Today I read James 5. I have often wondered, if money itself, just being a means to an end, is not inherently evil, why are the rich so often condemned? Paul tells us that the love of money is the root of all evil, but why is that? Money itself is an inanimate object and is neither evil nor good. As I mentioned above, it is a tool to be used. The problem of course, as we have talked about before, comes when we will do anything to obtain more money and we lose sight of what is important.
James condemns the rich, as his brother, Jesus did before him. This is because most of the rich people in the world are only concerned with their money. It consumes them and I would imagine, takes over their very thoughts. Just like a favorite sin can come between us and the Lord, so too can money become our driving force in life. All around us we see shows and movies of people who will do just about anything for money. We see shows where loan sharks hurt people who owe them money instead of forgiving the debt. We see people going into debt for hundreds of thousands of dollars at casinos trying to earn money quickly.
I think the problem comes because these people are so consumed with money and earning more of it, that they do not see the world around them. They don't see all the opportunities to serve that are around them each and every day. I remember half a lifetime ago, for me anyway, when I was 16 years old. I went to visit a friend who lived near Washington D.C. I was friends with their whole family and I remember I was talking with his mother about the lottery and winning a lot of money. She mentioned that once she had taken a sheet of paper and written down everything she would purchase if she were to win the lottery. She said that as she wrote it all down, she started becoming angry that she didn't have the money to purchase all of these nice things now and she started losing the Spirit. The more items she wrote down, the worse it got until she decided to just stop. Once she stopped and threw away the paper, the Spirit gradually came back. When she had focused on the money and the material items, it had gotten in the way of what was truly important. I still remember that lesson 16 years later. It's part of the reason I have always tried to be content with what I have and earn enough for my needs and that's all.
Jesus said it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven. This is because a rich man is obsessed with his money. Just like a whoremonger is obsessed with sex and a warmonger is obsessed with death and killing. It consumes them and gets in the way of the things of the Spirit. Now, there are good people out there who are rich and handle their riches very well. But most of us cannot handle being wealthy. It is much like power. Joseph Smith wrote that it is the nature and disposition of all men to abuse power. It is also the nature and disposition of all men to desire money and to lose focus and desire more of it. We have to be ever mindful of this and guard against it. It can be done but most of us will not be rich because we could not handle the problems that will come with it. And God will not allow us to be tempted above what we are able to withstand. Try not to focus on being rich and instead focus on the things of the Spirit. That is the way to be safe. Until tomorrow.