The Money Trap
About the Guest
Money talks. And often it seduces us into believing it can provide what it really can't, like fulfillment, identity, and peace. Biblical counselor Paul Tripp talks about our heart's relationship with money, and the spiritual battle each of us face to find our satisfaction in Christ alone.
Paul Tripp Ministries and works to connect the transforming power of Jesus Christ to everyday life. This vision has led Paul to write 17 books on Christian living, produce 14 teaching series and travel aroun...more
Biblical counselor Paul Tripp talks about our heart’s relationship with money, and the spiritual battle each of us face to find our satisfaction in Christ alone.
The Money Trap
Bob: We live in a culture that is drowning in debt. Author and speaker, Paul David Tripp, says, “If we want to solve that problem, we’re not going to do it with money.”
Paul: The debt—the shocking, paralyzing debt—of Western culture is a spiritual issue. It’s a vertical issue. It’s not first about people who don’t want—who aren’t smart enough to balance their checkbooks. It’s about: “I’m spending another thousand dollars, even though I can’t even pay the minimum budget on my credit card, because I believe a lie. I believe this next thing will give me what it can’t give me.”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, June 27th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. How do we address the idol of materialism in our lives? Paul David Tripp joins us today to talk about that.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. You’ve heard me tell this story before; but I was on a flight, not long ago, and I was working on my laptop while I was flying. I was trying to get some work done—had my headphones on. I was working away. I noticed the guy next to me. He pulled out of his bag his iPad®. I didn’t have an iPad at the time, and I was really happy with the computer I had. I mean, it was new computer; and it was really doing well. I was happy until he pulled out his iPad.
Then, I just looked over; and I thought, “I really want that iPad.” It looked nicer than my computer. It looked more fun than my computer. I found myself starting to crave and become dissatisfied with what, five minutes ago, I’d been happy with. I was now dissatisfied with it because the guy next to me had something that was nicer.
It’s a little bit tied into what we’re talking about this week.
Dennis: Yes, it’s: “What do we love? What do we really want? Who do we want to worship or what do we want to worship?”
And we have a gentleman here—good friend—Paul Tripp who has written a book on—well, it’s called Sex and Money. You don’t get any more basic than that. Paul—welcome back to the broadcast.
Paul: Thanks; great to be with you.
Bob: I bet you have an iPad; don’t you?
Paul: I do.
Bob: See there! Okay, now, I’m—of course, I do too now. So, I guess we’re all okay. [Laughter]
Dennis: Let’s talk about—
Paul: And I’m looking at the new ones.
Bob: Yes, the nicer ones; right?
Dennis: We’ve been discussing the subject of sex and how we can get hooked on that and addicted to that. Somehow, it feels like: “Yes, I can understand that about sex. That’s got some kind of pleasure factor—addiction factor,” but somehow, I don’t think people have the same sense about money—that we can be addicted to money.
But we can; can’t we?
Paul: And isn’t it interesting the way the Bible talks about love of money? There it is. Just that phrase changes the ballgame because I don’t think of myself—I would imagine most people listening don’t think of themselves a people who would love money; but the Bible says that love of money—this is a big statement—is the root of all kinds of evil. So, God is saying something to us about the nature of our struggle with money. It’s not about amounts of money. It’s about the relationship of my heart to money.
Bob: And it’s not about the bills or the coins, obviously. It’s not that anybody loves a $20 bill more than they love a $10 bill. You don’t love the paper. You love what that money can get you; don’t you?
Paul: That’s right. That money is such an obvious doorway to what I tell myself will give me life.
Bob: Right. Like the new iPad or whatever it is—we are constantly—and I’ve found this in my own life—constantly being seduced by this idea that I will finally be happy when I have this thing in my possession—only to find out that you can have it for a while—and it loses its charm really quickly.
Paul: And, if you look at that larger passage in First Timothy 6, you begin to get an understanding of what this thing “love of money” is. I don’t think that phrase means much to most people because they don’t think of themselves. They think of love as being an emotional thing. They think: “Emotional attachment to money? I don’t have an emotional attachment to money.”
Well, what’s that about? The larger passage would tell me this—that love of money is, first, a contentment problem. I have a perverse ability to be discontent. That’s a scary, dangerous thing.
Dennis: Especially in this culture.
Paul: Oh, absolutely.
Dennis: I mean, it’s dangled in front of your nose left and right.
