September 23, 2022 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – 1 Timothy 6:6-10 (NRSV)
There is great gain in godliness combined with contentment; for we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it; but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these. But those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.
We may find ourselves loving money because money buys security. And security may make us think we are the ones who made ourselves secure, rather than the One to whom we owe everything.
Did you hear anyone say that money was the root of all evil while you were growing up? I definitely did. It was one of the main reasons people gave me for not talking about money in church. Church was for not-evil, and money was for evil, so we didn’t talk about it.
As a counterpoint to this view, though, there was my dad. He was a United Methodist pastor, and in my early childhood he was my pastor. It has been said that 85 percent of pastors are uncomfortable talking about money. He was part of the other 15 percent. He had come to the pastorate from the business world, where people were comfortable talking about money all the time; what they weren’t comfortable talking about was Jesus. He thought you ought to talk about them both. (A few years ago on Facebook I was challenged to list three things I’d learned from my father that we’d used to make others happy, and responded that my dad taught me to do your work with excellence, trust God, and if at all possible keep your mouth shut and ignore the turkeys.)
1 Timothy 6 is part of the practical, everyday pastoral advice that Paul gives to Timothy in this letter, and part of that advice has to do with money. While the Bible does not in fact say that money is the root of all evil, it also doesn’t say that money is unproblematic. The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, Paul says, “and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.” The more money you have, the easier it can be to love it. Jesus is getting at much the same thing with his story about the camel trying to go through the eye of the needle (Matthew 19:24).
But why? Unless you are a dragon or Scrooge McDuck, you are probably not sitting on piles of your wealth and constantly running your hands (or claws) through it to admire its beauty. The thing is that in our world – as it did in Jesus’s world – money buys security.
If you have money, you can afford a car to get you to work and school and the grocery store. (Have you ever tried getting around without a car in most parts of the U.S., if that’s where you’re reading this? Look to the right for a picture of when I tried to do that very thing today.) You can save money for crises and buy food in bulk for bad times ahead. You can afford quality clothes and shoes that don’t wear out and that look good for interviews. You can get yourself a good mattress and afford regular visits to the dentist and deal with health problems preventatively. You can enjoy theater and movies and good food and hobbies. You know that your belongings are secure because you won’t be evicted.
And if you can do all that, you might think you did it all yourself and forget to trust the one to whom you owe every last thing you own. Because assuredly “we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it” (1 Timothy 6:7).
Where does money buy security for you?
How can you let Jesus speak into those situations?
In Christ alone my hope is found,
He is my light, my strength, my song;
This Cornerstone, this solid Ground,
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My Comforter, my All in All,
Here in the love of Christ I stand.
Lord, let me use money for your glory and never love it in your stead. Amen.
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Commentary on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Godliness With Contentment Is Great Gain (1 Timothy 6:3-10, 17-19)
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Jennifer Woodruff Tait (PhD, Duke University) is the editor of and frequent contributor to Life for Leaders. She is also the managing editor of Christian History magazine and web editor for the Theology of Work Project, and a priest in the Episcopal Church. She has written a book of poetry, Histories of Us. Jennifer lives in Berea, Kentucky, with her husband, Edwin, and their two daughters.
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