There are many valuable biblical lessons my dad taught us about money. He was a living illustration of those principles. I’d like to summarize several of the ones that have most influenced my life.
1. Money cannot make you happy.
There is no relationship between being wealthy and being happy. In fact, the acquisition of wealth brings with it a greater realization that there are others who have more, and it can therefore become a source of comparison and dissatisfaction. Those individuals who place their security in material possessions are, of all people, the least secure. For that which they value can be so easily lost.
2. Money cannot buy the most important things in life.
We have all been influenced by the philosophy portrayed in advertising that if you have enough money, you can buy a solution to any problem. This simply isn’t true. Money can buy houses and cars and land and vacations. But no amount of money can eliminate conflict, bitterness, fear, or hurt. There isn’t enough money in the world to buy peace, joy, fulfillment, right relationships, or a clear conscience.
3. Wealth can be a curse.
The Scripture is full of warnings about the potential pitfalls associated with prosperity.
Money can keep a man out of heaven. This was certainly the case with the rich young ruler in Jesus’ day. He wanted eternal life, but he wasn’t willing to relinquish his trust in his riches in order to place all his faith in Christ. This is why Jesus said that it is almost impossible for a rich man to be saved. The more we have, the greater our faith tends to be in our possessions. Salvation requires that we trust in Christ alone.
First Timothy 6:9–11 vividly spells out the curse of loving money:
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. 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. But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.
Wealthy King Solomon spoke from personal experience when he wrote, “Whoever trusts in his riches will fall” (Prov. 11:28). On the other hand we have the promise that “Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but abides forever” (Ps. 125:1).
As we were growing up, my dad often read to us another biblical warning about wealth:
And you shall eat and be full, and you shall bless the LORD your God for the good land he has given you. Take care lest you forget the LORD your God by not keeping his commandments and his rules and his statutes, which I command you today, lest, when you have eaten and are full and have built good houses and live in them, and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied and all that you have is multiplied, then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. . . . Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth’” (Deut. 8:10–14, 17).
The progression happens so easily: God blesses us, we forget to thank Him, we become proud and forget Him.
Another potential curse of money is the bitterness that can overcome us in the face of financial loss. The more we love our material possessions, the more it hurts to lose them.
Jesus warned about the danger of working hard to accumulate material goods in this life, but ending up with nothing of value in the next life. In the eyes of the world, Art DeMoss was considered a wealthy man on the morning of September 1, 1979. But that afternoon, when he was suddenly taken to heaven, he didn’t take any stocks and bonds, real estate, or other financial investments with him. His assets were no longer measured in dollars and cents but in spiritual units—how much of Christ’s life had been formed in him and the extent to which he had influenced his family, friends and associates to follow Christ.
Material possessions can create conflict in families and produce shallow, temporal values in children. It is tempting to try to show affection by buying things. However, those gifts can sometimes communicate that the giver is not willing to invest himself in the relationship.
Focusing on material things tends to drain us of spiritual vitality and dulls the cutting edge of our sensitivity to God.
4. Wealth can be a great blessing.
Having said all that, wealth does not have to be a curse. It can be a great blessing if we are committed to God’s perspective, priorities, and principles. As I look back on my dad’s life, I see several reasons for the blessing of God on his life.
- He put God first above everything else. He believed that the greatest wealth was knowing God. This priority was evident as he gave the first hour of every day to the study of God’s Word and prayer. In the twenty-eight years that he knew Christ, there was not a single day when anything else came before that hour alone with God.
He put God first in his business, in spite of the prevailing opinion that biblical ethics cannot be applied in the business world. God proved that His way works!
Whenever Dad met anyone for the first time, whether in a business context, or in the course of traveling, the uppermost question on his mind was, “Does this person know Christ?” He generally found out the answer to that question within the first minutes of any conversation, even if the primary purpose of the meeting was business-related.
Since his death, many people have shared with me the results of Dad’s personal ministry. A woman introduced herself to me after I spoke in a conference. She said, “My father is in heaven today, because of your dad.” A Jewish businessman told me, “Your dad led dozens and dozens of my Jewish friends to Christ.” What a thrilling report!
Christ was also first in our home. Dad talked little about the business. He talked much about Jesus. The greatest inheritance he left my siblings and me was the example of a commitment to love God more than anything or anyone else.
- He recognized God as the source of every material blessing. He taught me not to look at an employer or a parent or a husband as the source of my income, but to look to the Lord as our Provider. And he taught us that we are as utterly dependent on God to provide when we have a regular, substantial income as when we have no visible means of support.
- He acknowledged God’s right to give and take away material blessings. This is the reason he was able to be as grateful and content in times of material loss as in times of tremendous gain. I remember one twelve-month period during which we lost our home in a fire, my mother almost lost her life with a massive brain tumor, and my dad lost many millions of dollars in far less time than it took to accumulate it. In all those months his faith, joy, and serenity were never diminished because he recognized and trusted the sovereignty of God.
- He saw himself, not as a recipient, but as a channel of God’s blessings. He believed that God gives to His children, not so they can store up things that don’t last, but so they can meet the needs of others. Next to knowing God, the privilege of giving the vast majority of his income was probably the greatest joy of my dad’s life. He steadfastly rejected the recommendations of tax advisers that he save and invest more. He sincerely believed that “it is more blessed to give than to receive.”
I am so grateful for the model of my dad’s life and teaching in this matter of giving. God still has much too teach me about the grace of giving. But I have learned the joy of asking when I receive any form of income, “Lord, who do You want me to give this to?” And when I hear of a need of another person or ministry, I ask Him, “Is there any way You can use me to help meet that need?”
Perhaps this is where genuine revival begins—with the willingness (and eagerness) to give everything I am and have to God, and to be a channel through who He can bless and meet the needs of others. Is that too much for Him to ask? “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich” (2 Cor. 8:9).