The Bible teaches that God brings blessing upon people. So, money can be a blessing to people; but it also seems that the Bible teaches that money can be a curse as well.
Paul: And you have both of those argued very strongly in Scripture. That’s why I think it’s important to understand what the Bible’s actually talking about when it talks about love of money because, if you are experiencing personal discontent, what is the one thing that you want? “I want to be content. I don’t like discontent. I don’t like feeling want.” And so, what does money do? Money whispers in my ear: “But you could have…. How would you feel if you had…”—fill in the blank.
Paul: Well, money is also an identity problem; because, if I forget that I was made to find my fulfillment only in one place—vertically, in relationship with God—
—it’s only that relationship that can satisfy my heart. What will I do? I’ll search for satisfaction, horizontally. That’s an identity issue. I’m an identity amnesiac, at that point. I’ve forgotten who I was made to be.
Third, money is—the love of money is a fallen-world problem. You’ve mentioned that with materialism. I live in a world that is seducing me with very attractive lies all the time—“If only you had…. Just imagine if you could own…. Just imagine what it would be like to experience….”
Who of us doesn’t experience that every day? That’s what will cause a man to go to a restaurant that serves him a 48-ounce piece of meat. [Laughter] No man ever needs a 48-ounce piece of meat in one sitting, but just that sheer mind-boggling pleasure of that drives men to do that.
Then, like sex, money is a worship problem because here’s with discontent—mistaken identity—succumbing to the lies of a fallen world is where I’ll end up. I end up with a heart that is ruled by things that replace where God should be in my heart—what God alone can do for me.
I love Jeremiah 10 that talks about the idol like a scarecrow in a melon patch. You have to nail it to a platform so it doesn’t fall over—that’s mockery in Scripture. Then, second half of that passage is just a rift on the glory of God. You are meant to read that passage with that contrast. Do you really think that this wooden thing—that you’ve made with your own hands— can do what this glorious God can do? Well, the obvious answer is, “No” but we ask that of the scarecrow every day.
Dennis: I’m going to read a passage of Scripture; but I, first of all, want to declare that, as Americans, most of us are rich. By the world’s standards, we’re not a third-world country. So, even someone who is lower middle class enjoys a whole lot more than
90 percent of the people on the planet.
Paul: That’s right.
Dennis: Paul wrote this to Timothy at the end of his first epistle. He said, “As for the rich in this present age”—that’s us—“charge them not to be haughty nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches but on God who richly provides us with everything to enjoy.”
What you’ve exhorted us to do, Paul—is you’ve exhorted us to have a throne check and go: “What really rules in our hearts? Is it self? Is it pleasure? Is it our own desires and wants that rule us?”
When we get up every morning, we’re thinking about how to satisfy every desire we have, as human beings. But the Scriptures call us to rightly evaluate ourselves in light of who God is—
Bob: You talk about it as King Money versus King Jesus in the book; don’t you?
Paul: Sure. I was a gardener for a man—a very wealthy man, who—one of the ways he got his identity was collecting rare sports cars. Man, I think a 1965 powder blue Jaguar XKE—it’s just a gorgeous thing, but it can’t rule your heart. And he pulled up one day with a brand-new sports car—hopped out and called me over. He said, “What do you think?” I said, “Benny, I think it’s not working.” He said, “What are you talking about?! It’s a brand-new car.” I said, “I think what you are trying to do will never work.”
And he said, “I have no idea what you’re saying to me.” And I said to him, “How many automobiles will you have to buy before you conclude that no automobile has the capacity, whatsoever, to satisfy your heart—none?
“Here’s, as stark as I can say it: ‘Earth will never be your Savior. It never will. Buy it all—it’ll never satisfy your heart.’”
Bob: Ecclesiastes, Chapter 2, points this out where Solomon had all the money he needed. In fact, he said, “There was nothing my eyes saw that I didn’t acquire,”—“Anything I wanted, I bought it”; and he still had money left over. He gets to the end of explaining all the stuff he’d bought. He says: “It’s empty. It’s vanity.” We should learn from his example when we think that 40-inch flat screen is going to make us happier than the 32-inch flat screen. We’re just fooling ourselves.
Paul: And that’s why I say, in the subtitle of the book, “Pleasures That Leave You Empty,” because they can’t give you that ultimate peace, rest, security, joy of heart. They just can’t do that.
