If we cross paths with money, our heart has the potential of being pulled in two directions. We have the potential to become arrogant or we have the potential to set our hopes on money. In Generosity Part 1, I talked a little bit about how greed hides itself so well in our hearts that we often believe we are above it happening to us. I only have to know one other person who is greedy to think that I am not. The ultimate arrogance is to believe that I’m above materialism happening to me.
Another way we can be arrogant with our money is to think our money is our money. And, this is very American. We live in the land of opportunity. Our country was founded on the principles of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. So, if I just pursue happiness hard enough, then I can make something of myself. I work hard. I put in the hours. Blood, sweat, and tears have gone in to my bank account. And, so our mindset can easily turn in to “My success is the product of my hard work.” And, while I can see the truth in that, the arrogance creeps in if I never acknowledge where success comes from. In 1 Chronicles 29:12 we are reminded that: “Wealth and honor come from You alone, for You rule over everything. Power and might are in Your hand, and at Your discretion people are made great and given strength.” So, you and I have because God has given it to us. Humility acknowledges that we have it but God owns it. Arrogance says since I have it and I own it. There is danger in that. God doesn’t give up ownership of it just because He gives it to us. (Keller)
My retirement money goes to an investment management company, but just because I give them the money doesn’t mean that it’s their money. They manage it, but they do not own it. If they begin to think that because they manage it, they own it … well, they can get arrested for something like that. They’re taking someone else’s money and acting like it’s their own and using it to promote their wants and their desires. Humility acknowledges that we have it but God owns it. So, how can I promote God’s agenda? How can I build His kingdom? How can I share His love with it? Arrogance says since I have it, I own it. So, how can I promote my agenda? How can I build my kingdom? How can I love myself with it?
Not only can money draw me to arrogance but also it can easily become my primary source of hope and security. The Apostle Paul tells us in 1 Timothy 6:17 – 19 not to set our hopes on the uncertainty of riches. I experienced how easily this can happen in 2014.
In the summer of 2014, my family and I moved from Indiana to Maryland. As part of the move, we sold our home of 12 years. We made dramatic improvements to that home in our 12 years there: new bathroom, new floors, new paint, new furnace and AC, all new wiring, plumbing, and duct work. Virtually no room in that house went untouched with improvements. With all of the improvements and with 12 years of equity built up in the house, when we sold it we made a nice profit and let’s just say our bank account had NEVER seen a number like that! And, when that number showed up in our bank account, I remember feeling a slight sense of “Ahhhhhh … we finally don’t have to concern ourselves with money for a while." It felt really nice … and safe … and secure to have that much money in our account ... then we moved to Howard County and quickly realized that what we thought was a lot really was not a lot!
Wealth is so uncertain, but it sure provided an illusion of safety and control for me. I mean, I had just uprooted my family and left the place where my family had been forged. I had to transition our kids to a new school. I had to get used to an entirely different area. I got lost everywhere I went for the first month. I didn’t know anybody … life was feeling very out of control for me at that time and having a lot of coin in the bank gave me the illusion that I had control in an uncontrollable world.
And, this is how money will battle for our heart. Money is something that pretends to be an everything. (Tripp) And, as long as sin is inside of me, there will always be the temptation to put my hope in something other than God.
God’s chief competition for your devotion is not the devil. (Stanley) Most people are not like “Should I worship God or the devil?” Hmmm?? No. That’s not the struggle we have. The real struggle that we have is will I surrender myself to good things or to the Giver of good things. Will I place myself under God’s authority and trust that He will satisfy me or will I surrender myself to something else and believe that will satisfy me. The devotion of my heart will always drift toward what I believe will provide everything.
Christian living is a continual realignment process. (Keller) My son is in the process of getting braces. His teeth are crooked, so he’s in the process of getting them straightened out. He has the expander now. Soon, the orthodontist will move to the next step and then the next step until hopefully, one day, his teeth are straight. But, if I’m understanding it all correctly, this is a lifelong process. His teeth are always going to want to go crooked, so even after braces, he will have to wear a retainer at night in order to keep his teeth in line with what the braces have accomplished.
Even after I’m saved, my sin nature is going to fight to make me crooked again. Every day I will be offered opportunities to offer myself to something that is not designed to satisfy my heart. It really takes no effort on my part to become “crooked.” For me to remain “straight,” I have to preach to myself every day the truth of who God is and the truth who I am because of Jesus. I have to say to myself, “Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides You. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (Psalm 73:25 – 26) “Aim at Heaven and you will get Earth 'thrown in': aim at Earth and you will get neither.” (C.S. Lewis)