Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
From the Bible: Matthew 13:22; 1 Timothy 6:9-10; Proverbs 30:8-9
Years ago on Thanksgiving Day my dear friend Van Segars was cutting a Mesquite tree in San Antonio. A long thorn punctured his glove and pierced his hand between the pointing and middle fingers. It hurt but not bad. Next morning at work he couldn’t write. The poisoned thorn had touched a tendon. As poison spread to his arm, Van could see evidence of the infection up to his elbow. He immediately went to the doctor, who took one look and said, “You can go to the hospital right now or have your arm amputated.” Van spent the next week in a hospital, wearing a cast on his arm while taking antibiotics through an IV.
Thorns can be dangerous. Some are more hazardous than others. Jesus said, when Gospel seed is sown, its health is especially harmed by two thorns: worries of this world (the subject of our last lesson), and the seduction of wealth.
Matt. 13:22b (Holman) “. . .and the seduction of wealth choke the word, and
it becomes unfruitful.”
Our Master wisely paired worry with wealth. The two belong together. Worry frequently causes us to covet wealth. Wealth often gives us more worries.
Troubles and money in and of themselves are not the problem. Thorns choke our spirituality when our attitude toward troubles and money turns sour.
When we worry about troubles or are seduced by money, we are in trouble. This lesson teaches us, money lies. If we believe its claims, we’ll suffer distress.
One, money lies, promising more than it can give. Riches don’t give the pleasure they promise. Wealth, a sly enemy, often gives us the bad consequences of sinfully coveting money without our ever getting the wealth we coveted.
“Those who want to be rich fall into temptation, a trap, and many foolish and harmful desires, which plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and by craving it, some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains” (1 TM 6:9-10).
If poor, we think we’d be happy if rich; if rich, we think we’d be happy if richer, but collecting stuff is like drinking salt water. The more we have, the more we want. Money boasts its increase would solve all our problems. We tend to believe its lie, convincing ourselves of benefits about wealth that aren’t in it.
Money even tries to fool us into thinking we want to earn more today so we can give away more tomorrow. Some believe if they make more they’ll give more. Not true. People’s giving-percentage stays fairly constant, whatever their salary.
Don’t listen to money’s hollow promises. Wealth cannot deceive us if we don’t put our confidence in its lies, and don’t let it raise our future expectations.
Two, money lies, scheming while it seems dormant. Persecution and worry are obvious and open. Financial seduction is more dangerous because more silent.
Recently, in the middle of the night, I thought, “I hope I end up wealthy.” I almost sat up in bed. I don’t remember ever thinking that thought before. Raised in a simple home, with modest desires, and few wants, money has never seemed huge to me. What happened to me that night? Did my thoughts reveal a hidden truth about me I did not know, but need to know? Have I begun to covet wealth?
Wealth successfully seduces because we often aren’t aware its choking is happening. Few of us are like Ebenezer Scrooge, so engrossed in money that all the trumpets of Sinai would not phase us. Most of us are not in this category.
Money usually seduces slyly. Check yourself. Is desire for income making us careless about duty? The rich young ruler thought he was spiritual, but could not leave his money to follow Jesus. Judas jumped ship for 30 pieces of silver.
Are we finding it harder and harder to make sacrifices? Are we struggling more to tithe these days? Why do we want more money? Is it for ourselves? Do we already know the stuff we will buy with increased wealth? Is all our income acquired in ways totally honest? Do we report all our income on our tax return?
Is money becoming more of a focus? Do we spend more time reading money magazines or the Bible? Investing, passing on a substantial inheritance, saving–these are good as long as they are peripheral thoughts and not obsessions.
Three, money lies, bragging a false confidence. Money can make us self-confident, versus humble before God, and self-dependent, versus God-dependent.
Even we who reject health and wealth theology can slowly stumble into wrongly assuming financial success proves we are highly pleasing to God. Often the more wealth we have, the more we think we are God’s special favorites.
Wealth is as spiritually dangerous as poverty, as shown in the prayer of Proverbs 30:8b-9, “Give me neither poverty nor wealth; feed me with the food I need. Otherwise, I might have too much and deny You, saying, “Who is the Lord?” or I might have nothing and steal, profaning the name of my God.”
The rich who clutch money can sin as grievously as the poor who covet it. The poor make wealth their god by saying “I can’t live without it.” The rich worship money by saying, “I’m secure with it.”
A pastor was impressed by a written request from a man earnestly asking the church to pray for him because his business was prospering. The pastor felt this revealed a man who knew his own heart well, and had not read the Bible in vain.
Four, money lies, claiming its benefits are best. Material blessings can be good, but never as good as spiritual blessings. Don’t flip priorities topsy-turvy.
Greek mythology tells of a woman who was offered a valuable reward if she won a race. She took the challenge. It seemed she would swamp the competition, but lost because her enemies kept throwing gold coins in front of her. The coins were a temptation too strong to resist. She kept stopping to pick up the glittering loot, lost the race, and forfeited the huge prize. She gave up the best because fixated on the lesser. While loading yourself with Earth, don’t lose Heaven.
Beware letting the lower thwart the higher. When money-success beckons, it can be hard to hear Jesus calling. A promotion at work can end one’s feeling called to be a missionary. When business prospers, it’s easier to neglect church.
It is hard to resist the lure of wanting more money, but remember, seduction of wealth is a thorn. Don’t grasp it too tightly or you might prick yourself on it. Coveting money can poison past the hand, past the elbow, all the way to the heart.