Wednesday, March 28, 2012

More on Wealth

An FB friend commented on my last post: "How do you reconcile this with Matt 19:24?" This is the passage that says it easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. An excellent question.

Let's first put that scripture into context. A rich young man has come to Jesus and asked, "What good thing must I do to inherit eternal life?" He insists that he has kept the law faithfully. "What do I still lack?" Jesus tells him, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come follow me." And we're told the young man went away sad because he had great wealth.

Ah . . . so much to discuss here! And I may have to write another post sometime about all the theological implications, because they are many and they are significant. But to deal with the spirit of my friend's question . . . the issue with this young man is that his money is too important to him. He is not willing to give it up and follow Christ. As Jesus says earlier in Matthew 6, "You cannot serve both God and money." The rich young man has to choose his master -- Christ, or his own goals and desires, including his wealth. Any master but Christ leads you away from the kingdom of heaven (which only makes sense -- the kingdom of heaven would be the place where God is king, yes?).

The reason it is so difficult for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven is because he is so likely to be attached to and over-reliant on his own riches. The Bible is littered with warnings to the rich about not letting their wealth lead them astray. "The love of money is the root of all evil" comes from 1 Timothy (and note that so many people leave out the first three words there -- money itself is not the root of all evil, just the LOVE of it).

But it does not follow that we must eschew wealth outright. We're also told in scripture that "knowledge puffs up" (makes a person proud and haughty), but we are still instructed to pursue knowledge and understanding. As I wrote earlier, wealth and knowledge and all of these things these are tools God gives us to accomplish the work he has for us -- when we pursue them for our own ends, love them for themselves and for what they can do for us . . . that's when they become roots that grow into a tree of evil.

Would we criticize a man for pursuing an education beyond what he needs to make a living? God forbid we discourage people from seeking "excess knowledge". Excess is not inherently evil -- excess allows us to bless others. And thus my point in my last post. God gives us what we need (in material and immaterial possessions). But sometimes he gives us more than we need or gives us skill and opportunity to acquire more than we need. We need not feel guilty about that excess, and we need not shy away from the opportunity to acquire it -- as long as it is acquired justly and used rightly.

I often remind my drama team at church that it is a privilege to be used by God as His voice to speak to his people. Our gifts are his tools. When we appropriate them for our own comfort and glory is when it all gets ugly.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

David Platt speaks to this passage in a video entitled The Gospel Demands Radical Abandonment. Go to google, Radical the Book, Resources, Chapter 6, The Gospel Demands Radical Abandonment. I would be interested in your responses.