TOWARDS THE MONEYPrint This Page.
What should be the attitude of a Christian worker, a servant of God, towards money? This is quite a serious question, and unless a worker has a definite breakthrough in this matter, he cannot work for the Lord. If a worker has a problem towards money, he cannot go very far. A worker finds frequent occasions to touch money. What is at stake, therefore, is a very fundamental question.
Mammon stands in opposition to God, and we should reject its influence. This is the proper Christian view towards money. We must be on the alert lest we come under its power. No worker who is bound by the power of mammon can persuade others to be freed from its power. This is not possible. If we are bound and controlled by mammon, it will be impossible for us to help the brothers and sisters to be free of its control and bondage. A worker should hate laziness, and he should also loathe the power of mammon. Otherwise, he will be useless in God's work. Money is a great matter. Let us look at a few things related to money.
In the first place, let us note the relationship between money and a worker's pathway and teaching. In the Old Testament there is the history of Balaam, and in the New Testament there is the way and teaching of Balaam. Balaam is referred to in 2 Peter, Jude, and Revelation. This shows us the amount of attention God pays to Balaam. Balaam was a prophet who worked for profit. In other words, he commercialized the prophetic ministry. He was not ignorant of his position. He was fully aware of it. He also was not ignorant of God's will. When Balak, the king of Moab, was set to destroy the people of God, Balaam was fully aware that God's people should not be cursed; he knew that they were a people blessed by Jehovah. But because he coveted Balak's promise, a promise to satisfy all of his wants, he went to God again and again to ask for permission. Eventually, God granted him the permission. Many people erroneously think that this episode is an example of waiting on God. As a matter of fact, Balaam would never have inquired of God at all had it not been for Balak's promise. He knew quite well that such a trip was not according to the Lord. God's thought was of blessing and gracious care; His thought was not of cursing. But Balaam inquired of God again and again because he had received a promise from Balak. Later, God told him to go. But it was not God's will for him to go; it was God's permission for him to go. To God, if Balak's offer could generate so much prayer in Balaam, He would simply tell Balaam to go. Balaam undoubtedly was a prophet, but he allowed money to affect his pathway and lead him far astray.
Any Christian worker who has not resolved the issue of money within himself and who is still bound by the power of money is certain to relate his field of work to money. When he has to decide where he will work, his decision will surely be influenced by financial support. He will go where there is financial support, and he will not go where there is no financial support. His support becomes his guidance. If he only goes where there is support, surely he will not go to a poor place, or, if he goes at all, he will leave that place after a short period of time. If another place is rich in support, he will spontaneously be drawn to their support, and he will think that God is leading him there. Some prayers and guidance follow monetary support. This support becomes the focus of attention. Profit and money drove Balaam to bother God again and again. He kept bothering God about whether or not he should go. Over ten years ago, an elderly brother commented on the lamentable state of Christian affairs, saying, "See how many servants of God are after money! So many poor places are short of care, yet so many workers are frequenting big places which are already crowded with people. Is there something wrong with the guidance they have received?" This was a strong word. If a brother has not dealt with the problem of money, it will not be a surprise at all that his footsteps inevitably will be like those of Balaam. His pathway will be determined by the amount of his support. The amount of his support will become the direction for his pathway. If a place is poor, he will not visit it or will seldom visit it. Even if he visits the place, he will leave quickly. If a place is rich in support, he will visit more or will stay there permanently. Money will become the source of his guidance. To such ones God can only say, "Go as you wish." A worker who is not free from the influence of money is useless. If a worker cannot boast as Paul boasted with regard to money, he is useless. If a worker cannot be freed from money and its influence, he cannot be a minister of God; his way will surely be Balaam's way. Some people are easily touched by money; their pathway is easily affected by money. As a result, their way is the way of Balaam. The way of Balaam is simply a way that is dictated by money. May the Lord be gracious to us so that we will all be delivered from money. We do not wish to see any of us becoming a beggar. May the location of our work not become the spot where we beg. Once it does, we become a slave to money. It is a pity and shame for God's servant to be led and controlled by money! It is a shame to seek for guidance not by prostrating at God's feet but by following the direction of money! If a man is not fully delivered from money, he may be deep in money's bondage when he says that he is under God's leading. This is too shameful! Of course, the matter of money is a very superficial matter. If the God we believe in is living, we should be able to go anywhere. But if He is not living, we might as well retreat quickly and do nothing at all. It is a shameful thing to preach a living God and yet have our pathway governed by money. This is a great shame!
In the New Testament Peter spoke of the way of Balaam. He showed us what it is: "Having eyes full of adultery and not ceasing from sin; enticing unstable souls, having a heart exercised for covetousness, children of curse" (2 Pet. 2:14). Here the emphasis is on the habitual exercise of covetousness. Covetousness is a matter of the heart, yet it can become a habit. When a man is taken over by covetousness once, twice, or many times, his covetousness becomes his habit. "Forsaking the straight way, they have gone astray, following the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness" (v. 15). What happens when a person falls into habitual covetousness? He forsakes the straight way, goes astray, and follows the way of Balaam, the son of Beor! Brothers and sisters, God has set before us "the straight way." Which way should we go? Some have forsaken the straight way, gone astray, and followed the way of Balaam. What is "the way of Balaam"? He was a prophet who loved the wages of unrighteousness. This shows us clearly that the way of Balaam is a way that involves the selling of one's prophetic ministry for a profit. But the gospel is not sold, and the prophetic ministry is not sold. We can neither sell God's gospel nor the ministry of the prophets. Yet here was a person who sold his prophetic ministry. His way was wrong. His heart was filled with covetousness. This is the reason he went astray as soon as temptation came. Balaam did not accept Balak's offer as a result of one thought of covetousness; it was the result of habitual coveting. Brothers and sisters, have you seen this point? It was a habit. This was the reason he went astray as soon as Balak offered him the money. If the power of mammon is not eradicated from us, our feet will run after it as soon as its bait is dangled before us, and we will sacrifice our usefulness. If we want to run a straight course, we have to deny mammon absolutely. Otherwise, we outwardly may be seeking for leading, praying for guidance, and pursuing God's will while our feet remain on the wrong path. Balaam prayed, pursued God's will, and waited on God. Yet he still took the wrong way. Please remember that as long as money occupies a place in our heart and covetousness becomes a habit, we can pray all we want for God to stop us from going to a certain place, but money will eventually direct our footsteps. We will be unable to run a straight course.
