(The Faith Forum Series – Batch 4)
Do you love money?
You might answer, well who doesn’t, right?
Well, do you love having lots of it so that you can buy yourself what you want, when you want without inhibition or travel to where you want or treat yourself and even others to what you want, without having to consider the cost?
Well, if you love the idea of being ‘financially secure’ or even ‘financially free’ (as some people put it) and you’re trying your best to get rich or to die trying, it is important that you learn from the examples provided in scripture, of people, who, like you, loved the idea of being wealthy or financially prosperous.
To make it clear before I continue, nothing is wrong in being wealthy or prosperous. Sometimes it is God’s will (although not always), for a child of his to have lots of money. However, if it is his will, he usually gives it to that person for a particular reason or set of reasons and not just so that that person can lavish it selfishly on himself and his family.
If God decides to give a person riches, nothing is wrong with that. However, the danger comes when we pursue or run or chase after riches, as if we must have it, which the Bible condemns. Certainly, we are to work hard, honestly and be ambitious but we are to let God decide what we are to have, how much, when and for what purpose.
We ought not to disregard what God’s plan may be for our lives (which may not be for us to have lots of money or even to be financially secure or free) and we ought not to do everything under the sun to desperately and greedily get lots of money to come our way and quickly.
God’s Word the Bible tells us clearly not to pursue or chase after riches (Proverbs 23:4) but to pursue after God and godliness. It further tells us that, if while seeking first God’s Kingdom agenda, riches should come (because God chose to add them to us and through honest means), we should not set our heart on them (Psalm 62:10).
Our heart needs to be on Jesus. God’s Word makes it clear that we cannot serve God and money (mammon). We must therefore make our choice as to which of the two we pledge our allegiance.
In particular, Matthew 6:24-34, which is especially for the person who claims to be a Christian, informs us that:
- “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. Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
- Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.”
In 1 Timothy 6:3-14, it further warns:
- “If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself.
- But 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 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.
- But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses. I give thee charge in the sight of God, who quickeneth all things, and before Christ Jesus, who before Pontius Pilate witnessed a good confession; That thou keep this commandment without spot, unrebukable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ”.
In addition to these scriptural warnings about the danger involved in loving and pursuing after riches (contrary to God’s will for your life), there are actual examples of what happened to people in the Bible, who claimed to know God or were supposed to know him but yet chose riches, money and wealth, over him.
These people were all supposed to know better, yet they allowed their lust for money to make them fall into a horrible trap set by the enemy. This led to their downfall.
Let us take a brief look at these people.
Gehazi was the servant of Elisha, a great Prophet of God. He therefore had the privilege of working closely with Elisha, being around him and seeing and experiencing first hand, all the miraculous works he did through the power of almighty God.
For example, he was around when Elisha blessed the Shunammite woman who had been hospitable to him, telling her, although she had been barren all her married life, that by next year around that time, she would have a baby. This is exactly what happened and some years later, Gehazi again experienced first hand, the miraculous work of God operating through Elisha his Master, as the child became sick and died but was raised back to life again by Elisha, through the operation of God (2 Kings 4:8-37).
Yet, despite seeing and experiencing all of this, which, should have given Gehazi a good perspective on life and on what was really important (which was obeying and bringing glory to God), he allowed his love for money to make him fall.
In 2 Kings 5, there was an occasion when Naaman, Captain of the host of the king of Syria, came to the king of Israel and was redirected to Elisha to be healed of his leprosy. After he had been miraculously healed by eventually obeying Elisha’s instruction to go wash in Jordan seven times, he was so grateful that his life had been spared and that dreadful leprosy gone, that he wanted to lavish riches on Elisha as payment.
However, this was not what Elisha was about. He was about doing God’s work and ensuring that God got the glory and that was it. That was his life purpose. He therefore refused to take anything from Naaman and sent him on his way, back to Syria.
Gehazi though, could not control himself. Secretly, he loved riches and was determined not to let this opportunity to amass some for himself, pass him by. He therefore went behind the Prophet’s back and greedily ran after Naaman and his men who had already left. When Naaman saw him running after him, he came down from his chariot and knowing that this was Elisha’s servant, enquired as to whether all was well.
As if what Gehazi had done was not bad enough, he boldly lied on his Master, thereby using his name to get what he wanted, telling Naaman that Elisha had sent him on the errand. He further lied by informing Naaman that two young men who were sons of the Prophets, had come to Elisha and he wished them to have some of the money that Naaman had in his possession and two of the garments.
