Vol. 2 Issue 12 March 20, 2008
The Weekly newsletter of True Potential Publishing
Ooh boy. We could spend a while on this one. We will, as a matter of fact. Weâ€™ll be on this for a few weeks.
Money isnâ€™t a comfortable subject for Christians. Privately, we donâ€™t have much of a problem with it at all. Who doesnâ€™t like money? But publicly, we traverse the subject like weâ€™re walking on a new froze-over pond. Weâ€™re not sure if our next step will be on solid ice or if weâ€™ll fall through.
Itâ€™s because weâ€™re getting mixed signals.
“The wealth of the rich is their fortress; the poverty of the poor is their destruction.” (Proverbs 10:15 NLT)
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.” (Matthew 6:19)
“With me are riches and honor, enduring wealth and prosperity.” (Proverbs 8:18)
“How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!” (Mark 10:23)
“A good man leaves an inheritance for his childrenâ€™s children â€¦” (Proverbs 13:22)
“â€¦ Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven â€¦.” (Mark 10:21)
Wealth is a fortress â€¦ Do not store up treasure on earth. Riches, honor, wealth and prosperity come with wisdom â€¦Itâ€™s hard for the rich to enter the kingdom of God. A good man leaves an inheritance to his children â€¦ Sell everything you have and give to the poor.
Sheesh! The Bible applauds good stewardship and promises blessings to the faithful; at the same time it says that the love of money is the root of all sorts of evil.
Whatâ€™s a guy to do? It takes money to live and the harder I work the more Iâ€™m supposed to make, right? Success is a good thing, right? Whatâ€™s the answer?
Itâ€™s not like weâ€™re getting the straight scoop from those in charge either. When you go to church, you hear that itâ€™s more blessed to give than to receive and to reinforce the point, they take up an offering.
Listen to Christian TV and radio. Whatever the message, one message is clear; you need to send in your money to keep the message on the air.
So if your money isnâ€™t supposed to be important to you, why is it so important to everyone else?
Thatâ€™s why weâ€™re going to explore what the Bible says about money â€¦ and maybe un-mix the message a little. Weâ€™ll start the Hebrew and Greek languages (like usual) to find out what the original words really meant.
“Money” is used 116 times in the KJV translation of the Old Testament. All 116 times itâ€™s the same Hebrew word: “keceph.” Thatâ€™s “silver“; the currency of the day. Whether it was silver coins, bars, earrings, nose rings, bracelets, or some other precious or semi-precious metal that traded like silver; “keceph” was cash.
Sure, people could buy, sell and barter with a lot of stuff other than “keceph“; gold, cattle, goats, wheat, wine and oil were used at times. But when the Hebrews talked money, they thought “keceph.” At least they werenâ€™t confused.
For two thousand years a single Hebrew word was sufficient to describe money. Itâ€™s a different story in the New Testament. Christ was born in Bethlehem around 6 BC and John penned the last words of his Revelation around 95 AD; about 101 years, start to finish. One twentieth of the Old Testament time period. In that short time the New Testament writers couldnâ€™t describe “money” in less than eight different Greek words.
Is confusion about money a New Testament thing? Letâ€™s see.
“Stater” after the Greek word for “standard” described a coin or a unit of money. There were actual coins called “staters” usually of silver, but sometimes in gold. A silver “stater” in Jesus time was worth four drachma. When Jesus and Peter showed up in Capernaum the tax collectors wanted them to pay a temple tax; two drachma each. Jesus told Peter to go to the lake and throw in a hook; the first fish he caught would have a “stater” in its mouth â€“ four drachma â€“ tax for two (Matthew 17:24). Funny how things work out.
