Comedian Steve Martin had this to say about money:
“I love money. I love everything about it. I bought some pretty good stuff. Got me a $300 pair of socks. Got a fur sink. An electric dog polisher. A gasoline powered turtleneck sweater. And, of course, I bought some dumb stuff, too.”
Money is a wonderful thing. It allows us, in the words of Steve Martin, to buy “some pretty good stuff” . . . like food for our families, a roof over our heads, warmth in our homes and allows us to enjoy vacations, recreation, etc. It can also be used to bless the poor, give us health and security, and even support missions and churches.
But we can often do some dumb stuff with our money. In this way money can be a curse. It can divide families, isolate individuals from the realities of life, or result in jealousy and bitterness. All this to say for better or worse—money matters and we must learn to control money or else it will control us.
In Jeremiah 22:15-16 we read the following:
“Does it make you a king to have more and more cedar? Did not your father have food and drink? He did what was right and just, so all went well with him. He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me? declares the Lord.”
The father mentioned in these verses was not controlled by money. The opposite was true—he controlled his money. Yes, he had luxuries; a great house and wonderful food. However, though he was rich, he also did what was right and just—he defended the cause of the poor and needy. In fact, God says that his involvement in the lives of the poor and oppressed is the sign (not just a sign) that this man, money and all, knew God.
So, here’s the catch. Make money, but never, ever let it control you. The best way to defeat money’s enslaving power is to personally know someone poor.
This truth reminds me of a story I heard from a friend of mine named Rich, who, as his name states, was very rich. Rich was an investment banker working downtown but lived in the suburbs. Every morning Rich would ignore a poor beggar he walked past on his way to work.
One day Rich decided to spend one of his lunch breaks each week as a volunteer at the local soup kitchen. It was here that Rich got to know the beggar he ignored each day on his way to work. Over a bowl of soup Rich heard this beggar’s heart-breaking story and learned his name—Ted. No longer could Rich just ignore Ted on the morning rush to work. No, Rich would bring Ted a cup of coffee and a muffin every morning and also spend lunch hours with his new friend at the soup kitchen.
Then it happened—a miracle! It was a very cold winter night. Rich was at home in his warm bed but couldn’t sleep a wink. All he could think about was his friend Ted shivering on the streets or sleeping in a dirty shelter. Rich tried to pray away his thoughts of Ted but all it did was make him more and more uncomfortable. Rich had to do something. That evening Rich brought Ted to stay with him; there was no way a friend of Rich’s would ever be abandoned on the streets.
Through Rich’s help Ted eventually got cleaned up, found a job and got a place of his own because he had a friend that loved him. What changed in Rich’s life was that this unknown beggar had a name and a story and, most importantly, became a friend of Rich’s.
Rich shared with me that he felt the true worth of his wealth that freezing cold night while he was in his beautiful warm home resting in his king-sized bed knowing that his friend Ted was all alone trying to survive on the streets. He said he learned that God gave him the ability to make money so that he could give it away in kingdom service.
But here’s the catch: Rich would never have learned this wonderful lesson from God if he never befriended Ted. So, here is what we learn. The greatest defence against greed and consumerism is having friends who are poor or oppressed. So, go out and grab yourself a Ted, because he will guarantee you true financial security in the kingdom of God.