In those days, clothing appeared to be a valued item to possess and Gehazi knew this. Naaman therefore believed Gehazi’s lies and because he was still grateful to Elisha, gave him what he asked for and even more.
Upon his return, Gehazi went to his house and then to Elisha. Upon being questioned by Elisha as to where he had been, Gehazi then added a further lie to his list of sins, by telling Elisha that he had not gone anywhere.
He should have known from his years of experience with Elisha, that as a Prophet, what he had done would not have been concealed from Elisha but he allowed his lust for money and material possessions to blind his judgment.
Of Gehazi and his return, the Bible states in 2 Kings 5:24:
- “And when he came to the tower, he took them from their hand, and bestowed them in the house: and he let the men go, and they departed. But he went in, and stood before his master. And Elisha said unto him, Whence comest thou, Gehazi? And he said, Thy servant went no whither.”
After this second lie, all for the sake of money, Elisha brought him back to reality, when he shockingly told him in verse 26-27:
- “…Went not mine heart with thee, when the man turned again from his chariot to meet thee? Is it a time to receive money and to receive garments, and oliveyards, and vineyards, and sheep, and oxen, and menservants, and maidservants? The leprosy therefore of Naaman shall cleave unto thee, and unto thy seed for ever.”
Verse 27 continues, that Gehazi: “…went out from his presence a leper, as white as snow.”
Interestingly, in the list of material possessions that Elisha stated with specificity, only money and garments had been received from Naaman. It is possible therefore, that Gehazi had used Elisha’s name on previous occasions, to secure for himself, the other possessions on the list that Elisha stated. He may have made deals behind Elisha’s back (deluded by his lust or greed to be rich) and obtained oliveyards, vineyards (which would have been quite expensive back then), sheep, oxen, menservants and maidservants for himself and his home, thinking that Elisha the Prophet did not know.
If this was the case, then his actions with Naaman would not have been a one-off action whereby he allowed temptation to get the better of him but instead, a series of dishonest, lying, greedy, self-serving actions, which culminated in the Naaman incident.
If so, it would mean that Elisha, who would have known all along what Gehazi was doing surreptitiously and that his heart was serving riches instead of the true and living God, allowed him to continue in his folly for a season but put an end to his dishonest, wicked, greedy, money loving, money grabbing ways on that day when he confronted him.
For, although he may have been given time to repent, he did not but continued on in his wicked, dishonest way without being sorry for his sin, only looking for the next opportunity to serve himself, using Elisha for his own selfish purposes. In fact, when given a second opportunity to repent at the point when he was questioned by Elisha, Gehazi chose to lie instead of telling Elisha the truth.
This brings to mind the verse that reads: “Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.” (Ecclesiastes 8:11)
As a result, when confronted by Elisha, Elisha then placed the leprosy which was on Naaman on him and on his offspring forever. Gehazi did not therefore benefit from the riches and material possessions he had literally run after, as he was banished in shame forever, due to his leprous condition.
Judas was one of the twelve disciples of Jesus Christ, who Jesus picked (Luke 6:13-16).
As one of Christ’s disciples, he therefore had the privilege of being within close proximity to him, to learn from him and of his ways and to see the wonderful miracles he performed. No doubt, he would have realized from this nearness, that Jesus conducted himself perfectly and possessed power to do mighty things.
Whereas the other disciples believed that Jesus was Lord though, it does not appear, when one studies the story of Judas properly, that he ever really believed this fact. He may have thought Jesus to be a Prophet of some sort or a great Teacher or that, as Jesus’ detractors thought at one point, that he was operating and empowered to do supernatural things like casting demons out of people, through beelzebul, the ruler of the demons.
Why Judas continued on with the charade of following after Jesus, when he did not believe that he was truly the Son of God but was an imposter or delusional are not mentioned. Maybe he saw an opportunity to benefit himself from being affiliated with the man that people so revered, a man who could turn water into wine and feed thousands of people with a few loaves of bread and fishes.
Judas loved money and it is clear that material possessions, not Jesus was his Lord.
This was demonstrated when, according to John’s account, upon Jesus’ visit to Mary, Martha and Lazarus (who Jesus had raised from the dead), Mary, knowing that her Lord was priceless and that nothing could compare to his worth, took a very expensive pound of ointment and anointed the feet of Jesus with it.
