How does someone stray from the faith? What kind of things cause someone to slip down into compromise, apostasy, and rejection? What are the factors? Let me tell you about one that may surprise you. It may seem like something innocuous, innocent, and harmless. But in reality, this black hole is one of the cancers of our Christianity, ruining believers and weakening the power-potential of the Kingdom.In 1 Timothy 6:9-10, Paul whips out several concepts. The first concept is loving money. The second concept is ruin, destruction, or apostasy. And they’re related. The one leads to the other. Here’s how it goes:
But 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. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.
Concept 1: You Want to Be Rich?
Few people voluntarily careen toward apostasy. It’s relatively uncommon for someone to wake up some morning and think, “Hey, this is a good day to apostasize. Man, I think I’m going to reject the faith and step into the wild world of ruin and destruction!” Not all that likely. But have you ever experienced the desire to be rich? It’s much more subtle.
We live in a society that craves riches. We live, move, and have our being in a cultural cesspool that we glibly describe as “The American Dream.” Christians are not exempt from this American Dream Heresy. But we alter it, tweak it, ever so slightly – just to make sure it has a spiritual sheen. When we do this…
“we are starting to redefine Christianity. We are giving into the dangerous temptation to take the Jesus of the Bible and twist him into a version of Jesus we are more comfortable with. A nice, middle-class American Jesus. A Jesus who doesn’t mind materialism and who would never call us to give away everything we have. A Jesus who would not expect us to forsake our closest relationships so that he receives all our affection. A Jesus who is fine with nominal devotion that does not infringe on our comforts, because, after all, he loves us just the way we are. A Jesus who wants us to be balanced, who wants us to avoid dangerous extremes, and who, for that matter, wants us to avoid danger altogether. A Jesus who brings us comfort and prosperty as we live our Christian spin on the American dream.”
David Platt described it well. And do you know what that “Christian spin on the American dream” is called? It’s called heresy. It’s called the nosedive toward apostasy. But it looks so innocent. So commonplace. So not a problem.
I mean, who wouldn’t want a bit of a nicer income? A bigger house? A late-model car? I mean, you’re not yearning for a Beemer or anything. You just want a 2010 Toyota Corolla with leather seats, not your 2001 model with vinyl seats. Just a four bedroom house. Just a fatter 401k. Just new stainless steel appliances in your kitchen remodel. Just a couple more weeks of vacation time. Just an iPhone 4. What’s wrong with that?
Do you want to be rich? Ask yourself the question that the text introduces. And now, read what happens next.
Concept 2: You will be destroyed.
There’s no nice way to put it. Those who want to be reach, quite simply, have fallen into temptation. They have walked into a snare. They have succumbed to stupid and harmful desires. They are plunging into ruin and destruction. They are growing the root of all kinds of evils. They are beginning to wander from the faith. They are piercing themselves with many pangs.
That’s tragic. And it starts with the innocent lust for just a little bit more.
What’s the antidote? How do you avoid such a tragic end? The answer is in the text. Paul writes (1 Tim 6:11), “Flee these things.” God urges us to pursue not riches, but righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.” The pursuit of godliness is a fight. It’s “the good fight of the faith” (6:12). The riches of this world are a delusion. True riches are found in God, “who richly provides us with everything to enjoy…rich in good works, storing up treasure…for the future” (6:17-19)
God is worth it. It is worth it to shed that gauzy, gaudy, deceptive glimmer of this world’s riches. He is worth sacrificing your all, which is really no sacrifice at all. He is the source of all goodness, glory, honor, and true riches. When you look up from your pitiful pile of coins, you will see Him “who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immorality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen” (1 Tim 6:15-16).