1 Timothy 6:10 says For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.
Balaam, a prophet found in the Book of Numbers, teaches us a valuable lesson about the evilness and the destructive power of the love of money. Money is not evil in itself. We need it to be able to function in this world. It is the love of it that is the problem. Foremost in our lesson are Balaam, Balak, and the nations of Moab and Midian. Historically, Moab was the son of Lot (Gen. 19:37), and Midian was the son of Abraham, (Gen. 25:2). Balak was a Moabite (Nu. 22:4), and Balaam was an Edomite, descendant of Esau who was Isaac’s son (Gen. 36:31-32). Balaam’s father was Beor, a king of Edom. Moab and Midian were also nations that, at the time of this story, were under the threat of destruction by the Israelites who were conquering and taking over the land that God had promised them.
The interaction between Balaam and Balak.
The story of the communication between Balaam, the greedy prophet, and King Balak begins in the 22nd chapter of the Book of Numbers. Balak was afraid of Israel because he heard of how easily they destroyed other nations and took their land. Fearing that the same would happen to him and to his nation, Balak attempted to get Israel cursed by Balaam, a prophet of God, hoping that Israel could then be defeated.
Balaam’s first step in the wrong direction.
Representatives from the nations of Moab and Midian were sent over 500 miles to where Balaam lived because he had a reputation for being able to bless or curse people. They thought he would curse the Israelites for money and offered him great rewards and recognition for his services. However, at that time, Balaam functioned by seeking God for answers, just as all of God’s other prophets did. He told the visitors to stay overnight so that he could get an answer from God. But this was Balaam’s first step in the wrong direction. There was something about money for his services (God-given gifts) that really appealed to him. Instead of rebuking them for trying to buy the favors of a man of God as any other prophet would have done, he told them to stay with him overnight and wait until he could get an answer from God.
Balaam asks God for instructions.
Balaam went to God and asked Him whether or not he should do this thing. God gave Balaam a clear, direct, unequivocal answer that should have ended any further discussion with Balak’s representatives. He said these words in v. 12: Thou shall not go with them; thou shall not curse the people: for they are blessed. God not only gave him answers, but He told Balaam why he could not go and curse the Israelites when He said: “they are blessed.” The Israelites were favored of God. Now, does it make sense for a prophet to say, “Can I go and curse the people that you have favored?” How much clearer could the answer from God have been? Balaam actually told the representatives, “no.” He was faithful to God, and he understood that he was not to do this thing. That should have put an end to the discussion.
Balak refuses to take Balaam’s “no” for an answer.
The enemy, even after we obey God, will try to coerce a man to disobey God anyway. When Jesus was tried by Satan in Matt. 4:1-11 He defeated him with the Word of God. Matt. 4: 3-4 say: And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. Too bad that Balaam didn’t do the same as Jesus did.
Balaam’s lust after the rewards, along with the enemy’s influence, ganged up on him. Balak was even more persistent the second time that he sent representatives to Balaam. He sent more honorable men to him, promised him great personal honor and offered even greater rewards. Balaam, like a true man of God, told them that he would not go against the word of his God. However, he agreed to go to God a second time to see if God had changed his mind. The love of the rewards was beginning to have a weakening effect upon Balaam.
Balaam begins to weaken.
Balaam compromised in his own mind, saying that he would go with them, but he would only speak what God told him to say. But God had already said “don’t go with them” when he first responded to Balaam’s questions. It is at this point that we are beginning to get a clearer picture of Balaam’s greed and pride and how Balaam was beginning to break down. Perhaps he thought he could both obey God while playing around with Balak, somehow still accomplishing his goal of getting the rewards that Balak offered.
The permissive will of God.
Knowing that Balaam would go anyway when Balaam asked if he could go a second time, God told him to go under two conditions: the men had to come to him and he was to only speak the words that God gave him. Uh oh. Sounds like Balaam moved from God’s perfect will over into His permissive will. And that is not the safest place to be.
Balaam went to join the men.
Balaam didn’t even wait for the men to come to him, he went to them, thereby disobeying God again. On the 500-mile journey from his home in Pethor to Moab, Balaam had plenty of time to re-think what he was doing. But the love of the money and the promise of honor had him in its grips. As a matter of fact, even a miracle didn’t turn him around. What was the miracle? His ass that he was riding upon spoke to him with the voice of a man, rebuking him for beating him when the ass’s actions actually saved Balaam’s life. The ass saw that an angel with a sword ready to kill Balaam was blocking his path. I do wonder why Balaam didn’t just turn around and go back home when he realized that God was angry with Him? God was mad enough to kill him, but Balaam didn’t get it. The love of the money had him in its grips.
God instructs Balaam to speak only His Words.
God then told Balaam to go ahead to Moab but only speak what God said to speak. Balaam obeyed God and spoke a prophetic word which actually blessed Israel. Balak was angered but took Balaam to a second site to look at Israel. Balaam went right along with him. This second time Balaam blessed Israel again. After Balaam blessed Israel a third time, Balak, in frustration, sent him away, charging that it was God that held Balaam back from great honor.
Balaam actually prophesied a total of sixteen times. His prophecies included other nations that would be overcome by Israel as well as a prophecy concerning the coming Messiah. It was as though God was getting the last of His investment out of Balaam. He used Balaam to prophesy, but after that, we only hear bad things from this former man of God.
The love of money takes Balaam down.
