Interview with

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Audio Transcript

The love of money. When we think of the love of money, we tend to imagine the lavish life of a billionaire sultan in the Middle East. We think of superyachts. Or we think of a big tech CEO who catapults himself into outer space just for the fun of it. Mostly, the love of money we ascribe to the irreligious, the opulent, the secularist living out a lavish lifestyle with no care for God.

But the Bible speaks of the love of money in very different terms altogether, focusing on a love of money inside the heart of the preacher and the religious zealot — an idol that infects even the staunchest religious person, even those who claim to follow the law in detail and with great zeal: the Pharisee. And even those who claim great religious power, like the faith healer. Pastor John made this important and sobering point about the love of money in the soul of the religious in a 2019 devotional message. Here he is to explain it.

“The love of money is the root of all evils” (1 Timothy 6:10). The ESV says, “all kinds of evils” — that’s okay. It does say, “all evils.” “It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith.” So Paul says that underneath all evils, or all kinds of evils, like Pharisaism, is the love of money.

Reason? The love of money is synonymous with no faith. “Without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6). “Whatever does not proceed from faith is sin” (Romans 14:23). All evils come from this. Hearts that are more content, more happy, more hopeful, more satisfied, more secure in stuff than in God is the root of all evils — all evils, including Pharisaism.

“The love of money is the root of all evils, including Pharisaism and lawless miracle-working.”

So let’s see it. Is that true? Let’s look at the Pharisees, let’s look at the rich young ruler, let’s look at Judas, and let’s look at Philippians 3. And we can do this quickly, because you’re going to see it right away. You won’t need any fancy-dancy exegesis from me to help you see what’s plain as day in the text. You just need to be drawn to it.

Money-Loving Pharisees

So Pharisees, number one. Let’s go to Luke — you don’t need to look these up. I’ll pass over them, but you can jot down the text if you want to, or get the tape. (“Tape” — that’s not the word anymore. Whatever you call it.) Luke 16:13–14:

“No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things, and they ridiculed him.

Matthew 23:25–28: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.” Sound like “Your God is your belly” (Philippians 3:19)? “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness [akatharsias].”

Almost everywhere in the New Testament where akatharsias is used, it refers to sexual perversion of all kinds — sexual uncleanness. Verse 28: “So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” Are you kidding me? The Pharisees, the most preeminent law-keepers? Jesus says, “No, really they’re full of greed, self-indulgence, sexual perversion, and lawlessness” — meaning, “God and his word are not their authority. Their belly, their appetites, their groin is their authority.” That’s what Jesus said about Pharisees.

Not exactly the way I typically think about squeaky-clean sinners called Pharisees. So I have to rid myself of this segregation of legalistic Pharisees over here and libertine lovers of money over here. That’s not the way Jesus sees the world.

Money-Loving Morality

Number two, the rich young man. Mark 10:17–22:

As [Jesus] was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt down before him and asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” And he said to him, “Teacher, all of these I have kept from my youth.” And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “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.

Who’s he? What’s going on here? “I kept them all. I have devoted my life to law-keeping and commandment-keeping. And Jesus says, “Well, let me just probe a little bit about where your heart is.” And as soon as he puts his finger on money, he’s gone. Whatever else was going on in this man’s life, commandment-keeping from his youth was a cloak of the love of money. That’s what Jesus is saying.

Money-Loving Miracle Workers

Number three, Judas. Now, I’m going to Judas not because he is heralded as a law-keeper, a commandment-keeper, but because he’s a preacher of the kingdom and a worker of miracles. Here’s Mark 6:7, 12–13: “[Jesus] called the twelve and began to send them out two by two.” I’d love to know who was paired up with Judas. “And [he] gave them authority over the unclean spirits [including Judas]. . . . So they went out and proclaimed that people should repent. And they cast out many demons and anointed with oil many who were sick and healed them.”

So, Judas cast out demons. Judas preached repentance. Judas healed the sick. We know he did for a couple of reasons. Number one, if they all had this power except Judas, he would’ve been exposed as a charlatan. But in fact, they trusted him to the end, all of them. To the very end they trusted him and gave him the best benefit of the doubt as he walked out from the Last Supper. No suspicions. That would not have been true if everybody could do miracles except Judas.

And second, we know it because Jesus himself made clear that unbelievers like Judas can do miracles. He said in Matthew 7:21–23,

Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name [just like Judas]?” And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.”

Remarkable how that word lawlessness turns up for the Pharisees, turns up for the rich young man, turns up for these folks.

Judas was a worker of miracles, a preacher of repentance, a minister of the kingdom, and he was a lover of money. He was a lover of money. He didn’t care about the poor. It says in John 12:6 that Judas did not care “about the poor, but . . . he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it.”

“Judas was a worker of miracles, a preacher of repentance, a minister of the kingdom, and he was a lover of money.”

He sold Jesus for thirty pieces of silver, after three years of watching this most magnificent of human beings love, and doing the works himself. So, not only must we be aware of segregating religious Pharisees from the lovers of money — that’s a big mistake, if that’s in your head, like it was in mine — but also from segregating lawless miracle workers from lovers of money. There’s a lot of those around today.

The love of money is the root of all evils, including Pharisaism and lawless miracle-working. So Pharisees, and the rich young ruler, and Judas.

Money-Loving Boasters

And now the last glimpse is Philippians 3. Scholars debate who these enemies of the cross are in Philippians 3:18–19:

For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.

They have hearts drawn like a magnet to the world and not to God. That’s the description in Philippians 3:18–19. And the question is who they are. There’s a big debate about whether they’re worldly libertines or rigorous Pharisees. Paul says they’re dogs, and they mutilate the flesh. They’ve turned circumcision into a mere mutilation because they don’t worship by the Spirit of God. They don’t boast in Christ Jesus. They live according to the flesh (Philippians 3:2–3). “If they want to compete, I’ll compete,” Paul says. And then you list his pedigree, which ends with, “I was a Pharisee” (Philippians 3:5).

So, is it those folks or these folks? And now I’m just saying that we don’t need to choose. It’s a big, big, big mistake to choose between those two groups. I think it’s naive. It’s naive in terms of human reality, as Jesus sees it, to say, “I think we need to separate those two out.” I don’t think Paul would say that. I don’t think Jesus would say that.

The Pharisees love money, and they don’t love God. So that’s the relationship between Pharisaism and the love of money that I wanted to point out.

Better Love Than Money

And the last thing is the greatness of God. So Paul said in Philippians 3:5–6, “[I was] a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.” So I was the paragon Pharisee, which means, according to Jesus, Paul loved money. He had a heart that was finding more contentment, more peace, more security in the stuff of this world than in the fellowship and faithfulness of God.

In chapter 4, Paul admits this and tells us how he was freed, and I would like us to enjoy the same freedom that he found. Here’s what he says. He had just thanked them for their gifts, and he so much did not want to be seen as craving their money. “Not that I am speaking of being in need, but I have learned” — now that’s an important word because it is a confession. In other words, “I wasn’t always like this. I had to learn this. I was a Pharisee and seethed with discontent, and craved.”

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need [I didn’t know it once. I didn’t know the secret once of being free from the love of money and having deep, sweet, restful contentment of soul]. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:11–13)

And so, we should ask in closing, What was that secret? What had he learned? And he gives us the answer very clearly that the secret that cut the nerve of the love of money and cut the duplicity of Pharisaism with one stroke — the same stroke — is found in Philippians 3:7–8:

Whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.

That’s his secret: The greatness of all that God was for him in Christ, the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus. And compared to him, he said all the money, all the world, and all the moral accomplishments with one blow have become garbage compared to Christ.