Ways to Conquer Envy, Part 3: Freeing Yourself from the Love of Money
Continued from Ways to Conquer Envy, Part 2
Just last week I shared how dangerous it is to be in the spotlight. We often envy people who have power, fame and influential ministries. Yet, we don’t realize the dizziness and seduction that strikes at such heights, especially when a lot of money comes into the picture.
Christians may jokingly challenge God to test them with riches, that they’d be the exception to the rule and not get corrupted.
The sad fact is people (even holy people) get weird in situations that involve tons of money. We’ll never know how big that temptation is until we experience it face to face.
This week combating envy means getting more to the roots of why we envy. Throughout the previous weeks, we’ve dug deeper around this humongous weed and closer to pulling it out by its roots.
HAVE A PROPER PERSPECTIVE MONEY, ESPECIALLY IF IT INCREASES IN YOUR LIFE!
But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. –1 Timothy 6:9-10
If you allow money to give you worth, then money is your god and you open the door to envy.
Oftentimes, underneath envy is a love for money and what money can buy or symbolize in our lives. In our culture, having lots of money can be misinterpreted as success or God’s “blessing” on a person’s life or ministry. On the other hand, if you don’t have a lot of money, it can be perceived as having something wrong with your life.
Yet, the Bible warns us to keep our hearts free from the love of money! We are to use and manage money, but we must not give into the LOVE of money and see money as our provider.
Being aware of our culture’s view of money can help to disentangle issues of money from our very identity. My view of success isn’t determined by my job, my bank account, my house, my car, etc.
My identity is in Christ and He alone determines my worth! He calls each one of us priceless, because He purchased us with His very blood. And no amount of bling-bling can compare with the price Jesus paid to set us free! (1 Peter 1:19)
Money can be your god, if you let it. Even at low levels, this “love of money” will infect your relationship with God and put a barrier between you and Him. When we look to our job, our bank account and our retirement as our “provider,” we then depend on that money, instead of depending on God. And, if you let money be your god, then you’ll end up despising your Savior, Creator and Father in Heaven!
Money and God are in direct competition for supremacy in your life!
“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. –Matthew 6:24
How we Find our Identity in Status Symbols
Money and material possessions have been a status symbol throughout history.
I mean… why drive my beat-up Toyota Echo when I can go into debt driving a brand-new Toyota Lexus with all the bells and whistles? (Okay, this is a true story. I do have an older, beat-up Toyota Echo.) To understand the sheer counter-cultural nature of what I’m saying, they actually discontinued my car some years back.
Also, back in 2008, a steel boat of a car rammed into the left side of my car, leaving a huge unsightly dent, which later had to be pulled out. By the time I heard crashing metal and ran outside, the car squealed back up the icy side road, shrouded in darkness.
What am I going to do now?
Not having full insurance at the time, paying to fix my car was out of the question.
God spared me, because, despite the collision, the car ran fine afterwards. It only affected my car’s appearance. Years later it continues to run fine. I’ve even criss-crossed the country with it.
I fussed and fumed about the situation for a while, but eventually had to accept it. Yes, there were those times I had been embarrassed by my car. God, in His wisdom, however, used the situation to crucify my flesh. In other words, the massive dent got in the way of my ability to look cool and put together. As cool as you can possibly look driving a Toyota Echo, that is.
My flesh was confronted. It was like God was asking me, “Where are you getting your identity, from Me or the way your car looks?”
SICK AND TIRED OF THE JONESES
“Keeping up with the Joneses” is all about who has the better status-symbol life. If we fall prey to this bear trap, and have it snap shut on us, the enemy will drive us to worship money and strive to get it, since money alone will sustain this kind of lifestyle. We can be sure God won’t.
Though God gives us everything in life for us to enjoy (1 Timothy 6:17), He won’t give us material possessions to empower our flesh. (James 4:3)
So, what about you? Do you find your worth and identity in your possessions or in God?
BE CONTENT WITH WHAT YOU HAVE
If the greed and envy are the problem, CONTENTMENT is the solution!
The “love of money is the root of all evil” is preceded and followed by counsel from God on how to avoid the pit in the middle.
But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. –1 Timothy 6:6-8
Since our world runs on greed and envy, we really need to understand every drop of his counsel.
