Meditations in Hebrews 13: 57. Moral Ethics (2)
Heb 13:5 Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have,
We move on the next of the two verses where we find two examples of what I simply called moral ethics. The first was about marriage and sex and now the second is about attitudes in respect of money. If the area of sex and marriage is the first area where the modern world gets it badly wrong, then attitudes towards money and possessions come a very close second.
Holding a Balance of truth: We need to be very simple and straight forward from the outset: having money is not wrong, it is how we may think about it. Solomon was the richest man in all the earth and he got it using the wisdom that God gave him. No, the warning of this is first of all to not let your life get caught up in the “love of money”. In modern society in the West, there is great affluence and often injustice and even exploitation of the poor. The affluence isn’t wrong in itself although if exploitation of workers to make owners rich is an expression of the world, it is wrong. One can look back at the terrible conditions that, for instance, coal miners, worked in, or the horrible insecurities of working on the docks in the past, and anguish that we allowed such conditions – and this could be applied to many situations in our not-distant history. In heaven I believe there will have been a major accounting for this. Very often pride and privilege have gone hand in hand to create class divisions that would not be seen in the kingdom of God.
Effects of ‘love of money’: Love of money so often blinds the entrepreneur, mill owner, factory owner, big company owner etc., so that they fail to see that they are badly treating others. Although I have said God enabled Solomon to be rich, nevertheless there were often very harsh conditions under his reign and that would not have pleased the Lord.
Love of money also makes people lose perspective of what life is all about and so men and women will work all hours of day or night and lose contact with their families with resultant family breakdowns. I have, for example, watched the world of big city lawyers, particularly in London and also elsewhere. Apart from the staggeringly big fees that are charged, the hours that associates (and partners) are required to work, we must acknowledge, is something that is contrary to the kingdom of God. I have known (and they probably still do) of such lawyers working sixteen hour days and even on occasion having to work right through the right. This, on someone’s behalf, is clearly an example of the love of money.
Love of money also fuels covetousness and in a world of heavy marketing and advertising, big business builds dreams for us of what we could be and what we could have. In many this drive is turned into the yearning for a bigger car, a bigger house, the latest technology and media entertainment systems and so on. Behind all these things goes the pressure to achieve more, earn more, and often people climb higher than they are designed to climb!
For those who distinguish between modernism and post-modernism, it is said that ‘moderns’ got their meaning through possessions, while post-moderns get their sense of worth through experiences. It is this desire for new experiences, I suggest, that drives the affluent to travel more for different experiences in different countries; all still another expression of love of money. Jesus warned, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” (Lk 12:15) Greed is simply wanting more and more, and results in a loss of remembering what life is really all about.
Contentment: But the back half of our verse above is just as important as the front half, which it complements: “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have.” Be content! Contentment, the great missing element of modern societies! The apostle Paul spoke clearly about this: “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” (Phil 4:11-12)
Paul had learned that contentment is nothing to do with whether you are poor or well off. There were times when he had nothing, but other times when he had abundance, but at all times he was content. Contentment is about having peace regardless of the circumstances, contentment lifts us up above apparent need, apparent poorness or apparent wealth. You can be poor and grumpy and you can be rich and equally discontented. Possessions – or experiences – are not the things that give us self-worth, meaning or purpose in our lives, only a deep relationship with the Lord. The unbeliever is rarely contented.
Contentment & Goals: To be contented does not mean we don’t have goals in life, it just means we are at peace with the resources we have and the person we are while we are working for those (hopefully, God-given) goals. Paul explained his philosophy more fully to Timothy: “But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” (1 Tim 6:6-10) Things to note: first, we bring nothing into the world and we take nothing out of it. If you aim to fill the space in between with getting more and more you are, second, in danger of losing perspective as we saw above, and also falling into wrong ways to get more.
God, our Resource: But verse 5 doesn’t end there, for he adds a reminder from the Pentateuch: “because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” (Deut. 31:6) Why does he say that? Because often behind all of our striving to get more, is the fear of shortage and not having enough to cope – and remember that in the Sermon on the Mount (Mt 6) Jesus spoke to that, Father will provide for His children. I have testified elsewhere in these studies, that three times in my life I have given up a decent salary to move into the next phase of life that He was leading us into, and although I took a third drop in salary each time, our standard of living and quality of life went up, and although in the early days we sometimes wondered how we would get by, the Lord always blessed us and we did, and so we have never been in need. Thus he concludes this section, “So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” (v.6 citing Psa 118:6,7)
When the world is striving their hearts out to attain an impossible goal of peace without God, may we know the wonder of contentment as we rest in His loving guidance, direction and provision. Amen? Amen!