As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up, knelt down before him, and asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
“Why do you call me good?” Jesus asked him. “No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: Do not murder; do not commit adultery; do not steal; do not bear false witness; do not defraud; honor your father and mother.”
He said to him, “Teacher, I have kept all these from my youth.”
Looking at him, Jesus loved him and said to him, “You lack one thing: Go, sell all you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” But he was dismayed by this demand, and he went away grieving, because he had many possessions. Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!”
The disciples were astonished at his words. Again Jesus said to them, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”
They were even more astonished, saying to one another, “Then who can be saved?”
Looking at them, Jesus said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God, because all things are possible with God.”
Peter began to tell him, “Look, we have left everything and followed you.”
“Truly I tell you,” Jesus said, “there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for my sake and for the sake of the gospel, who will not receive a hundred times more, now at this time —houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields, with persecutions —and eternal life in the age to come. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”
Jesus taught more about money and possessions than he did about anything else. In fact, one of Jesus’ most shocking statements is that can be very difficult for a rich person to enter God’s kingdom. And yet this is only one of many statements he made about riches and poverty, and the writers and primary figures in several New Testament repeated the perspective presented in today’s passage. So for the remainder of our together we are going to be talking about what the Bible says about riches and poverty.
There are seven things that we are going to look at that the Bible says about riches.
- The most common view among Jews even into New Testament times was that wealth was a sign of God’s special favor and that poverty was likely a sign of faithlessness and God’s disapproval. The Pharisees, for example, believed this and in their pride looked down on Jesus because of his contrasting view of money and wealth. Although this misguided idea about riches becomes the dominant view at various times throughout the history of the Christian church, and it was totally rejected by Christ.
- The Bible identifies greed and the strong desire to obtain wealth with the sin of idolatry, which is demonic, or related to the devil’s work and power. Because of the evil and corruption associated with dependence on material possessions, the desire for and pursuit of wealth often lead to spiritual slavery.
- Riches are, Jesus’ perspective, an obstacle both so salvation and to discipleship. Riches provide a false sense of security, they deceive and they demand the total loyalty of one’s heart. In this sense, wealth takes the place of God in a person’s life. The rich will often live as if they have no need for God. Their search for riches chokes their spiritual lives and leads them into all kinds of troubles, temptations and harmful desires. As a result, they often reject or abandon a faith in God that could save them and give them true purpose in life. All too often those who are rich take advantage of the poor. For these reasons, no Christian should be driven by a desire to get rich.
- Selfishly building up one’s supply of material possessions is a sign that the individual no longer sees life from an eternal perspective. Selfish, greedy people do not have God-centered goals; instead, their lives and purposes are self-centered and wrapped up in their possessions. The tragedy of Lot’s wife, for example, was her attachment to an earthly city rather than a heavenly one. Striving for wealth will separate people from God. And God’s people always must keep in mind that earthly riches will not last; they will fail us, and they will do us no good on judgment day.
- True riches for a Christian are found through faith in God and love for him and others. These attitudes are expressed through self-denial and following Jesus. Earnest Christians are more concerned with God’s purposes and others’ needs than they are with their own interests. The truly rich are those who have gained freedom from an attachment to worldly things because they trust God to provide for them, knowing that he will not abandon them.
- A Christian’s primary attitude and sense of responsibility toward material possessions and wealth should be that of humility and faithfulness in handling all that we possess. This frame of mind comes from recognizing that everything we have belongs to God and that we must handle it wisely. Christians must not hold tightly to possessions as a means of status or security. Instead, they must seek the Lord for his guidance in handling their wealth and resources so that they can be used for his purpose, which includes participating in opportunities to advance the cause of Christ throughout the world. This also includes contributing to the ministry of one’s local church, advancing efforts to spread Christ’s message of spiritual salvation to all parts of the world and meeting the practical needs of others. This means that Christians who possess wealth and material goods must see themselves as no longer rich, but as managers of God’s resources. They must also be generous, be ready to share and be rich in good deeds.
- Every Christian should examine their own heart and desires by asking themselves questions such as: Am I a greedy person? Am I a selfish person? Do I always want more? Do I have a desire for the honor, prestige and power that often come from being rich?
Now that we have explored the Biblical view on riches, it is time to explore the Biblical view on poverty. One of the tasks that Jesus saw as a primary part of his Holy Spirit-directed mission was “to preach good news to the poor” (Luke 4:18). That is because the gospel is a message of hope to the poor. And there are three things that we are going to look at that the Bible says about poverty.
- The “poor” are the needy, disadvantaged and often oppressed people in the world. In Biblical terms, they represent those in great need who humbly turn to God for help. The poor may not have status or influence in the world; but if they are faithful to God, they can look forward to the time when God will rescue them—and all of his people—from the sin, suffering, hunger and hatred that are in the world. People who trust God and desire to be spiritually rich toward him do not base their wealth and life on earthly things.
- Freedom from suffering, oppression, injustice and poverty will most certainly come to the poor who trust God and are faithful to him. But for now, many will find relief—at least in part—through the kind and generous support given by those among God’s people who have been blessed with material possessions.
- God sees people who are in poverty by earthly standards and declares that they “are rich” if they have yielded their lives to him. In no way should people who are poor be seen as spiritually or morally inferior. In fact, in many ways they may have a more accurate perspective and more admirable attitude about possessions, life and spiritual matters.
Tomorrow’s Bible Readings:
Leviticus 25:47-27:13, Mark 10:32-52, Psalm 45:1-17 and Proverbs 10:22