By Paul David Tripp, Crosswalk.com
Two Sides of the Coin
Money is a powerful thing. On one hand, it can expose us to danger, while on the other hand it can be used of God to reveal the need of our hearts and, through us, to bless the lives of others. You and I will interact with money in some way. That interaction is one of the things that sets the direction of our lives. When it comes to money, Scripture leaves little room for comfortable neutrality.
Money will either bless you or curse you. It will be a tool in the hands of a God of grace, or it will be a doorway to bad and dangerous things. Like two sides of a physical coin, there are two spiritual sides to money. Each side calls to you. Each side holds before you a vision and promises. Each side asks not just for the investment of your money but for the allegiance of your heart. The battle between the two sides of the money coin wages in the heart of every person this side of eternity. Money is a danger. Money is a blessing. What will it be for you? Where the rubber meets the road in everyday life, you will answer the question not just once. No, you will have to answer it again and again as, day after day, you are greeted with false promises and truth, each voice telling you what to do with the money in your hand.
Where Do You Walk with Your Money?
Your Lord talked about these issues so often, because he knows well the power and importance of money. He knows the significance of this heart battle. He knows we are easily seduced. When it comes to money, he knows how quickly we can lose our way. He knows that we are susceptible to giving the love of our hearts to money. And if we listen to our Lord, we know that this is a conversation we need to have.
So you walk with your money, no matter how much you have, down a pathway of danger or blessing. Very important things in your life are shaped by the pathway you take. To walk the pathway of blessing takes more than good theology and knowledge of biblical commands and principles. It takes powerful, rescuing grace. As we examine money as both a danger and a blessing, every word I have written springs from the knowledge that, when it comes to money, our hearts will rest contented only when they have been rescued by and are being protected by God’s amazing grace.
Four Common Pitfalls with Money
Four things work together to soften the heart for money problems. These four things set up the heart to do what must never be done with money: love it. What are things weaken the resolve of the heart and set it up for money difficulties? The first is ingratitude. A grateful heart is a heart at rest. A grateful person is aware that he deserves nothing of all he possesses and enjoys. Because of this, he daily counts his blessings and is thankful for the little things that would otherwise be taken for granted. The unthankful person does just the opposite. He keeps telling himself that he deserves more than he has. Because of this, he is way more aware of what he doesn’t yet have than of all the things he has been graciously given. This causes him to live an entitled and demanding life. Never quite satisfied, he easily justifies a wasteful and selfish use of money.
The second ingredient is need. This is one of the most poorly and overused words in human culture. The majority of what we are able to tell ourselves we need, we don’t actually need. We all are very skilled at loading our desires into our need category, and once we have, we think it’s our right to have these things, and therefore it’s appropriate to do what is necessary to posses them. So we waste all kinds of money satisfying needs that aren’t really needs, all the while feeling quite comfortable, because if it’s a need, it seems right to acquire it. So with closets bursting with more clothes than we can wear and refrigerators filled with more than we can eat and houses bigger than we actually occupy, we are still able to tell ourselves that we are needy. And because we have told ourselves that we are needy, we will spend more.
Along with ingratitude and need, there is a third thing that weakens the defenses of the heart against the love of money: discontentment. Because I am not grateful for all the things I have been given and don’t deserve, and because I have misdiagnosed need, loading many things in my need category that are not needs, I am a constantly discontented person. It is virtually impossible to be satisfied with what I have, so I am on a constant quest for more. Since I am on a constant quest for more, I tend to spend more than I should to satisfy myself, but because my discontentment is rooted in ingratitude and misunderstood need, spending more won’t solve my problem. So, I end up spending more than I have, because what I am trying to do can’t work. Contentment isn’t a money problem, a possession problem, or a location problem; it’s a problem of the heart and therefore is not solved by spending.
The final ingredient that works with ingratitude, need, and discontentment to set up your heart to misappropriate money is envy. If you are unthankful and convinced that you deserve more, if you have been able to convince yourself that you need certain things that you do not have, leaving you deeply discontented, you will invariably look over the fence and envy the person who appears to have what you have not yet been able to acquire. Envious people are always taking account. Envious people are always comparing. Envious people are constantly placing things on their “she has, but I don’t” list. Envious people regularly feel that they have been given a bad deal, so it is right for them to use their resources to settle the score. Envy will cause you to be both self-oriented and foolish in your use of money.
It is ingratitude, neediness, discontent, and envy of the heart that cause us to be all too money conscious, all too self-focused in our use of it, and all too liberal in our expenditures. If we persist on that course, our life really will end up being “money, money, money,” no matter how much of it we actually have. We need to continue to remind ourselves that the problem with money is not that it exists. The problem with money is not that we have too little or too much. Money problems are always heart problems; they’re deeper than the size of our paycheck and the specificity of our budget. Money can be a blessing or a curse.
This post is adapted from Redeeming Money: How God Reveals and Reorients Our Hearts by Paul David Tripp. The preceding article first appeared on Crossway.org; used with permission.
Paul David Tripp (DMin, Westminster Theological Seminary) is a pastor, author, and international conference speaker. He is also the president of Paul Tripp Ministries. He has written a number of popular books on Christian living, including What Did You Expect?, Dangerous Calling, Parenting, and New Morning Mercies. He lives in Philadelphia with his wife Luella and they have four grown children. For more information and resources, visit paultrippministries.org.
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