Last week we talked about the importance of being content with what we have. Today we’re going to continue this thought as we see the danger with a desire to be rich.
It's easy to think that if only we had a little more money it would solve all sorts of problems. As we will see in our study today, longing to be rich and loving money can instead bring us a great deal of grief.
I think it’s interesting to hear what some well-known people who were very well off financially had to say about riches. Listen to the following quotes from some men who were very wealthy…
John W. Rockefeller said, “I have made many millions, but they have brought me no happiness.”
W. H. Vanderbilt said, “The care of $200 million is enough to kill anyone. There is no pleasure in it.”
John Jacob Astor said, “I am the most miserable man on earth.”
Henry Ford, was known to have said, “I was happier when doing a mechanic’s job.”
Andrew Carnegie said, “Millionaires seldom smile.”
Look with me at our passage in 1 Timothy 6:9-10,
9 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.
"Many people think having money brings security and happiness, but I Timothy 6:9 warns that it can be just the opposite. A few years ago, columnist Jim Bishop reported what happened to people who won the state lottery:
“1. Rosa Grayson of Washington won $400 a week for life. She hides in her apartment. For the first time in her life, she has “nerves.” Everyone tries to put the touch on her. “People are so mean, ” she said. “I hope you win the lottery and see what happens to you.”
2. When the McGugarts of New York won the Irish Sweepstakes, they were happy. Pop was a steamfitter. Johnny, twenty-six, loaded crates on docks. Tim was going to night school. Pop split the million with his sons. They all said the money wouldn’t change their plans. A year later, the million wasn’t gone; it was bent. The boys weren’t speaking to Pop, or each other. Johnny was chasing expensive race horses; Tim was catching up with expensive girls. Mom accused Pop of hiding his poke from her. Within two years, all of them were in court for nonpayment of income taxes. “It’s the Devil’s own money,” Mom said. Both boys were studying hard to become alcoholics. All these people hoped and prayed for sudden wealth. All had their prayers answered. All were wrecked on a dollar sign.” (Chuck Rasmussen)
Maybe you’ve said to yourself when hearing about cases like these, “That would never happen to me”?
Take a look again at the first part of verse 9. "But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare…" Have you ever intentionally fallen for a trap? Telemarketers call you on the phone with unbelievable offers but those unbelievable offers must work because telemarketers keep calling. It’s so bad the government has enacted a do-not-call list that you can add your number to. But who would intentionally fall for a deal that was too good to be true unless it was so enticing they were baited and then trapped?
Paul makes it clear that those who desire to get rich are setting themselves up for a trap; they fall into temptation and a snare. Note that he is not saying that rich people fall into temptation and a trap, but rather those who want to get rich. John Gill makes this point well in his commentary on verse 9,
"Not they that are rich; for some rich men are good men; and do much good with their riches; and are as free from temptations and snares, and foolish and hurtful lusts, as other persons, as Abraham, Joseph of Arimathea, Gaius, and others were; but such that would be rich, who labour after, make haste for it, and are resolved upon it, at any rate, right or wrong, as there be thousands, who never attain to it; so that the apostle does not point at rich men particularly, but at such who are determined to be rich, whether they ever are so or not:" (John Gill)
So Paul is not saying that all rich people are going to fall into temptation and a trap but rather those who struggle with the desire for riches. It all comes down to a matter of the heart. Someone could be poor and have a desire to be rich that would lead them to ruin. Another man of great wealth could have a heart that seeks to please God and actually avoid the perils that come with the desire to be rich.
Warren Wiersbe's says of those who desire to be rich,
"They that will be rich," is the accurate translation. It describes a person who has to have more and more material things in order to be happy and feel successful." (Warren Wiersbe)
This stands in stark contrast to the individual who has learned to be content. The person who puts Christ first and is content with what he has, whether rich or poor. This is not the person being described in verse 9.
