bit of inspiration for this, below is an example that I observed in our own church:
One Sunday morning at our church, envelopes containing a small bit of “seed money” were handed out. Individuals were challenged to invest this money (if they chose to take an envelope), and see how much they could increase it over 3-4 weeks. Then, the proceeds would go towards one of the church’s ministries (providing food for others via one of our mission partners).
This was an interesting challenge, because those who accepted it know from the start that the money they earned wasn’t going to themselves; it was already committed to a good cause. The congregation responded amazingly, and multiplied the investment substantially – through a lot of personal work, sacrifice, and not a little help from God.
Regardless of your approach, find a way to bless others in Jesus’ name, or invest in something that will glorify Him.
Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Copyright by The Lockman Foundation.