It takes more than money to solve life’s deeper dilemmas. Money can give the appearance of success, but it cannot purchase significance.
For example, money can buy a degree of freedom, but what if we were to turn around and use that freedom to support a less fruitful life? This was always my thought as I watched well-heeled and early-retired men (and yes, it was almost always men) whittle away their existence playing cards and drinking gin every afternoon at the local country club. They had enough money to do as they pleased—and their choice was a pleasure path void of significance.

Money promises to do an awful lot, but the result doesn’t always pan out as expected or hoped. The short list of unreliable promises money makes would have to include the following:

1. You’ll be safe.
2. You’ll be secure.
3. You’ll have peace of mind.
4. You’ll be somebody.

Let’s focus on the first two promises. I will address the other promises in a future article.

The intractable problem with the promises money makes is that it cannot deliver on most of the promises. Far too many people expect money to solve problems that are spiritual or internal in nature.

Examine the promises and then the reality people experience, then judge how well financial assurances hold up. This closer examination may aid us in better understanding what Jesus meant by the idiom “the deceitfulness of riches.”

Money Promise No. 1: You’ll Be Safe.

In other words, you’ll have protection from, or non-exposure to, the risk of harm or injury.

Finding a place safe from harm, damage or loss is not possible on this planet. With sufficient funds, one can build an impenetrable fortress and buy the most advanced security equipment, but that is the extent of the protection money can purchase.

Consider the money/safety myth: The more money you have, the more of a target you become for the greedy, the criminally inclined, embezzlers and litigious deceivers. For example, how much does Bill Gates have to spend to protect his family and possessions? Would Charles Lindbergh have traded all his fame and fortune to bring his baby back?

Certainly there is a degree of safety in having health insurance to protect you against the threat of illness. Long-term-care insurance provides a margin of safety for those facing a long convalescence after an illness or injury. There is also safety in having a regular paycheck and a stream of income to count on.

Like all material provisions, however, these margins of safety have their limits. When people are confronted by the vicissitudes of life, safety may prove to be vaporous. If you have $5 million in the bank, you could wake up tomorrow and get sued for $10 million.

You can have the best insurance but wake up tomorrow and find out you don’t have a job and your benefits have disappeared. If you retire with pension benefits and your former company files Chapter 11 to protect its corporate interests, your protection may very well burn up in the ashes of the company’s action.

Depending on wealth for an internal sense of safety and satisfaction will be of little help to us when we are forced to deal with real life. For example, I have a friend who lost her home in a flood. The damages required more to repair than the home was worth. She owed the bank enough to make the situation untenable for her. She was forced to grieve the loss and move into an apartment, and her daughter was forced to delay her college education. It took a few years, but eventually they got their lives back on track.

Even those fortunate enough to have flood insurance to replace their homes lost so much—the familiar atmosphere, as well as precious tokens and mementos. No insurance company can replace the birthday cards the kids made for them when they were young. Having money to rebuild is not the same as having the kind of safety that really matters.

Money’s promise of safety is flawed and limited. What can we do then? We can insure our stuff for what it’s worth. We can avoid unnecessary risks. We can pray for protection. We can learn to live with what comes. But whatever steps we take to protect ourselves should come with the understanding that a sense of safety is an internal issue that the material cannot fully address.

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