I did not enjoy taking tests in school. There were some students that eagerly welcomed the opportunity to showcase their knowledge, but tests typically made me nervous.
As a student, I saw a test as a way to prove to the teacher what I had learned. The number of correct and incorrect answers I gave would indicate to my teacher what I had or hadn’t retained over the course of the week, quarter, or semester.
But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized something else about tests. That truly, tests tell me what I know or don’t know. Yes, how I perform on a test earned me a certain grade and showed my teacher what I did and didn’t know. But they also show me what I do and don’t know, and in most ways were more telling to my own person than they are to the person administering the test.
Life is a series of tests. In school, our tests involve a pencil and paper – maybe a scantron, a calculator, multiple choice options, or essay questions – but in life, they’re much more abstract. Life’s tests are emotional, difficult, humbling, spiritual. We don’t have a teacher handing out the tests, grading us, and telling us what to fix next time. Almost all of life’s tests are meant to show us something.
And, one of the greatest tests we’ll ever face involves the love of money.
Jesus tells a parable about a rich young ruler in Matthew 19. This young man sincerely wanted to know how to attain eternal life. But, “Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, ‘You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.’ Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.”
In this parable, Jesus is giving the man a test, not so He can pass or fail him, but to indicate to the man what is in his own heart. Often we don’t know the true condition of our heart until it is tested. Perhaps this is why we struggle with money so much – we think we are disciplined to stay on a budget, aren’t materialistic, and prioritize giving. But when any of those are truly tested, strained, challenged, we surprise ourselves with our reaction. The true condition of our heart isn’t what we thought.
I have always said that the quickest way to know if you love something or not is by the way you react when you lose it! That is a very revealing test.
This rich young man thought he was doing everything right. Arguably, he had all the right answers. But when Jesus identified the hold his possessions had of his heart, the rich young man didn’t want to give them up. His fear of losing his possessions and power clearly indicated what he truly loved.
What about you? Do money and possessions have a hold of your heart? Have you adopted a worldly philosophy – running after affluence and worldly success instead of faithful stewardship? Or seeking security in your savings? What might He be asking you to surrender, to let go of as a test of what is in your heart?
Paul told Timothy, “…the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.”
Money isn’t the problem. The love of money is. Stewardship is not having a perfect credit score, or a maxed out 401(k), or an air-tight budget. Those things may be indicators of faithful stewardship, but that’s not what God is after. He is after our hearts.
First Samuel 16:7 says, “The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”
Stewardship is aligning your heart and money with God. A steward surrenders all to God, rejects the love of money, and chooses instead to live according to God’s plan. It’s a heart and mindset shift, where you recognize that you’re only a manager, not an owner, of all you have.
God knows our hearts. He tests them and shows us what’s there. So to pass the money test, be sure your heart finds its riches in Christ, not in this world.
To take the practical first steps, enroll in Crown’s online MoneyLife Personal Finance Study. You can take an in-depth look at what the Bible says about all aspects of your finances and what it means to be a steward.
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