As our economy continues to worsen, it’s easy to become depressed. Some of us have spent a lifetime saving for our futures, only to have lost it all to a plummeting stock market. Some simply can’t afford the exorbitant prices we are seeing on everything from groceries to movie tickets. Some are worried that they won’t be able to pay their utilities this month.
Financial concerns are real, and the Bible tells us repeatedly that being responsible stewards of our money is one way we can demonstrate our discipline, our hard work, and our thanks for all God has given us. Being wasteful, lazy, and careless are all frowned upon, and multiple parables illustrate that.
But focusing so much on money that it becomes an obsession, or worse, an idol we worship, is extremely dangerous. Matthew 6:21 says, “Where your treasure is, that’s where your heart will be.” And in 6:24, he goes on to say that we cannot serve both God and money.
When we concentrate on money to the point that it becomes our number one priority, we become servants to it, and if we’re servants to money, we can’t be servants to God. If we care more about things than we do other people and if we allow things to control our happiness, we are definitely straying from God’s intentions for us.
I have a family member who has lived a long life and who at 85 has a spouse who is her caretaker and companion. Together, they have purchased a beautiful home in Florida where she has always wanted to retire, just a block away from the beach. They have enough money to live comfortably for the rest of their lives. But they are not enjoying any of it because she is obsessed with having her “things” nearby, even though those things have brought her nothing but misery.
Like many older people, she sold her long-time home to move permanently to Florida. Over the years, you can imagine what accumulated, especially for someone who loves to shop and own beautiful things. She needed none of it when she moved, as her new place was fully furnished. But there was no making her understand that. She had to have HER lamps, her desk, her kitchen table because in her words, they brought her comfort.
But they actually did no such thing. Instead, she spent over a year laboring to pack up her home and deciding what would happen with every single item. As her life marched on, she missed it all because she was consumed with saving her things. Once they all arrived in her new home, she had nowhere to put them, so they lined her hallway, boxes and furniture stacked floor to ceiling.
Then she labored some more. In her old age, stooped and with a walking disability, she spent the next year unpacking, shifting boxes from room to room, trying to find a place for everything. Each day, she grew more and more feeble, more and more miserable.
Eventually, she wore herself out to the point of requiring hospitalization. She is currently paying for a storage unit for everything she brought and can’t place. Her sons have tried to talk sense into her every step of the way, but she couldn’t hear the reasoning. She just wanted her things.
Money has been known to destroy lives – just read the stories about people who have suddenly come into massive wealth through the lottery or an inheritance. A huge number find their lives destroyed by money and many lose it just as quickly as they got it. That’s because when we turn our eyes away from God and toward an idol like money, we lose our focus, we tarnish our character, and we place our faith in something that won’t fulfill or protect us.
My family member, an old woman broken by her need to surround herself with everything money could buy, is no longer physically or mentally capable of enjoying the retirement she worked her whole life to achieve. She doesn’t enjoy walks on the beach or relaxing on her patio. When I speak with her, I can hear the misery in her voice. She took her eyes off God a long time ago, and she placed her faith in money and all it could buy.
As the Bible warns, we can’t serve two gods. She definitely chose the wrong one.