Instead of commending Mary for what she had done, Judas only saw dollar signs (so to speak) and was disturbed that this very expensive ointment had been used in this way, when it could have been sold and the money collected for it.
It was clear that he did not think that Jesus was worth it and considered the action a waste. It was also clear that he was grieved by what Mary had done, as in his mind, this would have been a perfect opportunity to collect some money for himself. He therefore gave the excuse that it could have been sold and the money given to the poor but the Bible tells us that he said it, not because he cared for the poor but because he was the one that kept the bag of money and he was a thief.
The Bible reads in John 12:1-6:
- “Then Jesus six days before the passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, which had been dead, whom he raised from the dead. There they made him a supper; and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him. Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment.
- Then saith one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, which should betray him, Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred 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.”
Interestingly, this incident occurred before Jesus was betrayed and before Satan had entered into Judas and yet, the scripture describes Judas as a thief.
This, to my mind, meant that he was in the habit, even at that point, of stealing money from the bag to which Jesus had apparently entrusted into his hands for safekeeping. He was therefore grieving the fact that he did not get the opportunity to benefit from the money that could have been obtained from the ointment, had it been sold and the funds given to him to put into the bag.
He was therefore clearly about himself and clearly did not believe that Jesus was Lord. For, had he believed that, he would have known that Jesus was aware of each and every time he had stolen money from the bag and of the reason why he had pretended to care about the poor and had voiced his objection to what Mary had done with the ointment. He would have also known that Jesus knew that his heart was set on money, that he was pretending to believe on him and to love him and his motives for doing this.
How long Judas’ thieving ways were going on, we are not told but Jesus knew. When Satan entered into him therefore, he entered into a man that was continuously giving himself over to evil and now, the devil had a greater mission for him, that of the betrayal of the Lord Jesus Christ for money.
The Bible states that, Satan having entered into Judas, Judas went and wagered a deal with the chief priests who were enemies of Jesus, to deliver him into their hands for money.
In those days, thirty pieces of silver was quite a lot of money. It was enough to purchase a piece of property with and this was the price that they negotiated and settled upon.
Matthew 26:14-16 reads:
- “Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went unto the chief priests, And said unto them, What will ye give me, and I will deliver him unto you? And they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver. And from that time he sought opportunity to betray him.”
Ironically, earlier on, Judas valued the ointment of spikenard at three hundred pence but contracted to betray Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. One commentator has stated that this was worth about one hundred pence. If so, while it was a significant sum, Judas considered the ointment to be much more valuable than the Lord Jesus Christ and priced him accordingly.
It is important to note that the chief priests did not devise the idea or come to Judas with the offer but he thought of the idea and went to them, offering to help them capture Jesus for payment. All he could see was the amount of money that he could get for himself and so he saw Jesus, the Son of the true and living God, the one that could forgive sins and had the power to redeem a soul from hell, as merely a means to enrich himself.
He knew that Jesus’ enemies wanted him dead and he did not care. He was willing to sell him into their hands so that they could kill him, as he was all about himself and getting riches. He therefore used his familiarity with Jesus, so much so, that he knew exactly where to go to find him, when he was accompanied by a great multitude who came with swords and staves, to take Jesus.
Notably, Judas had an opportunity to repent for stealing from the bag and concocting the plan to betray Jesus but he did not. He did not repent when Jesus commented that he had chosen twelve disciples but one of them was a devil. He did not repent even when Jesus, knowing all that he had been doing and was about to do, mentioned to his disciples that one of them would betray him and that that person would be he that dipped his hand with him in the dish. Knowing that it was him, he played along by asking, as the other disciples had asked, if it was him that would betray him. Jesus responded in the affirmative but the other disciples did not seem to catch on.
Yet, Judas did not change his mind. He also had the opportunity to repent when Jesus told him that that which he was about to do, he should do quickly.
Yet, in all this, Judas was not deterred, not even to the point when he appeared with those who had come to take Jesus, to complete his plan. He told the men who were sent to capture Jesus by force, that the person who he kissed was the man they were looking for and instructed them to hold him fast. He then followed through without shame, embarrassment or any kind of remorse with this diabolical plan, going up to Jesus and brazenly planting a kiss on him. Whereas a kiss was meant back then to portray respect, closeness, fondness, warmth and friendship, Judas’ kiss was like that of a snake, as it was meant to identify Jesus for death.