Apparently, you can be godly without being content. And you can be content without being godly. Neither one is complete. In order to navigate these shark-infested waters, you have to be both.
Having godliness rather than worldliness means your root is in God: pleasing God and doing His will rather than living for yourself, captivated by the things of the world. Godliness means living a crucified life.
May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world -has been crucified to me, and I to the world. –Galatians 6:14
Moreover, when I’m content, I’m grateful and satisfied with whatever God gives me! Though I may multiply my talents and extend His kingdom through an entrepreneurial spirit, at the very bottom I’m good with what I have. I’m content with my wages. (Luke 3:14)
God views our contentment as so vital, He’ll give us divine power to be content, no matter what our circumstances. That is, if we look to Him and depend upon Him.
…for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. –Philippians 4:11b-13
CONTENTMENT DOESN’T COME AS A DEFAULT OPTION
Maybe, this will be a revelation for somebody out there: you cannot be content without God’s help. We actually need His power to be content even in a time of plenty. For example, despite having all they could ever want, countless celebrities have shipwrecked their lives and have been left unhappy, dissatisfied and broken.
It’s also a learning process! It’s not just about having the right variables in a person’s life:
- married (check)
- healthy kids who are doing well in school (check)
- Fulling, effective ministry (check)
- (Fill in the blank), etc.
This checklist will be different for each person. We stretch out our hands and we think if we can just have that, whatever that is, in our lives, then we’ll be happy.
We must get it into our heads, hearts and spirits that more than having the right circumstances, my contentment depends on having a renewed mind and dependence upon God. The world will tell you otherwise, which is precisely why we can’t listen to the world!
See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ. –Colossians 2:8
The Bible declares confidently “godliness with contentment is great gain!” I have more than enough and am satisfied.
When it comes right down to it, Isn’t that what we all want and are looking for?
IN THE 21ST CENTURY, FLEE STILL MEANS TO RUN AWAY
Like I said earlier, Paul gives counsel on either side of his “the love of money is the root of all evil” declaration. Besides being content, his other practical advice is straightforward and easy to follow.
But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life… –1 Timothy 6:11-12
This will be counter-cultural and counter-intuitive. In our society, we are taught all our lives that having more money is better and that money can solve our problems. In other words, the world trains us to run towards the love of money, not away from it. If you ever feel “the deceitfulness of riches” gripping your life, you must run from it.
And, where we once were looking towards money, God now puts a positive focus in our hearts and lives. Instead of going after money, we go after righteousness and things of God’s kingdom. (Matthew 6:33)
We live for God rather than the idol of money. We grab a hold of the next life and live for it rather than living for the world that’s passing away. It won’t be easy, you’ll have to fight, contend and take hold of this alternative reality to fully live for it.
WHEN IT COMES TO RICHES, HAVE AN ETERNAL PERSPECTIVE
Having an eternal perspective keeps us on the straight and narrow when all around us screams “Buy it now!” or “Have your best life now!” Paul soberly reminds us, “we can carry nothing out” when we meet God face to face. God won’t ask us for the square footage of our house or what kind of car we drove. Instead, He will evaluate how each of us lived our life for Him on Earth.
Did we allow things to easily entangle us and weigh us down or were we willing to let go of stuff to run the race set before us?
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. –Hebrews 12:1-2
Did we just go with the flow of the world and let the Word of God be choked out from within us or did we root out our greed, commercialism, materialism and covetousness?
Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. –Mark 4:18-19
Did we cling to our possessions, because they meant so much to us or were we willing to give them up to follow Jesus wholeheartedly?
Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But when the young man heard this statement, he went away grieving; for he was one who owned much property. –Matthew 19:21-22
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” –Matthew 19:23-24
Many in the Western world are just like the rich young ruler. We are rich and have many possessions. We get attached to our toys, comforts and the freedom and ability to buy what we want whenever we want.
Sometimes, the desire for things or the need to protect the things we already have can keep us from following Jesus.
Jesus encourages us rather to lay up treasures in Heaven! (Matthew 6:19-21)
Verse 21 summarizes an important point on the focus of our lives, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
How attached am I to my stuff?
Am I more attached to those things than following Jesus wherever He may lead me?
If Jesus asked you to give it all up today to follow Him, would you?