They are meant to point you to where that can be found.
See, when you tell yourself, “I’ve got this tool in my pocket that can give me life,” you’re cooked.
Dennis: Yes, and you use an illustration in your book that points this out—something you used to get frustrated with. You give your son some kind of gift or maybe something wrapped in a box; and he ended up doing what?
Paul: Playing with the box. [Laughter] And I think we do that all the time. God has given us the most awesome, heart-satisfying gift that you could ever have. It’s relationship with Him, through the grace of His Son. We set aside the gift, and we play with the box. What’s the box? The box is all that created world stuff that is meant to point us to Him. We’re satisfied with the box.
Or it’s like the family that is on their way down to Disney World—never gone to Disney World.
They’ve saved up two years to go to Disney World. They get to the first sign that says, “Disney World 120 miles.” They get out of the car, and they have their vacation there. You would say, “This family is crazy!” We do that every day because that sign is not the thing. That sign points you to the thing.
In fact, in the Gospel of John, the typical word that John uses for the miracles of Christ is “sign” because they are meant to point you to the glory of the One who can bring ultimate healing to your heart. You stop at the sign—you’ll never be fulfilled. What you will become is fat, addicted, and in debt because you will go back again, and again, and again.
What this means is that debt—the shocking, paralyzing debt—of Western culture is a spiritual issue. It’s a vertical issue.
It’s not first about people who aren’t smart enough to balance their checkbooks. It’s about: “I’m spending another thousand dollars, even though I can’t even pay the minimum budget on my credit card, because I believe a lie. I believe this next thing will give me what it can’t give me.”
Bob: So, the person who is hearing us talk about the spiritual battle with money—it doesn’t matter whether these are people who are living in abundance or living in want. The spiritual battle rages with the rich man as much as it does with the guy who’s just scraping by.
Paul: Let me give you a personal example. I was a young pastor, just a couple years ago. [Laughter] I was—we were—
Bob: In a relative sense, it was just a couple years ago.
Paul: —a very small church. We were getting paid a very meager salary—$7,800 a year. And we got $100 in the mail. I turned immediately into an idolater. I had spent that money a thousand ways—not on anything worthwhile.
This is just free money. It’s morally-unbounded free money! We didn’t expect this.
Paul: And Luella, my wife, said to me, “Paul, we didn’t have this $100 yesterday. We didn’t know it was going to come. We’re going to eat tonight. Who can we give this money to?” I thought, “I have married someone from Mars.” [Laughter]
Dennis: I thought you were going to say you had married someone from heaven.
Dennis: That wasn’t how you saw it; huh?
Paul: I thought: “You have got to be kidding! You’ve got to be crazy!” There it is. I mean, we were poor people; but right away, money meant one thing to me: “I’ve got $100 to buy me pleasure for whatever period of time that $100 will still be around.”
Bob: So, the secret of contentment, whether you are rich or you’re poor, is what?
Paul: Well, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
Paul: What that whole worldview is about is that: “Satisfaction actually exists for me, and it’s a person.
“His name is Jesus, and I am on the road to being satisfied. I don’t have to be desperate. I don’t have to be fearful because I serve a satisfied Redeemer who will not relent until every microbe of sin is delivered from every cell of every heart of every one of His children. He will have my heart.”
That gives me hope that, in the midst of this struggle, I can run to Him and say: “I want my heart to be Yours, but I know You want my heart to be Yours more than I will ever want my heart to be Yours. That gives me hope today. Please help me.”
Dennis: And Paul, don’t you think that, as we read the Bible and as we think about where we’re going and eternity—that that helps us calibrate these blessings, and the affluence that can come our way, and the money that can be enjoyed by us if we have eternity in view?
Paul: I think it’s one of the functions of the last book of the Bible. I don’t think it’s talked about this way enough. We are invited to hear the words of the people who are on the other side as they look back. What do they say?—“We had the best house.” No. “We ate the best food.” “We drove the coolest chariot—ever!”—none of that. They say: “You did it. You did it. You did it. Every promise You made, You fulfilled. You are worthy of glory, praise, and honor. We love You. We worship You. You did it.”
Dennis: And to just add Paul’s words—the Apostle Paul, sorry, Paul—you have written a book, but not quite the best-seller—
Paul: That’s right!