But it is the individual who is not content but is always desiring and striving for more and more that Paul is addressing.
Notice also in verse 9, that this desire to get rich leads to sin. Look at the list of unpleasant consequences this desire to be rich leads to. Those that desire to be rich, "fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition."
Often our desire for shiny, new things makes our lives more complicated doesn't it? It's easy for our possessions to own us instead of us owning them.
Think about a guy who buys a nice fishing boat. Perhaps it is something he has longed for and daydreamed about and planned for, for years. He envisions tranquil, trips and getting away to enjoy his new boat. Think about how it could lead to temptation and a snare for that man. Perhaps he is married and has children that he begins to neglect by working all the overtime he can get – working every weekend and every holiday saving up for that boat. Then once he gets the boat he begins taking trips to go fishing with his buddies every chance he gets. He feels compelled to get his money's worth out of the boat and finds himself justifying more and more time away from his family. Think of the harm and destruction this could lead to – a troubled or even failing marriage and rebellious and wayward children.
Now I am not saying that owning a nice fishing boat is wrong or taking an occasional trip to fish is bad. But the point is that our quest for riches and things has the potential of leading us into destroying our lives.
I remember when Carolyn and I lived in Grand Rapids our pastor at Calvary Baptist Church shared an illustration of a family he had known in a previous ministry. They had a nice summer home on a lake were they spent virtually every weekend during the warm months. The children grew up spending their summers there. As the children grew older, a tearful father approached the pastor because his children were rebellious and were living lives marred by sin. The pastor then asked the father, whether the family had gone to church during the summer months. The father had to shake his head sadly, "no". This luxury the family had enjoyed throughout the years had come at a tremendous price. The children's spiritual welfare had been neglected. How much better this family would have been to have lived in a simple home and honored the Lord by making Jesus Christ a priority in their lives.
Vacation homes, fishing boats and other riches we enjoy are not in and of themselves wrong. But if our desire is for riches, and our hearts attitude is wrong we need to beware. We are setting ourselves up for temptation and we may fall into a trap that leads to devastating consequences in our lives.
In the last part of verse 9 we see these foolish and harmful lusts… drown men in destruction and perdition.” The NIV puts it this way; it says they ” plunge men into ruin and destruction". It’s quite a vivid picture Paul gives us illustrating the peril of the desire to be rich.Warren Wiersbe said it well…
"It is the picture of a man drowning! He trusted his wealth and 'sailed along,' but the storm came and he sank."
In one of Jesus parables He shared the futility of trusting in riches. Let’s look at Luke 12:13-21.
13 Then one from the crowd said to Him, "Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me." 14 But He said to him, "Man, who made Me a judge or an arbitrator over you?" 15 And He said to them, "Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses." 16 Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: "The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. 17 "And he thought within himself, saying, 'What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?' 18 "So he said, 'I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. 19 'And I will say to my soul, "Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry."' 20 "But God said to him, 'Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?' 21 "So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God."
Jesus made it quite clear. Storing up riches for ourselves and failing to be rich toward God is a foolish and harmful way of life.
Solomon said in Proverbs 11:28 that trusting in riches will bring you down but those who are Godly flourish like leaves in the springtime.
Solomon was not only a very wise man, but also a very wealthy man. He knew the trap that comes from trusting in riches.
Our trust must be in our Heavenly Father. Our focus needs to be on Him and not the accumulation of wealth. Remember also as we talked about last week that as followers of Christ we need an eternity perspective.
Now look at verse 1 Timothy 6:10 again. This is a very familiar verse to us and in fact is a verse that is often misquoted.
10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.
How many times have you heard people say, "money is the root of all evil"? But is that what Paul really says? No, he clearly says that it is the love of money that is the root of all kinds of evil.
Remember, it comes down to an attitude of the heart. How do you view money? Do you love it? Or is it just a resource to provide for our families the necessities and to give to the Lord’s work and to those in need? Money is not the problem. It is how we view money that can become a problem for us.
