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TEXT: I Timothy 6:10, 17
SUBJECT: Puritans #3: Money
This afternoon, with the Lord's blessing, we'll continue our monthly study of the Puritan life. The guide we're using is a book by Leland Ryken; it's called Worldly Saints: The Puritans as They Really Were. Thus far, we've studied them on work and sex. Now we come to a third topic, The Puritan View of Money.
THE EVIL OF MONEY
Puritanism flourished from about 1550 to 1700. Its background, therefore, was the Medieval and Renaissance Roman Catholic Culture. Although the pope was often the richest man in Europe, his Church always praised poverty.
St. Anthony was often held up as a model Christian. Born to a wealthy Egyptian family, he sold his goods, gave the proceeds to the poor, and moved to the desert for more eighty years. Since that time, monks have always taken vows of poverty, thinking money corrupts the soul, and therefore, not having any brings one closer to God.
Whether St. Anthony was a good man or a lunatic, I don't know. But I do know this: The best men in the Church thought about money in the same way he did-though most didn't go quite so far. Read, for example, the lives of Ambrose of Milan, Augustine, Bernard of Clairvaux, Thomas Aquinas, and the sincerest of young monks, Martin Luther. They believed
"Money is the root of all evil".
THE GOODNESS OF MONEY
The Puritans did not agree. They saw money-not as an evil thing--but as the blessing of God. And, if it comes from God, it must be good.
"If we happen to have inherited much property,
we are to enjoy these in good conscience as
blessings and gifts of God".
"The blessings of the LORD make rich, and
as riches are themselves God's blessings,
so are we do desire them, for the comfortable
course of our natural and civil states."
"Worldly things are good in themselves
and given to sweeten our passage to
If you know your Puritans, you know that Perkins, Sibbes, and Robinson were among their best educated and most respected men. They saw wealth as a gift of God-and nothing to be ashamed of or to apologize for!
Are they right about money? Yes they are. The Bible nowhere condemns money as such. Some rich men have been models of holiness (think of Abraham and Job). And, of course, people who have money can do good things for the world and the Church that the rest of us cannot do. Proverbs 10:22,
"The blessing of the LORD makes rich
and He adds no sorrow to it".
Money is a good thing. We ought to thank God for it.
THE DANGERS OF MONEY
This doesn't mean, however, that money is everything. Or that making it, saving it, or spending it should be our Number One Priority.
In general, they taught,
"Both poverty and riches have their temptations,
and of the two states, the temptations of riches
is the greater".
Summarizing their view, Ryken says,
"Much to our surprise, the Puritans saw an inverse
relationship between wealth and godliness.
It did not have to turn out this way, but in their
View it usually did".
To prove his point, he quotes Richard Baxter, Samuel Willard, and William Perkins.
"Remember that riches do make it harder
for a man to be saved".
"It is a rare thing to see men with the greatest
visible advantages to be zealous for God"
"Seeking abundance is a hazard to the
salvation of the soul.Let us consider
what moved Judas to betray his master:
namely the desire for wealth".
What makes money so dangerous? Four things, said the Puritans:
"How ready man is to seek his happiness
God made us for Himself and wants us to seek-and to find our happiness in Him (cf. Psalm 16:11). But when we prefer money to Him, we give it the worship and service that only He deserves. Paul says to
"When men prosper in the world, their minds
are lifted up with their estates and they can
hardly believe that they are so ill, while
they feel themselves so well".
The wording is a little awkward, but here's what he means: People who have money often think they're bulletproof! They think they're set for life.and maybe beyond. Like the Rich Fool in the Bible, they survey their portfolios and say,
"Soul, you have goods laid up for many years,
take your ease-eat, drink, and be merry!"
For some reason or other they think because they drive a Mercedes Benz, they can't get into a wreck. Or, if they have the best doctors, they can't get sick. Or, if their investments are diversified, they can't lose their money. Or, if they live in a good neighborhood, their house can't be broken into. Money seems to be a strong tower. But, like the walls of Jericho, it falls down more easily than you'd think.
Planning for the future is good. But trusting money to secure your happiness is a temptation money brings with it.
"Experience shows that it is an easy thing in the
midst of worldly business to lose the life and
power of religion, that nothing thereof should
be left by the external form, as it were a shell,
worldliness having eaten out the kernel and
having consumed the very soul and life of
This is not a new idea, of course. Our Lord's parable taught the same thing. It warns us to beware of those things-innocent in themselves, but dangerous if they get out of hand-
"The cares of the world, the deceitfulness of
riches, and the pleasures of this life".
They have a way of choking out the word. And damning our souls.
"Riches are like painted grapes which
look as though they would satisfy a man
but do not slake his hunger or quench
If I can add to Smith's picture, the painted grapes are not made of wood, but of salt. They not only leave you unsatisfied, but thirstier than before. When a man makes $50,000 he feels unsatisfied, but he knows if only he can make $75,000, he'll be happy for sure. But when he gets there, he's still not happy, but he knows $100,000 will certainly do the trick, and so on. The more he makes, the more he wants.
"He who desires silver, shall not
with silver be satisfied".
"From rich men's pride in themselves, commonly
arises a contempt for others, especially the poor".