The Bible states in Matthew 26:47-50:
- “And while he yet spake, lo, Judas, one of the twelve, came, and with him a great multitude with swords and staves, from the chief priests and elders of the people. Now he that betrayed him gave them a sign, saying, Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is he: hold him fast. And forthwith he came to Jesus, and said, Hail, master; and kissed him. And Jesus said unto him, Friend, wherefore art thou come? Then came they, and laid hands on Jesus and took him.”
Jesus allowed himself to be captured and crucified and it was only after the betrayal, possibly being tormented within by Satan because he had sold his soul for money and now had betrayed the innocent blood, that Judas felt sorry for what he had done.
He did not even to this point though, acknowledge or believe that Jesus was Lord or repent of all the sins he had committed in his life, including stealing from the bag. He simply repented that he had betrayed Jesus, who he knew had done nothing wrong to deserve to be crucified.
It was too late though. The treason had already been done. Tormented by the devil, no doubt, Judas cast the money in the temple and sensing that his soul was doomed, he went out and hanged himself.
In Matthew 27:3-10: it states:
- “Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, Saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What is that to us? see thou to that. And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself. And the chief priests took the silver pieces, and said, It is not lawful for to put them into the treasury, because it is the price of blood.”
He therefore was never able to use the money and never benefitted from it. He lost his life and his soul ended up in hell, for he had not just betrayed anyone but he had betrayed the Son of the true and living God for money. Also, he appears to have died in unbelief, never truly coming to the realization that the one that he had betrayed was not just a great Teacher or a Prophet but in fact, God the Son.
Like Gehazi therefore, Judas loved money and sought to acquire it surreptitiously. Like Gehazi, he was dishonest and lived a lie, by pretending to be one of Jesus’ followers, when his actions demonstrated that he clearly did not even believe that he was Lord. Like Gehazi, he refused to repent of his wicked ways, including the fact that he was a thief, although he was given time to do so. Instead, he sought further opportunity to continue to acquire money and this time, the most wealth he possibly could, by using and betraying Jesus for his own selfish purposes.
Up to the point of the betrayal when he boldly and unapologetically kissed Jesus to identify him to his enemies, Judas was not at all sorry for his sin, did not repent and was only interested in obtaining his pay-out.
ANANIAS AND SAPPHIRA
Ananias and Sapphira were a husband and wife that claimed to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.
In Acts 4:32-38, it reads:
- “And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common. And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all. Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, And laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need. And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation,) a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus, Having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet.”
When Ananias and Sapphira saw other Christians selling their lands and bringing the money to the apostles, they decided to sell theirs too.
Even if their motives may have been pure at that point, they did not remain that way. For, their later actions suggested that they were not doing it to please God but wanted to use what they had done to obtain favour with men. That is, it appears that they did not wish to feel left out and wanted to give the impression in the eyes of man (not God), that they were doing a good and selfless deed.
They therefore decided to follow what the others were doing (although they did not have to and could have decided not to sell their land) because they seemingly wanted and valued the praise of men, over God.
After they sold the land, they found it difficult to give up all the money they received for it and therefore found the sacrifice to be too great. This strongly suggests that they loved money, as no sacrifice is too great for God. Yet, they decided to not give the entire sum that they had sold the property for but a portion of it.
This would have been entirely okay, in my humble estimation, if they had told Peter when submitting the partial sum, that this was not the entire price of the land but was the part that they decided to give. However, they did not do that. They sold the land for a certain price, decided between themselves to keep back part but to present the other part of the sum as if it was the total sum they had received for the land. In effect therefore, they planned to lie, as they knew that if people knew that they had kept back part, they would not be considered to be as selfless as those who had sold their property and had given all the money to the apostles, for the advancement of God’s purposes.
When they submitted the sum and represented it as the full price, maybe they were commended and regarded highly by other Christians for the ‘enormous sacrifice’ that they had made, them giving the impression that the sum they had submitted was the full price they received for the land. Maybe they were patted on the back and others looked up to them and they felt good because in their minds, this was all about them.
They therefore deliberately agreed to deceive everyone (which caused them to delude themselves, as they forgot that God, who was seeing their every action, knew their motives and what they had done) and to pass the partial sum off as the full price, just so that they could be regarded highly by men.
