Can I serve God and money at the same time?
Loving God requires wholehearted commitment: heart, soul, mind, and strength. If we resist God’s control in any area of our lives, we foster weaknesses that lead to temptation and compromise.
The Bible tells of many people whose allegiance to God was undermined by their desire for wealth. Their divided loyalty resulted in grief and tragedy. Jesus said, “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon [wealth, possessions]” (Matthew 6:24).
Balaam Promoted Immorality for Personal Gain
Balaam was a prophet in the land of Moab during the early days of the nation of Israel. His words were very powerful. The people he cursed were cursed, and the people he blessed were blessed.
The king of Moab hired Balaam to curse Israel, but God warned Balaam not to curse His people. Balaam blessed the Israelites, thus infuriating the king of Moab. Balaam appeased the king by pointing out that if the king could not carry out his original plan to curse Israel, he could accomplish a similar result by prompting the women of Moab to seduce the men of Israel and lead them into idolatry. Then the sin of the Israelites would bring God’s judgment on them. Later, Balaam lost his money and his life when Israel conquered Moab. (See Numbers 22–24, 31:8; II Peter 2:15; and Revelation 2:14.)
Achan Yielded to Covetousness
Achan fought in Joshua’s army and helped conquer Jericho when the Israelites moved into the Promised Land. He knew of God’s promise to give certain spoils of the land to the Israelites, although the spoils in Jericho were to be destroyed with the city.
When Achan found some of the riches of Jericho, he coveted them and took the forbidden treasures in violation of God’s clear command. When Israel fought against Ai and failed to conquer the city, Joshua sought to find out whose disobedience had prompted God to withhold His blessing from their army. The leaders of Israel discovered that Achan’s disobedience was the cause of their defeat. Eventually, Achan confessed his sin, and he and his entire family were stoned to death. (See Joshua 7.)
Gideon’s Spoils Led to Idolatry
God used Gideon to free the nation of Israel from the oppression of the Midianites. Afterward, the men of Israel asked Gideon to be their king. He refused to accept this honor but asked for all the golden earrings that belonged to the enemy soldiers whom they had killed.
With this gold, Gideon made an ephod, a richly embroidered outer vestment worn by Jewish priests. Instead of inspiring the worship of God and giving thanks to Him for His deliverance from the Midianites, the ephod itself became an object of worship. The piece of clothing became a stumbling block to Gideon’s own family members, who were consumed by jealousy and violence after Gideon’s death. The nation of Israel quickly slipped back into patterns of idolatry. (See Judges 8:24–9:6.)
Gehazi Cashed In on Another’s Ministry
Gehazi was the servant of the Israelite prophet Elisha. Naaman, a captain in the Syrian army, came to Elisha to be cured of leprosy. Elisha gave him simple instructions: wash in the Jordan River seven times. When Naaman obeyed these instructions, he was miraculously healed of leprosy, and as an expression of his gratitude, Naaman wanted to bless Elisha with valuable gifts.
Gehazi knew that Elisha had refused to receive the gifts offered by Naaman, so after Naaman departed, Gehazi ran after him. Through deception, Gehazi received a portion of the gifts that Naaman had originally offered to Elisha. When Gehazi returned to Elisha’s dwelling, the prophet confronted him, but Gehazi denied that he had gone anywhere. Elisha sharply rebuked Gehazi, and the leprosy of Naaman came on Gehazi and on his descendants. (See II Kings 5.)
The Rich Young Ruler Tried to Worship Both God and Money
The rich young ruler possessed more than riches; he had strong moral character. However, Jesus apparently detected a major flaw in this man—he did not love God with his whole heart. When the rich young man asked what he should do to inherit eternal life, Jesus instructed him to sell all that he had, give it to the poor, and then follow Him. Upon hearing Jesus’ words, the young man walked way sorrowfully. Jesus used this incident to illustrate how difficult it is for the rich to enter into the kingdom of God. (See Luke 18:18–30.)
Judas Betrayed Christ for a Price
Judas Iscariot served as the treasurer for Jesus’ group of disciples. With a background of handling money as a tax collector, Judas may have had a tendency to evaluate circumstances on the basis of monetary value or gain. Consequently, Judas was blind to the significance of Mary’s sacrificial anointing of Jesus’ feet. (See John 12:1–8.) He voiced his opinion that the ointment Mary used should instead have been sold for 300 pence and given to the poor. “This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein” (John 12:6).
Shortly after this event, Judas arranged to betray Jesus into the hands of the Pharisees in exchange for thirty pieces of silver. When Judas realized that his betrayal had resulted in Jesus’ condemnation and that the religious leaders sought for Jesus’ death, Judas cast the pieces of silver before the chief priests and elders who had paid him. Then he went out and hanged himself. (See Matthew 26–27:10.)
Ananias and Sapphira Wanted to Purchase Public Praise
Ananias and Sapphira were involved in the social concerns of the early Church. When Barnabas sold his property and gave the money to the Church leaders, Ananias and Sapphira saw the admiration and encouragement that he received.
They decided to follow Barnabas’s example, but they secretly agreed to keep part of the money for themselves. When they lied about the amount of the sale, pretending to give the entire sum to the Church, the Holy Spirit revealed the truth to the Apostle Peter, who rebuked them. Immediately after being confronted by Peter, both Ananias and Sapphira fell dead at Peter’s feet. (See Acts 5:1–11.)
Simon Tried to Buy Spiritual Authority
In the days of the early Church, a sorcerer named Simon was converted. Prior to his salvation, he had been a powerful, influential person. He had kept people spellbound with his magic and enjoyed their admiration.
Simon saw believers receive the Holy Ghost when the Apostle Peter laid hands on them and prayed for them. Simon wanted to be able to lay hands on believers and see them receive the Holy Spirit too, so he offered to pay Peter for that “power.” Peter sharply rebuked Simon for this request. (See Acts 8:9–24.)
God warns us about the snare of loving money and offers His children a lifestyle of contentment. “Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.
“But they that will [desire to] be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows” (I Timothy 6:6–10).
This material was adapted from the Men’s Manual, Volume II, pages 55–57.