JESUS DID NOT SAY THAT WEALTH IS A SIGN OF GOD’S BLESSING
In fact, He told His disciples exactly the opposite. From where, then, does the idea come that being wealthy and being blessed are synonymous?
This was the dilemma that Job struggled with when his wealth and possessions were ripped from him in one day. What did God have against him that he was stripped of everything, even his children, and finally even his health? He was not aware of the dialogue that had taken place behind the scenes between God and Satan, in which Satan accused Job of being opportunistic in his relationship with God.
“Strip him to the bone,” he sneered, “and see what he will do then.” Satan accused Job of the worst possible motive for worshipping God – selfishness, what he could get out of it. Would Job still honour and worship God if He took away all his material blessings? In two encounters with Satan, God replied, “Try him, and you’ll see that his love for me is genuine.”
Satan did just that; he stripped Job of everything. Even Job’s wife turned against him. He was reduced to a pathetic shadow of himself, sitting on the ash heap and utterly miserable, bereft even of the fellowship he had with God. His friends accused him of secret sin which Job vehemently denied. His dilemma was clear – he thought that his prosperity was the evidence of God’s favour on him, according to the philosophy of the day; it was stripped from him when he had done nothing wrong. Why? And God refused to speak to him.
In spite of God’s eventual response to Job’s questions, the philosophy still persists in the church today, and especially among the pastors and preachers who build the superstructure of their lives on the same erroneous supposition – and boast about it – that their wealth and acquisitions are the sign of God’s favour.
What did Jesus have to say about the matter?
On one occasion, a rich man approached Him with a question. “What one thing must I do to be assured of eternal life?” He believed he was “righteous” because he claimed to have kept all the commandments from his youth. But he was aware there was still something missing. He had the idea that he could secure his entrance into eternal life by doing one good deed that would earn him God’s acceptance once and for all.
He sounds like so many today who are offered eternal life if they “accept Jesus as their personal Saviour” or answer an “altar call” or even sign a “decision card”. What they are actually wanting is an insurance policy so that they can get into heaven when they die. They can go on living as they like right now because they “have” eternal life as though it were a product they could keep in their pocket to produce like a passport to get into heaven.
Jesus’ response was unnerving, to say the least. “Get rid of the very thing you consider to be the evidence of God’s favour – your money.” But why should he do that? How could he repudiate the reason for his confidence in God? The disciples were baffled when Jesus commented that it was hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God. That was not what they were taught and what they believed. After all, wasn’t their ancient ancestor Abraham a very wealthy man, and he was called a friend of God?
Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, ‘Who then can be saved?’ Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’ (Matt 19: 23-26)
What was the core of Jesus’ response to the young man’s question? “Get rid of your money because it stands between you and me!” It was not his money that was the problem. It was what he did with it that showed where his heart was.
Money in and of itself is amoral. What we do with our money is evidence of who we really love. Jesus taught His disciples a very important lesson.
No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. (Matt. 6: 24).
Jesus used a rabbinic teaching method called a “chiasm”. The central thought is flanked, in this chiasm, by a supporting thought which leads up to and away from the main idea. The main idea in this teaching is not that it is impossible to serve two masters at the same time but that you will serve the master you love.
The rich man in this incident showed clearly by his response that he loved his money more than God because he refused to use his money to serve God by sharing his wealth with the needy. Generosity with his money and possessions would have shown Jesus where his allegiance lay. Zacchaeus had acquired his wealth through dishonesty but, when he met Jesus his heart was so transformed that he willing let go of his money for the privilege of following Jesus. Not this man!
When a preacher of the gospel claims that his wealth, which is often milked from his congregation or TV viewers through guilt, is the evidence of God’s blessing when he uses it to acquire things and live in luxury through it, he has got it all wrong. The Apostle Paul had a serious warning for those who used the gospel to run after money:
If anyone teaches otherwise and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, they are conceited and understand nothing. They have an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction between people of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.
But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. (1 Tim. 6: 3-10)
He had serious counsel for wealthy believers:
Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant or to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life. (1 Tim. 6: 17-19)
How important that we be careful of those who preach “prosperity” as a cover-up for their own greed. The way we handle our money is the ultimate test of who we really love.
Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
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