Peter subsequently confronted both of them separately on the issue. After dealing with Ananias who fell down dead after he spoke, he later asked his wife who came in some hours later, if they had indeed sold the land for the price they claimed. Not knowing what had befallen her husband, instead of coming clean and repenting at that point, she continued the charade, lying to him that yes, they had sold it for that price.
Based on what was revealed to Peter through the Holy Spirit though, he knew the truth and that she was lying. When he exposed her, like her husband, she too fell down dead.
In Acts 5:1-11, it reads:
- “But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession, And kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land? Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God.
- And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things. And the young men arose, wound him up, and carried him out, and buried him. And it was about the space of three hours after, when his wife, not knowing what was done, came in. And Peter answered unto her, Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much? And she said, Yea, for so much.
- Then Peter said unto her, How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? behold, the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out. Then fell she down straightway at his feet, and yielded up the ghost: and the young men came in, and found her dead, and, carrying her forth, buried her by her husband. And great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things.”
Like Gehazi and Judas therefore, Ananias and Sapphira engaged in a plan surreptitiously to deceive God’s people. This was due to their apparent love for money, which prevented them from surrendering the full price for the land they had sold, to the Church. Also, their love for people’s adoration and praise, prevented them from being truthful about the fact that they were only submitting a partial sum. Like Gehazi and Judas, they had opportunity to repent before they were confronted by Peter and the wife up to the point where she was confronted by Peter but they chose not to, choosing instead to continue the dishonesty, resolved to use the work of the Lord as a means to promote their selfish aspirations for self-recognition and adulation.
Balaam was another example of a man that ought to have known better by reason of his experience with God but he allowed his love for money to be his downfall.
Although he was not an Israelite, it is clear that he had some sort of relationship with the true and living God and had been gifted by him in this regard, as he had the ability to bless or curse people, as an oracle of God.
Due to his love of money though, when the enemies of the Israelites sought his help to come curse the Israelites on their behalf, although he was told by God that he could not do so because they were blessed, he still wanted to go. He wanted to use God’s gift to curse God’s people because Balak the king, whose people were the enemies of Israel was offering him a hefty payment for the task.
In fact, the Bible states that the people that Balak sent to him came to him with the “…rewards of divination” but Balaam did not seem to care about the source. These rewards were not from God but it seemed that he still wanted them. He therefore asked God for his will in the matter but he said no, resulting in Balaam refusing to go with them to perform the task.
However, this obedience was shortlived. For, Balak sent men a second time to Balaam, hoping that he would change his mind and come and pronounce a curse on the Israelites. In Numbers 22, he told him: “Let nothing, I pray thee, hinder thee from coming unto me: For I will promote thee unto very great honour, and I will do whatsoever thou sayest unto me: come therefore, I pray thee, curse me this people.”
What Balak meant was that Balaam should disregard even God’s own command and come to him, as he was offering him great honour and promotion as a reward. In response, although the message was disrespectful to the most High, instead of repeating what God had told him to Balak’s men, as before, Balaam gave them a glimmer of hope that he would come, by telling the men:
- “If Balak would give me his house full of silver and gold, I cannot go beyond the word of the Lord my God, to do less or more. Now therefore, I pray you, tarry ye also here this night, that I may know what the Lord will say unto me more.”
He then went back to seek God’s approval to go, although he knew that God’s will had not changed in relation to Israel, who he had already told him was blessed. It appeared therefore, that deep down, his love for money and promotion and honour, made him want to go.
After he sought the Lord again to ask the same request, God told him that he could go but that he was to only say what he told him to say. The Bible states though, “And God’s anger was kindled because he went: and the angel of the Lord stood in the way for an adversary against him.”
For, Balaam knew that God had initially told him not go but that he had come back to him to seek his face because he wanted to obtain the reward that would be involved after cursing the Israelites. God also knew his heart and would have known that it was the money and reward and honour that he desired, over and above the will of God.
The Lord therefore sent an angel in his path with a sword, which he only avoided because his ass saw the angel and turned aside. He then went to Balak and although he knew that Baal was a false god and therefore no god at all, he instructed Balak to build him seven altars in the high places of Baal where Balak had taken him. It appears therefore, that he compromised.
First, he was brought the rewards of divination by Balak’s men and now, he allowed Balak to bring him up into the high places of Baal, the false god that Balak and his people served.
