Yesterday my kids set up origami shops in our home.  A bit strange, I know, but that’s part of their creativity that I love.  Since there weren’t any outside customers, they simply bought and sold goods from one another.  This led to the predictable.  My 9-year-old mercilessly extorted her 5-year-old brother out of most of his money, not only charging for her paper balloons but another fee on top for blowing them up for him.

I think at some point he realized he had gotten the short end of the stick, because afterwards he apparently stole most of her money back.  When she realized this, and the fact that neither of them had any clue just how much he had stolen, the drama ramped up even more.  She began to loudly moan with cries of “My money! He stole my money!”  It was a bit comical yet also a great opportunity.

What ensued was a great conversation over 1 Tim 6:9-10, the love of money, and how our eagerness for money can lead us astray.  As I thought about it later, there are some great lessons wrapped up in this that I don’t want to miss out on for myself.

The Love of Money is Idolatry

Jesus said that “You cannot serve both God and Money.”  More than my wife, my kids, my job, even myself, God knew that Money would be the chief competitor for my heart’s affection.  When I love money or the security or satisfaction that money represents, this becomes idolatry.  An idol, after all, is anything I’m tempted to love more than God himself.

Idols are Often Revealed When Taken Away

Having her money stolen didn’t cause my daughter to love it; rather, this exposed how much she loved her money.  I’m reminded of the severe angst that clients and advisors were tempted with back in 2008-2009.  When part of our IRAs or income streams were taken away, it revealed just how much hope we all put into them.  We would love to handle it like Job and be able to say “the Lord gives and the Lord takes away”, but I think all of us felt a tinge of anxiety in the midst of the chaos.

We all know that another big decline will happen at some point.  It’s the nature of the world and investing in particular.  But if I can wrestle right now with issues like Who’s money is it?, Does God really love me? And How much is enough?, then I’ll be poised to handle the financial storms that I know are on the horizon.

Being Rich Doesn’t Mean I’ll be More Generous

When we were discussing 1 Tim 6 last night, I told my daughter that this was one section of the Bible specifically written to rich people which includes most folks living around us.  When she asked if we were rich, I said yes and we talked about how little most of the world lives on.

Yet this doesn’t stop us from wanting to look out for our own pile of money, even if it means ripping off our brother.  The more money we have, the further out we push the line of “enough”.  The more money we have, the more we have to potentially lose.  Which often makes it harder to become generous, no matter how much we have.

Luke 16:10 reminds us that “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.”  The amount doesn’t matter, whether it’s a few dollars or a few million dollars.

And generosity isn’t limited to how much I give to church and other charities.  It’s how I share with my neighbors, when I choose to pick up the tab, how much I tip, how I share my time, and how I respond when people are rewarded whom I don’t think are as deserving as I am.

I’d like to think that I’m more mature than my children when it comes to loving money.  Thankfully God does grow us in contentment, love and generosity.  But this only comes from seeking more of him, not from getting more money.  We can be content knowing that gaining more of this world will never bring satisfaction.  We can love because He first loved us.  And we can be generous knowing that God will meet all of our needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.