“Keep your life free from love of money” (Heb 13:5). For most of us, that’s easier said than done. Covetousness permeates our western air and contaminates just about everything we tap or swipe. It may not seem all that harmful, or even “healthy consumerism,” but Scripture calls it a killer. Under the microscope of God’s Word, let’s see love of money for what it is, and then the divinely prescribed treatment.
Mesmerized by Material Details
Achan was infected. The Lord’s instructions were fresh in his ear (Jos 6:17), God’s law was clear (Deu 7:26), but Achan’s confession showed what filled and thrilled his heart. Listen to his descriptive details: “a beautiful cloak from Shinar, and 200 shekels of silver, and a bar of gold weighing 50 shekels” (Jos 7:21). The label, the count, and the exact weight – the details of the items mattered more than God’s detailed instructions. It’s no wonder that Achan “saw … coveted … and took.” What details mesmerize me? Is my heart taken up with brands, numbers and features, or with the intricacies and beauties of divine truth?
Money Matters More than Honesty
When Ananias and Sapphira saw Barnabas’ devotion (Act 4:36-37), they wanted to appear just as generous. As Peter explained, they were under no obligation to sell the field, nor to give all to the Lord (Act 5:4). But for this couple, money mattered more than honesty; otherwise, they would have given it all, or they would have been honest about what they had kept. Is money worth more to me than honesty?
Measuring Life by Possessions
Our Lord warned, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luk 12:15). Is my life focused on acquiring stuff? Am I thinking that a new this or that will make me better, or happier, or gain me respect? Christ warned that covetousness is on the attack!
Making Wealth My Goal
Paul wrote about “those who want to be rich” (1Ti 6:9 CSB). Translated “want,” “desire,” “will to be,” or “long to be,” the point is the same: If becoming rich is a dream or goal, I’m infected. We’re responsible as stewards to use the resources He has entrusted us for His glory. We must work to eat (2Th 3:10), and we must provide for our families (1Ti 5:8), but let’s examine our motives before the Lord: Is fulfilling these responsibilities my goal, or has wealth become my goal? Do I desire to be rich?
Love of money won’t stay an isolated issue in my life. It led Achan to steal and to lie (Jos 7:11). Satan took advantage of it to “fill” Ananias’ heart (Act 5:3). Paul warned that wanting to be rich causes people to “fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires” (1Ti 6:9). Wanting to be rich leads to tax evasion, gambling, dishonest business practices, neglecting the needs of elderly parents, family and fellow believers. In fact, “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” (v10). When money becomes what controls my decisions, it can lead to every possible sin!
It’s not good. It leads to “harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction” (1Ti 6:9). Like Achan and his family, as well as Ananias and Sapphira, it could destroy me, my marriage and my family. People “have strayed from the faith and stabbed themselves with many pains” (v10 NET). And it’s unlikely any of these people thought it would end that way.
Thankfully, there are steps believers can take to deal with the contagion of covetousness.
Limit Your Exposure
“From such withdraw yourself” (1Ti 6:5 NKJV). This refers specifically to false teachers “who suppose that godliness is a way of making a profit” (v5 NET). The prosperity gospel says, “Don’t be content with what you have materially – name and claim more from God.” But Paul says we must keep away from that twisted thinking because the opposite is true: “Godliness with contentment is great gain” (v6). Does what I listen to or watch feed my materialism or encourage godliness with contentment?
Adjust Your Outlook
“We brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content” (vv7-8). Am I living for what I’ll leave behind?
Develop a Healthy Heart
How can we get our hearts off unhealthy desires for material things? The Lord explained, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Mat 6:21). So, for a healthy heart, “Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven” (v20). Invest your money in eternal things.
Take the Full Dose of His Promises
What’s the antidote? “Be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?’” (Heb 13:5-6). Understand that He provides what we hope to find but cannot find in material possessions. Instead of a false confidence in wealth we should have a full confidence in Him!
“But as for you, O man of God, flee these things [includes love of money]. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness” (1Ti 6:11). Instead of wealth, make these your goals and run with all your energy after them.
And the specialized activity plan for believers the Lord is holding accountable with more of His financial resources is as follows: Don’t be haughty, don’t set your hopes on unstable riches … do good, be rich in good works, be generous and ready to share, thus … take hold of that which is truly life (see 1Ti 6:17-19).
God’s warning is unmistakably clear: “Keep your life free from love of money” (Heb 13:5)!
 All Scripture quotations in this article are from the ESV unless otherwise noted.