The first commandment in the Bible states "You shall have no other gods before me" (Exodus 20:3). Idolatry is difficult to counter. Sometimes we are presented with clear choices on whether to worship God or worship something else. Other times idolatry is more sinister, and our choice is not made in one moment. It is made slowly over time, as our hearts start to lose focus on what is most important.
Jesus warned us about one particularly tricky idol - money. Jesus could have said that we could not serve both God and power, or both God and sex. Instead He chose money to talk about because He knew the evil it held. Matthew 6:4 says “No one can be a slave of two masters, since either he will hate one and love the other or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot be slaves of God and of money”.
In this passage, it is clear that Jesus saw money as a primary competitor for God's love and respect. Like all false idols, money slowly starts to invade our thoughts and before we know it, we are bowing down to the dollar. It is not only the rich that have to worry about an obsession with money. The poor striving to fix their finances can quickly get so fixated on their monetary goals that God quickly goes on the backburner.
Hebrews 13:5 says "Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, 'Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you'". God will provide us with what we need and be our beacon of hope in life. Here are some of the signs that you need to stop letting money run your life.
Sign 1: Money problems are always on your mind.
You might have a problem if the first thing you think about when you wake up in the morning is the debt you have pilling up. The stress from finances might keep you from sleeping, too. Trying to navigate a budget, saving more, spending less, and getting out of debt are real problems Christians everywhere struggle with. However, if you cannot let go of the stress, there are bigger mental issues at play.
The Bible tells us to take our thoughts captive and submit them to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). Cast your money worries on Him and He will give you relief. You do not have to let money cause you so much pain. God wants you to lean on Him.
Sign 2: Your happiness is dependent on money.
Do any of these statements sound like you? The moment your paycheck hits your bank account you are overcome with joy. You think if you can just get out of debt, you can be happy. You think if your spouse would stop spending so much money, things would be better. If only you got a new job, life would not be so difficult.
These thought processes are called "destination thinking", because you are always looking towards the future to obtain happiness. By saying "if only this..." you forget to show any gratitude to the blessings from God right in front of you. If the only way you think you will be truly happy is by reaching your financial goals, you are in for a harsh lesson. God is the only person who can bring you true happiness and joy. You must put your trust in Him and pay respects for what you have now.
Sign 3: Your family is tired of listening to your talk about money.
In 1 Timothy 6:18-19 says, "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." We are called to encourage others to stay away from greed. How would your friends and family characterize you?
While it is a great thing to be financially stable, it should not be the only thing that you talk about. Your friends and family might be able to offer you great financial advice, but do not overdo it. If you only ever chat with them about cash, or worse, brag about your finances, then you are just a little too focused on it. The subject should not come up in every conversation. If it does, that shows you are looking at it as an idol.
Sign 4: You feel tempted to sin.
Being obsessed with money can lead on dark path to sin. These can include cheating on your taxes, shortchanging customers, selling bad products, not giving to your church and other local charities, or becoming addicted to shopping. In 1 Timothy 6:9 it says "Love of money clouds good judgement. Blinded by our greed and lusts, we may get caught in a snare." If you have sinned because of money, repent to the Lord, and clear your heart.
Sign 5: You live beyond your means.
This is a huge issue in America because our society is so focused on material possessions. We are a culture of abundance. If greed plagues your heart, you will notice that your checkbook, bank account, and credit card statements are drowning in frivolous purchases. This is made even worse by borrowing money we do not have and having banks rule over us. Proverbs 22:7 says, "the borrower is the slave of the lender."
It is easy to let money become an idol in our lives. If you show any of these signs, make an action plan to get away from your obsession. God should always be first in life.