Very few people will confess to this one, but a lot of us are guilty of it. If you have money, you're a winner; if you don't, you're a loser. Winners have a way of looking down on those who don't do as well as they. For some people, it's money itself. But for most people, it's not money itself, but what it buys, including education, good taste, and the right set of friends.
And, again, you don't have to be a billionaire to feel this way. The man who makes $1 million a year looks down on the "loser" who only takes home $100,000. But the $100,000 man feels the same way about the guy who takes in $40 grand a year. And, I suppose people who make $7.00 an hour shake their heads at the poor scum who only make minimum wage.
Money is a great blessing-a blessing of God. But like His other gifts, it can be abused and turned into a curse.
The Puritans, therefore, appreciated the money God gave them, but they were concerned about the effect its love had on their souls.
THE PURPOSE OF MONEY
What is money for? On this point the Puritans were unsurpassed in their wisdom. They said money was for seven things. Here's a quote from William Perkins,
"We must so use and posses the goods we have for (1)
the glory of God, (2) the salvation of our souls, (3) the
maintenance of our own good estates, (4) the good of
our family or kindred, (5) the relief of the poor, (6) the
maintenance of the Church, and (7) the maintenance
of the Commonwealth".
The list is very instructive-not only for what is on it, but for what isn't. There's no mention of personal pleasure. Yet how many of us spend a lot of our income-and even go into debt to serve our hobbies or to boost our egos? The Puritans said No! to selfish spending.
We have to maintain the commonwealth-we call it paying our taxes. Most of us maintain our good estates and the good of our family. But what about the other things? How much do we spend to glorify God? Or to save our souls? Or to relieve the poor? Or to maintain the Church?
The Puritans knew that money was too precious to spend on stupid things that did no one any good. We'd do well to accept their wisdom and to follow it.
When it comes spending money, the Puritans believed in moderation. They were not against riches, but they were bitterly opposed to luxury. Richard Baxter gave directions against,
"Wealthy vices, such as sensuality, overeating,
and over indulgence in sports and recreation,
prodigality and sinful wastefulness, pampering
the belly in excess or costliness of meat or drink,
needless costly visits and entertainments and
unnecessary sumptuous buildings".
In his college diary, Samuel Ward listed one of the sins of the university as
"Costliness of apparel".
Although they did not believe in hoarding their money or being misers, the Puritans were very much in favor of financial responsibility.
How did they achieve it? In two ways:
"Find a contented mind with that which we have
already. For if once our desires shall overflow
the banks of our own condition, so that in mind
we burn with the desire of a better, our own doings
can never be persuaded that we have enough".
Most people are not willing to live on what they make. If they made five times as much, they'd be no less able. Why? Because they're not content with what God has given them. Rather than being thankful for what they have, they want just a little bit more. And therein lies the rub. Because they're not content, they get into debt or work too many hours or cut back on charity, or in some other way dishonor God with their making and spending money. Be content with what you have and.you'll have enough.
How much should you spend? Is it all right to own a TV? If so, what about a big-screen TV? How do you make these tough calls and act wisely? William Perkins offers some very good advice,
"The Scriptures do not give specific instructions on
this subject, but I counsel you to follow the example
of the most sober-minded and the most modest in your
social class and of about the same age as ours".
Two terms are worth noting here. They are social class and same age. The first means that attorneys, for example, are not required to live like security guards. The second means that a sixty year old couple don't have to live like newlyweds. Some people are better off than others and can safely live a better lifestyle than others. But, instead of following the most extravagant person of your age and class, imitate the most sober-minded and modest.
Set limits on what you spend.
If you're content with what you have and set limits on what you spend, you cannot go too far wrong. The Puritan ideal was moderation in all things. In making money, in spending money, in saving money, and in thinking about money.
Their view condemns the miser, the workaholic, the spendthrift, and the worrier. Money is a gift of God, but it's to be made, spend, and thought about moderately. That's the Puritan balance.
One more thing needs to be mentioned. And that's the Puritan view of poverty. Now, if wealth is a good thing and the gift of God, what should we think of the poor? Are they losers and unblessed by God? Does poverty mean laziness? Or drunkenness? Or irresponsibility?
The Puritans knew better!
"As riches are not evidence of God's love, so
neither is poverty of His anger of hatred".
Poverty, in fact, may be the gift of God,
"Poverty, in itself, hath no crime in it, or fault
to be ashamed of, but is oftentimes sent from
God to the godly".
Samuel Bolton goes even farther,
"But shall we judge nothing to have the nature of blessing
but the enjoyment of temporal and outward good things?
May not losses be blessings as well as enjoyments?"
If poverty is not necessarily the result of sin, then the Puritans called for those who have money to share with those who don't,
"The rich man, by liberality, must dispose
and comfort the poor".
Note the word, must. Lever, and the other Puritans believed charity a Christian duty. It isn't enough to support Gospel preaching, but helping people in other needs ought to be done as well.
What, then is the Puritan view of money? The Puritans believed that money.
Did the Puritans always live up to their ideals? No they didn't. Some of them were lazy, others worked too much. Some wasted their money and other hoarded it. Some didn't give to charity while others gave without discernment. But, whatever their practical mistakes were, they had the doctrine right!
Money is a stewardship. God wants you to spend yours His way. So why don't you do it?
The Love of God be with you. For Christ's sake. Amen.
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