On Riches

What about those of you who have good, well-paying jobs, nice houses, new cars, etc.? What can Jesus possibly offer you? You’ve got it all! Those things are great here on earth, make no mistake. But do they hinder your relationship with the Lord? If you give full credit for that comfort and those material things to God, then that’s one thing. But, will you still praise the Lord when you’ve lost your material possessions? Do you love the Lord unconditionally, like Job, or do you love Him because He’s given you possessions? Riches tend to take people away from Jesus, rarely closer. Let’s see what Jesus had to say about this:

Matthew 19:16-24 And someone came to Him and said, "Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may obtain eternal life?" (17) And He said to him, "Why are you asking Me about what is good? There is only One who is good; but if you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments." (18) Then he *said to Him, "Which ones?" And Jesus said, "YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER; YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY; YOU SHALL NOT STEAL; YOU SHALL NOT BEAR FALSE WITNESS; (19) HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER; and YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF." (20) The young man *said to Him, "All these things I have kept; what am I still lacking?" (21) Jesus said to him, "If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me." (22) But when the young man heard this statement, he went away grieving; for he was one who owned much property. (23) And Jesus said to His disciples, "Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. (24) "Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." (NASB)

Here we see Jesus telling the rich young man to sell his possessions and follow Him, and the rich young man refusing. This passage is often mistaken to mean that we all should sell our possessions. I don’t believe Jesus is teaching that because God often blesses individuals with "good stuff", Solomon, for instance. The difference is that Jesus perceived that the young man valued his riches over Jesus’ promises. Examine the second paragraph- Jesus says sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. There are 4 parts to this statement. The rich man saw only the first part: "sell what you have". What about the third part: "you shall have treasure in heaven"? Jesus is telling him, "leave these things for now and I’ll give you greater things farther down the line". He is not asking him to forsake his possessions forever! Merely to lay them down, follow Him, and receive a greater reward. Thus, if you are not willing to give up your possessions if Christ should ask you do so, you love them more than Him. That is the danger of material possessions.

Paul expands on this:

1 Timothy 6:7-12 For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. (8) If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content. (9) But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. (10) For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. (11) But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness. (12) Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. (NASB)

Paul tells us to be content with food and clothing and points out that the love of money is the root of all evil and will take us away from the faith. All this is true! What should we do instead? Read Paul’s second statement. This is not to say that we should reject God’s blessings, if He chooses to bless us, merely that we should not love them. Appreciate them, yes, but don’t let riches and blessings get between us and Jesus. Solomon was one the richest men the world has ever known. Read the book of Ecclesiastes to see what he had to say about riches. Here’s a sample:

Ecclesiastes 2:8-11 Also, I collected for myself silver and gold and the treasure of kings and provinces. I provided for myself male and female singers and the pleasures of men--many concubines. (9) Then I became great and increased more than all who preceded me in Jerusalem. My wisdom also stood by me. (10) All that my eyes desired I did not refuse them. I did not withhold my heart from any pleasure, for my heart was pleased because of all my labor and this was my reward for all my labor. (11) Thus I considered all my activities which my hands had done and the labor which I had exerted, and behold all was vanity and striving after wind and there was no profit under the sun. (NASB)

And here is what Solomon does advise:

Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. (14) For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil. (NASB)

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