Money is not evil. When money becomes our chief end in life, it becomes an idol -- a cold idol that becomes a cruel master and does not make us happier and ends up robbing us of joy and peace. Sometimes the misery of this idolatrous pursuit manifests itself quickly.
Early one morning I drove past one of Louisiana's many casinos and decided to demonstrate something to my children. I turned into the parking lot and told them that we were going to walk around the perimeter of the casino. My purpose was to inoculate them against state-sponsored, "Gaming Industry" seduction. I asked my children to take a careful look at the people on the floor and ask themselves one question: "Are these people happy?"
When we got back into the car a few minutes later, each one of my children had concluded the same thing: "No one was happy. No one was having a good time." In fact, the great majority of the people looked as if they were in mild pain, being held at the gambling machines by invisible chains. A friend in the environmental business once told me that casino officials have remarked some people will go to the bathroom in their clothes rather than leave a slot machine that they have pumped most of their paycheck into. They are chained to it until it pays off. What a cruel master gambling can be!
The pain of the gambler usually comes quickly. The fact is that anything that displaces God will leave us empty, so when money becomes our chief end, we will end up becoming cynical and distrusting. The attitude of many people who have served the false god of money for a long time can be summed up in Country Music singer, Tom T. Hall's song, "Faster Horses (The Cowboy and the Poet)":
He was an old time cowboy, don't you understand His eyes were sharp as razor blades, his face was leather tanned His toes were pointed inward from a hangin' on a horse He was an old philosopher, of course
He was so thin; I swear you could have used him for a whip He had to drink a beer to keep his breeches on his hips I knew I had to ask him about the mysteries of life He spat between his boots, and he replied It's faster horses, younger women, older whiskey, more money.
Only God can fill our emptiness and give our lives meaning and purpose. When we have committed our lives to Jesus Christ, everything else becomes different. When glorifying God and enjoying him becomes our chief end in life, we can approach obtaining money very differently than does the jaded miser who has sacrificed everything for it.
A person can be a godly Christian and an effective entrepreneur. The real founders of America understood this very well. As "the master of American intellectual history," Harvard University professor, Perry Miller wrote about John Cotton:
John Cotton, 1584-1652
[One respect in which the Puritans seemed a diabolical contradiction in terms of their enemies, and to many modern viewers remain a riddle, was the way they took to heart -- and to an astounding degree translated into daily conduct -- an observation of John Cotton's:
"There is another combination of virtues strangely mixed in every lively, holy Christian: and that is, diligence in worldly business, and yet deadness to the world. Such a mystery as none can read but they that know it."
Recently this complex mentality has been scientifically analyzed by the great sociologist, Max Weber, and after him it is called, for shorthand purposes, "the Protestant ethic." Actually, it is a logical consequence of Puritan theology: man is put into this world, not to spend his life in profitless singing of hymns or in unfruitful monastic contemplation, but to do what the world requires, according to its terms. He must raise children; he must work at his calling. No activity is outside the holy purpose of the overarching covenant. Yet the Christian works not for the gain that may (or may not) result form his labor, but for the glory of God. He remains an ascetic in the world, as much as any hermit outside it. He displays unprecedented energy in wrestling the land . . . trading in the seven seas, speculating in lands: "Yet," says Cotton, "his heart is not set upon these things, he can tell what to do with his estate when he hath got it." In New England the phrase to describe this attitude soon became: loving the world with "weaned affections." It was applied not only to one's love of his property, but also to his love for wife, children, parents and country.
Perry Miller, The American Puritans (Garden City, NY: Anchor Books, 1956), pp. 171, 172.
This Christian philosophy of work and wealth is what drove many early Americans to build the nation we now enjoy. Its system of economics was a compassionate kind of capitalism, quite different from the modern, globalist variety that puts the "bottom line" above the needs of people and the welfare of one's own country.
Put into its overall context, what the Lord Jesus taught about money does not lead us to flee from the world of business, but to be effective at business because we are called to be God's own stewards. While the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil, many godly people have earned great sums of money while being full of love for the Lord Jesus and very compassionate toward those around them. Through their wisdom and thrifty entrepreneurial risks, they not only took care of their own needs and those of their families; they provided good jobs so that others could do the same. And through their charity, they helped spread the gospel of Jesus in unprecedented ways.