“Argurion” is Greek for money too. Like the Hebrew “keceph,” it means “silver“; not a specific amount, but cash in general. Remember the parable of the talents? A master gives his three servants five, two and one talents of money respectively (a talent is a certain weight; they weighed out money back then to make sure they werenâ€™t getting short changed). The servants with five and two talents took the money and made a profit. The servant with one talent buried his in the ground to avoid risk â€¦ bad idea. When the master returned he rewarded the two who made a profit and threw the risk-averse servant into the “darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 25:14-30)
“Nomisma” is money thatâ€™s paid for a tax or required by law. It refers to money thatâ€™s not given up voluntarily; some things donâ€™t change. Jesus used “nomisma” to turn the tables on those who tried to trap him by painting him as a rebel against the oppressive Roman government. “Is it right to pay taxes to the Romans?” they asked. Jesus knew what they were up to. “Show me a coin,” he replied. “Whose portrait and inscription is on the coin?” “Caesarâ€™s,” they answered. “Then give Caesar whatâ€™s his and give God what belongs to Him” (Matthew 22:19). That shut â€˜em up.
“Chalkos” means “copper“; small change, walking around money. When Jesus sent his disciples out to preach repentance among the villages of Judea, he told them not to bring along any food, luggage, or “chalkos“; walking around money. He wanted them to be totally dependent for their needs on those who heard the gospel.
“Kerma” means literally “clipping” or “shearing.” “Kerma” referred to money from money-changers. Back when the idea of using coins for money was new, an easy way to make change was to clip or shear a coin in half or in fourths. If a loaf of bread cost one fourth of the local coinage, the dealer could simply whack the customerâ€™s coin into fourths with a cleaver and give him three-fourths back as change.
Whacking up coins and making change eventually became the job of the guys who traded local coins for foreign coins in the market place. These guys werenâ€™t the most honest of folks; they knew how much the foreign and local coins were worth and often their customers didnâ€™t. They were called, you guessed it, “money–changers.” Jesus had an issue with money-changers setting up shop in his Fatherâ€™s house. He still does.
“Chrema” means literally “a thing that one uses or needs.” It was a term for money used in business transactions or big purchases; which implies a substantial sum. More than walking around money. In the book of Acts, Barnabas sold a field and gave the money (chrema) to apostles of the nascent Christian church to help cover expenses. Remember Ananias and Sapphira? They tried the same thing, but skimmed off some of the “chrema” for themselves. That was a bad idea (Acts 5).
Now weâ€™re getting to the touchy stuff.
“Philarguria” means “love of money.” “Phileo” is the Greek word for “affection.” “Argurion” (above) is the Greek word for “silver.” “Philarguria” is loving money for itself and dreading the idea of parting with it. Remember “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils â€¦.” (1 Timothy 6:10)? Thatâ€™s “philarguria.” Itâ€™s a nasty habit. Common, but nasty.
Thereâ€™s another word for money, the KJV calls it by its old Greek name “mammon.” Itâ€™s one step further out than “philarguria.” “Mammon” is confidence in or the personification of money. That means your hope and trust are tied up in money. Money has become a personal thing for you, you know, like a god. “No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” (Luke 16:13) God doesnâ€™t appreciate the competition.
That was a lovely history lesson Steve, but whatâ€™s it got to do with me?
More than you think. When it comes to money, weâ€™re like the New Testament Greeks. We canâ€™t think about money with just a single word or idea coming to mind. We canâ€™t even describe it without a half dozen synonyms trailing behind. Cash, dollars, dinero, moolah, greenbacks, paycheck, bills, taxes, tithes offerings, savings, credit, debt.
Money isnâ€™t a single idea to us. Thatâ€™s why we have so many words for it. Thatâ€™s why the Bible has different words for it. In reality, money is what it is. It doesnâ€™t have any value or meaning on its own. You put value and meaning behind it by how you think about it and what you do with it.
Thatâ€™s where the mixed signals are coming from. And thatâ€™s what weâ€™re going to get to the bottom of.
Until then, donâ€™t worry; “saying, â€˜What shall we eat?â€™ or â€˜What shall we drink?â€™ or â€˜What shall we wear?â€™ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:31-34).