subject is approached more delicately by the average preacher than money. It
is understandable; offerings and his salary seem directly connected. However,
the Bible teacher is usually a volunteer, and we can say things a bit more
bluntly. The story of the rich young ruler certainly gives us the opportunity.
Mat 19:16-22 NASB
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.
the Christ is usually a shattering experience. If ever there was a man who
would have qualified for the “good guy” award, this is the man. From Christ’s
reaction we can see two of his characteristics:
is sincere. Christ takes him by his words, and treats him as an honest
is obedient. He is a man of “ordinary holiness,” the backbone of the
church, the good guy.
is also a man who knows he is lacking something. So he goes out looking for
at first, reaffirms to him to message of the Old Testament: “Do this, and
live.” Christ points him to the commandments. (It is interesting that Christ
omits the one about envy – which would say that this man has no desire for
it). Salvation is by works – until the Messiah comes.
it is exactly that point that the Christ challenges him on: you have relied on
your good works, but you know in your heart of hearts it is not enough. The
rules, it seems, are necessary – but not sufficient.
fulfills the Law
a challenge cannot come from someone who is simply a prophet or a rabbi – for a
prophet or a rabbi must point you to God, not himself. Christ, it seems,
teaches by degrees. He first points out the Law, and then hits him with the
one question that goes right to his soul: are you willing to give it all up,
it curious: if we preach to a prostitute, we expect her to give up
prostitution if she wants to follow Christ. To the white collar criminal we
say, “Sin no more.” But to those who are owned by their money, we are
curiously silent. Why is this?
it’s hard to condemn someone who’s chasing the same almighty dollar you
more importantly, we need to distinguish sin from sinner. We must, as
Chrysostom put it, not condemn the riches but the enslavement thereof.
point often missed here is that Christ does not merely command the man to
forsake his riches. It’s easy enough to argue (I just did) that he needs to be
rescued from the enslavement of riches. It is hard then to state, “Follow.” But
if we do not, we risk substituting the nothing of niceness for the money we
know so well. It is not sufficient to take away; we must have something which
overflows the hole in the psyche.
response, it seems, is one which consumes the entire human being. A parallel
may be seen in the use of the phrase, “born again.” We treat it as a synonym
for salvation; Christ Himself uses it but on one occasion, the visit from
Nicodemus – who is another man of ordinary holiness. The sinner is called to
repentance; the righteous are called to the new birth.
can these two ways be reconciled? Only in Jesus Himself. He tells us that He
is the way, the truth and the life. These two ways are the path to Him – and
it’s the destination who counts.
Things Are Possible
Mat 19:23-26 NASB
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." (25)
When the disciples heard this, they were
very astonished and said, "Then who can be saved?" (26) And looking at them
Jesus said to them, "With people this is
impossible, but with God all things are possible."
Tevye’s plaintive cry (“would it spoil some vast celestial plan, if I were a
wealthy man?) there is peril in wealth.
that you’ve obtained it, you get to worry about it. I inherited a few
gold coins from my mother. Before then I had no need for armored
storage. Fortunately, I also inherited an armored file cabinet.
Otherwise, I could be up nights worried about the burglars taking what
I never earned.
the other side, wealth gives you a false sense of security. I’m rich,
everything is going to go well. Some people solve their problems with a
check book. Which means that some of their problems go forever unsolved.
find that money is the chain that binds them to “the crowd.” Their desire
is to be in, accepted, one of the beautiful people. Without money, it’s
just a dream; with money, it’s a chain around their neck. Even a gold
chain is still a chain.
it is still true: you cannot serve two masters. That is the problem
here; the man didn’t wish to change masters.
understand the reaction of the disciples, you must remember what they’ve been
taught. To them, riches to the righteous was the way God rewarded those who
were righteous. This is one of the repeated themes of the Old Testament; this
attitude is the foundation for the conflict found in the Book of Job.
view utterly contradicts this. The disciples are quite naturally perplexed; if
a person as righteous as this ruler can’t make it, who can? What about us?
this question Christ answers with paradox: the last shall be first, the first
shall be last. Since it’s His view that counts, we may take this as fact – but
we still need a little explanation, right?
is “either or.” So we’re going to be surprised to see some of the death
bed repentant people at the throne of God. Some of those folks might even
be the rich.
may see charity from the rich, and praise it. God sees the heart, and
rewards it accordingly. Lord, be merciful to me, the sinner.
church has lately put forward a major capital campaign. It is interesting to
see our view of money in the mirror of the church asking for it.
are cynics, and see only a minister’s desire to inflate his own importance
by having a bigger, shinier building.
