Fields of Wealth Yield a Harvest of Idols
It is a valuable distinction to make, that money is not the root of all evil, but the love of it. Yet even here, the distinction may deceive us, or at least, our heart may. Your heart, like mine, is a powerful force. The heart sings a seductive song that the mind finds difficult to resist. Like Tolkien’s depiction of the Dwarves who loved gold above all else, the more we have the deeper we dig*. Our pursuit of wealth unearths dark places where danger has lain dormant, but is now ready to rise up and devour.
Yet we do not need to turn to Tolkien for such truths. Long has the relationship between riches and ruin been known, and there are many who have warned us of the perils. Yet we rarely listen. One such voice of reason comes through the prophet Hosea. As he delivers a message of warning to God’s faithless people, his own experience with an adulterous wife becomes the image through which God demonstrates his relenting love. As God pours out his heart to his ‘bride’ who has wandered far from him, he reveals again the lust they had for wealth.
Israel is a luxuriant vine that yields its fruit. The more his fruit increased, the more altars he built; as his country improved, he improved his pillars. Their heart is false; now they must bear their guilt. The Lord will break down their altars and destroy their pillars. (Hosea 10:1-2 ESV)
“The more his fruit increased, the more altars he built.” There is a direct relationship between wealth and our lustful heart’s tendency to pursue anything else but God. Here sits the deception of our heart. Though I reason with myself that money is not the problem, but instead the love of it, the very presence of wealth is a danger to my soul. Th idols of my heart are stoked to raging heat by the currency of this world. So the question must be answered, “What does my heart truly long for?” Maybe comedian John Crist is right, “Check your heart!”, but how?
Check Your Heart
Here are six ways we can dig down into what Calvin called a perpetual forge of idols:**
Acknowledge how deceptive our heart truly is and be prepared to treat it as such.***
Pray. Read the Scriptures. Pray. Ask God to convict and reveal the tendencies and drift of your heart.
Ask a friend, willing to say hard things, if they see patterns and behaviours in you that may reveal what your passions and desires truly are. If you are married, ask your spouse.
Take an audit of your imagination. What does your mind run to most often in the quiet spaces of your life?
Take an audit of your internet browsing. Review your browsing history and try to detect any patterns or themes that show up. Remember, it doesn’t need to be porn to be a problem—constantly browsing holiday destinations, real estate, or car websites may reveal something about where your passions rest.
Take a financial audit. What patterns exist in how you spend your disposable income? What do your receipts say about your priorities?
Where prosperity increases, so does the opportunity for the idols of our heart to flourish. Our own resources capture our imagination and become the objects of our trust. God calls this out:
You have plowed iniquity; you have reaped injustice; you have eaten the fruit of lies. Because you have trusted in your own way and in the multitude of your warriors, (Hosea 10:13 ESV)
But it isn’t this agricultural analogy God wants us to embrace, instead, just the verse before, he asks us to enter a different field.
Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the Lord, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you. (Hosea 10:12 ESV)
We’ve tried the fields of prosperity and wealth, they have not given us the harvest we truly longed for. It is time to turn to the fallow fields, the fields we have ignored. Sow righteousness. Reap love that will not fail. God will turn up in ways that we had only ever dreamt of, and he will come with the refreshing rains of righteousness.
* “they delved too greedily and too deep, and disturbed that from which they fled, Durin's Bane.” - Gandalf, The Fellowship of the Ring
** John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion
*** Jeremiah 17:9