"For the love of money is at the root of all evil." (1 Timothy 6:10)

The scandal has been all over the news of late, shocking the world of sports as a string of high-paid professional athletes have been arrested and charged with felony crimes. Commentators have been asking repeatedly; 'How could this happen? Why did the coaches and club owners not do more to help shape and mold the character of these young men? How could these gifted athletes -- who have more money than Flintheart Glomgold of Disney fame - how could they be so irresponsible in their personal lives?' But in truth, their behavior isn't really all that unexpected, for as someone once said, "Fortune does not change men. It only unmasks them." Great wealth does not build character. It only reveals it.

God's Word warns us about the love of money not because wealth itself is evil, but because the lust after it tends to lead to actions and attitudes which are unhealthy and sinful - and we witness this quite often. Let's face it, you and I are a part of a culture today which is sinking into an outright hedonism, where so many have refused to accept any imposed limits upon their pursuit of personal happiness. Ask a young person today what he or she desires to be one day in the future and the most common response will be 'famous'. They want the name, the glitz, the extravagant living, the shiny new car (or several), the designer clothes, vacations in the south of France - they want it ALL - and they don't want to work for it.

Christian Counselor, Larry Crabb, has written: "Our generation has lost the concept of finding joy in unfulfilled desire. We no longer know what it means to hope. We want what we want now. Unsatisfied desire has become to us like a bad toothache that justifiably demands quick relief at any cost." This is a sad commentary on our times, isn't it? We live among a whole generation of individuals who have grown up with an addiction that is revealed in compulsive demands for more, uncontrollable desires that cannot be tempered, and impulsive spending that goes unchecked.

Against this backdrop of an excessive quest for more and more wealth, God calls His children to lives of greater self-restraint and fiscal responsibility built upon an absolute trust and contentment in Him. Paul warns Timothy of those individuals who are driven by passions for wealth which only "plunge men into ruin" and "pierces them with grief". Instead, he urges godly living where men and women seek to serve the Lord free from the addictive love of money.

Specifically, we are told that the elders of the church are "to be free from the love of money" (3:3) and that they are "to manage their households well". The same is expected of deacons (3:12). In other words, these who are leaders in the church are to set an example by their godly approach to material possessions. They do this by showing others the practical value of wise financial planning, the establishment of workable budgets, and the joy of living within ones means. But while we look to our leaders (in the church but also in our nation) to serve thusly as responsible role models of stewardship, it is understood that this warning and exhortation is for us all. God expects each of us to live free from the love of money, placing an eminently higher value on knowing Him than the accumulation of earthly wealth and fame.

The poet, Robert Frost, wrote of individuals who should "weep for what little things could make them glad." He had in mind a people who should be grieved over their loss - the loss of small joys and little pleasures which were designed to make them happy. In the addictive quest for more and more, bigger and better, many of the small blessings of life become overlooked. Our lack of contentment for what God already so graciously has given often blinds us to small delights.

Do you remember the Old Testament story of King Ahab and a man named Naboth? Naboth had a small family vineyard. It wasn't much, but it was his. The king, who had everything, saw that small plot of land and desired it. Naboth wouldn't give it up. What did Ahab do? He pitched a royal hissy-fit. The text tells us that he was "vexed and sullen". In my mind's eye I can see him, can't you? There he is moping about the palace with that 'whipped dog' look until Jezebel rebuked him, had Naboth killed, and stole the vineyard for her husband. Now, what's the point to that story? It's an historic example of what the lust for wealth, the love of money, can do in a man and the resulting evil that often comes from it.

Paul's warning needs to be heard clearly by us, our community, and our nation. We have among us whole groups of people who content themselves with self-imposed, perpetual slavery by their never-ending dependence upon government handouts. We have an ever-increasing population of the rich and famous who contribute nothing of value to society but live off of the wealth made by their immoral comportment heralded in trashy magazines. We have athletes who are nothing more than thugs being paid millions to act out their aggression on football fields. We even have churches where vast quantities of wealth are horded away while real needs around them go unmet.

This is not how followers of Christ should live, is it? Rather we are motivated by a higher calling and a more precious longing - to know God. Larry Crabb wrote: "When we discover our desire for God, we can live for nothing less." The true Christian is one who has learned this and has come to see the glory of his God. Therefore, he is not easily enticed by the tarnished glow of earthly things.