classic voices on the love of money
Hebrews xiii.5-6, Fresh Start Bible NLT
Don’t love money; be satisfied with what you have. For God has said,
“I will never fail you.
I will never abandon you.”
So we can say with confidence,
“The Lord is my helper,
So I will have no fear.
What can mere people do to me?”
There are some voices from not so long ago capable of providing an amazing interpretation of Scripture. After all, the interpretation of jazz is still interpretation in its own right. Someone very close to me ranked this as one of her top songs of all during this time period.
I Will Never Leave You
The Early Church Fathers had no trouble interpreting these verses either.
“Notice above all what he put first: ‘Free from love of money,’ he says, put your hand in the purse in such a way that you release your heart from it.”
Augustine does not forbid money, and neither do most of his peers. He simply cautions us against the attachment to it.
The love of money can actually be transliterated as covetousness. In effect, covetousness is a lesser love, perhaps even a counterfeit love. It is contrasted with the true love of the marital bond in the previous verse (Heb xiii.4). Just as misplaced passion can lead to marital problems, misplaced passion can also lead to the excessive pursuit of money.
The love of money, coveting or avarice or greed, can easily distract the heart which affects the course of one’s life.
“‘Be content with what you have,’ he says. He did not say, ‘Possess nothing,’ but ‘be content with what you have’; that is, let it show forth the philosophical character of your mind. And it will show it, if we do not seek superfluities, if we keep only to what is necessary.”
John Chrysostom likens our approach to money to a spiritual practice or discipline, “the philosophical character of your mind.” How much firmer would our grip on money management be if we made it a spiritual discipline? Do we even allow our Biblical worldview to color our approach to money?
Again, we can have possessions. The question Chrysostom poses is are we chasing after excesses? Carefully reading what he is saying and what he is not saying sheds some light on this answer. He is not saying excesses are forbidden. For some are blessed with an abundance. He is saying there is a danger in seeking excess.
Clement of Alexandria
“We must, like true philosophers, escape from any foods that arouse sexual desire, from a dissolute relaxation in bed, from luxury and all the passions that make for luxury. We realize that others find this a grievous struggle. It is no longer so for us, since self-discipline is God’s greatest gift. He has said, ‘I will never forsake you or abandon you,’ who have judged you worthy by a decision that is wholly genuine.”
Like Chrysostom, Clement of Alexandria relates our management of money to a spiritual discipline, a practice of the mind. “We must, like true philosophers, escape . . .”
He does not condemn foods, relaxation, and luxury. He is speaking of our passionate pursuit of excesses, of napping in the lap of luxury so to speak.
What is most important is the idea that we could love chasing after temporal things. All the while, the Eternal One has already pledged His love and commitment to us. This is no ordinary love. This is no temporal commitment. Our Lord’s mind has already been made up. He will take care of us, and His decision is “wholly genuine.”
Why would we passionately pursue sustenance and excess when the Creator has already pledged Himself to us as His highest created order on Earth?
pic credit: Gerald Altman | growing dollar value | 06.08.17 | Pixabay
Crystal Lewis, “I Will Never Leave You,” from the LP Remember, can be found on YouTube CLICK
- Augustine, Sermon CLXXVII.3
- John Chrysostom, On the Epistle to the Hebrews XXXIII.2
- Clement of Alexandria, Stromateis X.XX.126