Our Priorities: God or Wealth? Our Priorities: God Or Money?
We live in the wealthiest and most prosperous nation that has ever existed on planet Earth. But, too much wealth can create problems for us. There is pressure from outside and temptation from within for us to pursue an affluent lifestyle and make that our highest priority. But, the sons and daughters of God must not become focused on the acquisition of wealth. We must have other priorities, or we are in danger of ruining our relationship with God.
The temptation to pursue wealth is of course, nothing new. It was a problem that the early Christians and Messianic Jews faced in the First Century. The Son of God Himself taught us that we can’t serve both God and money. Human beings must choose one or the other. Of course, He advised us to serve God. He told us that we should invest our lives, our time, our energy, our resources to gain riches in Heaven. He should “sell low” and “buy high!”
It is men of depraved minds, whose thinking is corrupt, whose values are corrupt, whose priorities are wrong, who try to mix the pursuit of God and the pursuit of money.
They are deprived of the truth. O, they have access to the truth. They are religious men. They have confessed that Yeshua is Lord, and have been baptized, They read the Bible. They even study it, and can quote it. They can pray and worship, but in spite of all this, they still don’t understand the truth of the Word of God. They don’t understand it’s basic message – which is the Message of Salvation. Their focus is off. Therefore they are not primarily concerned with being reconciled to a holy God, from whom the whole world is estranged. They are not overly concerned that sin has alienated all of humanity from an infinitely holy God, and brought us into a state of spiritual death, dead in our trespasses and sins, controlled by the Powers of Darkness and headed to Hell. They don’t have the heart of God, as He looks down from Heaven to Earth, and sees billions of men and women, boys and girls, Jews and Gentiles, lost and in the most desperate need of salvation that the Messiah of Israel alone can provide.
The Lord’s perspective and attitude is so different. God desires that all men be saved, and come to a knowledge of the truth about salvation. That’s why He sent His Son, who sacrificed so much, who suffered so terribly – to make salvation available, so that we could be redeemed from sin and death, and take part in life, true life, eternal life, unending life in HaOlam HaBa – The World To Come. These corrupted Christians aren’t very concerned with bringing the message of salvation – the Gospel – the Good News to others. No, they are focused on having a better life in fallen Earth, in this sinful world which will be destroyed, on this planet which will come to an end. And so, they take the Word of God, and they change its emphasis from a message focused on the need for spiritual salvation, and they try to twist it into a message of monetary gain and having a better, easier, richer life. They use the same Bible, but change the emphasis, twisting its meaning.
They think – incorrectly, that godliness – being like God, being pure, being genuinely religious, being holy, gaining spirituality, is a means of financial gain. So they use the Word of God, and combine it with religion, and make it into a religious money-making scheme. The world’s philosophy is that money makes the world go round, that satisfaction comes from acquiring ever increasing amounts of wealth, that happiness comes from the amount of things that you possess, and that he who dies with the most toys wins the game of life. But that is not to be the perspective of God’s Holy Community.
When the Son of God left the glories and wealth of Heaven, and came to Earth, was His purpose to make lots of money? To live a nice, comfortable life in Nazareth? Wear the nicest clothes, have the nicest sandals, live in the biggest house, drive the nicest chariot? If it was, He could have been born to the family of Caesar, or some wealthy merchant or king. But, He chose to be born to a poor Jewish family who were part of a people who were under the dominion of Rome, and Rome squeezed as much wealth and as much money out of Israel as possible. He did have an occupation. He was a carpenter, but He even left His occupation to become an itinerant preacher, a wandering Rabbi, telling people the truth, preaching the Good News of salvation. So we learn from the Son of God, what His priorities were, and what He was all about. And, He is our supreme model and example to follow.
Rabbi Paul goes on to tell us that godliness actually is a means of great gain – when it is accompanied by contentment. Godliness – being like God, being like Messiah, being truly religious and striving for purity and holiness in your life, does bring great advantages, but not material or monetary advantages. Being godly and religious does result in great gain, but only when it is accompanied by monetary and material contentment.
What are some of those gains that come from godliness?
Godliness helps with our relationships with God. God looks favorably on the godly.
- Godliness helps with our relationships with people. The more godly we are, the better we treat those around us, and the better help we are able to bring them.
