Turn my heart to your decrees, and not to selfish gain. – Psalm 119:36
The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. But as for you, man of God, shun all this; pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, gentleness. – 1 Timothy 6:10-11
A recent trip to the Apple Store at a local mall proved to be an experience like few others. The store was packed with people. You signed in at the entrance and took a high-tech number, waiting for your turn. That’s true even if you have an appointment! The store creates a target-rich environment for Apple to sell their hardware and services. On the other side of that coin, it is a target-rich environment for those who want to have the latest and coolest tech gear around. Whether you go to the Apple Store, Amazon.com, or a real brick and mortar retail store, you are in a target-rich environment. Everywhere you turn there are opportunities to buy stuff and spend money.
It was certainly not the same in the Psalmist’s or Paul’s days when they wrote these words. Opportunities to buy stuff and spend money were present, but not like they are in the modern emporiums of capitalism that surround us today. If, therefore, these warnings were appropriate for people of their days, how much more so are they for us (read: “me”)!
The issues of concern, however, aren’t just stuff and money – although they are convenient application points for my own reflection. The issues are selfishness and false gods, and ultimately the one false-god we all must dethrone: the false god of self.
If a god is that to which we look for the highest good in life, then money, and stuff are gods for many of us. For most Christians, moreover, money is the chief rival god. But money and stuff serve an even more sinister false god: SELF.
My dad used to tell me that money could serve me, or I could serve my money. I had a real struggle with that growing up. But even if we tame the money monster turning it into a servant rather than a master, we still need to deal with our prideful attempts to enthrone ourselves above all others.
This is why it is so important to teach, study, meditate on, and memorize God’s word. For we all contend constantly with selfish desires and become our own little gods with stuff and the money necessary to buy it as our chief goal in life. Rather we should all strive to become little Christs: imitators of the one who loved God first and loved the world enough to sacrifice himself for our redemption, forgiveness, and salvation. The only way we can stay true to that calling is to turn our hearts to God’s decrees, and reject all temptation to selfish gain. That truly is our highest good.