Charles Dickens is arguably most remembered for creating the character of Ebenezer Scrooge. Scrooge, as we all know if we’ve seen any version of Dickens’s A Christmas Carol over the years, is a man of great wealth, power and prestige. He is also a horrible person with little to no redeeming qualities. His heart is bitter and filled with hatred. It is only after one special night where he is visited by three spirits (the Ghosts of Christmas past, present and future) that he realizes the error of his ways.
But we’re not here to discuss old bah humbug Scrooge today. Perhaps we’ll save his story for a December post.
Dickens was a prolific writer and one of my all-time favorites. He created another memorable character in Oliver Twist. Oliver’s story, like Scrooge’s, has been told many times throughout the years. The orphan boy’s story is one of tragedy and triumph. (No spoilers here. Encourage you to read it for yourselves sometime. But be prepared: there are some dark, sad moments in it.)
As I was thinking about this week’s post and the concept of more, I was reminded of a scene from the 1968 musical adaptation Oliver! Our hero is living in squalor with many other children. It’s mealtime and they’re about to get another bowl of gruel. (The name says it all. Gruel. Ick. But I digress.) The children are fed just barely enough to stay alive. Oliver is still hungry after eating his meager portion of watery goop. He courageously steps forward and says, “Please sir, I want some more.” This does not go over well. “More?! You want more?!” Poor Oliver is further screamed at and, basically, assaulted. (I warned you there are some dark parts to this story.)
What do Oliver and his watery porridge have to do with anything?
Thanks for asking. I believe sometimes we’re like our intrepid hero. We’ve been swallowing the gruel three times a day for a while. But one day the hunger pangs we’ve been suppressing and ignoring become so loud and painful that we must do something. We can no longer fight the longing. We want more.
I’ve noticed the world is pretty accepting of someone wanting more of certain things: money, power, success, control, pleasure. But it doesn’t necessarily encourage us to seek more: integrity, character, maturity, real love. Sorry, but I believe if you don’t first crave more of those traits, you may live compromised.
Think about it. I’m sure you know someone either in your own life or someone famous who achieved great success and then fell apart. They had all the stuff: money to burn, men or women flocking around them, houses, cars, trips, boats, etc. Yet they were still unsatisfied. So they turn to drugs or alcohol to try and fill that void. Perhaps they didn’t succumb to those vices, but their medicine cabinet is filled with little prescription bottles to keep them level and functioning. Maybe they managed to avoid substance use or abuse, but they’re still not happy. How come? They got their more. What went wrong?
I may ruffle a few feathers with this part, but my nickname isn’t Kat Controversy for nothing. There are some who would say that it was because of the money and then quote scripture, “money is the root of all evil”. But that is not precise.
Money is NOT the root of all evil.
You know I always bring receipts. (Any and all Bible verses, unless otherwise indicated are from the NIV version at biblegateway.com, emphasis added.)
For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. (1 Timothy 6:10)
Money can be used for great good or great evil. The same $1,000 can be used to help or to harm. It is the intent behind its use that matters.
Here’s where I will probably push some buttons. I believe the church has really missed it when it comes to money, success, etc. They seem to vacillate between two extremes: the poverty mindset and the prosperity message. Allow me to elaborate:
The Poverty Mindset
I think this belief system may have started out of a misunderstanding of the verse above. Money is evil, so to truly serve God I must do without. Huh? That’s not a balanced approach. Don’t get me wrong. I believe that sometimes doing without – fasting or giving up something – can be very healthy for your spiritual life. If you’re taking a break from an aggressive pursuit of money that’s been creating a wedge or distance between you and God, then I’m the first to encourage you to go for it. What I’ve noticed, however, is that it seems to be promoted as a more permanent lifestyle situation. They see virtue in their self-imposed impoverished state. They look down upon those who have money as somehow being less spiritual or less enlightened. Let me be clear, I am not speaking against those who make a personal vow to live a certain way in service to God (for example: Mother Teresa). I’m speaking more of a mindset that says, “If God wants me to have more, He’ll do it.” Yes, He will. But have you done your part?