The Bible states in Numbers 22:41;23:1-3;
- “And it came to pass on the morrow, that Balak took Balaam, and brought him up into the high places of Baal, that thence he might see the utmost part of the people. And Balaam said unto Balak, Build me here seven altars, and prepare me here seven oxen and seven rams. And Balak did as Balaam had spoken; and Balak and Balaam offered on every altar a bullock and a ram.”
When Balaam opened his mouth to speak though, on three separate occasions, only blessings came forth from his mouth from the Lord, in relation to Israel, which angered Balak.
Numbers 24:1 states: “And when Balaam saw that it pleased the Lord to bless Israel, he went not, as at other times, to seek for enchantments, but he set his face toward the wilderness.”
This seemed to have been the end of the matter but we learn in Numbers 31:16, that, not being able to curse God’s people the Israelites so as to obtain Balak’s reward, Balaam did not give up. Instead, he advised Balak to use the women of his land to get to the men of Israel and to mix with them and to cause them to sin against God through these women and in so doing, Israel would incur a curse from the Lord.
In verse 16, Moses said of these Midian women:
- “Behold, these caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to commit trespass against the Lord in the matter of Peor, and there was a plague among the congregation of the Lord.”
Balaam therefore, did not stop trying to have the Israelites cursed and he succeeded indirectly by the counsel he gave, so as to obtain the rewards offered by Israel’s enemies.
Many years later, in Revelations 2:14, the glorified Jesus Christ who gave John a message for the Churches, told the Church of Pergamos:
- “But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication.”
In Micah 6:5, it reads: “O my people, remember now what Balak king of Moab consulted, and what Balaam the son of Beor answered him from Shittim unto Gilgal; that ye may know the righteousness of the Lord.”
In 2 Peter 2:15, Peter likened New Testament false prophets to Balaam, stating of them that they “…have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness.” Balaam had forsaken the right way and gone astray, as, due to his persistence because he loved money, he was outside of the perfect will of God, went up to the high places of Baal, a false god and thought he could have seven altars erected there and offer oxen and rams up to God from that ungodly place. He tried to use his gift from that ungodly place, for evil and in fact, eventually participated through counsel, to have a curse pronounced on God’s people indirectly, the very people that God had already told him were blessed.
In Jude 1:11, it states of such false prophets and teachers: “Woe unto them! for they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core.”
Not surprisingly, it did not end well for Balaam. For, although God had told him that the Israelites were blessed, his desire to obtain the rewards being offered by Balak, an ungodly king, resulted in him using indirect means to achieve his purposes, contrary to God’s wishes.
He could not curse them as he had no choice but to speak what the Lord put in his mouth to speak but motivated by his love for money, honour and promotion and not caring that such wealth and recognition were coming from an unrighteous source, he advised Balak to use the women of Midian to get to the men of Israel. For, he knew that this mixing (an unequally yoked situation), displeased God and would result in the Israelites being punished.
In Joshua 13:21-22, Balaam being outside of the will of God, dabbling with false gods and an ungodly king for unrighteous gain and self-advancement, he is referred to in demoting terms as a mere soothsayer, given that he was out of favour with God and therefore was no longer using his ability to speak on his behalf. We learn as well, that he eventually perished by the very sword of the Israelites who he had tried to have destroyed. Having positioned himself with Israel’s enemies for unrighteous gain, he was therefore killed along with them when Israel invaded their lands.
The scripture reads:
- “And all the cities of the plain, and all the kingdom of Sihon king of the Amorites, which reigned in Heshbon, whom Moses smote with the princes of Midian, Evi, and Rekem, and Zur, and Hur, and Reba, which were dukes of Sihon, dwelling in the country. Balaam also the son of Beor, the soothsayer, did the children of Israel slay with the sword among them that were slain by them.”
Like Gehazi, Judas and Ananias and Sapphira therefore, Balaam engaged in a plan with Balak surreptitiously to get God’s people to sin. This was due to his love for money and promotion, which were offered by Balak. Like Gehazi, Judas and Ananias and Sapphira, he had opportunity to repent and to take stock of his ways when God told him initially not to go but instead, he chose to dishonourably try to use his God-given gift, as a means to promote his own selfish aspirations and ambitions, to be rich and have earthly influence.
