Money Matters (Hebrews 13:5-6)
The second work-related exhortation in chapter 13 concerns the love of money: “Keep your lives free from the love of money, and be content with what you have; for he has said, ‘I will never leave you or forsake you’” (Heb. 13:4–5). This command to be free of the love of money suggests that financial pressures were among the special problems faced by the original readers of this book. This was already indicated in Hebrews 10:32–36 and indirectly by Hebrews 11:25–26. Perhaps the emphasis on the future “city” (Heb. 11:10; 12:22; 13:14) was stimulated in part by their experience of economic and social alienation from their present city.
We have full confidence of protection and provision by our God, but in no respect does this guarantee that we will enjoy lives of material prosperity. Jesus never promised us an easy life, and our hard work may not be rewarded in this life with wealth or luxury. The point of Hebrews 13:5–6 is that the Lord will provide all that we need for a life founded on faith. Of course, plenty of faithful believers have experienced severe financial hardship, and many have even died from exposure, thirst, hunger, disease, and worse. They died that way through faith, not for a lack of it. The author of Hebrews is perfectly aware of this, having recounted Christians who suffered torture, mocking, flogging, imprisonment, stoning, being sawn in two, death by the sword, destitution, persecution, torment, and wandering across mountains, deserts, in caves and holes in the ground (Heb. 11:35–38)! Ultimately God’s promises and our prayers are fulfilled just as they were for his Son—through resurrection from the dead (Heb. 5:7–10). This book operates with a transformed economic vision, that our needs are met in the advance of God’s kingdom, rather than in our personal prosperity. Therefore, if we have nothing, we do not despair; if we have enough, we are content; and if we have much, we sacrifice it for the sake of others.
The warning against the love of money does not stem from a discovery that God’s kingdom in creation, the material world, is somehow less spiritual than God’s kingdom in heaven. It stems, rather, from the startling awareness that in a fallen world, the love of money creates an attachment to the present order that stands in the way of our working toward the transformation of the world. If money is the chief reason we take a job, start a company, run for office, join a church, choose our friends, invest our resources, spend our time, or find a mate, then we are not living by faith.