Unless you are a prosperity gospel preacher, you will have to preach on some tough subjects from time to time as you preach “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). Obviously, if you are a prosperity gospel preacher you are probably not reading this article anyway, so I will assume that we are all preaching the hard topics as we are called to do. With that being the case, one of the prickliest topics to deal with in the modern church is greed. Pastors don’t like to preach about money because people don’t like hearing it, or possibly because other preachers have poisoned the pool by preaching about it wrongly or with wrong motives. Another possibility is that they are scared to preach about money when giving is good because they are worried it will cause the pump to dry up. It could even be that they are scared to preach about money when giving is down because they are worried it will stop giving altogether. Whatever the reason for not preaching about money, it is incorrect. Jesus talked about money in 11 of His 39 parables, and if He spent time on the subject while on this earth, we should see it as an important topic and preach on it as well.
Let me make one thing perfectly clear before we dive in any further: MONEY IS NOT EVIL. I’ve never been given a job by someone who was broke, I’ve never seen a ministry survive without financial support, and I am extremely confident that my looks would not even get me a cup of coffee—much less a meal—so if I want to eat, I will need to have some money. Money is an amoral object without conscience or calling that can be used to accomplish a lot of wonderful things. However, a good thing is a good thing until it becomes a “god-thing,” and then it becomes an idol. It is not the money that causes us grief or grabs our focus, but in 1 Timothy 6:10 Paul tells us that “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” The Greek word used for “the love of money” is interesting because it is a combination of two words that literally mean “the friend of silver.” This is the only time it is used in the New Testament. We can have money, make money, and use money as long as we don’t develop a friendship with it or an attachment to it. Once getting more money becomes a driving force in our life, we are already worshiping it. Ecclesiastes 5:13 says, “There is a sickening tragedy I have seen under the sun: wealth kept by its owner to his harm.” Rather than allowing greed to drive us to hoard our resources, we should see ourselves as stewards of our possessions, not owners. Greed is a thief that steals our allegiance and affection from God.
What we can conclude from all that we learn about money from Scripture is that having it is good as long as it is used correctly and never allowed to control us. Now therein lies the rub, because our human condition draws us toward worship. Worship was our original design function, and sin takes our original design and misdirects it. We were made to worship God, but sin leads us to worship other things. Dr. Adrian Rogers said, “Anything you love more, fear more, serve more, or value more than God is your idol.” If you climb to the top of every idol you have ever built in your life, you will eventually find a mirror, because all idolatry is actually self-worship. Money is no different. We only worship money because we find it fulfills us or satisfies some longing we have for security, status, or stuff.
The one thing that almost every wealthy person I’ve ever known had in common is that they all wanted more. Regardless of how much they had, they always wanted more. Greed is a drug that can open doorways to many other intoxicating vices, but it always leaves a person empty and unfulfilled in the end. Charles Spurgeon said, “Nothing teaches us about the preciousness of the Creator as much as when we learn the emptiness of everything else.” If we don’t caution our people on the dangers of allowing greed to take the place of God, who will?
Kevin Cobb is the Senior Pastor of West Mobile Baptist Church in Mobile, Alabama.