God can bless your finances in an instant. I can say that with confidence because my life is filled with such experiences. The check came just in time or someone blessed me just because God put me on their heart to bless. This happens. But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t do all that we can do ourselves. We should be productive.
Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. (Romans 13:8)
God doesn’t want us to be in debt!
And you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth, that He may establish His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day. (Deuteronomy 8:18)
As I stated earlier, it is the love of money that becomes the problem. We are to do the work He calls us to do. He does the rest.
If you’re a parent you know how happy you are to see your children doing well. If your son or daughter gets a job they love and they’re able to provide for themselves and their families, you’re thrilled. Why wouldn’t our heavenly Father want the same for us? If your child needs a little help, a down payment, a loan, and you can give it to them, wouldn’t you? God wants us to do well in this life. You doubt me? Good. Check out this verse:
Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers. (3 John 1:2)
In contrast, if you’re a parent and your child is squandering their money or spends all their time trying to get more of it, you’ll be rightly concerned. They’re out of balance. If your child is wasting their abilities, not contributing or being productive, that should trouble you too. You’re less likely to give them that help, down payment or loan. You want to see them succeed but they need to do their part first and keep balanced. God feels similarly toward us.
The Prosperity Message
Now we come to the other side of the spectrum. Many churches have been built around this system. They’ll use that verse I quoted from Deuteronomy 8 as a cornerstone for their doctrine. They too are on a bit of dangerous ground. Jesus said it himself:
No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. (Luke 16:13, ESV)
This is definitely one of my top 5 favorite verses. It just makes the point so perfectly. Many churches preach about serving God or the devil. But the Lord made it plain: you can serve Him or money. The devil will use your love of money and devotion to it to get you to compromise and be corrupt. But you’re still serving money. You are a slave to it not the devil. He’s just manipulating you and taking advantage of you with it.
I’m clearly not against achievement and success. More importantly, neither is God. The concern for both me and the Lord is what happens when you get there. When you work hard and get the job or the gig or the whatever, now what?
He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity. (Ecclesiastes 5:10, ESV)
And He said to them, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.” (Luke 12:15)
Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life. (1 Timothy 6:17-19)
There are so many other verses I could have included. These are just a few designed to highlight the matter. I encourage you to do your own research. My point in tackling this potentially touchy subject is two-fold:
God wants you to do well and have a full life.
The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. (John 10:10)
Like any loving parent, He doesn’t want to see any of His children in need. He is gracious, merciful and kind. He wants to partner with us to live out our best life here while storing up eternal treasures for ourselves in heaven. Doubt me? Good. Go look it up. (I can’t give you every verse. Where’s the fun in that?)
Stay balanced as you reach for and achieve your goals.
The only way to stay balanced and not become a lover of money is to stay close to God. You cannot change my mind. I’ve seen too many lose their way because they took their eyes off of Him. I mean people that love God and wanted to and did use their resources to help others. I’m not talking about those who lived only for themselves and their own hedonistic desires. God made it clear: in this life you can’t serve Him and money. You’ll reach a point where you have to decide which matters more.
This should be an easy decision because God is greater than anything and everything, but we struggle. I get it. I’ve done it. When the bills are piling up, you have to hold onto your faith, do your part, and trust that God will take care of you. When you’re doing very well, you have to hold onto your faith, don’t get caught up, forget about God’s blessings and get greedy. “Greed is right. Greed works.” No, Mr. Gordon Gekko (aka Michael Douglas’s character in the 80s film Wall Street) you are wrong, sir.
I’ll leave you with the following verse. It encourages and inspires me to be content and satisfied no matter what my bank account or portfolio is telling me. I pray it’ll help you too. You can have more. Just make sure you seek more of Him and His righteousness first. Trust me, God’s provision and blessings are 100% gruel-free.
Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:11-13)
Until next time: stay happy, stay healthy, stay in the know.
Look forward to hearing from you,