Paul warns Timothy that loving money is deadly to the soul. He says, “If we have food and clothing we should be content with that” (I Timothy 6:8). Is the ‘should’ to be read as an imperative? “Be happy with the bare necessities!” Or is Paul making a more universal statement about our human nature? “We should be happy with minimal comforts, but we are not.” I suspect it is a little of both. To Timothy as an up and coming leader in the church, he is saying this is the only way to be an effective Christian servant, be content with what you receive. There is no room in Christ’s church for leaders who want to live in luxury. Will there be any tele-evangelists in heaven? Perhaps. I believe, however, that they will be eternally ashamed of what they did. In heaven, the wealthy will all wish that they had lived more modestly.
Proverbs is helpful here:
“Two things I ask of you, Lord;
do not refuse me before I die:
Keep falsehood and lies far from me;
give me neither poverty nor riches,
but give me only my daily bread.
Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you
and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’
Or I may become poor and steal,
and so dishonor the name of my God.
- Proverbs 30:7-9
The Bible often restates this virtue of living on the middle path, between poverty and riches. Jesus goes a step further and makes it the compass of Christian ministry. In both word and deed, he shows how his disciples should orient their lives. We associate with and minister to the poor. We shame and disparage those who take pride in their wealth. Jesus says, “Blessed are you poor,” and “But woe to you who are rich” (Luke 6:20 & 24). Jesus tells his disciples to leave their earthy comforts behind when they set out to do heaven’s work (Luke 9:1-6).
Here we must be frank. The love of money is sin. It is as seductive as cocaine. We cannot be a little bit greedy, any more than we can be a little bit adulterous.