LESSONS FROM THE ABOVE EXAMPLES
From the above examples, we learn that even if we are Christians (believers of the Lord Jesus Christ and in relationship with him), we have to be careful when it comes to money and not let it become a god or idol in our lives. We cannot serve both God and money. It is one or the other that will have our allegiance.
The world’s system encourages the pursuit of money and the better life but God tells us that we should be content with such things as we have. We should work hard and honestly but allow God to decide what and how much he will give us. As Christians, we ought not to subscribe to the world’s system but to submit to Christ.
1 John 2:15-17 admonishes us to “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world” and boldly states that “If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”
Often times, God will allow life to present us with a choice: Either we choose the pursuit of riches and the better life or we choose Christ. The latter may mean that we must leave a life of comfort and predictability and embrace a life of suffering but this ought not to be frowned upon. For, we are called to suffer. If Christ requires it therefore, we must be prepared to take up our cross and follow him.
When it comes to pursuing after riches and pursuing after Christ, the scripture makes it clear that the two are mutually exclusive. That is, we must take our pick, as it is one or the other.
As highlighted before, Matthew 6:24 states: “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.”
Mammon means money and while Jesus made it clear to his disciples in Mark 10:23-27, that, due to the power of God, it was possible that some rich people would be saved from eternal damnation through faith in him, it is still wrong to pursue after riches.
It is not wrong to have riches if God has seen it fit to give you this but it is wrong to pursue or chase after it, making it your lifelong goal and your heart’s desire. The Christian’s call is to be content while serving his Lord and if, while working hard, God desires for him to have lots of money, he will grant this to him but for HIS purposes.
When we elevate the love of money in our hearts (which is idolatry) and run after it, determined to have lots of it at all costs irrespective of what God may want for our lives, we tend to forsake him in the pursuit of such riches. This is to our detriment, as it is Jesus that is our source of blessing and the fountain of living water.
In Jeremiah 2:12-13, when the Israelites forsook God and went after idols in the hope that this would bring them happiness, in looking on at the tragedy of their foolish and self-detrimental decision, God stated through the Prophet:
- “Be astonished, O ye heavens, at this, and be horribly afraid, be ye very desolate, saith the Lord. For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.”
In commenting on the inevitable result of suffering and destruction which came to the people of Israel because they had forsaken him to pursue after their idols, God pointed out in verses 15-19, that they had brought this calamity upon themselves and ended up where they ended up because of the choice that they had made. Speaking through his Prophet, he continued:
- “The young lions roared upon him, and yelled, and they made his land waste: his cities are burned without inhabitant. Also the children of Noph and Tahapanes have broken the crown of thy head. Hast thou not procured this unto thyself, in that thou hast forsaken the Lord thy God, when he led thee by the way? And now what hast thou to do in the way of Egypt, to drink the waters of Sihor? or what hast thou to do in the way of Assyria, to drink the waters of the river? Thine own wickedness shall correct thee, and thy backslidings shall reprove thee: know therefore and see that it is an evil thing and bitter, that thou hast forsaken the Lord thy God, and that my fear is not in thee, saith the Lord God of hosts.”
PURSUING MONEY, RICHES AND POSSESSIONS TO THE EXPENSE OF YOUR SOUL’S SALVATION
When people choose money over the Lord God, as their god, unless they come to their senses in this lifetime, they are lost and reap the eternal destruction of their soul in hell.
This appears to have been the case in Mark 10:17-23, where, confronted with the need to choose between riches and Jesus, a rich ruler chose his possessions. I believe that the Lord Jesus was trying to highlight to him that he had an idol in his heart and had therefore broken the first and most important commandment under the Old Covenant which was that “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” In choosing to hold on to his possessions (which could only benefit him in this life), the man demonstrated that he considered his riches to be more important than the Lord and he elevated it before God in his heart.
As a result, if this man never repented and accepted Jesus Christ as Lord over all, including his riches and therefore saw him as worth parting with his possessions for, his soul would have been lost in hell, a place where his earthly riches could not benefit him.
It brings to mind the verse in Mark 8:36 which reads: “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?”
A LESSON FROM LOT
When it comes to Lot, a man that the Bible states was godly and righteous, I cannot say, like others have said, that he made his choice to go to Sodom and Gomorrah because he loved money (materialism) and that he chose this place although he knew how wicked it was. For, the Bible is silent on this issue and I refuse to add my own narrative to it.