- Godliness ensures salvation. If you truly accept Yeshua as Lord, and that reality manifests itself in your life, and you become more and more godly, it shows that your confession is genuine, and your salvation sure.
- Godliness brings peace that passes understanding.
- Godliness adds meaning and significance to life.
- Godliness brings hope for the future.
It makes sense to pursue God, and not money, for we have brought nothing into the world, and so we cannot take anything out of it either. We bring no material possessions into this world, and we can leave with none. You can’t take your assets, wealth, property or money with you. So, why strive for a life that is based on the acquisition of more and more material possessions? That is not what life is about. He who dies with the most things does not win. In fact, it’s almost guaranteed that he loses.
However, there are things that we can take with us, and therefore those are the things worth pursuing. What can you take with you? Salvation; your good name; your good works which will be rewarded by God; your sacrifices for others that will be rewarded by the Creator, your service for Him; your love and knowledge of God. That is what you take with you.
So, if that is what you can take with you, it only make sense that that is what you center your life around. That is what you focus on. That is what you direct your time, your energies, your mind, your thoughts, your efforts, your education, your resources towards. Apart from what we do with God, for God, in God, all that we do will be vain, useless, meaningless, empty, without eternal significance. Our lives will be lightweight, insubstantial, like chaff blown away by the wind. Apart from Him we can accomplish, do nothing significant, nothing lasting, nothing rewarding. Only those things wrought in God, accomplished with God and for God will last. Those are the things we pursue. Therefore we should develop the attitude that if we have food and covering, with these material things we shall be content. If we have a career, the purpose of your career is not just to advance our career to make more money. Our career provides us and our family with food and clothing and shelter and basic necessities. Our job should be understood to be our mission field, our Jerusalem. You are in the position, you are in that job, your have that career to bring the Message of Salvation to those around you, and to model the truth. If you get a promotion, that’s great! There are new people that you might be able to influence!
What happens if you follow the philosophy of the world, and seek satisfaction in the continual acquisition of earthly wealth? Rabbi Paul tells us that those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge human beings into ruin and destruction. They will get themselves into unnecessary, dangerous and difficult situations. They willed be tempted to cut ethical and moral corners, cheat and steal, take unnecessary risks, enter into agreements and arrangements with people who are not trustworthy that will wind up harming them.
For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for money have wandered away from the Faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. It’s not money itself, which is useful and necessary for business and commerce in a complicated society – it’s the love of money which leads to all sorts of bad situations.
For the love of money people have lied, stolen, cheated, murdered, sold their bodies, sold their minds, sold their integrity, sold their very souls.
For the love of money wars have been started, cities plundered and nations ruined.
For the love of money families have been split, brothers and sisters alienated from each other.
For the love of money people have been sold into slavery, and bought and sold like property.
You can’t love money and also love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, with the totality of your being. You cannot love God and money. You will choose one and make that your priority, or you will choose the other and make that your priority. So, which one have you chosen? Which one are you really serving?
Rabbi Paul’s inspired advice is to flee from these things, these materialistic ambitions, you man of God – speaking to his disciple Timothy. Every man every man or woman who belongs to the Lord, and wants to genuinely serve the Lord, and please Him, must run – almost as if they were running from something that terrified them, the love of money, from the desire to become rich, and from materialism in religion. Instead, the man or woman who belongs to the Lord, and wants to truly serve Him, must pursue other priorities:
- Righteousness: being in a right relationship with God, and then consistently doing the right things, and living in the right way.
- Godliness: being like God, being like our wonderful Messiah, who is exactly like God. Being pure and holy, separate from evil.
- Faith: growing in your faith in God, your confidence in Him, your knowledge of Him. You must grow in your faith in the Word of God. Faith also means faithful – faithful to God, faithful to our responsibilities, faithful to our task, faithful to our calling, faithful to our mission.
- Love: he must love God with the totality of his being, having a desire to know Him, talk to Him, serve Him, obey Him. And, he must try to love the people that the Lord brings across his path, helping them, and bring them the love and the truth about God, and bring them what they most desperately need – the Message of Salvation.
