There are a lot of people I talk to every week who are troubled by the continuing decline of Western civilization. This has manifested itself in efforts to undermine the sovereignty of western nations through globalism, the total depravity of the militant politically correct crowd, the destruction of the family, and so much more. One of the primary reasons for this is the majority of people have turned away from God, if they haven’t denied Him altogether. Without the Judeo-Christian belief system that comes with faith, there is no absolute standard to regulate the behavior of individuals.
A.W. Tozer and John Piper have written eloquently about their belief that God has designed the human being for worshiping Him. They refer to scripture verses such as Isaiah 43:7, Colossians 1:16, and Ephesians 1:12 to help make their point. However, in this broad statement there is room for debate, so I will amend it to “God created man with a strong tendency to worship.” If He did this, His obvious intention was that people would worship God. If men decline to worship God, the corollary to this theory would be that people will be inclined to worship something else.
Those of us who are faithful to God know that there was a hole in our lives that God filled at the moment of our salvation. Those who haven’t accepted Jesus Christ have to try to fill that hole with something else. Additionally, many professing Christians also allow themselves to be distracted by things that essentially crowd Jesus out of the place designed for Him in their hearts. In Biblical terms these God substitutes are known as idols, or false Gods.
God warned His people continually about worshipping idols. In fact, this sin merited its own commandment in Exodus 20:4-6. Upon initial reading of this commandment, it appears to pertain to physical statues and images that were worshiped in ancient times. However, scripture makes it clear that the term “idol” refers to anything that we worship in place of God. While there are few people that worship statues and pictures these days, there are many in America who replace the worship of God with an idol, such as money or leisure. I plan to examine a number of these idols in some depth over the course of several articles on this blog.
The first idol I want to address is money. The Bible famously says in 1Timothy 6:10 that “…the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.” In fact, this is the favorite verse in the Bible for many people, including some that have never opened the Bible in their life. It is a great verse to lead into a discussion about how people who are rich do shameful things to those who are poor, or at least insignificant. The verse is also proved correct by the telling of any story about how someone put aside their moral principles in order to become wealthy. There is certainly no shortage of those kinds of stories.
However, those of us who are not wealthy should be very careful not to absolve ourselves too quickly. One of the problems in the American church today is the wealth of the average Christian. There is nothing like money to distract us from what is truly important. Let me provide an example. Consider a young family of four. Financially they are able to cover basic needs – food, shelter, clothing – without difficulty. In fact, at the end of the month there is even a little money left, which Mom and Dad dutifully place in a savings account in case it is needed for a crisis. Because they are young and not yet wealthy, this family creates good habits of living within their means.
After several years pass, they realize their frugality has paid off. They now have a considerable sum in their savings account. What do they do now? Perhaps a vacation is planned. Maybe they will decide to put an addition on their house or buy a new car. Some families don’t buy a lot of big ticket items, but will invest in video games, home theaters, or sporting events.
Whatever this family decides, their wealth is about to become a trap. It will distract them from the disciplined lifestyle they were living and provide an excuse for skipping more noble and godly activities. If they decide to invest in a home or a boat or a motorcycle, they now have something in their life that requires time and money to be maintained. These things, while they can be enjoyable, will always succeed in taking time and money away from the things they were doing before.
People complain about the complexity of modern life, but the fact is we make our lives complex because of the wealth we have acquired. There is societal pressure to “keep up with the Joneses” and compete with others in the accumulation of material things. We all know people who have mortgaged themselves to the hilt to own a home that is above their price range. We also know people who spend the majority of their time and resources taking care of their property.
Property is not bad in and of itself. This is not a criticism of capitalism. Where we have gone astray is in believing that having material things will solve all our problems and make us happy. While money can certainly solve some problems, particularly at the lower income levels, generally the happiness that money gives us is quite fleeting. When determining how to use our wealth, we should weigh carefully whether the object of our desire will crowd God and other priorities out of our life.
For those who are not believers, the trap of wealth is even more tempting. In the modern political arena, we are regularly confronted with social justice warriors who cry about the wealthy abusing the poor. Of course, they do not criticize the wealthy men who espouse the leftist ideas they promote, only those that believe in free market capitalism. This hypocrisy is enough to destroy their credibility in my eyes. If that is not enough for you, keep in mind that the primary motive is to redistribute the wealth of other men into their own pockets. This is a bald display of pure envy which makes them worse than the wealthy men they are trying to rob, since they have no intention of working for the money they hope to obtain. This love of money has resulted in all kinds of evil, such as riots and looting about feigned outrage after the acquittal of a police officer.
The wealth trap is also among those who are not social justice warriors. For anyone who is envious of his wealthy neighbor or determined to purchase enough luxuries to keep up with his neighborhood, I encourage you to consider Solomon. It is said that he was the wealthiest man that ever lived. When considering wealth and happiness he wrote in Ecclesiastes 5:10 “He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity.” From my own experience trying to accumulate wealth before I was a Christian, this statement is right on. God is the only one that can provide the peace you are seeking.