There is a special place in the cells of your body where oxygen is supposed to sit. It’s like a little slot that, chemically speaking, is shaped just perfectly to hold that atom of oxygen. The problem is that carbon monoxide is shaped almost identically to oxygen, so that it also fits perfectly in that slot where only oxygen should go. And when it starts to go there in mass quantities your body starts to suffocate.
However, you don’t realize this is happening. You think that you are fine. After all, you are breathing, your lungs are still expanding and contracting, you feel air coming in and going out. Your body is going through all the motions it should be going through. All systems are normal, right? Wrong. You are actually being asphyxiated. You are suffocating even though you don’t know it.
Spiritually speaking, that is what money can do when it takes the wrong place in our hearts, the place reserved only for God. Money seems to fit in this slot so easily because it can be so tempting to trust it in the same way we should trust God. It sometimes feels like a perfect fit. And this is because there are a number of ways that money functions as a God substitute:
a. God is sovereign: He is in control. We can trust him to keep us alive until we’ve lived here as long as he wants, until we’ve fulfilled our number of days. He is sovereign. He is in control. But money promises to give us control. We believe that if we have enough of it then we will be secure. We look to money to have a false sense of sovereignty.
b. God is satisfying: Real satisfaction does not come from pleasure, it comes from meaning. And nothing is more meaningful than knowing a God who is infinitely glorious, glorious beyond comprehension. But money promises to satisfy us because of what it can buy us. Just think of how often we buy stuff in the store or at the mall and we come away feeling like our lives are going to somehow be happier as a result. But they're not. Gadgets can't give us meaning. God alone can do that.
c. God is gracious: The cross shows that God accepts us and approves of us completely apart from our own works. He does so on the basis of Christ. But money promises us that we will be justified in the eyes of the world. We will have status. We will be accepted. Money promises that we will prove that we are worthwhile in this world, that we mean something, that we measure up. When you let money slip into this God-shaped slot in your heart, you won’t know that anything is wrong. You will probably think everything is fine. You will be going through the motions. But you won’t know why you feel like you are suffocating spiritually.
So, how do we “clear the air” of this carbon monoxide?
a. You have to take action. If you have a real carbon monoxide threat at home, you know that you can’t just neglect it. You have to investigate it. You have to find the source of it. And then you have to implement a system of devices that will detect it whenever it comes back.
b. What happens if you do nothing? Is that an option? No. Not at all. If you do nothing you die.
c. By the same token, if you do nothing to make sure you are not duped by the deceitfulness of wealth, you will die spiritually. And the more money you have, the more prone you will be to trust in money for your security and satisfaction.
d. Beside this, we are all constantly inundated with attitudes of materialism, attitudes of loving money and things. It is the air we breathe. And what happens to us spiritually if we do not take any action? We die.
There is a certain practice that God says we should engage in that reminds our hearts of the truth, that remind us of our real source of security and satisfaction: worshipping God with our money.
Deuteronomy 14:22 Be sure to set aside a tenth of all that your fields produce each year. . . so that you may learn to revere the LORD your God always.