- Perseverance: perseverance must be pursued. Understand that life is more like a marathon than a hundred yard dash. It’s more like a battle than a picnic. It’s more like an unpleasant situation that must be endured than a fun time. Life is not about having fun. So, have that attitude – that your life in this world may be unpleasant, difficult, and that you are here to persevere. You are here to preach the truth in a world which rejects the truth. You are here to proclaim the Lord in a world that hates God. It’s the one who endures to the end who will be saved. It’s more about how you end than how you start.
- Gentleness: be kindly disposed toward people, gentle, merciful, as nice as you can be toward those around you – especially those closest to you, like your family. Now, there are times when tough love is called for, and discipline must be enforced, and judgment must be meted out, but in general we are to be characterized by gentleness.
Paul tells Timothy to fight the good fight of faith: our life in this world, which includes our faith – our life with God, is like a fight. It’s like a battle; it’s like a war. It needs to be fought, and it needs to be fought well. If you are facing a fight, you need to be serious, and you need to be prepared. You need to know what is going. Are you?
Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called. God is offering us eternal life. He is offering us Heaven, and calling us to joys and happiness that will last forever. He is offering us a kind of life, a quality of life that can’t be matched in this world. Grab onto it and don’t let go! Don’t let it slip out of your grasp by pursuing the wrong things! Don’t get distracted so it slips out of your hands. Stay focused on it! Hold onto to it, and the things that lead to eternal life, which we have been considering, and don’t let go!
Timothy took hold of eternal life when he made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. Likewise, we take hold of eternal life by making a good confession, especially in connection with our baptism.
What is the good confession? What are we to acknowledge in front of witnesses? That Yeshua is the Messiah, that He is the Lord and Savior, that He died and rose from the dead, and that we intend to serve and follow Him, and suffer for Him if necessary, and die for Him if called upon to do so.
Messiah Yeshua testified the good confession before Pontius Pilate. The Lord, in a very difficult situation, spoke the truth to the powerful Roman Governor. He testified and He spoke the truth. He didn’t seek to cut a deal with the Roman Governor to make His life richer, wealthier, better in this world.
This tells us that those people who are teaching that human beings can be saved apart from personally placing their faith in Yeshua, and confessing Him publically before others, are delusional. We must make a good confession, and our confession and baptism must be both personal and public. And, our confession must remain public. We must continue to identify with Yeshua, and witness to others about Him, and preach, and confess and declare that Yeshua is Messiah that God sent to save us, and that He alone is the only Way to Salvation.
Paul gets even more serious with his disciple, Timothy. He gives him a charge – but it’s also a command that is applicable to each one of us: “I charge you – I place this burden on you that you must lift, I give you this order that you must obey, I entrust you with the following responsibility – and this is taking place in the presence of God. God is right here Timothy, listening to what I am charging you. And, He approves of what I am asking you to do – God who gives life to all things – including you – He has given you life.
Now, if someone gives you something nice, you generally owe him something back. Usually there are some stings attached. There is no free lunch. You are obligated to him. You need to pay him back when called upon. If someone gave you 100 million dollars, and then calls you up later and asks you to do a little something for him, you are obligated to do that something for him. God has give us more than mere money – He has given us life. He gives you your very being. He sustains you every nanosecond of your existence! Therefore it is reasonable for us to pay Him back, by obeying Him, and serving Him, since we owe our Creator our life, our existence. We owe our Creator everything!
It’s not just God the Father who is present and giving His approval – it’s also the Son of God, Messiah Yeshua, the Anointed Ruler and King of Israel, and the Savior of the world, who will rule over Israel and the nations, and rule them with a rod of iron. Paul gives this command to Timothy – and to us, in the presence of the Father and the Son.
Now, here is the charge to us: that you keep the commandment without stain or reproach. The commandment does not means just one specific mitzvah, but the Word of God, the Scriptures, all of the commandments of God – because the Word of God comes to us as a Command To Be Obeyed, not a suggestion to be only thought about, or a good idea to be ignored! We are to do what the Creator has told us to do. We are to live the way God has told us to live, with purity, not impurity, not corrupting the truth, not living impurely, but obeying the Word of God, living according to the truth, so that we won’t do the wrong things, be disgraced and need to be corrected.
How long are we responsible to keep the commandment, obey the Lord, and live the right way, tell the truth to others, share the Gospel, and focus on bringing others the Message of Salvation? Until the Source of Salvation Himself appears – until the appearing of our Lord, the One we must obey and serve, Messiah Yeshua, which God the Father will bring about at the proper time – the Father who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the One who is worthy of our praise and admiration, because He is so great, so powerful; He is the One who is the Sovereign, who has the right to give orders and have those commands obeyed.