These folks don’t count in this funding drive – since they’re not
are offended by some aspect of the campaign – like the intent to have a
small version of Starbucks in a gathering area. Others see this as a way
of reassuring the visitor that we are, after all, human.
are offended by what they see as the secrecy of the campaign – and
unfortunately this has been a problem.
do you not see that your attitude towards the building campaign is simply a
mirror of your own. And it still true: he is no fool if he would choose to
give the things he cannot keep to buy what he can never lose.
Mat 19:27-30 NASB
Then Peter said to Him, "Behold, we have left everything and followed You;
what then will there be for us?" (28)
And Jesus said to them, "Truly I say to you, that
you who have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on
His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve
tribes of Israel. (29) "And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters
or father or mother or children or farms for My name's sake, will receive many
times as much, and will inherit eternal life. (30) "But many who
are first will be last; and the last, first.
temptation of the have-nots
of us, in our own minds, think of ourselves as being the “have-nots” rather
than the “haves.” The classification is not really based upon our wealth; by
the world’s standard we are fabulously wealthy. It is based upon our opinion
of ourselves – and we can see that view reflected in our temptations. See if
any of these seem familiar:
- Envy – looking
at what someone else has and wanting it. Do you ever find yourself
saying, “If only I had enough money, I would…”
- Blasphemy –
the real reason you don’t have enough money is that God has somehow,
arbitrarily, chosen you to suffer. (Read Job all the way through and see
how God answers this).
- Condemnation – as St. Jerome said, it is easier to condemn the
hoard than it is to quit the propensity. We seem to be quite capable of
saying that riches are evil and how can I get more of them? Usually, it’s
someone else’s riches that get condemned.
riches of the children of God
is a distraction. As such, it is a temptation to each of us – just a little
more and I’ll be happy. We miss the present fact that Christ promises us our
reward, both now and forever. We shall judge the nations – if only by
example. In the meanwhile, He promises to provide for us now and provide many
times that much when He returns.
attaches but one condition: “for my Name’s sake.” Just because you’re
suffering doesn’t mean you are suffering for Christ. But if you accept it at
His hand, acknowledging His lordship and care for us, the burden is His to
is a curious fact: in His ministry on earth Christ appealed much more to the
lost sheep than the found. The soul that is mired in sin longs to be clean;
thus the prostitutes and tax collectors arrive before the “good people” do.
Respectable people seem to have their work cut out for them in this – remember
the day laborers who each got a day’s wage, no matter when they started?
Reward is His business, not our own.
what then should the Christian do?
Luk 13:23-30 NASB
And someone said to Him, "Lord, are there just
a few who are being saved?" And He said to them, (24) "Strive to enter through the narrow door; for
many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. (25) "Once the head of
the house gets up and shuts the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock
on the door, saying, 'Lord, open up to us!' then He will answer and say to you,
'I do not know where you are from.' (26) "Then you will begin to say, 'We ate and drank in
Your presence, and You taught in our streets'; (27) and He will say, 'I tell you, I do not know where you
are from; DEPART FROM ME, ALL YOU EVILDOERS.' (28) "In that place there will be weeping and gnashing
of teeth when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the
kingdom of God, but yourselves being thrown out. (29) "And they will
come from east and west and from north and south, and will recline at the table in the kingdom of God. (30) "And
behold, some are last who will be first and some are first who will
your eyes on the prize, and don’t concern yourself with someone else’s money.