Do you have a close relationship with something that is ultimately bad for you? Hopefully, you didn’t think of a person when I asked that (although toxic relationships with certain people can be a challenge). Instead, there are things like technology, TV / movies, and junk food, which – if not managed well – can start to take control over us (especially when they are saturated with various habit-forming marketing techniques).
Habits aren’t inherently bad, of course. When we practice a regular pattern of good spiritual habits, those become “spiritual disciplines”. When we seek a lifetime of positive learning, those are good mental habits. And, healthy emotional habits include managing our thoughts and feelings (rather than letting them control us).
However, when we get caught up in relationships with things that do not have our best interest in mind, their regular inputs often lead to bad habits. Various sources of media fill our mind with things that are incorrect, or they try to pull us towards certain kinds of negative behavior (from spending our money where we are told, or making bad life decisions from a diet of advice that doesn’t honor God).
Jesus warned about one such prickly companion that vies for our affection and trust: Money. Paul, one of Jesus’ apostles, wrote the following:
But people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows.
1 Timothy 6:9-10 NLT
(Here, on this site, I have the advantage of not taking up an offering. It is uncomfortable to watch many pastors teach the Biblical facts about money. They know that, even as they speak the truth that Jesus gave us, some will incorrectly ascribe their message to selfishness or greed.)
For those who have studied this passage, they know that it does not describe money as evil. The Israelites took up collections to build the temple, for instance. Jesus’ apostles had money, and Jesus told Peter to pay a tax with money. Like media, food, and habits, it is the choices that we make about money that determines whether or not it is being used for good.
Instead, this passage reminds us that loving money can lead to all sorts of sins. While there are other things that lead to sin (like pride, rebellion, and jealousy), if we think about it, just about any kind of sin that we can think of has been practiced – at some time – out of someone’s love for money.
I think that treating money like a porcupine is perhaps a good balance. Tame porcupines can be held and even carefully petted, if their owners are careful. However, embracing a porcupine like a child holds onto a stuffed animal is likely to leave us with a bunch of puncture wounds. In the same way, we can hold money and take care of it, but when it becomes our security blanket, we’re going to be in a world of hurt when we hold it too closely.
So, it’s OK to have some money and to take care of it wisely. Just don’t get too attached to it as your source of hope. When you’re tempted to do so, take another look at the passage above, and remember how some of those who crave money have “pierced themselves with many sorrows”!
Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries, Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.