Lord of the Things
Those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. 1 Timothy 6:9-10
In my favorite fictional book series, The Lord of the Rings, the main character is a small, unlikely hero, tasked with destroying an evil ring of power. Though he owns the ring, as he progresses towards the climax of the story, the ring gradually comes to possess him. When he finally has the opportunity to destroy it, he simply cannot let it go and in a terrible scene, he surrenders to its evil. He knows it’s killing him, but still, he cannot bear to part with it. In the end, for him to be saved, the ring must be literally and painfully ripped from him.
It’s a brilliant analogy for those things in life that I’m supposed to own, but which, in the end, own me. Though I’ve never carried a magical ring of power, I understand the main characters struggle. When I realized I had a problem with drugs, I tried to stop and couldn’t. I knew I needed treatment but I just couldn’t go. I had a job and I needed to earn a paycheck. I couldn’t simply walk away from my income for a couple months. So, I didn’t go. I needed recovery, but I couldn’t part with the money. I put my paycheck ahead of my sobriety and, eventually, my job problem took care of itself. It had to be painfully taken from me before I was willing to go to treatment.
In today’s passage, Paul taught that those who seek riches fall into a temptation that eventually plunges them into misery. Loving money leads to self-destruction. Paul didn’t teach that money and things are evil. He simply said that we seek our own demise when we pursue money and things above all.
We usually think of greed as an old man sitting on a pile of gold, but love of money is far more insidious than that. I hear it all the time. I can’t go to treatment. I’ve got to pay my bills . . . I know I struggle with pornography, but I can’t get rid of my smart phone. I need it for my job. This kind of thinking puts our stuff and money ahead of our faith and recovery. When we cling to money or things over God, then money has become our god. In seeking money above all, we pursue our own demise.
We’re supposed to own and use our money and things. They aren’t meant to own us. When we get it backwards, we seek self-destruction. It’s only in seeking God’s will above all that we find, authentic life, joy, and peace.