We have an interesting relationship with money, don’t we? We live in a culture that is completely DRIVEN by the accumulation of wealth and instant gratification. In 2016 the average household debt in the U.S. was $137,063. That’s almost $13 trillion in debt. We borrow money and spend money we don’t have to get things we don’t need. Today’s new homes are 1,000 square feet larger than in 1973. Meanwhile, the average household size has been declining, from 3.01 persons per household on average in 1973 to a new record low of 2.54 persons per household last year. We are smaller families living in bigger houses. A study from 10 years ago showed that about 60% of those whose assets ranged from $1 million to $5 million don’t consider themselves wealthy. We are the wealthiest we’ve ever been in the history of humanity, but we don’t see ourselves as rich.
Today’s wealth-driven culture has led to the I-centered culture. Individualism over the community. Me over you. And all this reminds me of a sermon from the past. The founder of Methodism John Wesley gave a powerful sermon in 1789 titled “The Use of Money,” where he makes three biblical conclusions about money. That is, that we ought to:
1. Make all you can
2. Save all you can
3. Give all you can
John Wesley wasn’t against people having money, nor did he think that money was evil. What mattered most was what people did with their money. For Wesley, “money is an excellent gift of God, answering the noblest ends. In the hands of his children it is food for the hungry, drink for the thirsty, raiment for the naked.”
I believe these three points by Wesley and today’s passage from Paul’s letter to Timothy can all be summarized by three words:
Sometimes when it comes to money, LESS IS MORE.
1 Timothy 6:6-10New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
6 Of course, there is great gain in godliness combined with contentment; 7 for we brought nothing into the world, so that[a] we can take nothing out of it; 8 but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these. 9 But those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.
17 As for those who in the present age are rich, command them not to be haughty, or to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but rather on God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 18 They are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, 19 thus storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life that really is life.