The Deceitfulness of Riches, By Femi Aribisala
Faith in Christ compels a disdain for money.
A Nigerian footballer signed a lucrative contract to join Monaco Football Club. Flush with his newfound wealth, he bought a ticket from Monaco to Istanbul, to get a haircut from a famous barber. Thereafter, he flew back to Monaco.
When I read this, I became concerned for the poor man. My concern is because the man has been deceived into believing that he is now a rich man. However, money does not make any man rich. On the contrary, money has a tendency to bring people into poverty. The richest people in the world often turn out to be the poorest people in the kingdom of God.
Therefore, James says: “Listen to me, dear brothers and sisters. Hasn’t God chosen the poor in this world to be rich in faith? Aren’t they the ones who will inherit the Kingdom he promised to those who love him?” (James 2:5).
Money is not a currency of the kingdom of God. The currency of the kingdom is righteousness. Accordingly, God does not bless with money. But true riches only come from the blessing of God. (Proverbs 10:22).
Jesus calls money “unrighteous mammon.” (Luke 16:9). This means money is fundamentally ungodly. He also says earthly riches are deceitful. (Matthew 13:22). They promise what they cannot deliver. They promise prosperity but impoverish the soul. (Matthew 16:26).
Solomon, the richest man that ever lived, provides this indictment on riches: “Those who love money will never have enough. How meaningless to think that wealth brings true happiness! The more you have, the more people come to help you spend it. So what good is wealth – except perhaps to watch it slip through your fingers! People who work hard sleep well, whether they eat little or much. But the rich seldom get a good night’s sleep.” (Ecclesiastes 5:10-12).
Money is not of God. Indeed, it is an idol; the very antithesis of God. Money rules over men, ensuring that it competes with God for human allegiance. Therefore, faith in Christ compels a disdain for money. Jesus insists: “No one can serve two masters. For either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will hold to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” (Matthew 6:24).
Jesus’ position is that we are required to love God “with all our heart.” (Matthew 22:37). If our heart is set on worldly riches, we cannot at the same time have God as our heart’s desire. It is God, and not earthly riches, that must be “the Desire of All Nations” (Haggai 2:7).
Therefore, Jesus warns: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21).
Heirs of God
God is interested in who we are and not what we have. He says “I am who I am.” (Exodus 3:14). He does not say “I am what I have.” This life is not about ownership; it is about stewardship. Worldly possessions are the believer’s stewardship. We are managers of our finances, without the burden of ownership.
In the Day of Judgment, God will require us to account for how we spent the money that came into our hands. Did we use it to secure our temporal “future” here on earth, or to safeguard our eternal future in heaven? Therefore, Jesus asks: “If you have not been faithful in the unrighteous money, who will commit to your trust the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in what is another man’s, who will give you what is your own?” (Luke 16:11-12).
What then belongs to us? “The LORD is (our) portion.” (Lamentations 3:24). When a man sought Jesus’ help to secure his inheritance, which was being monopolised by his brother, he replied: “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.” (Luke 12:15).
But how could the man have been guilty of covetousness when all he wanted was his portion of his inheritance? The man failed to understand that we are not heirs of men. We are: “heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ.” (Romans 8:17). He was guilty of insisting on what belongs to another man, while neglecting what is rightfully his portion in God.
According to Jesus, money belongs to Caesar, which is why his image and inscription are on it. He says: “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” (Matthew 22:21).
What then belongs to God? God’s image is on man, so man belongs to God. Man is created in the image and likeness of God. Therefore, we should give and dedicate ourselves to the Lord; while money should be given and dedicated to “Caesar.”
The riches of this world belong to the wicked. The psalmist declares: “Behold, these are the ungodly, who prosper in the world; they increase in riches.” (Psalm 73:12). The wicked prefer the temporal to the eternal. Therefore, God is content to make this vainglorious world their inheritance. Thus, David talks of “men of the world who have their portion in this life.” (Psalm 17:14).
It is not surprising then that God’s judgment is often proclaimed on those who handle money. (Zephaniah 1:11). Rich men who are not prepared to give away their wealth to the poor cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven and become heirs of God. Instead of amassing earthly riches, Jesus counsels that we should endeavour to be rich towards God. (Luke 12:16-21).
What money buys is not of God, and that which is of God cannot be bought with money. (Acts 8:20). The blessing of the LORD makes rich, and he adds no sorrow with it.” (Proverbs 10:22). But money adds sorrow for the simple reason that it fails. Money failed in Egypt and in Canaan. (Genesis 47:15). Sooner than later, money grows wings and flies away like an eagle towards heaven. (Proverbs 23:5).
Wisdom of God
This is what I have learnt at the feet of the Lord. Money is not valuable; we are always giving it away in one transaction or the other. The most valuable things in this world are free. The most important tasks in Christ are the ones for which we receive no wages whatsoever. The poor are far more generous than the rich. (Mark 12:41-44).
Martins Hile urgently needed to get somewhere, so he asked the Lord for money for transportation. But the Lord said to him: “Stop asking me for money.” The Lord told Martins to go and stand by the side of the road. As soon as he did so, a car pulled up in front of him. “Martins, where are you going?” asked the driver, who happened to be someone well-known to him. He then took Martins exactly where he was going.
The Lord said to Martins: “You don’t need any money. I am all you need!”