Don’t think that any power or authority or wealth that you have, or any power, position, authority or wealth that belongs to any other human being, makes you or them somehow exempt from the Father’s power and authority and sovereignty. No! He is the King of kings and Lord of lords! Not only is He supreme in power and authority, but He is supreme in life and existence. He alone possesses immortality. No angel, no man, no created being has the kind of life and immortality that He possesses. He alone has life and existence inherent within Himself. He alone is not subject to death. He alone had no beginning. After the resurrection, in our glorified bodies, we will live forever, but our immortality is a derived immortality, not an inherent immortality. Adonai alone possesses a singular immortality.
He is also supreme in greatness. He dwells in unapproachable light – He is so glorious, so magnificent, so splendid, so awesome, so holy and pure, so great, so powerful, He is so full of truth, victory, power, authority, age, wisdom and knowledge, that it is impossible for us to get too close to Him in our current state. No fallen human creature can get too close to Him or see Him as He really is. No one can see Him face to face and survive that encounter. No one has fully seen God at any time. No one has ever had a full glimpse of our God – not even the greatest of men, like Moses. The Lord could only show him His back as He passed by.
That’s why we need the Son of God. Through Him, the Light of the World, we can approach the Light of the Father. By joining ourselves to the One who is joined to the Father, we can approach the Unapproachable. By drawing near to the Son we draw near to the Father. Then, after our resurrection and the judgment, that the glorified sons and daughters of God will be able to see God.
May this glorious God be honored by all of His creatures, and may He experience eternal dominion over all of them, because He is so great, because He is so pure, because He is so truly right and good, because He is so worthy! Amayn! It’s true! I agree! So be it! Now, sometimes it happens that a person will find themselves with substantial wealth. If you are a Christian or Messianic Jew and are in that position, there are instructions for you. You don’t need to sell everything and become poor. Those who are rich in this present world must not be conceited. Don’t think that you are better or superior or more successful than others, or that your life is more important than others, because of your money. Don’t become a stuck-up, conceited snob. Remember that there are idiots with money. There are wicked men and apostates and corrupted Christians with money. And, there are those who are far better than you, who will receive a far greater reward than you, who have much less money than you!
Don’t fix your hope on the uncertainty of riches. Money can make itself wings like an eagle, and fly away – far, and fast and for a long time! Wealth can be taken away by injustice, by fraud, by liars and cheats and con-artists, by lawsuits, by theft, by unforseen circumstances, by your own bad management, by your own poor judgment and of course by your death.
Fix your hope on God! Look forward to seeing Him, and getting to know this Magnificent Being throughout eternity, and being with the Supreme Being who knows you, and loves you, and wants to reward you to the maximum degree possible! Therefore serve Him with a whole heart. Have His burden to bring His Yeshua, His salvation, to the world. Work with Him in this world. Be a co-worker with the Almighty! In the meantime, He will richly supply you with all things to enjoy. Life is not all suffering, and all hardship, and all perseverance. There were will be pleasures along life’s way. Life is full of pleasures: there is beauty everywhere throughout nature that can be enjoyed by everyone, and mostly it’s free! There is pleasure from growing thins. There are the pleasures of food and drink, a favorite food, a glass of wine of beer, a cold glass of water on a hot day, the occasional cigar, a delicious shower, bath or swim. There are pleasures of travel, even simple travel like a walk, a drive or bike-ride.
There are joys that come from friends, family and country, from children and grandchildren. There are the pleasures that come from marriage and the act of marriage. There is the special pleasure that comes from a beloved pet. There are pleasures that come from work and accomplishment and talents that are cultivated. There are pleasure of the mind and education. There is great music, artwork and poetry to be enjoyed. There are pleasures from good books, good movies and plays, sports and entertainments. All have a place. A poor man can enjoy a good book as much as a billionaire can! You don’t have to pursue wealth to enjoy the good pleasures of life. They will come to you. If you are well off, then do good things for others with your resources. Be rich in good works, be generous and ready to share your material prosperity with others. If you do, you will be storing up the treasure of a good foundation for the future, and you will be taking hold of that which is life indeed.