Don’t Be Fooled by Riches

6 But godliness with contentment is great gain, 7 for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. 8 But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. 9 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. (1 Timothy 6:6-10)

We have a fascinating passage in front of us today. It is one of those passages that clearly shows a progression of harm that can come to anyone who desires riches. The scary thing is that most people do desire riches, at least to some degree, and most don’t see that as really anything harmful. I need to say that riches are not necessarily harmful. In fact the beginning of verse 10 is one of these often misquoted verses where the misquote alters its meaning. The misquote that you may have heard is this: “For the love of money is the root of all evil.” That is a misquote. The verse says, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” We will talk more about what that means in a few minutes. But our heart attitude toward riches can bring extreme harm to us. It is not necessarily the riches that is the problem, it is how we think about riches.

It is always the heart that we must look at. By heart I am including our desires, our motivations, our inner self, inner person. And so we must always be asking ourselves, “What is really going on inside of me?” Not, “What do others see?” Not, “How do I look on the outside?” Not, “What kind of person am I portraying to the world?” But, “What is really going on inside of me, who is the real me? When all is exposed, who am I really?” That is a question of the heart, of the inner self.

It can be a scary question because no one knows us like we know ourselves, well except of course God Himself. Today I hope that one thing we will see clearly is the importance of what we set our minds on and what we set out to do because of what our minds are set on.

Before I get to our specific text let me read from Romans 8:5-8. Here Paul is laying out the importance of the mind, the importance of what we have set our minds on. Our minds, our heart, our inner man, what is going on there matters and those are the things that will drive our behaviors.

5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. (Romans 8:5-8)

And so this morning I don’t want just to focus on do’s and don’ts or just focus on actions but I want us to go deeper and to really examine what is going on in the depths of our hearts and consider where we may need to change by God’s grace and by His power. I don’t want any of us to be snared by evil. That is not a good place to be, there is no true joy in that, there is no lasting peace in that and even worse, it is an offense against our Lord who has given Himself for us.

As we begin I want to point out the word “desire.” You see the word “desire.” If you’re reading from the ESV as I am you will notice that “desire” is used two times in verse 9. Do you see that? “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.” The two words here translated “desire” are not the same words in the Greek language. They are two different words and it is important to know that.

The first one: “But those who desire to be rich.” That word desire means a settled desire born out of reason. It is not an emotional word or an emotional response as we may sometimes think of desire. This is a well thought out desire that sets a person on a predetermined plan to accomplish something. It defines what a person wants in life. In this case it represents greed. This is a person who has set a major goal in life to be rich. You may have known someone like this or maybe this was you or maybe this is where you are today. Rather than the goal of one’s life to be to live to the praise and glory of God, living a life that is pleasing to Him, the goal is simply to be rich. The goal is to get all the things that a person wants in life through an abundance of money.

When we have these kinds of desires we begin to build our lives around them. If the goal and aim is to be rich then decisions will be made accordingly. Maybe a university degree is pursued, not for the degree per se but to get the sort of job needed to be rich. Or maybe one’s friends are picked based on this desire for riches. “Who can help me achieve my goal of riches the best?” And those are his or her friends. Or maybe like a man I met once, he picked his church based on his desire to be rich. I remember talking to him, a guy who had started attending the church I was attending at the time, and asked him why he picked this church. His response very straight forward and unashamedly said he believed this would be the church that would lead him to the greatest number of clients for his growing business.

The point is we have wants and desires and we move toward them in life. Paul says that for those who choose riches as a desire to be pursued, grave temptation will come to them.

Now, let me jump to this next mention of the word desire further down in verse 9. Paul says, “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires.” Again, this second use is from a different Greek word in the original writing. Desire here usually speaks of evil desires, but not always, it can be good desires. Here they are called harmful desires because these desires are irrational and senseless. This speaks of emotional strong desires that seem to take over a person and they begin to do things that are simply foolish. Wanting something so badly that risks are taken, disregard for one’s own well being, they are driven to foolishness and why? Because rather than controlling a desire they are being controlled by them.

You see it all begin with a well thought out plan, a desire, a want, not a godly want but one that may seem benign. And as the ball begins to roll it turns into those desires controlling oneself. Harmful desires that control. It is like one wakes up and thinks, “How did I get here? How did I get to this bad place? How did I end up in this terrible sin?” It is the path of getting off track, of turning away from glorifying God to fulfilling one’s own lust. It is a progression, a dangerous progression. This is here as a warning for us.

