For disciples of Jesus Christ, our attitudes about money may determine our proximity to God. Like the story of the widow’s mite, what counts is not what we acquire or give but who we become in the process (Luke 21:1-4).
Money reflects value exchanged, or at least it should. For some, money equals time and choice. For others, money is a demanding taskmaster. Fortunes have been won and lost, wars fought and lives enriched or ruined over money and the feelings it spawns.
Real vs. faux wealth
Casino operators are clever about money. They know that if a customer exchanges hard-earned cash for colorful chips, he or she will bet more. When we exchange the real thing for the faux thing, we devalue the former for the fiction of the latter. So it is with wealth.
The natural man counts his faux wealth in the Scrooge-like counting house of selfishness; as if one’s bank account could determine the wealth or worth of a soul!
Real wealth has nothing to do with money. If you doubt this, ask yourself why so many cultures around the world do more with less and are happier for it.
The rich righteous young man was unwilling to confront his selfishness, departing from the Savior in sorrow because of his great possessions (Mark 10:21). Like him, some of us are "not yet willing to confront what we yet lack" (Elder Neal A. Maxwell, "Consecrate Thy Performance," Ensign, May, 2002).
Each of us must ultimately confront selfishness as reflected in the Master’s poignant question: "Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Matthew 16:26).
How much is enough?
Once basic needs are met, money saved and invested can provide security and allow certain choices for recreation and leisure. In accumulating money beyond need, we may ask this question: How much is enough?
The real question is not the size of our bank accounts but whether we are wise stewards of our increase.
The apostle Paul warned against the "love of money" as "the root of all evil" (1 Timothy 6:10). In our day, another apostle has taught: "For what we love determines what we seek. What we seek determines what we think and do. What we think and do determines who we are — and who we will become" (President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, "The Love of God," Ensign, November, 2009).
Happiness and true wealth
Have you ever wondered how your life would change if you won the lottery? Imagine winning money you didn’t earn in piles you don’t need. Since the days of Adam, men have been commanded to earn and eat their bread "by the sweat of (their) face" (Moses 4:25).
When we put money into its proper perspective as an exchange for services rendered, its reward isn’t measured in dollars but in the value of serving our character.
Work, save, invest and spend, but do it with an eye single to God’s glory. When you do, you will never accept wealth without work, nor confuse the medium of money with the myriad diversions to selfishness.
As the prophet Nephi counseled, "Wherefore, do not spend money for that which is of no worth, nor your labor for that which cannot satisfy" (2 Nephi 9: 51).
Money should be earned and enjoyed wisely as part of a balanced life. When we understand that, we don’t crave more for the sake of more. Besides, the Lord knows our needs and wants.
The closer we get to God, the fewer "wants" we need and the greater our need to please God. That is labor well spent and worth its weight in celestial gold.
William Monahan is a 1980 graduate of BYU Law School. He practices law, and he teaches law and ethics. A former Phoenix stake president and current high councilor for the Queen Creek Arizona Chandler Heights Stake, he is active in Interfaith, and a U.S. Air Force veteran.