(This article first appeared in the October issue of the Anglican Journal.)
People my age or older will remember quite a few sayings (and a surprising number of pop songs) that warned us that life is not about money. It seems long ago and quaint when the biblical phrase fell quickly off our elders’ tongues: “The love of money is the root of all evil.” I now believe they should have reminded us of the rest of the verse: “For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows” (1 Timothy 6:10, King James Version). We now are living into that warning.
Economics, almost always crudely calculated in terms of financial profit and loss, has become the primary field of understanding and evaluating human action. In other words, it has become our morality. Economics ruthlessly designs our daily lives and solely determines the quality of the environment we live in. This reality has become so pervasive that most of us are unable to recognize that, in less than a generation, we have yielded the sovereignty of our lives to economics. We are hypnotized by its power; we are overcome by its authority; we have lost our joy and dignity to its tyranny.
It seems absurdly obvious to say that this is a spiritual issue, but we need reminding. For Jesus, freedom from the love of money was essential to truly human life. To let money shape our lives is, quite simply, to be unfaithful to God. For us, as individuals and as a society, there is no way back to joy and right that does not involve challenging the lordship money. As a church, there is no way to faithfulness and renewal that does not include the repudiation-in our own thought, speech and action-of the idolatry of money, otherwise known as greed. In this, the poor cry out to us for hope and justice, and we now know that the land cries with them. If we do not change, they will bear witness against us as a church, in this life and in the world to come.
In contrast, the way of a faithful life is compelling and attractive. As the writer to the Hebrews describes in chapter 13, verse 5, to be free from the love of money, we should be content with what we have. But this contentment is known in God alone; we are reminded that God has said, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” The freedom and joy of leaving the tyranny of money are found in trust and obedience to God.