5 Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said,
“Never will I leave you;
never will I forsake you.”
The New Testament links sexual impurity and the love of money in several places, perhaps because the topics are addressed side by side as the seventh and eighth of the Ten Commandments. To abstain from the love of money was extolled as a virtue in the broader Greco-Roman culture. Money was thought to corrupt government officials, for example, so one who was not a lover of money was seen as having the ability to manage objectively. The author of Hebrews challenges his hearers to “be content. ” Part of the background here may be the seizing of the believers’ properties, which the author mentions at Hebrews 10:32–34.
ROMAN GOLD COINS
10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
No one in any society loves a grasping, avaricious individual. Such types were the brunt of frequent lampoons by the comic playwrights and essayists in antiquity. The student and successor of the philosopher Aristotle was a man named Theophrastus, who wrote a work called “Characters,” or better, “Character Traits.” Four of his thirty sketches center on character flaws connected to money: “Sponging,” “Pennypinching,” “Lack of Generosity,” and “Chiseling.” The modern reader who reads these 2300-year-old portraits of defective characters will find many familiar themes and confirm Paul’s statement about money being at the root of broken friendships, shattered marriages, a bad reputation, and all kinds of evil.
“FOR THE LOVE OF MONEY...” A horde of gold Roman coins.
17 Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.
18 Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.
19 In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.
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It is as though the writer fears that his strong words regarding wealth in vv. 7–10 might be construed to imply that it is impossible for a man to be a Christian and rich in this present world. This is automatically corrected by the advice given in these verses. Negatively, they are not to be arrogant, ever a subtle temptation for the wealthy. Nor must they rely on uncertain wealth (cf. Prov. 23:4, 5). Instead, though affluent, they must put their hope in the God who with lavish hand richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. The contrast with the ascetic’s view of God is obvious. Positively, Paul views these riches which could so easily ensnare, as a means of doing good. The very possession of wealth will enable them to engage in good deeds, to be generous and willing to share. With a rapid change of metaphor the apostle pictures this right use of money as treasuring up a firm foundation for the day to come; thoughts which may well have their origin in the Saviour’s Sermon on the Mount teaching. The final phrase of v. 19, which corresponds closely to take hold of the eternal life of v. 12, might well express a present blessing enjoyed by those who follow these injunctions.