The Parable of the Sower is a familiar one (Matt 13:1–9). Here Jesus teaches a crowd of followers about the various reasons people reject the message of the kingdom. In the parable, the message of the kingdom is referred to as a seed, and those who hear it are compared to four different types of soils. It’s a great parable, and one thing that makes it unique from many other parables is that after telling it Jesus gives an extended explanation of its meaning to His disciples (Matt 13:18–23).
The seed which falls along the path is the one who “hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart.” (v. 19). The rocky soil is the one “who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root in himself,” when trouble comes he too falls away (v. 20–21). Then there’s the thorny soil, “this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.” (v. 22). Finally, there is the good soil who hears the word, understands it, and bears much fruit (v. 23).
But I want to focus your attention on a statement about the thorny soil. Our Lord says that the word is choked out in this person because of the cares of the world and “the deceitfulness of riches.” That phrase, the deceitfulness of riches, has always intrigued me. Money is just a thing, how could it be deceitful? Or perhaps a better question, what exactly are the lies money tells?
There are at least three big lies people believe about money. And if we aren’t careful, even Christians can fall prey to these fiscal falsehoods.
Money is the Goal of Life
The first lie money tells is that it is the goal of life. This one seems so obvious on the surface that we might assume it is easily avoidable. But the world screams this philosophy in our faces daily. Every commercial, every celebrity, every new car our neighbor purchases, dangles that carrot of “Success” before our eyes. If we don’t watch carefully, before we know it we may find our days consumed with doing whatever it takes to get that next raise, with comparing ourselves to others, and with constantly asking ourselves “have I made it?”
Here’s a simple test: When deciding whether something would be good for you or your family to do, is your first question “How much will it cost?” Financial responsibility is important, but when money becomes the primary decision-making criteria for everything we do, that may indicate that we have started to believe the lie that money is the ultimate goal.
The antidote to this potent lie is the truth that the Christian’s ultimate life goal can never be something as temporary as money. Our Lord had a simple rhetorical question which upends this philosophy of financial success. He said, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?” (Matt 16:26).
Talk about putting things in perspective!
Money is a gift, it is a stewardship, and how we use it matters. But, it is not the ultimate goal of life. Setting our focus on acquiring earthly riches is pathetically short-sighted in light of eternity. We aren’t to be anxious about money or the things it provides. Instead, our Lord said, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you.” (Matt 6:33).
Money is the Key to Security
The second lie money tells is that riches hold the key to security. There’s been a recent movement among the Millennial generation advocating for individual “financial independence.” This is the crowd who focuses on developing passive income strategies, wealth hacks, and in many cases, they suggest practicing extreme frugality so that you can save up enough to retire in your thirties. Then you can do whatever you want! You can travel the world, or simply live out your life without financial worry.
Many of the books and blogs advocating financial independence talk about something called the 4% rule. If you can save up 25 times your yearly expenses, then you no longer have to work because you can live off of the interest by withdrawing just 4% a year while not touching the principal. With the right amount of hustle that’s something a young person could actually achieve. And that’s the dream, right? No boss, no 9–5, just pure freedom. That’s the allure of financial independence.
I can see some of you opening up Excel right now to run the calculations for how you too can become financially independent. But let me ask you a few questions first. Is there anything wrong with being financially independent? No, of course not. But how about this question, why does it sound so enticing? Sure, it’s the freedom, but I think more so it’s the promise of security which is so alluring. If you were financially independent, you would no longer have to live paycheck to paycheck. You would be secure.
The perniciousness of this lie of money is evidenced in the apparent nobility of the idea of financial independence. This pursuit actually looks like it is not viewing money as the goal of life at all! Gurus of this lifestyle advocate for honorable-sounding principles like simple living, frugality, and a focus on experiences over possessions. That makes it hard to condemn them as being materialistic or greedy. But behind this pursuit of financial independence is the lie that money will provide us with security.
The truth is there is no genuine security in riches. You can lose it all in a moment. Money cannot be trusted to protect us. Solomon wrote, “He who trusts in his riches will fall, But the righteous will flourish like the green leaf”(Prov 11:28). Money is simply a poor object for our trust. Christ alone is adequate to be a trustworthy source of security. Through financial highs and economic downturns, no matter if you’re rich or poor, Christ is the one in whom you should be trusting for your sense of security.
Look what the writer to the Hebrews says on this matter, “Let your character be free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, ‘I Will Never Desert You, Nor Will I Ever Forsake You,’ so that we confidently say, ‘The Lord Is My Helper, I Will Not Be Afraid. What Shall Man Do To Me?’” (Hebrews 13:5–6).
Now that’s security!
Money is an Easy Master
The third lie money tells is that it’s an easy master. It seems more comfortable in many respects to serve Cash rather than Christ. No cumbersome rules, no self-sacrifice, and definitely no pesky tithes denting my budget!
While a Christian would not openly admit to serving money as their master, many believers try to split the difference. I’ll serve Christ some and I’ll serve money a little. But the Scriptures are clear—you can’t have it both ways. Jesus Christ has a no-moonlighting policy. He says earlier in Matthew, “You cannot serve both God and Money” (Matt 6:24).
What’s more, money is really not the easier one to serve. The dollar is a hard master indeed. She is fickle. She will raise your hopes on the upward slope of the stock market, then dash them down the valley of the next market dip. The dollar will promise you happiness if you but sacrifice your family and friends to gain a little more of her. But in the end, she will leave you alone and broken. Worst of all the dollar promises a life of ease and comfort, surrounded with all of your favorite things, but as the old adage goes, before you know it the things you own begin to own you. Every possession, every investment, every business requires more and more of your attention to hold it all together. And soon what felt like freedom begins to feel like slavery. Money is a hard master and will leave you exhausted if you choose to be its slave.
The truth is Christ is the easier Master. Jesus said, “For My yoke is easy, and My load is light” (Matt 11:30). Following the Lord is not without its pains, but to put your trust in the One who has already paid it all for us is a much easier path.