Have you ever been reading those Bible verses about the rich and the first image that comes to mind is that million dollar home along the coast? Or when you read in Matthew 19 that it is “easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God,” have you ever thought the verse is talking about the rich in their Hollywood mansions and fancy cars? Or that because you are constantly “tight on money” these verses couldn’t possibly apply to you?
But when 71% of the global population makes less than $10 a day while the U.S. federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, could it be that our constant stress about money is a product of a limited perspective? Could it be that when we place ourselves in the grander scheme of world economics, not just next to the Bill Gates-type billionaires, we actually come out to be the wealthy ones? Could it be that our stress about money might not be coming from our lack of finances but our inability to be good stewards of them?
Do we get so focused on acquiring material things, keeping up with the latest trends, owning all the latest models, that we never see the money we do have as enough? Could it be that our constant pursuit of “wealth” that tends to result in busyness is actually distracting us from what God has commanded – to put our hope in God rather than our money, to be generous and willing to share (1 Timothy 6:17-19)? And when the surplus from our paychecks goes towards our fifteenth pair of shoes or the latest iPhone model while some of our neighbors don’t have meals tonight, could our priorities be a little skewed? When our tithes are going towards remodeling our church buildings to be more “hip” or towards expensive technology to make worship feel like a concert, are we forgetting that our tithe was intended to provide for the poor and sojourner (Leviticus 23:22)?
When did we who have always had our needs met and usually had some excess to save or spend allow this financial stability to cloud our vision? When did we forget that “from everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded” (Luke 12:48)? Don’t these words of Jesus imply that we who have more financial cushion have more responsibility, not less? Could this mean that the money we’ve been given was not intended to be a privilege to purchase all that our hearts desire, but a calling to live a poured out life for those lacking life’s most basic necessities?
Is it possible that those we deem as “poor” because of financial need are richer than we are in other capacities? Is it possible that financial poverty deepens faith that God will provide because if He doesn’t, the kids won’t eat tonight? Is it possible that those who can’t afford the latest technology are enjoying depths of relationships we might miss when our attention is constantly distracted from our family and friends? Is it possible that financial need is a daily reminder of dependence on God, while financial stability convinces us we can provide for ourselves and therefore leaves us ignorant of our deep need for our Savior?
If we started to walk in obedience to God’s command to live generously, would we start building bridges between who society deems to be “rich” and “poor?” If we started sacrificing the purchase of another pair of jeans in exchange for sharing a meal with those otherwise left hungry, would our perspective on what it means to be wealthy begin to change? If we started living in community with those we define as impoverished, would we be open to receiving friendship, hospitality, and a few lessons on what it means to live life in celebration of Jesus?
Are we bold and brave enough to overcome our fear of discomfort and start giving generously to those lacking food, shelter, family, health, home? Are we willing to give with extended hands, not clinging too tightly to our material comforts? Are we open to receiving the non-material wealth of wisdom and love that can come from those living in “poverty?” Are we loving Jesus without reservation so that he has the freedom to grow us in our understanding of what it means to be generous, compassionate, and hospitable?
Can we follow the words of Desmond Tutu who, when serving communion, says, “may we become what we’ve received”? If we have already received both worldly riches and the grace of Jesus, which are we becoming?
I think there is a balance here like in everything. When Jesus speaks in Matthew 19 it sounds like He is explaining that people who are rich and love the world and all that is in it, will struggle. That’s why He says “Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.” He is explaining that people who engulf themselves in their riches will lose sight of what riches really are. The distractions of this world are great and when you are able to buy whatever you want and enjoy them it’s very easy to forget the dependence from Christ and also you will fall into a false sense of happiness and forget that true joy comes from the Lord. Paul is clear that our home is not here and that we need to be focused on heaven “Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.”
Colossians 3:2 and Jesus also is very direct “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” Matthew 6:24.
Is there a problem with having money then? Nope. But when you let your heart serve money that’s where the issue begins and you begin to store up your treasure on Earth which is making you poor in heavenly treasures. Jesus again in Matthew 6 explaining the flip side of what we are to do with our money. “But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:20-21
Jesus modeled this perfectly for us and shows what true riches are. “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich.” 2 Corinthians 8:9 When Christ died we became rich when He saved us. The earth is nothing in comparison to heaven.
When a Christian’s mind is focused on heavenly things then they know what being rich is truly about. Not to have all the latest and greatest on earth but to obey Christ’s commands and share what He provides. Continuing from Matthew 6 “Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?” Matthew 6:26. He ends the section by telling the people not to worry and that He provides (James 1:17) and to focus on Him and all things will be added to them.
Job I think has the perfect mind set. A man that was upright and blessed and knew that the Lord was in control of all that he had so when it was taken from him Job responds,
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
And naked I shall return there.
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away.
Blessed be the name of the Lord.” Job 1:21
Ultimately we need to remember that we were born with nothing and we will leave with nothing expect what we accomplished for the glory of God. So we are to be wise steward of what God gives us, using it to advance the kingdom in any way He shows us or tells us. Bible teaches to give from the heart, “Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed;” 2 Corinthians 9:6-8.
A check for me is always asking myself, “Where have I been putting my money?” It’s a good check to know that where my money is my heart is, so is my heart for the poor? The lost? Heaven? Or is it for the world and my own personal earthly wealth?
Great read! Keep it up.
Excuse all my grammar errors. (I’m a math guy)