Monday, July 8, 2013

The Love of Money is the Root of All Evil

Today is the first day in our 27th week, reading the Bible through together in a year.  Our scriptures this week are:

  • 1 Kings 10-11; 2 Chr 9; 1 Tim 6
  • Ecclesiastes 1-3; 2 Tim 1; Psalm 45
  • Eccl 4-6; 2 Tim 2; Psalm 125
  • Eccl 7-9; 2 Tim 3; Psalm 46
  • Eccl 10-12; 2 Tim 4
Today's OT and NT passages are united by the theme of wealth.  1 Kings 10-11 gives a picture of Solomon's opulence and the resulting compromise in his faith.  1 Timothy 6 gives us a true perspective on wealth, and discusses the need for true contentment.

The Old Testament show us how wealth can be so deceptive that it can ensnare even the "wisest man who ever lived."  Solomon is called this, yet through today's reading we can clearly see his wisdom overcome by lust.  Chapter 10 tells us Solomon's unsurpassed wealth that was so great that it attracted royals from other lands.  The Queen of Sheba came to see for herself whether the legends were true.  She brought lavish gifts, and returned home with gifts from Solomon.  (Click here to read an intriguing article in The Jewish Encyclopedia, about legends regarding the Queen of Sheba.)  Don't miss the connection between Solomon's great wealth and the distraction that followed.  Because of his wealth, many nations wanted to make alliances with the Israelite king.  As was the custom in those days, alliances were sealed with royal marriages.  This resulted in Solomon's many wives (11:3 says that 700 of these were princesses).  Yet, these weren't enough for the greedy king, so 300 additional concubines were added to his harem.  Solomon became so focused on acquisition of wealth that he even hoarded people!  Women were no longer individuals to be cherished--to Solomon they were possessions to add to his trove.  Neither Solomon's financial nor his sexual appetites could be satisfied.  For Solomon, great wealth led to a form of madness.  In his own words, Solomon describes this insatiable folly (Ecclesiastes 2:1-11 ESV):

said in my heart, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure; enjoy yourself.” But behold, this also was vanity. said of laughter, “It is mad,” and of pleasure, “What use is it?” searched with my heart how to cheer my body with wine—my heart still guiding me with wisdom—and how to lay hold on folly, till I might see what was good for the children of man to do under heaven during the few days of their life. I made great works. I built houses and planted vineyards for myself. I made myself gardens and parks, and planted in them all kinds of fruit trees. I made myself pools from which to water the forest of growing trees. I bought male and female slaves, and had slaves who were born in my house. I had also great possessions of herds and flocks, more than any who had been before me in Jerusalem. I also gathered for myself silver and gold and the treasure of kings and provinces. I got singers, both men and women, and many concubines, the delight of the sons of man.
So I became great and surpassed all who were before me in Jerusalem. Also my wisdom remained with me. 10 And whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I kept my heart from no pleasure, for my heart found pleasure in all my toil, and this was my reward for all my toil.11 Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun.

Solomon himself admitted the unsatisfied hunger that he had.  No matter how much he acquired, it was never enough.  It was vanity, and a striving after wind.  Yet, one has to doubt Solomon's claim when he says "my wisdom remained with me."  For we find in 1 Kings 11 that Solomon's lust for power, wealth, and sexual satisfaction resulted in his heart straying away from the Lord his God.  Verses 3b-8 (ESV) say:

Solomon and his wives worship foreign gods
And his wives turned away his heart.For when Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly true to the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father. For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. So Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and did not wholly follow the Lord, as David his father had done. Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, and for Molech the abomination of the Ammonites, on the mountain east of Jerusalem. And so he did for all his foreign wives, who made offerings and sacrificed to their gods.

Finally, at the end of chapter eleven, we read about how the Lord appeared twice to Solomon to implore him to return to the Living God.  Yet, Solomon refused to repent.  His heart had been lured away by gods of sexuality, fertility, and wealth, and would not be brought back to reasonable faith in Yahweh.  So God declared that He would tear the kingdom away from Solomon's descendants.  Solomon would be the final king of a united monarchy--the kingdom would be divided in the days of his son.  

Any wisdom we find in the book of Ecclesiastes is not gleaned from this time in Solomon's life, but is based on the aged king ruminating on all these things long after they took place.  At some point, his sense must have returned to him as he reflected on the meaninglessness of all his strivings.

Jesus taught a life of simplicity, humility, and obedience to God.  This is the opposite of the way Solomon lived.  In 1 Timothy 6:3-10; 17-21 (ESV), Paul admonishes a proper relationship with wealth.  

If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain. But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world.But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs...
17 As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. 18 They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, 19 thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life. 
20 O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called “knowledge,” 21 for by professing it some have swerved from the faith.

Both the life of Solomon, and the words of Paul, remind us to be careful about the riches we acquire in this world.  Believers must keep a proper perspective, recognizing God as the source of every blessing, and using these gifts to do good in the world.  Hoarding of wealth, rather than using it for God's purposes, both reflects and results in an attitude of objectification.  Everything you see becomes something to get.  Even people become objects to conquer, control, manipulate, and even own.  Even sexuality and marriage become perverted due to this spirit of objectification.  Prayer becomes petition for more and more things, rather than drawing near to the heart of God.  Worship becomes wantonness.  And before you know it, the kingdom you thought you possessed is wrested from your grasp.

Much better to follow the words of Jesus, who said in Matthew 6:25-33 (ESV):

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you,even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

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