There are a lot of people out there who want wealth, power, and pleasure. I mean the thought of it sounds great to me at first!
I could spend hours of time fantasizing about how I would spend a million
dollars. People ask each other all the time, "What would you do if you had a million dollars?"In the Bible there was a rich young ruler who came to Jesus. Matthew 19:13-26 , Mark 10:17-29 and Luke 18:18-29
I mean this guy had it all. He is young, (good start) rich (very comfortable and happy) and a ruler (admired, important, esteemed, powerful). In the account, this man comes to Jesus with a big question, the biggest question. He wants eternal life, he wants a security that money and power cannot buy. He is looking to the good Rabbi, teacher, to help him in this quest. Yet Jesus first responds to him with a definition of "good", stating only God is good. He follows up with a partial list of the 10 commandments from the Mosaic Law. (Also referred to as the Decalogue)
If we can trust this young ruler`s own assesment of himself he is a pretty good guy. Though most of us and many scholars find it very hard to believe as such.
Yet he asks Jesus this amazingly profound question even though he has seemingly been very good all his life. He asks, "what am I still lacking?"
I honestly believe this man wants to know the secret, it says in Mark that he fell to his knees before Jesus.
Yet, here Jesus crushes the young man with a harsh reality. "Go and sell your posessions and give them to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven, and come, follow Me."
It sounds harsh at first but I hear the voice of Jesus in this passage kindly pleading with this ruler. Jesus basically told the man stop being fulfilled with your life of luxury. In fact you give it up now, there will be treasure in heaven waiting for you. You really won`t lose anything. He then extends the invitation to follow Him.
Yet the curse of wealth could not be undone.
"But when the young man heard this statement, he went away grieved because he had much wealth and owned much property." (combined accounts Luke and Matthew)
What is it about wealth and power that keeps us from following Christ?
Having our needs met, even unto excess can easily give us a fasle sense of righteousness.
This ruler has probably never wanted in his life, has never stolen a loaf of bread to feed his family. Perhaps whose virtue has never been tested can easily think of himself as a "good" person.
Being good is easy when you have everything you need. Morality can easily be afforded by those in positions of wealth and power, yet when their finances or power is threatened they will do great evil and sin much to keep it. Just look at what has happened with America and the Wall Street buy out. Perhaps this rich young ruler too had a dark side?
Following Jesus is how true righteousness is developed, that is why Jesus told the ruler to come and follow Him. It is not merely knowing the WHAT of the question, how do I get eternal life?, but the WHO!
Eternal life is found in development not achievement. We cannot achieve life, it is something that grows within us and the source is the Spirit of God and obedience to His word. We did not earn our right to be born and live physically it was bestowed upon us. In the same way knowing Jesus is the secret of eternal life which is a gift. Revelation 22:17
So what does Jesus comment about the situation of this ruler to His disciples?
"It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle." So it is impossible!
The disciples were "astounded" it says in the Scripture!
This ruler was a really good guy (supposedly) and isn`t wealth a sign of God`s blessing?? (a concept widely common in Jewish tradition and supported by many verses from the Old Testament)
But Jesus quickly reinstates His disciples` hope by giving the classic Sunday School motivational verse, "With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."
Think about the many rich young rulers we see in our world today, those on Wall Street, in government, CEOs and the lottery winners and the like. The words of Christ give warning of the danger of riches.
"What does it profit a man to gain the whole world but to lose his soul" Matthew 16:26
James writes some pretty harsh words to rich oppressors in Chapter 5 of his epistle
"Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you. 2 Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. 3 Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. 4 Look! The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. 5 You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter.[a] 6 You have condemned and murdered the innocent, who were not opposing you. "
There are many more verses in the Bible, especially the New Testament that speak against greed and the lure of riches.
So the question again is "Would you want to be a millionaire?" My answer is "Not if it meant the forfeiting of my soul and corruption of my heart." Which would probably be the case!
And without God in my life, I would be a big fat camel trying to squeeze into a very tiny hole.
Where to start....ReplyDelete
Yes, we need to pursuit Christ and not wealth, riches or position on this earth. We are to live on purpose with the knowledge that our call is to Kingdom living, with eternity as our ultimate focus.
Yet we are both seated in heavenly places and here on 'earth' at the moment. Some jobs pay more than others. It is not wrong to have a well paid job, a flourishing company or good investment portfolio. It is sinful to put all of this above our love of Christ, and forget, who is truly our provider and sustainer.
I also think that in trying to correct imbalance with in the body of Christ, that we be careful not to throw the baby out with the bath water.
I think perhaps the other perceived differences, might be semantic, and hopefully through chatting it through we'll work that out.
We need to be careful of not painting a simplistic view that riches, wealth and influence are bad, and thus will keep one one of the kingdom of heaven.
