Recognizing Modern Idolatry Day 2: The Idol of Money, Part 2
Yesterday we began our study on the idol of money, looking at an example in the Bible of someone who experienced catastrophic consequences of giving in to greed. Let’s look a little further into this cancer of greed, and then offer some practical advice to avoid falling into this trap.
Sadly, many professing Christians today have bought into the lies greed sells. The movement widely known as the “prosperity gospel” reveals much of our culture’s overblown valuation of wealth and an inexcusable acceptance of greed from the church. In 1999, television prosperity preacher Creflo Dollar made the following statement to an applauding crowd: “We established last night that you are not whole until you get your money. Amen… You need to hear about money, because you ain’t gonna have no love and joy and peace until you get some money!… You got to get some MONEY!” (Creflo Dollar, TBN, July 20, 1999). You may be (and should be) raising your eyebrows, asking, There’s no love, joy, or peace without money? What Bible was he reading? What world is he living in? Ultimately, the Word of God tells us that we receive lasting love, joy, and peace through the perfect sacrifice and abiding presence of Christ Himself. He is the source of all that we need, regardless of the riches we may or may not possess. Reality also bears out that wealth simply cannot deliver any of the benefits it often promises because it is inherently meaningless and temporary. When we set our hearts’ affections on material wealth, we are setting ourselves up for cruel disappointment and lingering regret (1 Timothy 6:9-10). Yet Dollar is still appearing on Christian TV networks to wild applause while raking in millions of dollars and preaching a twisted message of wealth and success as the ultimate reward of faith.
With these two examples in mind, both ancient and modern, the vital question we need to be asking is where our affections truly lie. In our day-to-day lives, are we veering off-course into greed? Set aside some time today to take a thoughtful inventory of your priorities. If you spend more time checking the money in your bank account or your investment portfolio than you spend reading the Word of God, you might be worshipping the idol of money. If generosity has become more scary than satisfying, and prayer has become a mere laundry-list of requests for all the material things you long for, examine your heart before God to see if you are idolizing the gifts rather than worshipping the Giver. Then, confess your idolatry and repent.
Repenting of idolatry will always include taking practical steps to offer genuine worship to God. When wealth has distracted us from rightful worship, our response in obedience to Him will be to practice good financial stewardship. If whatever we receive is a trust from God that we must manage carefully and responsibly, we will not be so hasty to accumulate wealth nor will we be so hasty to assign it more value than it deserves. When money is rightly seen as a God-given gift and a God-given responsibility, we will follow God first and seek financial prosperity only as a means to accomplish His will by providing care for our families, spreading the gospel, and meeting the needs of God’s people and others within our sphere. When we have found ourselves idolizing money, we must endeavor to be good stewards, viewing money and material possessions as gifts from the hand of our generous Father to be used wisely to glorify God.
But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 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 6:9-10, ESV)