FIRST-PERSON: Money: Do you know what it really is?
EDITORS' NOTE: Baptist Press is carrying a column by Larry Burkett each day this week in honor of his longstanding financial ministry. Burkett, a BP columnist for two years, died July 4. He was the founder of Christian Financial Concepts, now merged with Crown Financial Ministries in Gainesville, Ga.
GAINESVILLE, Ga. (BP)--What's money? Are you kidding? Everyone knows what money is, don't they? Sure. It's that green paper stuff you hand over to someone else in exchange for a meal, or a new blouse, or maybe to pay rent on your apartment.
So, what is this -- some kind of test? Maybe it is, because money is more than a medium of exchange. It compels some people to do things that they really don't intend to do. And money can reveal attitudes about you that might make you uncomfortable -- things that are important for you to understand.
Maybe the best way to answer the question "What is money?" is first to determine what money is not.
Money is not:
-- A component of your self-worth. Although you might not know it from the way many Christians think or behave, we don't acquire our self-worth based on the amount of money we accumulate or have the ability to make. For the Christian, self-worth is found in Jesus Christ.
-- A reward for right living. If money is some sort of prize for right living, then what about those dishonest rascals you know about who are so rich? Furthermore, if right living provides wealth, whatever happened to Mother Teresa's bank account?
-- A guarantee of contentment. Who hasn't thought, "If I could just make (fill in the blank) dollars more, I could be happy and content." That was probably some time ago. Now, here you are making that much (maybe more) and spending more. Then why aren't you content?
-- A measure of success. You might have accumulated enough money to own a big car, live in an oversized house and wear fine clothes ... but you have no time for your family. So, that's what you call success?
Well, if that's not what money is, then what is it?
Money is used by God:
-- As a tool to teach you things. If you're in deep debt, are you learning? Have you opened yourself to receive God's blessings by practicing his biblical financial principles, freeing yourself from debt bondage, and by giving to his work?
-- As a test of where your true love is centered. Jesus reveals the test by saying, "If you have not been faithful in the use of unrighteous wealth, who will entrust the true riches to you? And if you have not been faithful in the use of that which is another's, who will give you that which is your own? No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth" (Luke 16:11-13).
Jesus didn't say you shouldn't serve both or that you aren't a nice person if you don't serve both. Jesus says you absolutely, definitely, positively cannot serve both money and God. Have you made your choice?
-- As a testimony of what is most important to you. Money can help you show the world that you are different because of God. You are not to consider yourself better, but you are different than the world. And you need to live like it.
So, don't forget what money really is. And remember whose you are and that you can't serve both God and money. It's your call.