>> "Go and sell your posessions and give them to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven, and come, follow Me."<<
Jesus, is very much dealing with the heart issue of this young man. He is pointing out his failure to keep the law because he is challenging his covetousness. In asking him to do this, he is holding a mirror up to him about his sense of 'goodness'.
He then points him towards the real measure of goodness (God) and where he will find salvation (in following Jesus).
This is not a 'salvation' prescription for those with wealth and influence, and I think we need to be careful that we don't use it as one. Not everyone who is called to follow Christ, is called to give everything away- we are however called to give up our RIGHTS and rely on God as our provider. Be ready to give up anything he asks of us.
>>What is it about wealth and power that keeps us from following Christ? <<
Does wealth and power always stop people from following Christ?
Not if we read Hebrews 11. There are many within that hall of faith, that had both. And in fact were given both by God.
Again it comes down to the heart of the individual and while I truly believe we ALL need to examine our hearts for lust of all kinds. I also believe he was dealing with an 'issue' that strikes 'some' people rather than ALL with wealth and riches. We need to be wary of painting a picture that says wealth is bad and the rich can't come to Christ.
>>Yet the curse of wealth could not be undone. <<
I believe it could have been- had he of chosen/understood it! That is the point of the story. Firstly, that which he perceived to be the blessing of God, was not good enough to get him into heaven. And secondly that there is NOTHING of ourselves that can earn it anyway.
Jesus was showing him HIS issue- interestingly he never had to do that with Zacchaeus because he 'caught' who Jesus was and reacted. His repentance was first in mind, then in deed. But Jesus never asked him to do this, he simply responded to the righteousness of Christ and wanted to be like wise. He didn't do it to earn salvation, he did it because he caught a revelation of something bigger than himself, restoration. Jesus didn't ask him to sell or restore anything.
>> The words of Christ give warning of the danger of riches.<<
Riches are not the danger, it is the love of riches above our love of Christ. It is that which is within us, that dictates that which is dangerous to us.
>>My answer is "Not if it meant the forfeiting of my soul and corruption of my heart." Which would probably be the case!<<
My answer is with CHRIST all things are possible, and I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me- both be in lack and abundance.
Thanks for the well articulated response Ria!ReplyDelete
Often when I write I leave theological gaps to stimulate discussion hehehe. It's like forgetting to dot the i or cross my t
You add excellent insight. Especially with the comparison with Zacchaeus.
Jesus deals with sinners differently.
Don't get me wrong I agree it is the love of money that provides for authority and power that is the root of evil as Paul wrote
Yet there it should be understood that wealth is a spiritual hazardous material and while some handle it well and wisely while others easily fall in love with it.
And as you said on Twitter "poor" people can love money even more so especially since they dont have it
Knowing my own easily corrupted heart I think having tremendous wealth would definitely require a portion of Gods grace which He gives to all those who ask
Want to comment?
Money is a curse to some people who use it for only exalting themselves and a blessing to those who use it to magnify God and help othersReplyDelete
You are a very gracious discussionalist (is that a word?).
I don't see money/wealth as a spiritual hazardous material, any more than I see the internet, tv, movies, media, food, music, relationships as being such. They can be used for good or evil, depending on whose hands they are in, and whose hands they are grasped by.
I think Anonymous made a great point.
Things are not the issue, unless our heart (flesh) makes them the issue.
Romans 8 says:
5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. 6 For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.
The key is to keep instep with the Holy Spirit in all issues of life, that way in lack or in abundance, we are living and focusing on Jesus.
My heart might be corruptible, but I have the mind of Christ- I am comfortable that He will lead me. I am also very comfortable that when I get it wrong (and I have and will again no doubt) my heart will be convicted, and we'll get to try it all again another day, because He loves to trust us even when we fail.
Perhaps my outlook tends towards a defensive position on the pursuit of wealth. Some pursue wealth so they may use it for good, or for God lets say. I on the other hand do not wish to even pursue it for the purpose of accumulation. But I am fully aware that wealth is no accident, it usually the biproduct of labor and God given ability and other socio economic factors.ReplyDelete
But I must admit that prosperity doctrines and socially driven materialism together have somehow led many Christians to feel entitled to financial blessing.
But again your mainpoint rings true. Finacial livelyhood is about being learning the secret of contentment in Christ in all seasons
Stephen - great post.ReplyDelete
I have chased money so much in my life and found that it really was to my detriment overall.
Basically you serve God or you serve mammon, not both. (Matthew 6:24-34)
If you serve God He has a way of raining down provision like manna or the loaves and the fishes.
Chasing money rather than God will pierce yourself through with sorrow.
1 Timothy 6 basically tells us to be content with food and clothing and to turn away from people that preach gain is godliness.