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The Effect of Money on the Soul
Take it from someone who has had a lifetime experience of trying to help Christians understand their relationship to their finances – money has a very powerful and profound effect upon the human soul. I have watched hundreds of Christians in my time become financially blessed then develop an acquisitive streak that in turn makes their souls as metallic as the coins they seek.
Someone has said, “Having a good deal of money does not change a person; it merely unmasks them.” If a person is naturally selfish or greedy, money will simply show up those tendencies in a greater and clearer light. “An offering,” said one writer, “is minted personality.” We can tell a lot about the kind of person we are by what and how we give.
There is no surer way of determining our spiritual maturity by the attitude we take toward money. A pastor tells how his church began a building extension program, and one woman, an apparently devout but financially deprived soul, used to say to him whenever he paid her a pastoral visit: “If I had lots of money, believe me, I would give liberally to the building program of the church.”
It so happened that well before the building was completed and the church was still far from reaching its budget, the woman concerned inherited a very large legacy. She revealed this fact one day to the pastor who on one of his pastoral visits several weeks later reminded her of how she used to say, “If I had lots of money for I would give liberally to the building program of the church.” She replied, “Do you know it is a strange thing – when I had no money, I had the heart to give. Now that I have money I just don’t have the heart!”
I have known many people, too, who said they wanted to go into business to make money so that they could give it to God. But once they prospered, they were loath to invest it in the Kingdom. Money is a wonderful servant but a terrible master. If it gets on top and you get under it, then your life is decided by a thing; in consequence you are no longer a person but a thing. If money is your god, then your enfeebled personality is the price you pay for the worship of that god.
We had better master money before it masters us.
So the Bible sounds its warning. It tells us money can seduce the soul from its true anchorage in God. It must be watched not because it can be stolen but because it can steal. It can steal control of a person’s life.
Yours and mine.
Scripture teaches us that neither asceticism nor avarice is a balanced approach to life. It shows us that we have a right and a duty to have our needs met. In the Early Church those who had much shared with those who had little. In Acts 4:34, we see how distribution was to every one as they had need.
There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need
Scripture teaches us also that when we have more than we need, we have a responsibility to help those who are in need.
Consider these words of Jesus in the well-known story of the Sower who went forth to sow. He mentioned two things that choked the growing what and made it unfruitful – the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful” (Matthew 13:22). James Moffat translates this verse:
As for him who sows among thorns, that is the man who listens to the word, but the worry of this world and the delight of being rich choke the word so it proves unfruitful.
Note the words “the delight of being rich.” Riches are not the enemy; it is the delight of being rich that we have to guard against. It sours the soul when we see riches as an end in itself. If the delight is in what can be done through riches to help others, then the soul is saved from decay.
There is an old saying that whoever craves wealth for its own sake is like a man who drinks sea water, the more he drinks the more his thirst increases until finally he drinks himself to death.
Is it wrong to have riches? No. God does not condemn a Christian for that. He does condemn Christians however when they put their trust in riches. This is how the apostle Paul puts it when writing to Timothy:
Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. (1 Timothy 6:17)
The Psalmist said it like this:
Do not trust in extortion or take pride in stolen goods; though your riches increase, do not set your heart on them. (Psalm 62:10)
“Money amassed has gravitational force,” says pastor Greg Lafferty. “It’s got power, it’s got pull, it’s got weight. And like everything that has mass, it exerts a gravitational pull.” He recommends that every one would do well to keep one of the Proverbs of Solomon always at the forefront of our mind lest we be overtaken by the snare that money and possessions can bring. Listen again to what wise old King Solomon said.
Keep falsehood and lies far from me; … otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, 'Who is the LORD?'. (Proverbs 30:8)
In order to avoid the traps that money can bring it is important to follow some simple but clear biblical principles, the first of which I suggest is this: