The Deceptive Power of Wealth
“Let your manner of life be free of the love of money, while you are content with the present things. for he has said: ‘I will by no means leave you nor by any means forsake you.’ So that we may be of good courage and say: ‘Jehovah is my helper; I will not be afraid.’”—Heb. 13:5, 6.
1. What is the result of lack of faith?
MANY people today put material wealth as the first goal in their lives, partly because they lack faith in God to provide their daily necessities. One man held up a dollar bill to his friend and declared: “This is my god.” Such ones spend their time and energy to get greater security in this system of things instead of demonstrating faith in the Life-Giver, Jehovah God.
2. What do many want out of life, showing what lack?
2 Life has become a race, not just for survival, but to get ahead materially, and the farther ahead the better. Most people at least try to keep up with their neighbors in this race. If one paints his house, the next one paints his house. If one’s neighbor gets a new car, then the next one must get a new car. Big commercial advertisers entice them with glowing descriptions of material things. A cartoon showed a man staggering under the weight of debts for television, a car, clothes, sports equipment, jewelry and still reaching for more labeled “100 years to pay.” Such ones do not have a proper balance on the things this system offers, but, like a fish nibbling at the bait, keep taking bigger bites until they are so hooked by debt they cannot get free.
3. Mention some things of greater value. What should come first?
3 Consider how much less important such evidences of wealth are compared with the happiness of your family, good health, enjoyment of peace, having true friends and the blessing of life with God’s favor. These are far more important, and yet all can enjoy them, whether rich or poor, young or old. In fact, Jehovah himself gives the invitation: “Hey there, all you thirsty ones! Come to the water. And the ones that have no money! Come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk even without money and without price. Why do you people keep paying out money for what is not bread, and why is your toil for what results in no satisfaction?” Yes, the important spiritual food is available to all without price. Therefore, let us keep our quest for material possessions in its proper place, keeping the balance that faith provides, so that the more important worship and service of God do not take the lesser place in our lives.—Isa. 55:1, 2.
4. How can Paul’s counsel apply now?
4 The apostle Paul advised young Timothy to follow a course of “godly devotion along with self-sufficiency.” “For we have brought nothing into the world, and neither can we carry anything out. So, having sustenance and covering, we shall be content with these things.” Paul said that this course would mean “great gain,” that is in a spiritual way and also in the enjoyment and satisfaction of life.—1 Tim. 6:6-8.
5. Why was John’s counsel wise?
5 Why store up wealth for a time that will never come, treasures in a world that is passing away? The aged apostle John wrote: “Do not be loving either the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him; because everything in the world—the desire of the flesh and the desire of the eyes and the showy display of one’s means of life—does not originate with the Father, but originates with the world. Furthermore, the world is passing away and so is its desire, but he that does the will of God remains forever.” We are living in the time of which John wrote. Observe that the scripture here speaks of our desires, the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, the showy display of wealth. These are not things we need, but extras, things we desire. Jehovah provides the things we need, but things beyond these, we are told, do not originate with the Father, but with the world. How so? Because these are the things that pull us away from the Father and our worship and service to him, consuming our time and energy.—1 John 2:15-17.
A ROOT OF INJURIOUS THINGS
6. What does love of money lead to?
6 A desire for material riches leads one in a vicious circle. The more money and wealth a man has the more he buys, and the more he buys the more he needs to keep up what he has; and so on and on it goes. Thus a survey by social scientists of people of different income levels showed that those making $5,000 wanted $10,000, those making $10,000 wanted $20,000. Even those with millions wanted more millions. Usually the more a man has the more he wants, and in some cases the love of money becomes so strong it leads to graft, crime, violence and even murder. (Prov. 28:20) In fact, things have become so out of balance that more money is spent in the United States on gambling, because of the desire for an easy income, than on public school education.
7. How can Matthew 4:4 be shown true?
7 Even a millionaire can wear only one suit at a time. He can eat only so much at a meal. As Ecclesiastes 5:11 says: “When good things become many, those eating them certainly become many. And what advantage is there to the grand owner of them?” In the account at Luke 12:16-21 Jesus told of a certain rich man whose land produced well. Finally he decided to tear down his storehouses and build bigger ones, and since he had a surplus for many years he determined to take it easy, to drink and eat and enjoy himself. “But God said to him, ‘Unreasonable one, this night they are demanding your soul from you. Who, then, is to have the things you stored up?’” Jesus emphasized the point that all of this man’s material wealth would not be enjoyed by him; others would reap the results of his labor. He explained: “So it goes with the man that lays up treasure for himself but is not rich toward God.” Which would you rather have, barns full of grain, or a life rich toward God?—Matt. 4:4.
8. Why is the value of wealth deceptive?
8 Jesus stressed the fact that wealth has only temporary, deceptive power and is not lasting as are spiritual riches. This has been proved true many times even in this generation. When the Nationalist government was on the way out in China men had to take suitcases or wheelbarrows full of paper yen if they wanted to buy a loaf of bread. In Germany after World War I, in 1923, a trillion paper marks dwindled to the value of one mark in coin. In Korea quite recently the currency was so unstable that high interest was charged on all loans. Finally the government took drastic action, freezing all loans with over 20 percent interest. In the United States fortunes have been made and lost by financial fluctuations, as during the stock market crash. One waiter working near Wall Street said: “You have no idea what it was like. Men came in worth a million dollars one day and the next day they jumped out the window.” Fortunes were lost overnight. For others, inflation in recent years has rendered life savings of little value.
9. How may wealth turn out to be a curse?
9 So material riches are deceptive. They do not have a lasting value and can be wiped out by theft, fire, war or inflation. Furthermore, if such things cannot buy life or health or true friends, then what real value do they have? A dying man could offer a doctor billions but the physician still could not prevent him from dying. It is of interest to note that it has been found that Indians in northern Brazil have less illness, cancer and heart trouble than people in highly industrialized areas with their greater economic pressures. So it may well be that the anxious pursuit of material things can become very detrimental to health. Thus Jesus advised the man who wanted him to arbitrate an inheritance dispute with his brother: “Keep your eyes open and guard against every sort of covetousness, because even when a person has an abundance his life does not result from the things he possesses.” Yes, instead of being a blessing, wealth can prove to be a curse.—Luke 12:15.
10. What should we be on guard against?
10 Paul wrote the young man Timothy, who at that time had set aside the materialistic pursuits of his day for the full-time ministry: “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 Tim. 6:9, 10) Notice, Paul explained it is the love, or covetous desire, for wealth that is to be avoided. The aggressive determination to be rich is what may take precedence in one’s life over the more important spiritual things and thus lead one astray from the faith, searing his conscience by underhanded or illegal business practices, or by consuming all his time and energy until he becomes materially prosperous but spiritually weak.
PROPER SPIRITUAL BALANCE
11. What is the proper viewpoint on material needs?
11 However, you may take the viewpoint that you are just trying to provide things needful for your family, not becoming materialistic due to a lack of faith; and this is entirely proper. In fact, the man who claims to serve God and does not provide for his family has disowned the faith and is worse than a person without faith. (1 Tim. 5:8) At the same time, by putting faith in the prayer to God to provide our daily bread, we may find we can devote less time to secular pursuits and more to the ministry. In lands where the people live more simply they do not spend long hours watching television, or Saturday afternoon polishing the car or keeping the home in repair, and so can truly put the Kingdom interests first in their lives. Jesus advised us to pray for “our bread for this day,” not for our needs five or ten years from now.—Matt. 6:11.
12. What good advice did Jesus give at Matthew 6:24-34?
12 He went on to say: “No one can slave for two masters . . . You cannot slave for God and for Riches. On this account I say to you: Stop being anxious about your souls as to what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your bodies as to what you will wear.” Just because the nations keep on eagerly pursuing material goals in life, should we show so little faith? “Keep on, then, seeking first the kingdom and his righteousness, and all these other things will be added to you. So, never be anxious about the next day, for the next day will have its own anxieties.”—Matt. 6:24-34.
13. How does Psalm 37 give encouragement for full-time service?
13 This does not mean that we should lean back and wait for God to put food in our mouths. Even the birds and animals search for what they need. But if we do our part we should have faith that God will provide our needs. (Ps. 37:25, 26) Jehovah is the finest provider one could possibly have; so why not put his service first in our lives? This should be a wholehearted service, putting first things first; and certainly the privilege of serving our Creator, the One who can give us life, should be given our first consideration.
14. Why did Jesus say it would be difficult for the rich to enter the Kingdom?
14 On one occasion a young man inquired of Jesus: “Teacher, what good must I do in order to get everlasting life?” Jesus advised him that the first thing to do would be to bring his life into line with God’s commandments by obeying his law. The young man assured him that he kept all these. Then Jesus said to him: “If you want to be perfect, go sell your belongings and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven, and come be my follower.” However, when the young man heard this he was grieved because he had more interest in the many material possessions he enjoyed than in the service of his Creator. As in this case, many with great material wealth find that their money talks. In fact, their money does their thinking too, because they give it first consideration instead of keeping a proper spiritual balance on life. So Jesus told his disciples: “Truly I say to you that it will be a difficult thing for a rich man to get into the kingdom of the heavens.”—Matt. 19:16-26.
15. If our faith is weak, how can it be strengthened?
15 Everyone must put up a constant battle to keep a good spiritual balance. If we find that we are letting material anxieties choke off our service to God, perhaps it is because we are not exercising faith. What is the remedy? Strengthen that faith. Study God’s Word; attend meetings where faith may be revived by good association and by receiving a generous share of God’s spirit. Build up a spiritual reserve by home Bible study with your family and by teaching others the truths you know, thereby demonstrating your faith. Never let your secular employment keep you from attending congregational meetings for Bible study or from attending conventions devoted to pure worship. There are other Jobs for a man of faith, and “your heavenly Father knows you need all these things.” The more material riches a man has the harder it is for him to accept the Scriptural truths and apply them. Such a man has a big stake in the old world; and the bigger the stake is, the harder it is to pull it up. Jesus illustrated this, saying: “It is easier for a camel to get through a needle’s eye than for a rich man to get into the kingdom of God.” Only with faith can such a person pull through.—Matt. 19:24.
MEN OF FAITH
16. Why do we say it is practical to let our lives be free of the love of money?
16 Perhaps you say all of this sounds good, but it certainly is not practical. However, doing things the way Jehovah directs and the way his Word counsels is always the wisest and most practical. There are many outstanding examples of men of stature in the world who have found that their greatest treasure was in spiritual things. One was a man who had the best education the old world had to offer. He became what we might call the prime minister of a new nation, Israel. He was especially well known as a lawgiver and judge. He served as a special ambassador of Jehovah to a hostile nation, Egypt, and finally he came to prefigure Christ Jesus. This was Moses. His opinion on the deceptive power of wealth is expressed at Hebrews 11:24-26: “By faith Moses, when grown up, refused to be called the son of the daughter of Pharaoh, . . . because he esteemed the reproach of the Christ as riches greater than the treasures of Egypt; for he looked intently toward the payment of the reward.” Yes, Moses made Jehovah’s interests his interests, not materialism. He had faith.
17. Why was Job wise in not putting his trust in gold?
17 Another example is the case of a well-known property holder. He was a large-family man who had a tremendous cattle and livestock ranch with over 11,000 animals and many servants. Because he had such vast holdings he was called the greatest of all the Orientals. Who was it? Job. Was his faith in material things? Read his words at Job 31:24-28: “If I have put gold as my confidence, or to gold I have said, ‘You are my trust!’ If I used to rejoice because my property was much, and because my hand had found a lot of things . . . that too would be an error for attention by the justices, for I should have denied the true God above.” Job did not deny his Creator and, despite all the difficulties he went through because of putting his faith in God first, his latter days were more richly blessed than his youth.
18. What did Paul consider to be the greatest riches?
18 Another man who testified strongly in favor of spirituality and against the deceptive power of wealth was one who was educated by some of the greatest scholars of his day. He became a leader of the early Christian organization and one of the twelve “apostles of the Lamb.” This was Paul. At 2 Corinthians 6:10 he described his own position: “As poor but making many rich, as having nothing and yet possessing all things.” When Paul entered the ministry he did not ask what his salary would be or what he was going to get out of it. He exercised faith in Jehovah to provide, and rejoiced that he was privileged to give so bountifully of spiritual riches to so many.
19. Did Jesus encourage materialism?
19 Finally, we have the words of the greatest man of all times, Christ Jesus, who has affected the lives of millions of people, and whose words are quoted more often than those of any living human. He stated: “Foxes have dens and birds of heaven have roosts, but the Son of man has nowhere to lay down his head.” Obviously materialism was not his way in life. To his disciples he instructed: “Do not carry a purse, nor a food pouch, nor sandals.” He knew that a workman is worthy of his hire and that Jehovah would provide for those serving him. (Luke 9:58; 10:4, 7) These men were among the most outstandingly successful of their time. They recognized the fleeting value of material possessions, and so chose the course leading to spiritual riches and favor with God.
20. What modern-day examples of men of faith do we have?
20 What worked for these men will work for us today. Ask anyone in the full-time ministry as a missionary, circuit servant or district servant, Does Jehovah provide what you need? What will the answer be? Of course, he does! Ask them, Which are the most rewarding and enjoyable years of your life? and they will tell you, The years devoted to the full-time ministry. Throughout the world there are almost 30,000 persons active in the full-time ministry, men and women who are putting trust in their Creator to supply the food and shelter they need day by day and who receive great happiness because of putting Kingdom interests first in their lives. Such full-time workers may be without much material wealth, but they have a security that only Jehovah can give, real life insurance.
THE GREATER RICHES
21. What questions should each one consider?
21 Is such a course possible for you? It may be that you have family obligations that hold you back. If so, do you encourage your family to value spiritual riches? Do you encourage the children to consider the full-time pioneer service? Do you set aside time for regular Bible study and for attending meetings to build up spiritual knowledge? Those putting Kingdom interests first will never be disappointed. Recently one of Jehovah’s witnesses in the full-time ministry was invited to attend the Kingdom Ministry School for a month of special instruction in congregational oversight. He lived several thousand miles away and had to provide for his family, including two children. The time came for him to leave, but careful figuring showed he was just a little short of funds to make the trip and be sure the family had sufficient during his absence. Just then a person with whom he had been studying came by the home and left $20 to help with expenses—just what he needed. Money cannot buy friends like this, but those who share spiritual riches with others can often recount such blessings.—1 Cor. 9:14.
22. What is of greater value than silver and gold? Why?
22 The great value of spiritual riches is well described at Proverbs 3:13-18: “Happy is the man that has found wisdom, and the man that gets discernment, for having it as gain is better than having silver as gain and having it as produce than gold itself. It is more precious than corals, and all other delights of yours cannot be made equal to it. Length of days is in its right hand; in its left hand there are riches and glory. Its ways are ways of pleasantness, and all its roadways are peace. It is a tree of life to those taking hold of it, and those keeping fast hold of it are to be called happy.”
23. What good counsel does Paul give us?
23 If you want to be among the happy ones on the roadway of pleasantness and peace with the prospect of everlasting life, then keep a good balance between material and spiritual needs for yourself and your family. Remember Paul’s warning to Timothy against the love of money: “Flee from these things. But pursue righteousness, godly devotion, faith, love, endurance, mildness of temper. Fight the fine fight of the faith, get a firm hold on the everlasting life for which you were called . . . Give orders to those who are rich in the present system of things not to be high-minded, and to rest their hope, not on uncertain riches, but on God, who furnishes us all things richly for our enjoyment; to work at good, to be rich in fine works, to be liberal, ready to share, safely treasuring up for themselves a fine foundation for the future, in order that they may get a firm hold on the real life.” This is good counsel, for certainly money cannot buy God’s favor and the blessing of eternal life.—1 Tim. 6:11, 12, 17-19.
24. What warning does Ezekiel give?
24 Do not be deceived by the seeming advantages of wealth for the present, for the time is not far off when the prophecy of Ezekiel 7:19, 27 will be fulfilled: “Into the streets they will throw their very silver, and an abhorrent thing their own gold will become. Neither their silver nor their gold will be able to deliver them in the day of Jehovah’s fury. . . . and they will have to know that I am Jehovah.” No, money cannot buy God’s protection at the coming catastrophe of Armageddon.
25. How can we heap up treasures in heaven?
25 Let us show we put spiritual riches first by our words and by our actions, enjoying to the full, the many provisions that Jehovah has made, the meetings, the service and the good brotherly association. If we do these things, heaping up for ourselves “treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes, and where thieves do not break in and steal,” we will be able to enjoy those things of greatest value, the prospects of lasting life in health in the new world, peace and service with our brothers, and the favor of Jehovah. Make the Kingdom interests first in your life, not the temporary wealth of the old world which is soon to pass away. Find the true spiritual riches based on accurate Bible knowledge that can transform your life and give purpose to it. Do not be moved by love of money, but by love of Jehovah our Creator. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”—Matt. 6:19-21.