"What does the Bible say about money?"
The love of money (and all material things that go with it) is the root of all evil—so the Scripture warns. Surely, the allure of money, together with pride, flesh and power, are the ancient tools of the devil which prove to be the downfall of many. Christ himself cautioned about its dangers when he said, “No one is able to serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and he will love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and he will despise the other. You are not able to serve God and mammon.” Even the Quran has provisions on usury, contentment, envy, bribery, extravagance, earning money; these pertain to money matters as they relate to financial and spiritual lives. Likewise, Buddhism and Hinduism warn about how attachment to material things distracts us from true enlightenment.
Yet, human nature as it is, frail and weak, many among us still succumb to this perennial temptation despite injunctions by the Holy Books.
We should not be surprised. While the Bible teaches that we have been made in the image and likeness of God; nevertheless it also teaches that we are fallen, marked by original sin.
The transcendence of money is such that across history of human institutions, politics and religion, scandals and all sorts of iniquities have been committed because of greed and avarice for money. In the 16th century, Martin Luther, the foremost Protestant Reformer, protested against the irregularities associated with the sale of indulgences by the Catholic Church. And so the greatest “heresy” at least from the point of view of the Catholic Church, was born. Many Christian Evangelists preach about holiness only to be caught engaged in unholy things concerning money. This is most prevalent among pastors who embrace the prosperity gospel, which emphasizes financial blessing, and physical well-being and that faith, positive speech, and donations to religious causes will increase one’s material wealth. Prosperity theology teaches that physical and spiritual realities are seen as one inseparable reality equated with physical health and economic prosperity. “Give and you will be saved” is the mantra of these preachers. Often, mainstream Catholic evangelists also follow this pastoral practice so that they too adopt this technique of “salvation through donation,” or more like extortion, from their followers.
Most recently, as I wrote in my last column, the KAPA Ministry, purportedly a Christian religious organization with 5 million members, pulled off allegedly the biggest investment scam in Philippine history by promising its members Filipinos to make a one-time donation that will supposedly earn 30% of the amount for life. To be a member of Kapa, investors fill out a small form and donate at least P10,000 up to at most P2 million. But according to the Securities and Exchange Commission, this scheme is unsustainable and mathematically impossible. By SEC’s estimate, Kapa will need P15 billion a month to pay 5 million members, who have contributed at least P10,000 each; which can deplete the pooled funds in only three (3) months.
In the Kapa world, one is asked a donation. In exchange, one receives a blessing. Religion and spirituality becomes a transaction about money.
But what does the Bible say about money?
The Book of Proverbs has several teachings on this: 23:4-5: Do not wear yourself out to get rich; do not trust your own cleverness. Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle;11:28: He who trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous shall flourish as the green leaf; 11:4 Wealth is worthless in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death. The list goes on and on.
The gospel is consistent about this as well. Thus in Mark 4:19, the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things are described as coming in and choking the word, making it unfruitful. Luke 8:14 echoes this I The Parable of the Sower: The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature.
But then from both the Old and New Testament, there is the promise of a hundredfold reward if one is faithful:
In Genesis 26:12, we see how Isaac sowed in that land and reaped in the same year a hundredfold. And the LORD blessed him,
In Matthew 13:8, also in the Parable of the Sower, Jesus described what happens to the seed planted in good soil: “And others fell on the good soil and yielded a crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty. A similar text is found in Luke 8:8 “Other seed fell into the good soil, and grew up, and produced a crop a hundred times as great.” As He said these things, He would call out, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear’, and in Mark 4:20 “And those are the ones on whom seed was sown on the good soil; and they hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold.”
From these few verses we can draw some teachings. First, money per se is not bad; it is the inordinate love for money that leads to evil. Second, money and material wealth, much like most mundane things, are fleeting; hence, do not treat riches as if your life, temporal and eternal, totally depend on it. For what is of the essence is our good relationship with God and neighbors. Finally, wealth must be seen merely as an instrument but not an essential requisite for salvation.
The hundredfold reward could be material but not if it destroys you and your family and distract you from the mission you have been given. Thus Jesus promises in Matthew 19:29 “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name’s sake, will receive many times as much, and will inherit eternal life.” This is the true meaning of the blessing of a hundredfold reward.
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