How important is money to you? What does money provide you? Besides the obvious physical/tangible elements like various items, housing, transportation, and sustenance – what else do you get out of your wealth and material possessions? Does the balance of your bank account provide your sense of self-worth or does it simply reflect the level in which you’ve been monetarily blessed? Is your identity found in the clothes that you wear and the belongings that you own or is it found in something (or someone) else? When do you feel satisfied in your life – is it when you gain the next promotion or acquire the next trendy item or is achieved through other means like your faith? If your answers through these questions tend to lean toward the former possibilities, then perhaps money and possessions have become both a physical crutch and a spiritual impediment in your life.
At some point or another almost all of mankind gets caught up in the love or pursuit of money. Mark Twain once said, “Some men worship rank, some worship heroes, some worship power, some worship God, and over these ideals they dispute and cannot unite – but they all worship money.” The pursuit of money is at the very core of our nation’s formation. The “American Dream” is defined as “a national ethos of the United States, a set of ideals in which freedom includes the opportunity for prosperity and success, and an upward social mobility for the family and children, achieved through hard work in a society with few barriers.” Simply stated, anybody from anywhere can become anyone they want. When America was booming with immigration in the 1800s, what brought thousands of immigrants from all over the world to America was the pursuit of money. They could be a farmer in their homeland but move over to America, and with some hard work they could become whatever they want.
That being said, let me be clear on this, I believe there is nothing wrong with the inherent pursuit of gaining wealth and the desire of self-improvement. The problem, and the sin in a Christian’s case, enters the situation when the pursuit of money becomes priority over faith, family, and our call to be righteous. The pursuit of money is the pursuit of many, and as Paul says in 1 Timothy 6:10, “…by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” This issues with our relationship with physical wealth and possessions is not a new problem in the life of God’s people. Jesus dealt with this issue quite often in His ministry. In the 38 recorded parables we have that Jesus spoke on, 16 of them deal with the topic of money in some way. In Matthew 6:24 when he is teaching on the crucial matter of idolatry, Jesus chooses money as the one example to use. It is obvious that Jesus’ teachings and the entirety of scripture agree with Paul as he states “For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil…” 1 Tim. 6:10.
How can we recognize if we are allowing our wealth and possessions to mean too much in our lives? In one of Jesus’ 16 parables on money, Luke 12:16-21 provides us an example of someone who is in this very situation. Jesus says, “The land of a rich man was very productive. And he began reasoning to himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no place to store my crops?’ Then he said, ‘This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry.”’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?’ So is the man who stores up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”
Combing through this section of scripture we find a man who trusts wholly on his physical wealth and properties. In verse 19, we see that he is receiving his sense of security through his possessions. The man says to himself “you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry.” He could be at ease with his life because he had accumulated all that he thought he needed. How many of us echo this attitude in our lives when we feel as if “all will be ok when I get ____”? When our money or our material possessions become our sole source of security in this world, we are on the path of losing our eternal security in God. Perhaps we do find our security in God alone, but we receive our present satisfaction/joy in what our wealth can bring us. In the beginning of the parable we see that the man is already described as rich and has a plentiful harvest at his disposal. Even so, he believes he must make bigger barns to feel better and be able to be “done” with his labors. It leaves us to wonder, if things had continued to go his way, would he be satisfied with those barns or feel the need to only build bigger ones? We’ve all, in one time or another, gotten caught up in the pursuit of feeling the need to have more. Solomon in all his wisdom speaks on this in Ecc. 5:10, “He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves abundance with its income. This too is vanity.”
Finally, and maybe most of all, many of us might find our security and satisfaction in God and our faith, but we still attach our significance to our income and belongings. Five times in this small parable, the word “my” is used by the rich man. His crops were stored in his barns and his soul was able to rest. He found his worth in his finance. We often do the same thing when we match our identity in this world to our economic class, our rank at work, the cars we drive, and the houses we live in. We find our identity in money when we should be finding our identity in Christ. Too many times are we caught up in the desire for people to see us as anything besides Christians.
Christ didn’t go to the cross so that we could find our security in money. Christ didn’t go so that we could find our satisfaction in money. He surely didn’t go to the cross for us to be identified by it. Christ went to the cross so that we could find our security, satisfaction, and significance in Him, and Him alone. Galatians 5:20, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”