Jude also speaks of Balaam. Verse 11 says, "For they have...rushed out in the error of Balaam for reward." These are strong words. Some have rushed out for reward. To rush means to run quickly, speedily, and hurriedly. Some have rushed out in the error of Balaam. God's children have to be fully delivered from the enticement of reward. Otherwise, they will have no choice but the way of error.
In addition to making reference to Balaam, 2 Peter 2:3 describes another condition: "In covetousness, with fabricated words, they will make merchandise of you, for whom the judgment of old is not idle, and their destruction does not slumber." Second Peter 2 deals with false prophets. What do false prophets do? In covetousness they fabricate words to make merchandise of the believers. They are covetous, and they seek profit. Hence, they fabricate lies. If a man's way is directed by money, sooner or later his teaching will also be directed by money. We can be certain of this. Such a person will say one thing to the poor and another thing to the rich. He will tell the poor men one kind of demand of the Lord, and when the rich men come around, he will tell them a different kind of demand of the Lord. His words are affected by his desire for profit. In other words, his teaching goes where the money is. God's Word is frank and strong. We are afraid that some have gone after the example of the false prophets and the false teachers. If a man's course of action is swayed and turned by the power of money, this man is a false prophet and a false teacher. No prophet, instructor, or teacher who is a faithful servant of God can be swayed by the power of money. If a man can be bought with money, if he can be affected by money, and if money can change the course of his direction, he should cover himself with ashes and confess that he is a false prophet and a false teacher. He is a false servant, not a genuine servant of God. This is a very serious thing. We must be totally delivered from mammon. Those who are governed by the supply of money in their pathway and their speaking should be cut off from God's work.
Peter and Jude were not the only ones who spoke on this subject. Paul said the same thing to Timothy when he underscored this peril. First Timothy 6:3 says, "If anyone teaches different things and does not consent to healthy words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the teaching which is according to godliness." What is to become of the one who teaches different things, who teaches strange doctrines, and who does not consent to the healthy words of our Lord Jesus Christ? Verses 4 and 5 say, "He is blinded with pride, understanding nothing, but is diseased with questionings and contentions of words, out of which come envy, strife, slanders, evil suspicions, perpetual wranglings of men corrupted in mind and deprived of the truth, supposing godliness to be a means of gain." It is interesting to note that in church history all the heretical teachers, those who taught differently, took godliness as a means of gain. None of them were spent as much as Paul. They calculated how much they could get out for what they put in. May none of us try to gain anything from anyone through the gospel! Nothing in this world is more condemned by God than the pursuit for gain through godliness. Nothing can be more base than to engage in Christian work as a source of profit. This is most repugnant. Using godliness as a means of gain is most repugnant. Every worker must be completely free from all thoughts of profit before he can engage himself in the work. Brothers and sisters, if you want to work for the Lord, your mind must be completely free from the influence of money. Death and starvation should be more preferable than working for gain. Every worker of the Lord has to be very strong in this matter. If anyone entices us to take a compromising course in this matter, we should not give him an inch of ground. We have to follow our Lord in an absolute way. Brothers and sisters, we can sell our clothing and our possessions, but we can never sell our truth and our godliness. Unless we die to mammon and our mind is completely free from it, it is better not to touch the Lord's work at all. Verse 6 says, "But godliness with contentment is great gain." This is where the real gain lies: Where there is godliness, there is contentment. When we have godliness, we ask for nothing more, we expect nothing more, and we are satisfied with what we have. This is gain, great gain. It is a shame for godliness to become a means for monetary gain. But godliness with contentment is great gain. Verses 7 through 10 are particularly important to workers of the Lord: "For we have brought nothing into the world, because neither can we carry anything out. But having food and covering, with these we will be content. But those who intend to be rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires, which plunge men into destruction and ruin. For the love of money is a root of all evils, because of which some, aspiring after money, have been led away from the faith and pierced themselves through with many pains." Brothers and sisters, we should never make godliness a means of gain. We must be completely free from the influence of money. If we have trouble overcoming this, it would be better to look for another profession. We can never be so fallen as to follow money in our speaking and in our work. It would be better to take up another profession and serve the Lord in that way. There is nothing wrong in serving the Lord with other professions. No one can be careless in the matter of money, and no one can bring shame to the Lord's name through money. A worker must be clean with money. His heart must be fully delivered from it. He has to be absolute, because God's Word condemns most severely any uncleanliness towards money.
Jude 16 says, "These are murmurers, complainers, going on according to their own lusts; and their mouth speaks great swelling things, flattering persons for the sake of advantage." Many people speak great swelling things. They boast of the number of times their prayers are answered and of the number of times they have performed amazing miracles and works of wonders. They say these things "for the sake of advantage." Many people speak what others like to hear in order to flatter them for the sake of advantage. We have to deal with all motives that are driven by the thought of profit. This is a basic character trait of a worker of the Lord. A person who has compromised in the matter of money will compromise in all things. Towards money we must be tough, very tough, and must not give in to any corruption. As workers of the Lord, we have to be absolutely clean in the matter of money.