It has been called the “Green god” in America. Money—the fuel in the furnace of our society and it’s what many people find themselves chasing after on a week-to-week basis. While there are many good things that can be accomplished with the right use of money, we must understand the damaging effects of money when used improperly. If Jesus spoke more about money than he did about the subject of heaven and hell combined—we would do well to listen and learn in order to avoid the pitfalls of riches.
The Deceitfulness of Riches
The Bible contains 2,350 verses on the subject of money. Interestingly enough, the Bible only has about 500 verses on the subject of prayer and another 500 verses on the subject of faith. That computes to nearly five times as much about money than about prayer. From Jesus’ nearly 40 parables, 16 of the stories center on the use of material possessions and wealth.
In the parable of the sower found in Matthew 13, Jesus told the story about the sower who went out to sow the seed in the field. He then outlined four different types of soil where the seed fell. One of the soil types was filled with thorns that choked out the seed before it was able to mature and bring about fruit. Jesus then provides the following commentary on that aspect of the story:
As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful (Matt. 13:22).
The thorns represent the cares of the world such as materialism, riches, and other things the world has to offer that seem to distract and choke the life out of the seed of God’s Word. Jesus warned about the “deceitfulness of riches.” Consider how deceitful riches are that they literally cause some to walk away from the good news of the gospel and reject Jesus Christ. In a similar vein, Paul writes the following to Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:10, “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.”
Years ago, a survey was taken among the American people to see what they would be willing to do for $10 million dollars. The answers were quite troubling:
- 25% of Americans would abandon their entire family
- 25% of Americans would abandon their church
- 23% of Americans would become prostitutes for a week
- 16% of Americans would give up their American citizenship
- 7% of Americans would kill a stranger
- 3% of Americans would put their own children up for adoption
How many people have you known who were willing to pack up a U-haul and move across the world for money? They were willing to leave family, friends, their church, and everything behind to chase after a dollar. How many people have been willing to raise their career to a higher priority than their children—and then years later trying to figure out why children who had so much could be so unhappy and stray so far into sin. Money has a way of deceiving people into the deepest and darkest traps. Remember these words from Jesus in Matthew 16:26:
For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?
How Money Harms the Great Commission
Today, around the world, more money will be spent on making pets happy and comfortable than it will be on reaching the unbeliever with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Robert Murray M’Cheyne once said:
I am concerned for the poor but more for you. I know not what Christ will say to you in the great day. . . .I fear there are many hearing me who now know well that they are not Christians because they do not love to give. To give largely and liberally, not grudging at all, requires a new heart; an old heart would rather part with its life-blood than its money. Oh my friends! Enjoy your money; make the most of it; give none away; enjoy it quickly for I can tell you, you will be beggars throughout eternity. 
As we consider the fact that we must be engaging as a church to help reach the nations with the good news of Jesus Christ—we likewise must consider how money can harm the Great Commission. David Platt, in his book, Radical tells the following story about preaching in a local church years ago where a pastor stood and made the following statement:
Brother David, we are so excited about all that God is doing in New Orleans and in all nations, and we are excited that you are serving there. And, brother, we promise that we will continue to send you a check so that we don’t have to go there ourselves. I remember a time at my last congregation when a missionary from Japan came to speak. I told that church that if they didn’t give financial support to this missionary, I was going to pray that God would send their kids to Japan to serve with that missionary. 
This is an example of how riches and wealth can be harmful to the cause of Christ among the nations. If we use our wealth to insulate ourselves from the hardships of missions and to make sure we “commission” someone else other than us or our children with our money—that would be a tragedy. Sure we need to give largely and liberally as M’Cheyne argues, but we must be willing to go and preach too. Don’t think that sending money is the same as carrying out the Great Commission. The greatest mission offering a church could send would involve sending people and money—not just money alone.
How are you using your money? Do you own your money or does your money own you?
- Robert Murray M’Cheyne, Additional Remains of the Rev. Robert Murray M’Cheyne Late Minister of the St. Peter’s Church, Dundee, (Edinburgh: John Johnstone, 1847), 394.
- David Platt, Radical, (Colorado Springs: Multnomah Books, 2010), 63.