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Three Common Misunderstandings about Money

By Dr. Jim Newheiser

 

Author Jim Newheiser considers God’s wisdom about money by addressing three common money myths which could potentially lead people astray:

1.) Is Money the Secret to Happiness in This Life?

The most common money myth among non-Christians is that money is the key to earthly
happiness. This is what is reflected in “The American Dream” which says that one must own a
nice house, two late model cars and a vacation every summer at Disneyworld in order to be
happy and fulfilled. Many devote their lives to acquiring wealth, often sacrificing their families,
their spiritual lives and their health to get ahead. Scripture warns, “He who loves money will not
be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity” (Eccl. 5:10).
There have actually been studies done suggesting that those with great wealth are no happier
than those of more ordinary means [1] and that even the very rich still believe that they need much
more wealth in order to be truly secure [2].

This money myth has been coopted by some so-called Christian leaders who teach a false
prosperity gospel, which claims that God will bless his people with great earthly wealth if they
just have enough faith. Such leaders show off their lavish lifestyles with private jets and giant
mansions and promise that their followers/donors will enjoy similar blessings. Paul warns against
false teachers “who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a
means of gain” (1 Tim. 6:5), and “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”
(1 Tim. 6:9).

 

2.) Is Money the Root of All Evil?

The verse from which this myth is derived is often misquoted. It is not money that is the root of all evil, but rather Paul warns, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs” (1 Tim. 6:10). Money, like other things God has created (sex and fire come to mind) can be good and useful when properly used, but dangerous and destructive when idolized and misused. Money can be a good servant, but a bad master.

Money itself, like fire, is neutral and powerful. It can do great good or cause great harm. Money enables us to fulfill our God-given responsibilities to provide for ourselves and our families (1 Tim. 5:8). Wealth can be used to do good by helping the poor and furthering the Lord’s work, such as building facilities in which Christian churches meet, sending missionaries to places where the lost need to hear the gospel, or the printing of this very book that you are reading. Similarly, money can be used for evil, such as to traffic a young girl into slavery, to purchase the weapons and ammunition for a man to kill innocent school children, or to simply fund a meaningless distraction of entertainment at a time when a man needs to pay attention to an urgent family need. The difference is the heart motive of those spending the money. Are they using it to glorify God, or to indulge evil or selfish motives, or even just to acquire more money for the sake of having more?

 

3.) Will Certain Forms of Wealth Never Lose Their Value?

During times of financial crisis, one often sees many advertisements for precious metals such as gold and silver claiming that these assets will hold their value in hard financial times. As a child I had a relative who told me to purchase land offering the perspective that there is a limited amount of real estate available and they won’t be making any more. Others put their hope in blue chip stocks or government bonds that would offer the security which they crave. Historically, there have been crashes in the value of virtually every asset category. Jesus teaches that there is no earthly asset which will provide absolute security. “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal” (Matt. 6:19–20).

 


The following post is adapted from an excerpt taken from the book Money, Debt, and Finances: Critical Questions and Answers by Jim Newheiser. P&R Publishing. ISBN: 978-1-62995-437-0.

Footnotes:

[1] https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/ritual-and-the-brain/201802/the-million-dollar-link-betweenwealth-and-happiness.

[2] https://www.theatlantic.com/family/archive/2018/12/rich-people-happy-money/577231/.

View additional IBCD resources on the topic of money and personal finance here.