No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. Matt.6:24 NIV
We live in a society where Christianity appears to be synonymous with riches, greed, and material possessions. We often hear statements claiming that God wants us to be rich and that God is going to transfer the riches of the ungodly to the church. What is the Bible’s position on these matters? How should the people of God conduct their lives in respect to these issues?
Elisha, a prophet of God refused a gift from Naaman. Naaman had come to see the prophet in order to be healed of his leprosy. II Kings 5:15-17. After reluctantly following the prophet’s instructions, he was cleansed of the dreaded disease. Naaman felt he should return to the prophet and offer him a gift in return for what he had done. The prophet flatly refused to take anything from Namaan. Elisha knew he could not serve God and material things. On the other hand, we see Gehazi, a servant of Elisha mesmerized by the merchandise his master refused. He allowed greed to trap him into bringing leprosy on himself and on his descendants. II Kings 5:19-27
In the book of Numbers, we see Balaam a prophet whom God instructed not to have anything to do with Balak and his plan to curse Israel. After Balak promised him silver and gold, he ignored God’s instructions and went to Balak. On his way to Balak, God rebuked him by speaking through his own donkey. The angel that blocked the donkey’s path had plans to kill the greedy prophet. Both the apostle Peter and Jude commenting on this incident concluded that Balaam “loved the wages of wickedness”. (II Peter 2:15-16; Jude 11).
Joshua 7:19-26 tells the story of Achan whose greed led him to disobey the command of God. His greed and subsequence disobedience led to his destruction and the demise of his immediate family. Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, instructed His followers that seeking after material things is what pagans do. His followers are to seek first the kingdom of God and God will provide for all their needs. Mat. 6:331-33. Setting our hearts on money and material things can keep us out of the kingdom of God. Jesus put us on our guard against greed when he taught that the craze to amass earthly possessions while ignoring the things that make us rich towards God is damning to our souls. Luke 12:15-21. Gaining the whole world and losing our souls is no profit. Mark 8:36.
Judas was one of the Twelve chosen by Jesus. He had the privilege of experiencing the miracles of Jesus first hand. He witnessed the powerful teaching of Jesus for the duration of over three years. When the disciples were sent out to preach the gospel, he too was given the power to heal the sick and cast out demons. (Mat.10:1). Notwithstanding, Judas had a huge problem; he was a lover of money. Money was clearly his first love, not Jesus. When the chief Priests were wondering how they could arrest Jesus and kill Him without causing a riot, Judas voluntarily contacted them asking what they would give him for handing over Jesus to them(Mat.26:14-15). After betraying Jesus, Judas could not live with himself. Jesus said of Judas, “The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.” Mat.26:24 NIV. This is where the love of money got Judas.
The New Testament makes it plain that Elders should not be greedy ITim.3:3,8.
The apostle Peter sharply rebuked Simon for thinking that he could buy the ability to give the Holy Spirit to others. Peter refused his money and told him in effect, “to hell with you and your money”. Acts 18:18-20. A true servant of God will guard his life and his ministry from greed, the love of money, and the craze for material possessions.
Paul cautioned Timothy to be careful about that human desire for material possessions. He urged contentment and the avoidance of seeking to become rich. Paul further states that the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. It causes some to abandon the faith and brings with it a plethora of heart -wrenching problems. ITim.6:6-10
Jesus sent out His twelve disciples to preach without money, Mark 6:8, showing that money is not a necessity when it comes to preaching the gospel.
Both the Old and New Testament scriptures forbid greed, the love of money, and the craze for material possessions in the lives of God’s people. Loving money and wanting to be rich are not qualities of the kingdom of God. They are worldly lusts that ought to be shunned by God’s people if we are serious about serving Him. Do not be deceived that God wants you to be rich to further the kingdom of God. That is the enemy trying to subtly draw you away from fidelity to God and trap you in a tangled web that will endanger your soul.
It is the false teachers who are greedy for money and worldly possessions (IIPeter2:15). They, like Balaam, will say what you want them to say for money. Conversely, God’s servants are eager to preach the true gospel. They cannot be bought. They have one Master who is Jesus Christ and they are faithful to Him and to the truth, He has given. Greed, the love of money, and a craze for material possessions have bad consequences and it becomes clear from the Bible that God wants His servants to stay far from all such things.