Dennis: —that the Apostle Paul did. The rest of that passage, when he was instructing Timothy about what to say to the rich of this world, concludes by saying:
“Instruct them that they are to do good and to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share”—and here is eternity showing up here—“thus, storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.”
Dennis: As you read that, there is something that causes you to grin about the few times in your life when you really have done this—when you have been rich in good works and you knew you were pleasing your Heavenly Father. That’s what He’s calling us to do—not love money—but love the Lord our God with all of our hearts.
Paul: There is also a saying that true riches are not about the size of my bank account. Jesus said, “You’re laying hold now of real riches.” This is what real riches are about.
Dennis: Yes, yes.
Bob: Alright. So, let me give you this practical dilemma. We just went to visit my daughter and son-in-law. They live in a house that’s got well water that feeds the house.
The first morning I was there, I took a shower. I thought: “Boy, the water pressure in this house is not very good. I don’t know if it’s the shower head that’s blocking it somehow. I don’t know if it’s the water pressure; but if I was in a hotel and this was the water pressure, I’d be talking to them at the front desk about something needs to happen with the water pressure—it needs to be better.”
So, I asked my daughter—I said: “Are you aware of—are you concerned about the water pressure? Do you know what the problem is with the water pressure?” And she said: “Yes, we’ve kind of gotten used to it. We’ve just kind of learned to adjust, and it’s not that big a deal.”
Now, my daughter lived for two years in Southeast Asia. I’m guessing that, over there, the water pressure was worse—intermittent. There may have been days when there was no water pressure. So, to have any water pressure—to have regular water pressure and hot water—she may be looking at that and going, “I live in luxury.”
I’m looking at it and going, “We need to call a plumber and get him out here.”
Now, here is the dilemma that I face with that. Is there something wrong with calling the plumber and having him come and try to figure out if you can increase the water pressure in your house so you can have a little more water in your shower? Or should you give that money to the poor people in Cambodia?
Paul: Well, sure, there is nothing wrong with maintaining your plumbing.
Paul: I would endorse that strongly. But I don’t think it’s a bad thing to visit your moments of discontent and say: “What is my discontent about? What is my discontent say about me? What does my discontent say about what I have defined as the good life—the life that I want to experience—I want to enjoy?” I find that very humbling. Or the question: “How much envy is in my life, and why am I envious? What is that saying about the way I view myself, and view God, and view the meaning and purpose of life?”
So, I would say, in that moment: “Sure, maintain the plumbing. There is nothing wrong with that. That’s not a sinful thing to do. But how low is my discontent threshold, and could it be that I’ve bought into ‘There are certain non-negotiables for me if I’m going to be happy’?”
Paul: That’s that movement toward something ruling me that shouldn’t rule me.
Dennis: And it’s back to what—really, what Jesus said when He summarized the Old Testament and the Law when asked, “What is the greatest commandment?” And He said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart….” That’s the assignment for us—whether it is sex, money, issues of creature comforts and contentment—as you write about.
And Paul, I appreciate you going through the heavy lifting of writing a book like this because this is the kind of book that causes some serious introspection—just as you were talking to Bob about the plumbing issue.
It causes one to pull back, take a look at your life, and go, “Where am I struggling with envy / contentment?” I really appreciate you and your ministry of the Scriptures—
Paul: Thank you.
Dennis: —to the body of Christ. Hope you’ll come back again and join us soon.
Paul: I would love to do that.
Bob: Yes, I think these are issues that all of us have to keep coming back to and saying: “How am I doing in the area of sexual temptation? How am I doing in the area of materialism, and greed, and self-indulgence?” I know I was really helped in reading through your book, Sex and Money. I read through it last fall, and I’ve encouraged other guys to go through it as well.
We have it in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. Our listeners can go to FamilyLifeToday.com to order a copy. When you get to the website—top of the page—it says, “GO DEEPER.” You click there. That’ll take you right to the area where you can order Paul David Tripp’s book—
—Sex and Money: Pleasures That Leave You Empty and Grace That Satisfies. Again, order, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com. Or call to order, 1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY.”
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And we hope you have a great weekend. Hope you and your family are able to worship together this weekend, and I hope you can join us back on Monday when we’re going to talk about emotionally-destructive relationships: What are they? How can you tell if you’re in a relationship that can be a damaging relationship? Leslie Vernick is going to be here, and we’ll talk about that. Hope you can tune in as well.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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