A.W. Tozer said it well…
“Money often comes between men and God. Someone has said that you can take two small ten-cent pieces, just two dimes, and shut out the view of a panoramic landscape. Go to the mountains and just hold two coins closely in front of your eyes-the mountains are still there, but you cannot see them at all because there is a dime shutting off the vision in each eye.” (A.W. Tozer)
If we love money, if we constantly strive for more, it can easily come between us and God. Paul states that some people have been so eager to get more money they, “have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”
How valuable is money if our eagerness to obtain it has robbed us of faith? One commentator says …
"Paul referred indirectly to some people, undoubtedly known to Timothy, who had fallen into the trap Paul was discussing. Eager for money, they wandered from the faith. This may mean that they had fallen into heretical teaching or simply that their fruitfulness had been choked off by their concerns for riches. In either case, they had suffered for it, causing themselves to be pierced …with many griefs." (Bible Knowledge Commentary)
What is your view of money? Is money something that you love and pursue to your own detriment or is it a tool that you have a proper perspective on and use for God's glory?
John Wesley made an interesting statement about money when he said, "make as much as you can and give as much as you can."
Making as much as you can with the goal of giving away as much as possible is a far cry from, one who desires to be rich in a selfish accumulation of wealth to be hoarded.
Listen to what the late Larry Burkett shared in an article published by the Christian Financial Concepts ministry.
"Those who love money wouldn’t part with it for anything-not even for esteem. Their lives are characterized by hoarding and abasement. They may have accumulated thousands, but the loss of even a few dollars is traumatic. Unfortunately, many Christians cling to every material possession they can. Trapped by the love of money, they would let their families do without rather than part with their most precious possessions. The love of money separates us from God. “Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, ‘I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you'” (Hebrews 13:5)."
There is great danger in having a wrong perspective on money as we have learned from today's text. We need to examine ourselves and our view of money. Do we love money? Do we eagerly pursue riches? Or do we love God first and foremost so that everything else is in its rightful place? We need to take the words of Mark 12:30 to heart when it says; And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.' This is the first commandment.
If we follow this command, then we need not worry about having a misplaced love for money that will bring us grief.
"In 1928 a group of the world’s most successful financiers met at the Edgewater Beach Hotel in Chicago. The following were present: The president of the largest utility company, The greatest wheat speculator, The president of the New York Stock Exchange, A member of the President’s Cabinet, The greatest “bear” in Wall Street, The president of the Bank of International Settlements, The head of the world’s greatest monopoly. Collectively, these tycoons controlled more wealth than there was in the U.S. Treasury, and for years newspapers and magazines had been printing their success stories and urging the youth of the nation to follow their examples.
Twenty-five years later, this is what had happened to these men. The president of the largest independent steel company, Charles Schwab, lived on borrowed money the last five years of his life and died broke. The greatest wheat speculator, Arthur Cutten, died abroad, insolvent. The president of the New York Stock Exchange, Richard Whitney, served a term in Sing Sing Prison. The member of the President’s Cabinet, Albert Fall, was pardoned from prison so he could die at home. The greatest “bear” in Wall Street, Jesse Livermore, committed suicide. The president of the Bank of International Settlements, Leon Fraser, committed suicide. The head of the world’s greatest monopoly, Ivar Drueger, committed suicide. All of these men had learned how to make money, but not one of them had learned how to live."
It's quite clear isn't it that money doesn't buy happiness. In fact Paul argues just the opposite that the love of money, the eager desire for riches leads to a trap and devastating consequences.
Let's take a look at our own lives. Are we being enticed and trapped by the love of money? Are you pursuing riches while endangering your spiritual life? Is your eye on eternity? Do you have a kingdom of heaven focus or a personal kingdom focus?
Or have you learned to be content with what you have. And is the object of your love the Lord and is your goal in life to do everything and use everything you have for His glory?