Paul wrote to Timothy:
Of course, there is great gain in godliness combined with contentment; for we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it; but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these. But those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.
(From the Daily Office Lectionary – 1 Timothy 6:6-10 – June 2, 2012)
Each time I read these words I think they are the wisest thing Paul ever wrote, especially the observation that those who want to be rich are trapped in things that “plunge people into ruin and destruction.” I suspect that Paul meant it is the wanna-be-rich themselves who are so plunged, but all too often it is other people. One need only observe the state of our economy today and the ever-increasing gap between the haves and have-nots to see that. It may be that those eager to be rich “pierce themselves with many pains,” but it is certain that they pierce others with hardship! ~ I spent several years in the “gotta get rich” world practicing law and earning a six-figure annual income. When I finally gave in to God’s nagging and left that life to be ordained and enter parish ministry, my spouse and I discovered that we were more deeply in debt than we had realized because no matter how much I’d earned, we’d spent more, living the life and keeping up appearances. It took several years living very frugally at a much lower income but we finally got out of that financial hole. That was painful, but I think staying in the life I had been living would have been fatal. ~ Further on in today’s reading, Paul encourages the rich “to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share” relying on God “who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.” (vv. 17-18) This is not a message that is well-received in today’s society; hardly anyone seems to believe in God’s abundance or to be willing to trust in it. I know from personal experience that one can live peacefully and reasonably on a smaller income (and even save for the future), but it’s a difficult lesson to teach others. “The profane chatter and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge” (v. 20) are so much louder than than the message of moderation, simplicity, and trusting in God. ~ For some reason, the old saying, “Try shouting into a gale and see how that works for you,” comes to mind, together with an image of wind-blown money sailing by.