Young People Ask . . .
What Is Wrong With Making Money?
“MONEY is indeed the most important thing in the world.” So claimed British playwright George Bernard Shaw. Do you agree with him? Perhaps you feel more like 17-year-old Tanya, who says: “I don’t want to be rich, just comfortably secure.” Young Avian likewise sees money, not as the most important thing in the world, but as a useful means to an end. He says: “Money is necessary for my needs, such as clothes and transportation.”
Did you know that the Bible makes a similar point? At Ecclesiastes 7:12, it says that “money is for a protection.” Poverty has been described as “a great enemy to human happiness.” And having adequate money can protect you—at least to some extent—from the problems that poverty often brings. Money can also cushion you from unexpected disasters. “The Bible says that ‘time and unforeseen occurrence befall us all,’” says young Phyllis. “We never know when hardships may come upon us, so we need to have money saved up.” (Ecclesiastes 9:11) And while money may seem important to you now, it may play an even more important role in your future.
The “Tidal Wave of Materialism”
But while some concern about having adequate money is normal and healthy, for some youths money has become nearly an obsession. When over 160,000 youths were asked, “What do you want most in life?,” 22 percent said, “To be rich.”
No doubt this craving for cash is fed by what Newsweek magazine called the “tidal wave of materialism” that has swept the world. “I am a very materialistic person and very label conscious,” says 18-year-old Martin. “I firmly believe you get what you pay for. Thus, I spend lots of money for the things I want.” Martin is not the only youth who ‘spends lots of money.’ Reports U.S.News & World Report: “Last year, 12-to-19-year-olds [in the United States] went on their biggest shopping spree ever, ringing up $109 billion in purchases, a 38 percent increase over 1990.”
From where, though, do youths get the cash for all those new clothes, compact discs, and computer gadgets? According to U.S.News & World Report: “About half of all 16-to-19-year-olds have part-time jobs.” Kept in balance, an after-school job can have its benefits, such as teaching a youth responsibility. However, some youths clearly go overboard in this regard. Observes Newsweek magazine: “Psychologists and teachers see the strain on [working] students. They have little time for homework, and teachers who regularly watch exhausted students struggling to keep their heads up all too often respond by lowering standards.”
Even so, few working youths are willing to give up their sources of income. “School’s important,” says young Vanessa, “but so’s money. Homework doesn’t pay.” How important is making money to you? Is making lots of it your main goal in life?
“Determined to Be Rich”
The Bible deals with these very questions. The apostle Paul wrote: “Those who are determined to be rich fall into temptation and a snare and many senseless and hurtful desires, which plunge men into destruction and ruin. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of injurious things, and by reaching out for this love some have been led astray from the faith and have stabbed themselves all over with many pains.”—1 Timothy 6:9, 10.
Paul certainly knew what he was talking about. Before becoming a Christian, he had been one of the religious leaders known as “the Pharisees,” whom the Bible describes as “money lovers.” (Luke 16:14) Even so, the apostle did not condemn making money in itself. Rather, he gave warning to those who are “determined to be rich” or, as another translation puts it, to people who “set their hearts on being wealthy.” (Phillips) But what is so bad about doing that?
As Paul explained, such ones “fall into temptation and a snare.” Proverbs 28:20 makes a similar point when it says: “He that is hastening to gain riches will not remain innocent.” Thinking that they do not have enough, some youths have resorted to stealing.
True, most youths would not think of stealing. But some may engage in equally risky behavior. Reports Christianity Today: “Some experts believe problem gambling has become the fastest-growing teen addiction.” In one U.S. locality, “almost 90 percent of teens had illegally purchased lottery tickets by their senior year in high school.” Some youths resort to even more desperate measures. “Decent jobs are hard to get,” says 16-year-old Matthew. “So I get most of my money trading and selling things. . . . Occasionally I [used to] deal [drugs].”
‘Plunging Into Ruin’
True, having money may give one a sense of freedom. But as Paul explains, in the long run, pursuing money can actually make one a slave to “many senseless and hurtful desires, which plunge men into destruction and ruin.” Yes, once the love of money sinks its teeth into you, covetousness, murderous jealousy, and other hurtful desires can dominate. (Compare Colossians 3:5.) An article in ’Teen magazine observed that some teens can become so envious of the cars and clothes other youths possess “that they become overwhelmed.” Such envy sometimes “deepens into self-disgust,” adds the article, “and a teen is unable to think about anything except what [he or] she doesn’t have.”
Note, then, that not only can the desire for wealth cause one to “fall into temptation” but it can also cause one to ‘plunge into destruction and ruin.’ Observes Bible commentator Albert Barnes: “The image is that of a wreck, where a ship and all that is in it, go down together. The destruction is complete. There is a total ruin of happiness, of virtue, of reputation, and of the soul.”—Compare 1 Timothy 1:19.
Rightly, then, Paul says that the all-consuming “love of money is a root of all sorts of injurious things.” As a result of it, many have been “led astray from the faith and have stabbed themselves all over with many pains.” Take, for example, a youth we’ll call Rory. At age 12 he began gambling. “It was a way to get money without doing anything,” he recalls. Before long, he was hundreds of dollars in debt and neglecting friends, family, and schoolwork. “I tried to quit,” he admits, but he repeatedly failed. He continued ‘stabbing himself all over with many pains’ until he sought help at age 19. Writer Douglas Kennedy is thus not exaggerating when, in his book Chasing Mammon, he calls the pursuit of money “a traumatizing experience.”
Finding a Balance
Solomon’s advice is thus as relevant now as it was centuries ago: “Do not toil to gain riches. Cease from your own understanding. Have you caused your eyes to glance at it, when it is nothing? For without fail it makes wings for itself like those of an eagle and flies away toward the heavens.” (Proverbs 23:4, 5) Material riches are temporary, so it is foolish to make the pursuit of wealth your chief aim in life. “I do not want to get entangled in purely materialistic goals,” says a Christian youth named Maureen. “I just know,” she says, “that my spirituality will be the price I pay if I get caught up in simply making money.”
True, money is a necessity. And having an adequate income will allow you to care for your own needs—and possibly even assist others materially from time to time. (Ephesians 4:28) Learn to work hard so as to be able to earn money honestly. Also, learn how to save, budget, and spend your money intelligently. But never make money the most important thing in life. Try to have the balanced view expressed by the writer of Proverbs 30:8, who prayed: “Give me neither poverty nor riches.” By keeping spiritual interests to the fore, you will be able to gain the best kind of riches. As Proverbs 10:22 says, “the blessing of Jehovah—that is what makes rich, and he adds no pain with it.”
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Many youths want money so they can keep up with their peers