We all know that money is the root of all evil, right? You’ve heard that phrase haven’t you? Well, if you have you’ve probably heard what immediately follows in most cases. That is the clarification that it isn’t money per-se, it’s the love of money that is the problem. And it isn’t all evil, it’s all kinds of evil. I’m always ready with those lines when talking about wealth and greed.
The use of our own income is a very personal thing. Our country was established largely due to a fundamental disagreement on how our income should be taxed. We can be a touchy lot when someone is telling us how our own money should be spent. I would count myself squarely among that group. But I’ve been a bit convicted about that attitude recently. A couple weeks ago a study I’m involved in went through Ephesians 4. I learned some really good stuff about grieving the Holy Spirit (v 30), but it was a verse before that which is burrowing a deeper place in my mind.
“He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need.” -Eph. 4:28
Now, I’m no thief. I know you’re quite impressed by that. I’ll wait for my pat on the back. In his commentary on this verse, A.R. Fausset says, “Bandits frequented the mountains near Ephesus. Such are meant by those called “thieves” in the New Testament.” But you don’t need to be a biblical scholar to understand that this verse isn’t exclusive to former thieves. It isn’t as though a Christian who never stole before coming to Christ has nothing to gain from this verse. This call to labor in order to “have something to share with one who has need” is a charge we all need to consider strongly for ourselves.
It was as I considered this verse for myself that I began to feel convicted a bit. I began to ask myself, “Why do I labor?”. As a responsible (usually) member of society, I work to provide myself the necessities in life – food, clothing, shelter – so that others won’t have to bear me as a burden. I have no desire to become “one who has need”. As a husband I work to provide the same for my wife along with a sense of financial security. As a father of three I work to provide and care for my children as well.
But is that all? I’ve been blessed with a career that affords me a paycheck that more than covers my expenses I might call “needs”. But if I’m honest, after I’ve covered the ‘needs’ every month, my first thoughts go to the ‘wants’. Is that movie out yet to purchase? Is that fancy restaurant open yet? And more recently, can I upgrade my microphone for podcasting? Hey, I’m talking about Jesus on podcasts so that’s all for God, right? And if my own desires aren’t enough, culture and commercials tell me repeatedly that I deserve all these things. Deserve. Like I owe it to myself to spoil myself, or something.
It’s often after running the gamut of these type of selfish thoughts that I finally ask myself who I can help. What is needed that I can buy for someone, who can I donate money to, who is in need? This thought process of thinking of my desires before considering the needs of others must change. Shortly after Paul describes the love of money as being the root of all kinds of evil, he instructed those who are rich in this world to adopt a specific ethic in using their riches…
“Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed.” -1 Tim. 6:17-19
There’s that word again; share. If I’m examining my own heart I know I’m not always ready to share. I want to enjoy the luxuries of life. And after all, what I earn is mine to do with what I want, right? But again, if I’m honest with myself I know that’s a selfish heart talking there. The love of Christ is transformative in every aspect of life. That includes how our income is used. That’s a truth that is difficult for me to swallow, but meditating on God’s word and allowing it to convict my soul is a productive and healthy venture that can only result in me drawing nearer to God’s will for those that are His.
Mathew Henry said of Ephesians 4:28, “So necessary and incumbent a duty is it to be charitable to the poor that even labourers and servants, and those who have but little for themselves, must cast their mite into the treasury. God must have his dues and the poor are his receivers.”
I’m not advocating for a socialist utopia. I’m not even saying give every last extra penny to your local congregation. What I’m saying is that I know in my heart I can do better at mimicking God’s love in this area of my life, and I suspect I’m not alone.