1 Timothy 6:10 is often the most misquoted scripture in the Bible. Paul tells his young protégé, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” While an ideal world would be one in which there is no need for money or wealth, most of us know that you can’t get much done without it. As George Bailey says to his guardian angel Clarence, in the movie It’s a Wonderful Life, “It comes in handy down here bud!”
So it is necessary for churches to have fundraisers, pass the plate every Sunday and make occasional special requests when unexpected costs spring up. And being charitable organizations, churches are expected to come up with money when others are in need of assistance. It’s almost like when I asked my brother if I could borrow some money and he said, “I was thinking about asking you for some.”
If you ask most people to quote this verse they’ll say “money is the root of all evil.” Go back and read the scripture. It says that “…the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil…” It’s not condemning money or any other material goods, it simply states that when we love money more than God, we are corrupted by evil. Conversely, we can say that the love of God is the foundation of all good. Thus the work that we do in God’s name is an expression of God’s love for the world. Therefore the work we do with money for God is an expression of faith, not evil.
Now bear with me on this. By using the money to further God’s Kingdom, we are declaring that we have no love for money. Nor do we covet money for its sake or for the sake of our own glory. Rather, our love for God and the desire to share His Grace with others makes us seek out the resources we need to do so.
Now we can pat ourselves on the back (and put our arms out of joint doing so) knowing we are absolved from the sin of pride and greed because we choose to do God’s work. Unfortunately this rational places us in a foggy sea with the real danger of crashing on rocky shoals.
Narcissism is defined as “…inordinate fascination with oneself; excessive self-love; vanity”. This is one of Satan’s most effective weapons in his arsenal. Churches and their congregations have too often been lured into self-deception and rationalized that what is good for our church is good for God, rather than the other way around. The fog occurs when we place the needs of our church over furthering God’s will in the world. The most sincere and faith-driven congregations are in danger of sailing into this fog. In Luke 11:42 Jesus declares, “But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass by justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.” We tend to think of the Pharisees as men who deliberately used religion to gain power and wealth. In fact they were men of deep and real faith whom Satan lured into the fogbanks. Jesus struggled to keep his disciples focused on the Love of God and furthering His Kingdom, not on positioning themselves to serve on his right and left hands. Churches genuinely believe they are glorifying God by doing His work. And they are. But the line between who has priority, God or the church, becomes blurred. Though churches, congregations, Pastors and even whole denominations may declare this is not happening, it is critical that we honestly look at ourselves, shine a bright light through the fog and determine whose Kingdom we are glorifying.
Fortunately, Jesus sent the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, to guide us from the fog. So long as the Spirit of Truth is at the helm, we need not question whom we love more, ourselves or God.