The Deceitfulness of Wealth
Jesus cautioned that wealth can be deceitful: “And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful” (Matthew 13:22). How might wealth deceive us?
Wealth can give us a false sense of life. On another occasion Jesus warned, “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions” (Luke 12:15). I suppose we would all agree with that statement, yet it is so easy to start thinking how much happier we would be if we just had more. It is just not so. Remember the Preacher’s observation: “He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves abundance with its income. This too is vanity” (Ecclesiastes 5:16).
Wealth can give us a false sense of importance. The world often measures a person’s importance by his net worth. Money equals success; lack of it means failure. God has no such measurement. He sees all as sinners in need of salvation. True wealth is in Christ (2 Corinthians 8:9). Perhaps this is James’s point: “But the brother of humble circumstances is to glory in his high position; and the rich man is to glory in his humiliation, because like flowering grass, he will pass away” (James 1:9-10).
Wealth can give us a false sense of security. Money is protection (Ecclesiastes 7:12). It can buy what we need and insure against many perils. That brings peace of mind, although the Preacher also noted that much wealth adds some stresses of its own (5:12). That said, the security wealth can provide has definite limits. It cannot completely prevent disease. It cannot stop death. And it is totally powerless against our greatest enemy: sin, and the judgment it brings.
Wealth can give us a false sense of God’s approval. It is commendable when a wealthy man attributes what he has to God’s blessing rather than merely to personal accomplishment. It is a mistake, however, to assume that because God has blessed him so, he is surely right with God. Jesus warned, “Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I say to you, 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” (Matthew 19:23-24). Salvation is only in Christ (Acts 4:12). There is no other way to the Father (John 14:6).
Wealth can give us a false sense of priorities. This was Jesus’ concern in the Parable of the Sower. The thorny soil hearer initially accepts the word, but over time it gets choked out as other things take precedence. We go to work instead of to worship. We minimize our giving in order to maximize our personal spending. We get too focused on comfort and fun in this world and lose sight of who we are and where we are headed. Do not be deceived.