Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” 6 So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?”—Hebrews 13:5-6
This week’s Fighter Verse presents two challenging commands: don’t love money and be content. Obedience to both is fueled by the certain, unfailing presence of God.
Living through a pandemic is a good way to find out if you love money. The daily headlines about job losses, unemployment claims, stock market losses, and devaluation of the economy have an unnerving effect. For some folks, it’s reason to panic, for others, reason to rail against the decision makers and insist that every health risk should be tolerated for the sake of the economy. How do the financial headlines strike you?
A gripping fear that wakes you in the night may be a symptom of sinful affections, or it might signal lack of contentment. Wherever you find yourself, cultivating contentment with what you have, whether a lot or a little, helps to guard you from love of money. And both rest on the guarantee of God’s presence.
Author Jeremiah Burroughs (in The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment) called contentment “a very timely cordial to revive the drooping spirit of the saints in these sad and sinking times.” Apart from the quaint word cordial, he could have been writing this today. Yet his was a different age–he was writing nearly 400 years ago! Even older is God’s Word that is living and active in every age. It is a great comfort how providentially this week’s memory verses fit our current need.
More is Never Enough
Before we know if we love money, we must ask what love of money means. When we love something, we naturally want more of it. Two people in love want more time together, a nature lover can’t wait to be outside again, and a lover of good food is always looking forward to and planning her next meal. If we love money, we always want more. No matter how much you have, it is never enough. That’s why it’s impossible to be content when you love money. But interestingly, the author of Hebrews doesn’t say, “keep your life free from love of money so that you can be content.” Rather, he says, “keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have.”
Paul said that contentment was something he learned, not because of his financial state, but regardless of it:
In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me (Philippians 4:12-13).
Paul’s contentment flowed from being in Christ and receiving His strength. So too, the author of Hebrews grounds the command to be content in God’s promise never to “leave you nor forsake you.” It is the presence of Christ, not merely dispassion for money, that teaches us contentment.
The Danger of Too Much
The certain presence of God at all times, in all places, calms our anxious hearts not only in the face of payroll interruptions and budget shortfalls, it also steadies us in the face of embarrassing plenty. Having too much is what threatened the Israelites in the promised land. God told Moses to warn them saying,
For when I have brought them into the land flowing with milk and honey, which I swore to give to their fathers, and they have eaten and are full and grown fat, they will turn to other gods and serve them, and despise me and break my covenant (Deuteronomy 31:20).
This warning from God followed His promise (quoted in our passage in Hebrews) to never leave the Israelites: "It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed" (Deuteronomy 31:8).
The Israelite’s greatest danger was not that they would fail in their conquest and have too little to live on, but that they would succeed and have too much. God told them: When you are full, you will forget Me. Excess leads to idolatry.
Proverbs 30 records the prayer of a man who understood this danger. In verse eight we read,
Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, “Who is the Lord?” or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God.
If you look for satisfaction in money, you will never be at rest. But if you are satisfied in Christ, your contentment will be unhinged from how much you have. Burroughs describes Christian contentment as “That sweet, inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit, which freely submits to and delights in God’s wise and fatherly disposal in every condition” (19).
We have two heart postures to choose from: Love of money and discontentment with what we have, or love of God and contentment with what He has given us, grounded in His presence and help. The first option finds you discontent whether you have much or little. The second finds you content whatever your situation.
The Cure for Greed and Fear
Further down in Hebrews 13 we read, “Do not neglect to do good and share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God” (verse 16). Do you have a lot? Give. Do you have a little? Give. Giving out of your plenty is a good way to kill greed. Giving out of your lack is a good way to kill fear. Both foster faith. When we love God and know–really know and believe–that He is our provider and will never leave us, we can love Him, not money, and give generously.
At root, we love money because we think it has the power to protect us from what we fear. But the Lord’s help is better than anything money can buy. That’s the point of verse 6. The logical flow is something like this:
Keep your life free from love of money And be content with what you have Because you have God with you always.
And because He is with you The Lord is your helper, And because the Lord is your helper, you are free not to fear–
There is nothing man can do to you that is not under Christ’s rule.
Nothing man can do to you is more powerful, or terrible, than what He who holds the power over life and death can do (Luke 12:5). If you’re not afraid of man because the Lord is your helper, you’ll have no need for money to save you.
If you are secure in God’s presence and the Lord’s help, you can use whatever money you have been given by God (Deuteronomy 8:18) to do what God intends you to do: provide for yourself and your family, and give to others (Ephesians 4:28, 1 Timothy 5:8).
Because God is our keeper (Psalm 121), we can keep our lives free from love of money. Because God has promised to be with us always, we can rest content in Him, whether we have much or little. Because the Lord is our helper, we can live fearlessly in the face of troubles big and small. No matter what the future holds, every Christian who is content will be able to say with Burroughs, “He has all things who has Him who has all things” (68).
Have you seen a drop in hours and income as a result of widespread quarantines and sheltering in place? Maybe you’ve even lost your job. Even as you pray for help, ask the Lord to show you how you can serve someone else in need.
Are you afraid of losing your job or income? Ask God to comfort you with His presence and show you His power to provide. He is not limited by your circumstances.
Pray and ask the Lord to make this season of financial loss a time of fruitful spiritual gain. May He do exceedingly, abundantly more than we could ask or imagine.