GANDALF REFUSES THE RING
The thing we all know about money is it can be a huge temptation! Have you ever felt the seductive pull of money? Will we even know there’s a problem? Upon noticing a problem, do we resist and flee or do we let the Boa constrictor tighten its way around us?
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring highlights this fatal attraction. Gandalf pushes away the ring Frodo tries to give him. Gandalf, being both wise and good, didn’t trust himself with a ring that has left others clingy, babbling slaves.
Gandalf: “You cannot offer me this Ring!”
Frodo: “I’m giving it to you!”
Gandalf: “Don’t tempt me Frodo! I dare not take it. Not even to keep it safe. Understand Frodo, I would use this Ring from a desire to do good. But through me, it would wield a power too great and terrible to imagine.”
LIVE A MODEST, RESTRAINED LIFESTYLE
In the face of our unique times we live in and the temptations we face toward money, pleasure and comfort, it’s important to both live low to the ground and our hearts firmly fixed on Heaven.
Learn to say “No!” to Your Flesh
You alone can make choices to say “No!” to your flesh. Once again, we live in a world that trains us to grab as much as we can as fast as we can, whether we can afford it or not.
Please hear me. I’m not saying it’s bad to treat ourselves from time to time or that we can’t enjoy our lives and it’s holier to live broke and needy. I’m saying watch out, because the world is trending towards self-indulgence and pleasure at any cost.
To get caught in that rushing, swirling stream could mean we wake up one day and find ourselves miles and miles from God and distracted and numbed out to His will and purpose.
Lovers of Pleasure More than Lovers of God
The Bible clearly warns us how living for pleasure dulls and can even destroy our relationship with God.
In 2 Timothy 3, Paul makes a prophecy about the End Times.
But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited,… –2 Timothy 3:1-4
Okay, can we agree these people are just plain bad, even scary?
After listing out the horrible characteristics of these dangerous people, Paul also describes them as…
“lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God.” (vs. 4)
It doesn’t say lovers of pleasure instead of lovers of God; it says lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God.
In their lives and perspectives, these people may love God also, but they don’t love God as much as their pleasures and comforts.
Are we living in the terrible times of the last days?
Let me challenge you here: please take a good look at the society around us. Are we living in these times?
Then, take a good look at the Church and the Christians around you.
Do the Christians of today love pleasure/entertainment/comfort/their video games/ their technology/their toys more than they love God?
I don’t know, maybe it’s just me, but I think God would want us to live lives of godly purpose sprinkled with pleasure, rather than live lives of pleasure sprinkled with a little bit of God mixed in.
THE FASTED LIFESTYLE
In the face of a culture that trains us to love money and go after the things money can buy, God raises up examples for us to look to and follow.
For example, there are few people I know of who take living a simple life free from the love of money as seriously as Mike Bickle, the founder of International House of Prayer- Kansas City.
Over the years, millions of dollars have passed through his hands, yet he lives a modest, restrained lifestyle and devotes most of his time, money, energy and talents to building God’s house of prayer for the nations.(Matthew 21:13)
No swanky suits. No gold rings. No mansions. No flashy cars. No entourage.
Just an extraordinary “average Joe,” who cares more about living for eternity than this temporal world.
Somehow, he got how to live for God in the midst of all the mess of our times and the rampant materialism of our culture.
Knowing we need to do something is one thing, while knowing how to do something is an altogether different matter.
Mike Bickle would use the term “the fasted lifestyle” to describe how he sets the course of his life to do God’s will over and above “getting entangled in the affairs of this life.” (2 Timothy 2:4)
Read further about “How to live a fasted lifestyle” in the following link: https://www.charismamag.com/spirit/prayer/19351-how-to-live-a-fasted-lifestyle
GOD, HELP US TO SEE OURSELVES AS YOU DO
I leave you with a very sobering word from Jesus. Read the following passage in light of all that was shared in this blog post and reflect on the Church in these times and your own life.
14 “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:
These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. 15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.
19 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. 20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.
21 To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” –Revelation 3:14-22
IN LIGHT OF THESE THINGS, HOW THEN SHALL WE LIVE?
But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.
Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming… –2 Peter 3:10-12a
Next week we’re going to actually attempt to pull out the insidious weed of envy from its roots.