Follow the Money

by Joseph Franks

In the movie, “All the President’s Men,” Deep Throat made the famous statement, “Follow the money.” Since then, this quote has become part of the American vernacular. When one wants to discover the motives of politicians, business men, educators, and mothers, one normally close to the truth if he follows the dollar. Money appears to provide the pleasure, prestige, security, power, and possessions for which men and women are willing to die.

Understanding this universal tendency, Paul instructs Timothy:

If we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.  (1 Tim. 6:8-10)

Ministers of the Gospel are not immune from lusting after gold and its benefits. They like to see their offering plates full, because this funds church missions, church buildings, church programs, and very nice church salaries. Pastors understand that with more people comes more money. Therefore, they are greatly tempted to alter their doctrine, message, pastoral discipline, and worship in order to attract more people and build a larger giving base.

It would be wonderful if all Christians responded to materialistic temptation as did the younger Solomon. He was offered anything by God, and he chose wisdom over wealth. God was so pleased with his priority that he granted him gold and silver as well.

Or, it would be grand if all Christians responded to the lust of the flesh and eyes as did Jesus. After forty days in the wilderness, Satan offered him the world. (Matt. 4:8)  Jesus’ response was classic, “Be gone Satan.”  There was no amount of the world’s gain that could keep Jesus from being the perfectly faithful worshiper. He was consumed with hearing his Father say, “Well done my good and faithful servant,” or “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.”

However, for the majority of men and women, this is not normally the case. Most are not successful in preferring God’s Word over God’s wealth. Many are like the individual represented by the seed sown in thorny ground. They bear fruit for a time, but the “deceitfulness of riches” grows within their hearts and materialism takes priority over the Word of God. (Mark 4:19)  Many are like Esau who preferred temporal stew over spiritual blessing. Many are like Achan:

But the people of Israel broke faith in regard to the devoted things, for Achan the son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of the devoted things. And the anger of the LORD burned against the people of Israel … [and God said] … “he who is taken with the devoted things shall be burned with fire, he and all that he has, because he has transgressed the covenant of the LORD, and because he has done an outrageous thing in Israel.”  (Joshua 7:1, 15)

His choice was tragic; for when all was said and done, Hebrew soldiers were killed, the Israelite nation was humiliated, Achan’s reputation was ruined, and his entire family was executed. And why? All of this misery came because Achan coveted more gold, silver, and clothing. He prioritized wealth over the Word of God. He took God’s property, which God had devoted to destruction, and made it his own. Ultimately, he sinned grievously before an angry God and received the wages he deserved.

Therefore, in reviewing this story, let us appreciate money, pray for money, make money, use money, and enjoy money. God is the one who makes men like Solomon rich. Money is not to be abhorred. However, let us not love money, for this is the root of all sorts of evil. When it comes to choosing between wealth and the words of God, may there be no competition. May we not steal, lie, use unjust weights, charge undue interest, and acquire unwise debt. May we not covet, grumble or complain, but always be content. May unbelievers see a noted difference in our lives in the way we go about making, keeping, and spending the currency of this world.

And may we be very careful in taking that which belongs to God, and assuming he will not mind if we keep it to ourselves. God gives wealth to his people in order to provide for their families, their brothers and sisters in the church, the funding of pastors and missionaries, and the needs of the less fortunate in the neighborhood. Let us be very careful in what we do with God’s wealth, and when people “follow our money,” may they be lead ever closer to the proper worship and admiration of Jesus Christ.

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