I continue to read David deSilva’s An Introduction to the New Testament, and to be really impressed by some of the things he has to say. In a discussion of Paul’s letters to Timothy and Titus, he says,
“The pursuit of wealth is a driving force of Western society, the key to what many people regard as the path to “life,” to the fullness of what life as to offer. The author warns us that, in the end, it does not deliver what it promises.
“Those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.…[I]n their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.” (1 Tim 6:9-10 NRSV)
To attain financial goals, as they are often called, both husband and wife often work, or one of them must work obscenely long hours. Those who are now young children suffer more and more from a lack of parenting. Is amassing wealth worth such piercing of hearts? The amount of time and energy invested in attaining our financial objectives, if these are set on wealth, often leaves very little time for discovery and exercise of those gifts that God has given each one of us for the nurture of the church and the care of others. The drive for acquiring more money means that seeking God and putting ourself at God’s service recedes. We serve a new master. That lifestyle is a path of pain—the pain of never acquiring enough to fill the void inside (because only God and meaningful investment in other people can do that), the pain of throwing away our lives for things that cannot give life, the pain of regret at the end of life, when our 20/20 hindsight will be our friend or our accuser.”
I think deSilva hits the nail on the head here. As a youth minister, I have watched parents who focus so much energy on their jobs in an effort to provide for their families (financial goals) that they end up actually neglecting their families because they deprive them of their time and influence (lack of parenting). As a minister in general, I have seen very talented people who are of almost no benefit to the church because they are so busy from working extra hours or extra jobs that they have little time for the Lord.
And, for what it’s worth, ministers are not immune to these problems. We are paid to be involved in the work of the church, so that part isn’t too difficult, but it is easy to be so involved in our work that our families are neglected. Furthermore, just because professional ministry isn’t a high-paying field doesn’t mean that ministers can’t also be too focused on money. Sometimes promising ministries are left and churches and families are damaged because a minister is looking for a higher salary. Sometimes a minister stays in a low-paying job, but as a result of that spends considerable worry and energy thinking about how little he has and how he can get more.
Whatever your situation is, money is a terrible master, and it can tear our loyalty away from God. That is a fact, regardless of whether we call our master “greed”, “financial goals”, or “providing for our families”. Serve God and use your money to glorify Him. Don’t serve money and be used by it.