Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” Hebrews 13, verse 5.
Love your neighbors. Be hospitable. Visit those in prison. Stay faithful in your marriage. Next on the list of exhortation is to keep our lives free from envy. Yes, it says “love of money” and don’t downplay that. But then it says “be content with what you have.” THAT is the key. It’s a heart-thing again; in the Bible, would it ever really be anything else?
One of my favorite day dreams is of winning the lottery. When things have been tight – and that has been so much of my life – I dream of not having to worry about money. I dream about owning a big house, maybe another one in the country, and building a bar there where my family and friends can come to let down their hair. I dream of building another cross by the pond, like we did at the farm we’re now leaving, and of having a place for my grandchildren to come and have fun.
The thing is, I’ve never really had to worry about money. My wife is a great accountant and she has always done a great job of making our dollars go farther than I ever thought they would. Even when we weren’t really making much money, she always did things to make sure we enjoyed life. For awhile, I thought she worshipped money, but over time I came to see that she simply enjoyed accounting and liked knowing where our dollars went. Through lean times and plentiful ones, we’ve always done alright.
Even that truth still misses the big picture.
The big picture is that love of worldly wealth, whether it’s money or possessions or the status they bring, displaces our love for God. God gives us all things in both paucity and plenty. He provides for both atheists and believers, for every living thing that has breath. If you have food, air, water, shelter, and anything at all, you have it because God gave it. The key to happiness here on the Third Rock is to be thankful for it, whatever “it” is. Waking up in the morning: thank God. Good workout at the gym: thank God. Date night with your honey: thank God. Rough day at work: thank God. Lose your job: thank God. Fall asleep in the evening: thank God. Drawing your last breath: thank God. In all this thankfulness, be content. Being honestly contented with being thankful is knowing the heart of Jesus, who has promised to always be with us.
And when we forget to do that, then we open ourselves to loving anything but Him. Put simply, that’s idolatry, and when you boil it down, the writer of Hebrews is exhorting us to reject idolatry. In his day and ours, one of the easiest idols to worship is wealth. Then as now, the founder of a wealthy feast is the founder of all feasts: God Almighty. And only Him. The writer exhorts us to not only reject this idolatry but, in doing so, to pivot to the better way that is embracing God. God is already embracing us, abiding with us, providing for us, not forsaking us even when we have forsook Him.
My wife tells the story of how, when she and her sister were children, they would play “rich days and poor days.” Her sister jokes that they always played poor days so they would be ready for adulthood. “Couldn’t we have played rich days more?” they joke, and it’s only half joking. We’ve known tough times and easy ones, and right now things are hard. Yet I know, I fundamentally believe, that God is still with me. That He’s still providing what we need, and that even when things are tough they will turn out ok in the end. God promises us Himself, meaning that we are already wealthy beyond anything the wealthiest person could imagine. Everything we get along the way is extra, it’s biscuits & gravy. Sure, I still have my lottery dreams; who wouldn’t dream of living in a beautiful home with everything you’ve ever wanted? The better truth is that, when my days are over, I’ll be going to wealth far better than some nice pile of sticks and bricks.
For further reading: 1 Timothy 3:3, Philippians 4:11,Deuteronomy 31:6-8, Joshua 1:5.
My Lord, thank You for always providing what You know I need. Thank You for always being with me, for never letting go of me.