One night, not long after my wife and I decided that our financial mountain climbing needed to begin, and a pretty tight budget had ensued, I noticed a change in Karen’s demeanor. When I asked her about it, she said she just felt “blah.” Understanding that feeling more than I’d like to admit, I left her alone, but her soberness continued. She wasn’t being moody or irritable, but as a husband I could see there was something that wasn’t quite right with my wife. There was an uneasiness I couldn’t put my finger on.
I had decided to spend some time between my studies with a bit of PS4, a habit that I’ve learned to reign in, as I know there are usually better things to do with my time. I put my controller down and asked her again what was bothering her. She then asked a very poignant question: “What if God doesn’t want us to have money?”
It’s a valid question, and one that I believe Christians should wrestle with more often than what they do. My wife was doing a bit of wrestling with this because of a few reasons.
- Christ wasn’t wealthy, not by any stretch of the imagination. When a scribe came to Jesus to pledge his loyalty, and to inform him he would follow Jesus anywhere, Jesus responded by stating “Foxes have holes, the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” (Matthew 8:19-20) Jesus depended on God to provide his every need and a roof over his head was no exception. The disciples and Jesus routinely depended on the generosity of others to shelter them.
- In 1 Timothy 6:10, Paul wisely informs Timothy that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evils. Incidentally, if one would continue to read that verse they would find the love of money being the reason some have wandered away from the faith. If one needed any more proof that the love of money, or greed, caused people to do evil things, take a look at our current election season. Research the absolute gross disregard for moral living from the Republican and Democratic candidates and find that they would say or maybe even do anything for the next hundred thousand dollar “donation.”
- The Bible clearly draws a distinction between the Rich Man in Hell and Poor Lazarus being with Abraham after both men died. The rich man was in torment. Abraham and Lazarus were not. And in a very desperate conversation between the rich man and Abraham we find that Abraham reminds the rich man that he was given good things in life while Lazarus had not, and there was no way that the rich man would find relief. The rich man cries out in anguish, asking that Lazarus would rise from the dead and go to the rich man’s brothers and warn them of the Hell he was experiencing. The nearly damning bad news came to the rich man, “if they will not believe the Moses and the Prophets, they will not believe one who should rise from the dead.” (Luke 16:19-31)
Almost makes you want to stay on the poorer side of life. I will focus on point three as it seems to be a hang up for a lot of people.
At first blush, it would seem money is something that one would want to stay as far away from as possible. To hear the repentant requests of a rich man in terror cry from Hell is not a pleasant sound, but we can imagine it, and maybe even make a collective hard swallow. Deep down, we ALL want more, and this is not the price we want to pay to get it.
Might I offer, that money is not the issue; but our problem, just as the rich man’s problem, is the dogged pursuit of the things for this life, and the total disregard of riches for the next? There are a couple of things from Christ’s teaching of Lazarus and the rich man I’d like to point out.
- Lazarus was broken by the state he was in, his poverty was such that the dogs came to lick his wounds. What state would that put a man’s heart? What would it do to his mind, his soul? He longed for help, and I imagine his prayers reflected this. Money? Lazarus wanted food! He was desperate for help, and eternally, he found it. Just as he believed he would receive mercy from the rich man, he found mercy in God.
- Why didn’t the rich man help to feed Lazarus, to show him mercy in his time of need? Did he even think about it? Did he love his possessions too much to sacrifice them? Was he too prideful to even speak to the lowly Lazarus who begged at his gate? Regardless of the reason, he didn’t help, there was something lacking in his heart and spirit that enabled him to be generous with what he had. He was not looking for help, not in this life, or for the next.
The difference between these two men were the attitudes and motivations of their heart. One was apt to be in Paradise because he had little, he desired peace and looked upward for it, while the other, looked for nothing. He was content with the riches of this life. The rich man’s security and more than likely, pride, kept him from giving or getting help, for he had need of nothing. So Jesus says about the rich to his disciples, “For it is easier for a camel to go throughout the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”
It’s THAT difficult for a rich man to see his need….
So, does God want us to be rich in this life? I would say that if it keeps us from seeing our need for Jesus and his salvation, the answer is a resounding, NO. God is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9) Is money inherently evil? No. A goal for this life for my wife and I is to give abundantly, to missions, to needy folks, to those with no hope, financially or otherwise. Ultimately, so others can see their need for the next life, and ask that Jesus would bless them richly with salvation and mercy.
Jesus lived a perfect life because we couldn’t, and gave his life as the perfect sacrifice for sin. He rose from the dead after three days to be victorious from death and Hell and prepares a place for those who believe he did all of this for them. Believe. It’s a need we have, and one that will only be offered in this life. Eternal life will be the riches that will never be earned through works, but given, freely, as a gift to God’s children, but only if they will believe.