Is the problem money?

We may all recall Jesus speaking to the “rich young ruler” telling him that he needed to” take all you have and give it to the poor, and follow me.” Jesus elsewhere is also quoted as saying that it is easier for a “camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” In the first letter to Timothy Paul writes that the love of money is “the root of all evil.” So in the Gospel having money is bad, right?

Wrong! Recall that also in the Gospels Jesus, in a parable, also commends the two servants who invested their “talents” well and earned more money for the master. In another place Jesus commends the shrewdness of the servant who was being laid off in his bargaining with creditors. So there is a tension in the gospels over money just as there is a tension in most of our lives over money. Money is a necessary medium of exchange, but it can also be a hard task master and even somewhat addictive. We need it but if it gets out of hand it can control and destroy us.

Wealth in and of itself is not a problem for Jesus, He associated with the wealthy as well as with the poor. What was done with the wealth was his concern. Money is neutral. Jesus and the early Christian community relied on those who had wealth for support  It is when money becomes the object of our desire, the center of our power, or the focus of our envy that it becomes a problem.

Whatever we have we hold in trust. It is from the gift of our life, our individual gifts, abilities and the various circumstances of our life that we have what we have. It is not due to our efforts alone. Money is entrusted to us and God wants us to use whatever we have in the best possible way. To use it for good. God want us to use money and to love people and not the other way around.

So, money is not the problem. The problem is what we as God’s people choose to do with what we have and what we are given. The more we have the easier it is to be sucked into the love of money and the power that money can exercise. The rich are offered and are entering the kingdom of God just as the poor are offered and are entering the kingdom. It is harder for those with wealth because of the power money can assume in our lives. When we have, we are afraid of losing. When we do not have there is less fear about losing and we are more prone to share and to learn to trust in God.

Money is not the problem – it is, as always, a people problem. The priorities we choose and the way we choose to live them out.


About don

The Rev Don Hill is an Episcopal priest, rail fan and writer. He and his wife the Rev. Dr. Nancy Woodworth-Hill are currently Co-Pastors of St Paul's Episcopal Church, Jeffersonville IN, in the Diocese of Indianapolis. They also work as parish consultants in Appreciative Inquiry, strategic planning and spirituality development for parishes and vestries.
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