Daniel and Amanda’s Weblog

January 16, 2008

Why we share our wealth, Part 2

Ok, so we’re rich. Now what? Let’s take a peek at some of what Jesus says to (or about) the rich.

Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, 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.” (Matt 19, Mark 10, Luke 18…just after he told a rich ruler to sell his possessions and give everything to the poor, and to follow Jesus.)

I think that’s enough to widen our eyes and put a fire under us. Jesus lets us know that it’s very difficult for us to enter the Kingdom of God. Why? I’ll get to that. First, let’s visit some of Christ’s teachings as recorded by Dr. Luke.

Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life doesn’t consist in an abundance of possessions.” And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”‘ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12)

Jesus continued, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest? Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.”

Alright, I’ve heard this passage a hundred times growing up. It ends with this climax, “Seek his Kingdom, and all these things will be added to you (NKJ).” It’s a great verse. It speaks of how the Kingdom of God is so much more than possessions, or wealth. We shouldn’t be spending our time going after the things the pagan world goes after. We shouldn’t worry, we shouldn’t fear. God will provide.

I never really remember reading the next part (I’m sure I just skipped it because it only applied to the people who were too attached to their possessions, not me). “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Earlier, I asked “Why is it so hard for us rich folk to enter the Kingdom?” It’s because we will trust in our possessions, in our riches. We no longer need to depend or rely on God, because we can provide everything we can imagine for ourselves. All we have to do to build a bigger barn is withdraw some of our stash, and all we have to do to feed ourselves is to haul our SUV to our barn (or Outback). This is why this upside down Kingdom was so popular among the poor of Jesus’ society. They saw a dream in Jesus’ words of a system overturned; where the humble were lifted up, the mourners laughed, and the poor became rich.

The rich, however, were so caught up with their temporary “fulfillment” that they couldn’t see the need for this kind of a Kingdom. And so are we, often. Sure, all Christians claim dependence on God and interest in the Kingdom. I do. But I guarantee that you could name something I wouldn’t want to sell so I could give the money to the poor. We have to start being less attached to our possessions. Of course, it’s one thing to say we’re not attached, and another entirely to act on it. Jesus calls us to act on it. Not just the rich ruler, mind you, he asks everyone to sell possessions and give to the poor. And he says that where our treasure is, there he’ll find our heart. (When you find time, I suggest you go meditate on this scripture.)

At this point, it would be easy to stop. We’ve established:

  • Be on guard against greed
  • Don’t store up for ourselves but be rich toward God
  • Don’t be too attached to our possessions
  • Don’t worry about our lives, our food and clothing, like the pagans do
  • Sell possessions and give to the poor

Ok, fine. I can give to the poor, claim every single one of these other things and still live a luxurious life, right? Millions claim it. But what we claim about whether or not we’re attached to our possessions, about where our treasure is, and about whether or not we worry about stuff, doesn’t amount to much more than a stinky pile of crap. What matters is how we live. And that’s where we’re heading in the next post. How does all this change how we live?

Amanda and I, among many others, desire to look different than the pagans. We feel that following Jesus Christ completely will lead someone to look strange. If we buy, invest, recreate, work, give and worry exactly the same as the pagan world, how can we claim to not run after the things the pagan world does? If I my life looks identical to that of the pagan optometrist with the same salary down the block, I’ve got a problem. Jesus’ followers in the early church history were recognizable. Are we?

(Please be advised that if you answer only “we’re forgiven” to the question of how we’re different than the pagans, I will get upset. If you read a Bible that says the only area where Christians should differ from pagans is in our forgiveness, we read a different Bible. God isn’t looking for people who will simply make a statement for forgiveness and heaven-readiness…he’s looking for courageous men and women through whom He will bring heaven to earth.)

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5 Comments »

  1. sheesh, that was long. i just realized that right after publishing it. sorry. :)

    Comment by Daniel and Amanda — January 16, 2008 @ 9:17 pm | Reply

  2. That was rocking awesome. Well said, and keep them coming

    Comment by Ariah Fine — January 16, 2008 @ 11:49 pm | Reply

  3. “he’s looking for courageous men and women through whom He will bring heaven to earth.”

    I think this is my favorite part of this blog, and the real heart of all of this stuff. Bringing heaven down to earth. That’s a powerful undertaking, and one to which I think that as Christians we are all called.

    Comment by Josh — January 17, 2008 @ 5:31 am | Reply

  4. Josh,

    Regarding “bringing heaven down to earth.” What we often forget is that heaven is not a place that we need to bring here (and I know you know this), but something within us. “The Kingdom of God is within you,” said Christ. It is found deep within, in a place reached normally only by prayer and fasting. We who are baptized into Christ are already raised with Christ and seated with Him in heaven. Thus, a life that ignores our neighbor’s plight and only lays up treasures on earth, is a life of blindness. It is a blindness to what is real, to where we really are, already. And, it is why, in the lives of some of the greatest saints who lived most humbly and sacrifically and generously, we hear stories of their frequent vision of Angels and Saints present in the Liturgy or “around them” in their daily journey.

    Most of us are too blinded by the gods of this age to see the reality of the Kingdom that is all around us. Only a few in this life see such an opening of their eyes that even their physical eyes behold the fullness of the Kingdom. Most of us struggle just to see the parts of the Kingdom that Christ demands that we see.

    the peace of Christ be with you,
    Kevin

    Comment by kevinburt — January 17, 2008 @ 6:26 am | Reply

  5. Kev and all,

    Good points. I may not have chosen the best words for that, but here was what I was trying to say. I think it’s possible for someone to think of things relating to heaven and Kingdom, justice and restoration, as only things that we’ll experience after Christ returns. But I do think that we are called to “bring heaven to earth” in the sense of helping to “loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free, and break every yoke…to share your food with the hungry, and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter…(Is 58).” It was probably not the best wording, but that’s what I meant. And I think that relates to why Jesus said it was hard for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God…because they were too unwilling to think of it in any other way than something we get when we die. Remember the rich ruler’s question in the first place was “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” I don’t think he wanted to have to change his current life…and sometimes I don’t think we do either.

    It was a plea to get people away from sitting around just waiting for Christ’s return so that we can get our heavenly reward. It’s a plea for everyone to have our lamps burning for the Lord’s return, but to not forget about the cries of the poor and suffering.

    Thanks for the clarifications. And thanks all for reading. I think I have at least 5 or 6 readers on this one. Yay. :)

    Comment by Daniel and Amanda — January 17, 2008 @ 3:23 pm | Reply


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