Money Management Day 2: Potential Pitfalls of Money
For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. (1 Timothy 6:10, ESV)
Wealth gained hastily will dwindle, but whoever gathers little by little will increase it. (Proverbs 13:11, ESV)
Bernard Madoff was at one time thought to be one of the greatest investors of our time. He was the chairman of the NASDAQ stock exchange, founded a stock brokerage firm, and even served on the boards of several nonprofit institutions. His investment firm, Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC, reported gains of 10-20% every year and was thought to be a great investment. Kevin Bacon, Larry King, Steven Spielberg, Elie Wiesel, and tens of thousands of others entrusted Madoff with billions of dollars to invest on their behalf.
None of these investors knew that Bernard Madoff was running the largest Ponzi scheme in history to the tune of $64.8 billion. The investments were not made, the returns promised were not real, and tens of thousands of people had close to $18 billion stolen from them. Madoff used his growing investor pool to pay out dividends to the earlier investors. This worked for over a decade, even making it through IRS inspections unscathed, but ultimately came screaming to a halt during the 2008 financial crisis. As investors experienced financial difficulties, they began to ask for their money back; the problem was that the money wasn’t actually there.
Madoff defrauded and bankrupted people because of uncontrolled pride and greed. He didn’t need the money; he was making hundreds of millions of dollars from his legitimate business activities. But greed kept him working to fuel the largest Ponzi scheme in history.
1 Timothy 6:10 is often misquoted or misunderstood. Money is not evil—it is neutral; rather, it is the love of money that can lead to many different types of evil. In Bernard Madoff’s case, his love of money led to greed, which led to wide-scale fraud. I am not saying that if you love money you will one day defraud investors out of tens of billions of dollars, but greed can lead to some truly awful things. Achan’s greed led to the death of himself and his family (Joshua 7). King David’s greed led to adultery, the death of Uriah, and the death of his own child (2 Samuel 11-12). Judas Iscariot’s greed led to the betrayal of the Son of God for 30 pieces of silver (Matthew 26:15).
In a world that is hungry to attain as much wealth as humanly possible, we need to be certain that our finances do not become our sole concern. I will admit that there are times when I get too wrapped up in the trajectory of our 401k, the balance in our savings account, the amount of time left on the mortgage, etc. While each of these things may be legitimate concerns, it can be easy to let the desire to retire early envelop me at times.
How can we combat this? Paul writes in Philippians 4:11-13 that he has “learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” Regardless of how few or how many possessions the Lord has entrusted us with, we should always be content. It may never be in His plan for you to make $1 million a year, to be able to afford a brand new Mercedes, or to do all the “fun and exciting things” you may see your coworkers or friends doing. If He does decide to entrust you with wealth, use it for His purposes!
We as Christians are not called to put our trust in the riches of this world. Fortunes can be lost overnight, markets can crash, disasters can happen, and wealth can dwindle quickly. Let us instead be content with what we have and be generous with the blessings we have received from the Lord. It would be my prayer that a spirit of contentment would characterize each one of us and that we would be reminded daily that our treasure is not here on earth but in Heaven.