Feb 1, 2013

The Deceitfulness of Wealth – Breaking Free From the Financial Trap

Many of us remember reading the book Where the Red Fern Grows in school.  In it we read about a boy named Billy and his beloved dogs in pursuit of raccoons in the Ozark Mountains.  Early in the book, Billy’s grandfather shares with him a bit of knowledge about these cunning little creatures to lead him to his first catch.

You can hear wisdom in the old man’s voice as he describes a trap he devised by boring a hole in a log with an opening just big enough that the raccoon can reach inside.  He tells Billy to place a shiny piece of tin in the hole.  Once the raccoon grasps the shiny object, his clenched fist is too big to remove from the hole and he is trapped.

Billy is sure his grandfather is joking with him, “Why all he'd have to do is open his paw, drop the piece of tin, and he could pull it from the hole."

Billy’s grandpa laughed as he assured the young boy that the plan was sound.  Although the raccoon could simply let go, he would not.  The curiosity of the shiny little item in the hole was enough to hold the raccoon tighter than any other trap.

The story stuck with me.  In light of our nation’s financial problems, and my own financial priorities, the story continues to resonate.

In the Parable of the Sower, we listen as Jesus explains the outcome for each seed:

“The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”

Matthew 13:22-23 (NIV)

“The deceitfulness of wealth.” It is not often that you hear that phrase in our society.  On the contrary, we hear about the almighty financial plan that leads to security.  Instead of wealth as a weed choking out our faith, we hear about wealth that leads to control of life and early retirement to a life of luxury.

In this, Satan has set his trap.  He has bored a hole in our faith and in it, put a few shiny things.  Even as a Bible-believing Christian, I have fallen for this trap.  I have my hand in the hole, clinging desperately to my retirement, my life, my health insurance and all of the things that my financial plan says will create security.

Satan has used this trap in every generation.  We read of the wrestling Solomon does between wealth and God.  We read as the rich young ruler sulks away, unwilling to release the shiny things in the trap.  Even in an Evangelic Christian community, this simple and age-old trap works.  Even as true freedom in Christ calls to them, they cannot let go. I cannot let go.

Everything in our society and the financial industry says it would be insane to let go.  The best demonstrated practices of financial planning promise security.  If your family will only follow the formula: spend less than you make > pay off debt > save > mitigate risk > diversify…then you will find true financial freedom. Y ou will take charge of your own life.

Like a raccoon in a trap, there is an unpleasant end in sight.  Fast forward to the book of Revelation in Chapter 18.  We read about the fall of Babylon the Great and the end of the financial system on earth. In this chapter, we hear a voice from Heaven saying, “Come out of her [Babylon & the world’s economy] my people.”  We read as world leaders and business owners mourn the destruction of this wealth and we have a clear calling.

You sit in a special place where you may be the only voice calling, “Come out of her [Babylon & the world’s economy] my people.”  You sit in a unique time period where your family and the families in your community are just frustrated enough that, with a bit of guidance, perhaps you can pull the curtain all the way back on Satan’s scheme.  You can use this economic opportunity to show your family how the trap works. You can free their hand from the deceitfulness of riches and from a financial plan that, without Christ, leads to death.

You can share the words of Paul as he speaks to young Timothy:

“Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.”

1 Timothy 6:17-19 (NIV)

You can lead those, with whom God has given you special influence and a special voice, to the truth. You can change lives as you educate your family and others that their rich blessings were not meant for self indulgence. They were given to them to steward, to be generous and willing to share. Through this generosity, you can lead those you love and serve to a place where they can share Christ as they love Him and love others in their community. You can use your unique seat and this amazing economic opportunity to create thankfulness toward God.

Satan is using his deceitful trap far and wide. Young families are taking hold of these shiny things, sure that they have found the truth. Their seed is falling in with the thorns and they are buying the lie of financial freedom, proliferated by Wall Street and Washington.

Paul exhorts Timothy in the same way. What an opportunity for Paul, to carry on his legacy--Christ’s legacy--through this youth. You have a similar opportunity, magnified because of a difficult economy. You can avoid the thorns and grow your seed in good soil as you pull weeds for those around you.

Just as Billy questioned the soundness of his grandfather’s idea, young families may think you are kidding. You are going against the grain, against this world’s wisdom. But take heart as you share this truth. Just as this truth has set you free, you will free young families from a life among the weeds.

The deceitfulness of wealth has its grip on our families and our nation. Christ has created you to grow in good soil. He promises this work will yield a bountiful crop. By replacing the almighty financial plan in your family and community with the Almighty God, you have the ability to free our nation. More than that, you have the ability to join with others as you loosen hands from the trap and take hold of the life that is truly life.

Money is not evil, and having wealth isn't a bad thing.  This is not the poverty gospel.  But it is worth asking, where does your hope lie?  Is your trust in the bank account and the business, in the 401k and the financial plan?  Have you fallen for the trap?  Or are those simply assets you steward as you trust in The Living God?
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