It is possible that Lot may not have known about the lifestyle of the people there until he got there or maybe he had underestimated the problem and the extent of their wickedness and thought that somehow, he would find a way to keep himself separate from their ways, while in the land. However, we learn in the New Testament, that their ways and their wickedness vexed his righteous soul every day, so he was grieved in this land.
While Lot may have simply chosen one of the two options available to him when Abraham told him to choose and he chose as a logical man most likely would have done so as to ensure ample provision for his flock, herd and tents and while we cannot come down on him harshly as many have done, to claim he was materialistic in outlook and loved money, what we can say is that there is definitely a principle that can be derived from his story.
The principle which is applicable to us is this: Whether or not we are Christians, it is guaranteed that if we make decisions in life based on materialism and what looks like the most comfortable path, we will end up with colossal losses. That is, we ought not to decide who to marry, what job to take, what job to leave, what country to live or make any other decision in our lives based mainly on money and financial advancement.
Sadly, many people, even professers of Christ, often encourage others to go where the money is. This is bad advice and a mistake. I myself have had to disregard such advice on more than one occasion as foolish because that is exactly what it was.
We should not go where the money is but go where Jesus is. He is our source, not materialism. If we follow him wherever he is and wants us to be, then if it is his will to give us finances or any kind of prosperity (not just financial), he will.
Having said that, there is this nonsense I have been hearing lately, even around so-called ‘Christian’ circles, about pursuing and obtaining your ‘financial freedom’.
It ought to be noted that in this life, finances can never provide freedom. Only the blood of Jesus Christ can do that. The Bible tells us that we are to be content with what we have and not run after riches. In pursuing this so-called ‘freedom’ in finances, we are sure to place ourselves in bondage and to pierce ourselves through with many sorrows.
1 Timothy 6:10 states: “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.”
While we can never accuse Lot of loving money (as some people have accused him of without a shred of evidence from the Word), we can say that as a result of him having made a decision as to where to relocate based on what appeared to be the best materialistic outlook, he suffered colossal losses.
When the angels appeared to bring him out, he was moving slowly, perhaps trying to grasp as many things as he could, not realizing that the danger of the city’s destruction was very imminent. The angels had to take hold of him and hastily bring him out, so it does not appear that he got to pack or assemble anything of any worth or value to take with him.
This man who Genesis 13:6 described as having great substance (riches), had to leave all of this behind, the flock, the herd, the riches, everything. He had to leave the house he had in that city, lovely as it may have been. It appears that, although two of his virgin daughters accompanied him in leaving Sodom and Gomorrah, at least two of his daughters who were married to ungodly sons-in-law, remained behind with their husbands and perished.
If this was indeed the case, it means that Lot lost those children (and perhaps grandchildren if his married daughters had any children), as they perished along with the rest of the city.
Maybe it was the thought that she had left daughters in the place that was being destroyed, that made Lot’s wife look back. Whether so or not, the Bible does not say.
In the end, Lot also lost his wife who became a pillar of salt when she looked back, as she, Lot and her two single daughters were in the process of fleeing.
She looked back and was immediately turned into a pillar of salt, so Lot became wifeless. As if this was not enough, as a poor man, devoid of all his riches and unearthed from the place he had come to call home, his two single daughters who had accompanied him in fleeing the city, then involved him in a shameful and disgraceful act, by having sex with him while he was drunk. They did this selfishly, so that they could have children, maybe not giving much thought to the gravity of the wrong, due to having lived in an immoral city for so long, where such a practice may have been commonplace.
As a result of these incestuous acts, Lot therefore fathered his daughters’ children, resulting in the people of Moab, who were cursed by God.
On the whole, Lot, a righteous man, may have had grand dreams for his future and his family but all that went up in smoke (literally), after he made a choice of where to live, based on the path that appeared to lead to prosperity.
(Written on October 2nd 2017, added to on 11th April and 17th October, 2020)
Dear Reader, if you found the above Article to be interesting, informative, beneficial or edifying, I recommend that you also read the following:
- Note 180 – ‘The Unbelief Of Judas Iscariot’
- Note 201 – ‘Want To Be Rich? Read This’
- Note 206 – ‘Money Is Not The Driving Force In My Life’
Additionally, under ‘BIBLE-BELIEVING Daughters’:
- Note 230 – ‘How Riches Deceive’