Now we have talked about desires, two types of desires, now let’s look at how they can rule us. We need to get this, we need to understand how things work, how we are drawn into sinfulness and how we can walk carefully so as not to fall into this sin. Here is what happens:

9 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. (1 Timothy 6:9-10)

This is a missed point but an important one and really should be obvious for us. When we take our eyes off of our Savior and begin putting our mind to endeavors that compete with His glory then we will face additional temptation. Think about it. If we are going after false gods such as riches, we will not be praying, “Lord lead me not into temptation but deliver me from evil.” We won’t be praying that, we have passed over that and we are in effect saying, “I want to go this sinful way.” And many times God says, “Well okay.” It is like the man who heard Jesus’ teaching in the sermon on the mount and refused to listen, refused to obey Christ’s words, and what was the result? Jesus said:

26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” (Matthew 7:26-27)

When we choose to walk in opposition to Christ, great is the fall. The storms of life take over and we are left as one who has turned from obedience to handle troubles on our own. This is what happens when we willfully choose another path. Greater temptation will come and leaning on our own selves, our own flesh will not serve us well against it.

Sometimes we find ourselves in all kinds of problems, many struggles, and many times we can trace our steps back and, if we are honest, we can see how we moved away from Christ and began to set our thoughts, our minds elsewhere. We are not suiting up daily with the armor of God, we are not saying daily, “Whether I eat or drink I am here to glorify God.” We are not asking God to cleanse us even from unknown sin. We are not having intimate conversation with Him in prayer. This is a losing of our way and it can happen to anyone. For the true believer it won’t continue, but even for true believers we can go through seasons of life where we have failed to focus rightly on Him.

These temptations are said to be a snare, like a snare. A snare is a trap, it is to trap animals. Normally we would think it terrible to get caught in a trap, but remember for the animal they walk willingly into it. There is something attractive about it. The horror comes later. The hook in the mouth for the fish or the shot from a gun for a deer or hog or whatever the trap or snare might be. It is such a picture of the deceitfulness of sin. All looks well, desires are strong, the pursuit is exciting and all of the sudden, when the bait is taken, reality sets in.

This is a picture of sin. It is a picture of making sinful choices and then coming face to face with the reality of having offended God, our Lord who has died for us.

But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. (1 Timothy 6:9)

These are hard words. Senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. They are senseless and harmful because they bring ultimately the opposite of what people are after. They are the opposite, they bring the opposite of joy and of peace. Instead of leading us into the loving arms of Christ they make us want to hide from Him. Instead of finding comfort in Christ we may face ruin and destruction.

To plunge is to sink or submerge. It is like drowning. Destruction usually means eternal ruin. This may be speaking hard words to unbelievers who will not give up their pursuit of riches over everything else. A final rejection of Christ for the sake of riches, that would certainly lead to final ruin, no salvation at all. This would be like the rich young ruler who had an encounter with Christ and walked away from eternal life in favor of keeping his riches. Listen to James’ words, strong words regarding riches over Christ.

1 Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. 2 Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. 3 Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days. 4 Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. 5 You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. (James 5:1-5)

After verse 9 in 1 Timothy 6 we see this well known verse, verse 10:

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. (1 Timothy 6:10)

To be sure that it is money that we are talking about here, we have these words. It is the love of money that is the problem, not money itself. This is the theme of this section of Scripture.

This is literally affection for silver. Affection is a deep inner desire. If we have affection for another person then we care deeply for them. Affection caries much emotion with it. It is not a cold love of duty, no, it is a deep longing sort of experience. This kind of emotion for riches is strong. It is this kind of love that is the problem. It is like saying, “I will give my all for this, I will give all for this. I will give all for riches.” Paul then calls it a craving. You cannot look at these two verses and all the vivid descriptions and not be stunned by how given this person described is toward riches. It is a craving like an addict craves his drug, whatever that drug may be. And because of this some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.

This wandering from the faith is not a losing of salvation, because that cannot happen, but it is speaking of those who have been close to the faith, who have understood the faith, who have associated with those of the faith and have ultimately said, “No thanks, I choose this other way, I choose riches.”

This of course describes great grief. This is huge dissatisfaction. This is life without contentment. A life of wandering, looking and never finding what satisfies. The ultimate pang for the unrepentant sinner will be hell, punishment for their own sins rather than being covered by the Lord Jesus Christ.

Having a desire to be rich is nothing to fool around with, it is not something to nurture in your life. A desire to be rich should be seen as a warning sign for the believer, it should be an occasion to cry out to God for help. A desire to be rich is not a small thing to be trifled with, but to be seen as a potential problem with great consequences that have ruined many people.

Money is to be a tool for good, not a path to evil. You may say, “Well I do want to be rich, I have wanted that, what do I do?” Well, you give that over to God. Repent of such things and find ways to use your money for God’s glory such as giving to those who are in need, giving to ministry for the Kingdom of God, learning to live on less, being thankful for what God has given you rather than complaining that there is not enough. Focus your mind on Him, on His Kingdom, on His gospel, on His glory. Ask Him to help you find ways to use it all for Him.

By God’s grace we don’t have to fall like an animal into the traps of riches. By God’s grace we can be content with whatever He chooses to give us from His loving hand!

6 But godliness with contentment is great gain, 7 for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. 8 But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. 9 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. (1 Timothy 6:6-10)