Now, if Balaam had stopped fooling with the Moabites and the Midianites at this point, he would probably be known today as a man of God and a great prophet. Unfortunately, however, his love of filthy lucre drove him to become a backslider, and, according to Josh. 13:22, a soothsayer. He became an enemy of Israel and in Nu. 31:7-8 he is listed as one of those that Israel destroyed right along with the Kings of Midian and others who were enemies of Israel. It is in the 31st chapter of Numbers that we discover precisely what Balaam’s defining sin was. 16 Behold, these caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to commit trespass against the Lord in the matter of Peor, and there was a plague among the congregation of the Lord. Balaam counseled the Midianites to cause Israel to commit sexual sins with the Midianite women, causing God’s anger to be kindled against Israel. A total of 24,000 Israelites died as a result of the plague that God sent among them because of their sexual sins with the Midianite women. And it happened because of Balaam’s evil counsel.
The love of money is just not worth it.
Balaam died like a fool, lured away from God by the prospect of obtaining a great deal of money, using the gifts that God gave him. It was the love of money that ensnared him. Great men and women ahave been destroyed by the love of money. Politicians and leaders have been destroyed by the promise of power, recognition, and money. We pray for those who have gone down that path, but we strongly encourage God’s people, particularly our young people, to learn from their error and reject their ways.
Balaam’s twelve steps to destruction.
Let’s look at the twelve steps that led Balaam away from God when he was drawn away by his own lusts and enticement. Jas. 1:4 (KJV) says But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.
- Balaam, a prophet of God, welcomed and consorted with representatives from a king who worshipped Baal, an idol god, even when the king made it clear that he wanted God’s people cursed.
- Balaam attempted to monetize the spiritual gift that God gave him when he sought God to curse the Israelites for financial gain.
- Balaam prayed amiss. While we must always get an answer from God about every aspect of our lives, some things we should not even consider taking to Him. For example, we don’t pray and ask God if we could please sin just one time with a girl because she is so cute. Or, we don’t ask God if we could please cause a person to be destroyed that we don’t like.
- Balaam did not respect the spiritual position that God gave him. As a man of God, he should have been incensed that Baal worshippers had the nerve to ask him to go against God’s people. This would not have been a prideful stance, simply respect for the power that God placed in his life.
- Balaam didn’t take God’s “No!” for an answer. When God said, “No!” Balaam should have accepted his answer and ended all conversation about the matter. There is nothing wrong with confirming God’s answer if you are uncertain. In this case, however, God’s answer was very direct and clear.
- Balaam gave Balak a second opportunity to try and change his mind when Balak came back with an even greater enticement of fame and even more money. Balaam should have been as determined as Balak was and he should have had an even stronger resolve to obey God. But he didn’t. The love of money kept getting in Balaam’s way.
- Balaam talked to and listened to the devil too much. He actually went back to God about the same matter, hoping that God would change His mind. (If we are not careful and allow the devil to talk too much, the devil will begin to make sense. We must remember that just because a thing makes sense, that still doesn’t make it right. Satan is a liar and a trickster. Forget what the devil says. What did God say about that thing?)
- Balaam actually disobeyed God on several occasions in this situation.
- Apparently, Balaam did not understand the difference between God’s perfect will and His permissive will.
- Balaam did not recognize that he was becoming spiritually weak. Although Balaam did prophesy only what God told him to say, he had been severely weakened spiritually by his consorting with the enemy, disobeying God and being totally in love with money.
- Balaam tried to serve God and dance with the devil at the same time. Matthew 6:24 says No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.
- Balaam tried to fight against those who God had blessed. How on earth could Balaam have expected to prosper when he was fighting against God’s anointed? When you fight against something or someone that God has blessed, you are actually fighting against God. And your little arms really are too short to box with God.
The love of money will cause you to do things that you never thought that you would do.
People, let’s learn a lesson from Balaam’s experience. Please know that Satan will use whatever he can to pull us down. He can’t pull us out of God’s Hand, but we can foolishly jump out. Selling drugs for fast money; selling your bodies because you think that you have no choice; stealing, robbing, and tricking others are all things that you might wind up doing when you love money. It’s just not worth it; these things will take you down and ultimately into the pits of Hell.
The love of money will cause you to covet what others have.
Another thing that the love of money will do is that it will cause you to covet after what someone else has. The Tenth Commandment tells us that we are not to covet. For example, young lady, just because your girlfriend got married does not mean that you have to settle for the first dude that comes along, simply because you want to be married, too. In coveting your friend’s marriage, you can get yourself into a mess.
Covetousness will send you to the poor house.
So, you see people at your church wearing expensive but popular shoes. Because of your greed, you also buy a pair, knowing you can’t afford them. And then, because you used your rent money to buy them, you and your red-bottoms are homeless. That’s foolish.
Covetousness is also not wanting an individual to have what they have.
One more thing about covetousness is that it does not just desire what someone else has, it is also not wanting a person to have what they have. That’s why some people will see a new car that their friend bought, then go to the same dealership, buy the same car, make and color and customize it just like their friend’s car. They didn’t want their friend to have a car that was so unique, so they customized their vehicle in the same way. That’s covetousness and jealousy. Here’s another example. Your friend buys a new scarf that goes with several of her outfits. It is beautiful, and she loves it because God blessed her with it. You approach her, and there you go, “Can I have that scarf?” You know she’s saved and will give it to you if you really want and desire it, even though she loves it. You don’t have a thing to match it, you just don’t want her to have it. That’s covetousness, and God is not pleased with that type of behavior.
Don’t let covetousness be a part of your character. It will put you out of harmony with God. Remember Philippians 4:19 (KJV) which says But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus. Trust God to meet your needs.
And, in closing, love God and people, not things and certainly not money. The love of money truly is the root of all evil. Ask Balaam.