In just a few hours, I’ll be heading to the Northwest University chapel to preach. As I’ve mentioned before, the text on which I’ve been asked to reflect is I Timothy 6. I’ve narrowed it down from there to the central verse “The love of money is the root of all evil” (I Timothy 6:10). And yes, if you’re wondering, I do find it rather ironic to be speaking on such a theme at the very moment our government runs the risk of defaulting on its debt.
I have what I think is a challenging message, no less so for the students than it is for their preacher, who spends far too much time thinking about money. Saving, spending, paying back…it all “makes sense,” but is also is teaching me to care about money a lot more than I ought.
The problem, of course, is that we all love money too much. The answer? Well, I’ve been considering it, and I think my insight is this: teaching ourselves not to love money does not begin with how much we give away. It starts when we learn to let go. This may seem to you like a slight distinction, but I think it makes a difference. Choosing what we give away begins in the wrong place. It begins with what WE decide to do with OUR money. One of the main referents in this equation is still money, and I think such a focus can keep us in a profoundly worldly way of thinking.
Letting go, however, can operate differently. Understand me here. I’m not talking about just a generic “letting go” of OUR money. Such an approach would start, once again, with us and what we think we have. It would begin with money. The kind of letting go I’m talking about begins by reaching out to God for help in order to grasp the One whose hands have been open to us the whole time. Opening our hands means letting go of whatever it is we’ve been grasping onto beforehand, and therefore dropping whatever is holding us back. In many cases, this means relinquishing our love of money.
Charitable giving has its place, then, not as a cure to our love of money but as a response to and a reminder of the fact that we have let go. We give because we recognize and in order to remind ourselves regarding the reality that money is just a thing. Giving is a sign and response that we’ve let go. It isn’t letting go itself.
Besides, it is not like the divine “money bin” is running short. God doesn’t need our money. Rather, we need to let go of it…and not for money’s sake, but because of our deep and irrevocable need for God. Only beginning in this place of surrender, confession, and repentance of our shared love for money and what we falsely think it can do for us can put us on the road to freedom.