Do you control it, or does it control you?

Published 12:39 pm Saturday, October 15, 2016

by Andrew Book

Most people, if you ask them, are confident that they control it. They feel like they are able to use it to get them the things that they need and want, and to some extent they are right — it can get them the things they want. However, on the other hand, it can easily begin to control us when we look at how it becomes more important than everything in life.

The “it” we are talking about here is money, and it has the power to destroy lives, relationships, dreams and hopes. Yes, it can help us achieve those things as well, but, as a pastor I have seen money — and especially the pursuit of money — destroy lives and relationships too often.

A perfect example is the fights that happen in families over inheritances. I can’t count the number of stories I have been told about siblings who, when their parents have died, have found themselves at each other’s throats as they fight over who will receive which parts of the inheritance.

Most people will say that relationships are more important than money, that money is a tool for building relationships, but when you look at what happens in cases where people can choose between the relationships with their siblings and their “inheritance,” we take the money almost every time.

So, who is controlling who? Are we controlling money or is it controlling us? In the stories of inheritances, the money is clearly controlling the situation, not the people. I have had conversations with people decades after their parents have died who have never reconciled with their siblings after a fight over the inheritance. One lesson from this is that a clear “Last Will and Testament” is important, but the deeper realization is money has the power to corrupt us all.

How did we get here? Most people would not say that money is more important that our relationships, our faith, or other priorities in life, but our actions betray a deeper truth: money is at (or near) the top. Most people would do almost anything, give up almost anything, or change almost anything if there is enough money involved. Money compels us. It controls us.

How we got here is simple enough: we gave money a place of priority in our lives and gradually our hearts adjusted to love money as much as we prioritized it.

Jesus put it this way: “Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.” (Matthew 6:21). Sometimes we quote Jesus backwards and say “our treasure will follow our heart,” but that is not what Jesus is saying — and it is not always true either. Charles Dickens’ character Ebenezer Scrooge is a perfect — if extreme — example. Scrooge’s heart is with his fiancée Belle during his early years, but his treasure is with his gold. Eventually, his heart’s loyalty changes to match where Scrooge has put his treasure: in money and the relationship is destroyed.

Jesus is saying that when we treasure something (like money), our hearts will adjust so that we come to love what we treasure. So, if we spend our lives focused on getting money, the benefits of having money, hoarding money for ourselves, and using all our resources for our own wants and needs, we will eventually come to love our money as much as we treasure it. Battles over family inheritances are simply a symptom of the way treasuring money has darkened our hearts.

There is an antidote to the love of money, however. The antidote is generosity. It requires taking your money and using it for others and not yourself. Generosity means that you buy your co-worker a cup of coffee or treat them to lunch for no particular reason. Generosity means you pay for someone’s gas “just because” or send someone a book you bought them because you thought they would enjoy it. Generosity means you find groups, organizations, and projects that are making a difference in the world and you send them checks — regular, substantial checks.

As a pastor, I hope that people who are part of our church community give to our church — and I hope you give to your church — but honestly I care more that you give, because I truly believe that generosity has the power to save your soul in this money-obsessed world. If you cannot support a church, find organizations you can support and give generously. It will change your heart.

This week at Courtland United Methodist Church we are beginning a series titled “The Christian Wallet” looking at some of the many teachings of Jesus on money (Jesus talked more about money than anything else.) We will not be badgering you to give to the church, but we will be challenging you to be honest about whether money or God is truly lord in your life. Jesus has a lot of wisdom to offer, so come and join us at 11 a.m. as we take back our lives from the control of money.

ANDREW BOOK is the pastor of Courtland United Methodist Church. He can be contacted at 653-2240 or

The Christian Wallet: Jesus talked more about money than any single subject, and what he said has the power to shape our lives and finances today. Join us beginning this Sunday at 11 a.m. as we try to discover how to use or finances to live for God.

• Oct. 16: Worshipping God in a World that Worships Money

• Oct. 23: Choosing Simplicity in a Consumer World

• Oct. 30: Cultivating Generosity in a “Me-First” World

• Nov. 6: Shopping with Values in a World of “Deals”

Nov. 13: Tithing as Thankfulness and Worship in an “I’ve Earned It” World.

Pumpkin Painting: Join us after worship on Oct. 23 as we share lunch and paint pumpkins together! Contact the church office if you are coming so we will have enough pumpkins to go around!