“But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment. For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it, either. If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content. But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap …”
— 1 Timothy 6:6-9
Life in this often-hostile world can feel like tiptoeing through a minefield. Temptations and traps abound … from inadvertently clicking on a phishing link, to losing your money in a phony business deal; from falling prey to terrorists, to being in an auto accident; from coming down with COVID-19, to becoming addicted to drugs or alcohol.
Need I go on?
But the greatest perils come from within. The Apostle James wrote in James 1:13-15, “No one is to say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it has run its course, brings forth death.”
One of the “privileges” of getting old is that you have the luxury of looking back over your life and realizing it all boils down to astonishingly simple lessons. And perhaps the most important one is how ultimately empty-handed and vulnerable we are, despite our many possessions.
In Believer’s Bible Commentary, theologian Bill MacDonald writes, “There are three times in life when we have empty hands — at birth, when we come to Jesus (for salvation), and at death … before Alexander the Great died, he said, ‘When I am dead, carry me forth on my bier, with my hands not wrapped in cloth, but laid outside, so that all may see that they are empty.’ Bates comments, ‘Yes, those hands which once wielded the proudest scepter in the world, which once held the most victorious sword, which once were filled with silver and gold, which once had power to save or to sign away life, were now EMPTY.’”
How much is enough?
I spent most of my life with a kind of low-grade fever or anxiety, a persistent impatience, a hyper-vigilance about accumulating “stuff.” I had no specific amounts in mind, no idea when I would stop, no “plan,” just a constant gnawing hunger for more.
Shreveport Times blogger Byron Moore wrote, “For John D. Rockefeller the answer was ‘just a little bit more.’ At the peak of his wealth, Rockefeller had a net worth of about 1% of the entire U.S. economy. He owned 90% of all the oil and gas industry of his time. Compared to today’s rich guys, Rockefeller makes Bill Gates and Warren Buffett look like paupers.
“And yet he still wanted ‘just a little bit more.’
“Before you can know how much is enough, you’ve got to define ‘enough.’ ‘Enough’ isn’t just an amount. It is also an attitude. Money is wonderful as a tool, but it’s terrible as a tyrant. And therein lies the difference.”
The “tender trap” of wealth—a wonderful tool, a terrible tyrant
Bishop J.C. Ryle writes, “Money in truth is one of the most unsatisfying of possessions. It takes away some cares no doubt; but it brings with it quite as many cares as it takes away. There is trouble in the getting of it. There is anxiety in the keeping of it. There are temptations in the use of it. There is guilt in the abuse of it. There is sorrow in the losing of it. There is perplexity in the disposing of it. Two thirds of all the strivings, quarrels, and lawsuits in the world arise from one simple cause — money.”
It makes you wonder whether you own the wealth or if the wealth owns you.
Taking the “long view” beyond the grave, we’ve all heard, “you can’t take it with you.” But there is something you will take with you, like it or not — your character, your never-ending soul.
Again, to quote MacDonald, “Christian character — the only thing we can take with us into heaven — righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness.”
How About You?
In Matthew 6:19-33, Jesus advised “… store up for yourselves treasures in heaven … for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also … No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth … But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided to you.”
It’s never too late to pivot.
— D.C. Collier is a Bible teacher, discipleship mentor and writer focused on Christian apologetics. A mechanical engineer and internet entrepreneur, he is the author of My Origin, My Destiny, a book focused on Christianity’s basic “value proposition.” Click here for more information, or contact him at email@example.com. Click here for previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.