Money is not the root of all kinds of evil, but the longing and lusting for it is (I Timothy 6:10). Greed is the corruption of the good and God-given desire to manage resources well, to provide for your family, and to be fruitful in this life. Greed is the corruption of that desire to the point when the gift of money becomes our god. Just as we can struggle with pride if we have a low view of ourselves or a high view of ourselves because we are still focused on ourselves, we can struggle with greed if we are rich or poor, in plenty or in scarcity, because greed is about the focus of our hearts.
I heard Tim Keller say in a sermon that you can tell if something is an idol for you by how you respond when it is taken away.
A decline in the stock market is a gift for us Christians because it helps us evaluate how firm of a grip greed has on our hearts. Many people took a hit when the market dipped and found themselves still content because their ultimate hope is not in the number on the screen. Of course, they were disappointed, but they were not crushed. For others, a drop in the market felt as if more than their net financial worth took a hit. It felt as if they lost part of who they are, their hope, and their sense of worth. Having possessions is vastly different from possessions having us. Having an investment portfolio is vastly different from an investment portfolio having you. A decline in the market is a gift because it helps us evaluate if we are stewards or if we are owned by what we think we own.
One response to having less is seen in a man who asks Jesus for more. Jesus told the famous parable of the rich fool in response to a man who wanted Jesus to fix his portfolio – to step in and have his brother give him more of the inheritance (Luke 12:13-21). He was not content, and he viewed Jesus as a means to get more. He did not come to Jesus for Jesus but for Jesus to give him more money. He was willing to use people, even Jesus, to get more.
A very different response is the apostle Paul – who wrote that he was able to do all things through Him who strengthened him (Philippians 4:13). He was not speaking about bench-pressing 400 pounds, getting his dream job, or dunking a basketball. He was speaking about being “content in whatever circumstances he found himself – with a little or a lot.” He was content with a little or a lot because his contentment came from One much greater – Christ who was his treasure and not his means to get something else.
While the market may decline, the Lord’s love for us never does. While stocks may ebb and flow, His commitment to us is consistent. We can be content because we already have the greatest treasure, the greatest possession – Christ Himself.