Saturday, August 1, 2015

Matthew 6:19-24 Is It a Sin to be Rich?

19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy,[a] your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eyes are unhealthy,[b] your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!
24 “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.

Jesus expounds on the proper attitude toward wealth and again, He sets the bar high. His concern is that we should not be greedy, by hoarding our wealth, and further, that we should not become dependent on money or the many luxuries it can buy. Most of this has to do with the passing nature of material things, including money. They just do not last over the long haul. Stuff gets broken. Things get stolen or moth eaten or they fall apart with corrosion or rot. It's all just stuff anyway. For the most part, you can't eat it or drink it and clothes come and go over time.

Beyond all this, money has no eternal or lasting value. Jesus says that if we have an interest in storing up things - hoarding things - they should be things of spiritual value. These things can be stored up securely in the heavenly record - things like good works, generosity, honesty and compassion. These things do not rot. Moths do not eat them. They will not rust and they will not get stolen.

But we have to be careful because our eyes can lead us astray. If we use our eyes to seek good things - spiritual treasures - we can store these things in heaven. Our eyes will be full of light. However, if we allow our eyes to be distracted by material or fleshly things; if we let our eyes lead us into covetousness, envy and greed, then we will be filled with darkness - spiritual darkness that can overwhelm us.

Jesus' point in all this is that no one can serve two gods. We cannot serve both the one true God and also money and material possessions. We will either ignore God and love money or we will be devoted to Him and the pursuit of wealth will take a back seat. There is no middle ground. Greed and the love of money and material things is idolatry.    

-So how do you store up treasures in heaven?

Through good works. By using the wealth that God gives us to help others. By being compassionate, generous, honest and forgiving.

-What does Jesus mean in verse 21 hen He says, "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also"?

The things that we value in life say much about who we are and what our priorities might be. If our jobs or our personal property or our hobbies or accumulation of wealth are more important than loving God and our neighbors - that reveals much about where our hearts are. It says much about where we put God in the great schemes of our lives. I tells us who we love most. Is it ourselves or is it the Lord? The answer will be obvious. 

-So is it a sin to be rich then?

That's a fair question. It again depends on how you view the things you have and what you do with them. For myself, I would say that God gives us everything to one degree or another. It is by His grace that I have anything at all, so it behooves me to share what He has made me the steward of. 

Jesus tell three stories about rich men in the gospel of Luke that create a compelling answer to this question. 

In Luke 12:16-21, Jesus tells a story of a rich man that had a bumper crop and decided to build bigger barns and sit back and live off his wealth. The plan was to eat, drink and be merry. Enjoy a life of leisure. Do what others only dream of. The problem was that there was no place for God in this plan. There was no place for sharing the wonderful wealth that God had so graciously given. There was only blatant self interest. It was obvious that the only god the man had was himself, so God took his life and others enjoyed the fruits of his treasures.

In Luke 16:19-25, Jesus tells the story of a rich man and a poor, lame beggar covered in sores named Lazarus. Daily, the rich man would see Lazarus by his gate begging. Daily Lazarus was ignored. Though the rich man had been given much by God that could have been shared with Lazarus to help with his health issues and make him productive in his life again, the rich man did not see it that way. What was his was his.

When the time came that both men died, Lazarus went to paradise, to the bosom of Abraham and to eternal comfort, but the rich man went to hell and eternal torment. He begged for relief. He begged that Lazarus be allowed to bring him water to quench his torment. Abraham advised that would not be happening. 

Had the rich man's attitude toward  his wealth been different when he was alive, his situation might be different after his death. As it was, he was in torment. He loved his wealth more than God.

In Luke 18:18-30, Jesus meets a rich, young ruler; probably a member of the Sanhedrin. The man asks Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life and he assures Jesus that he has kept all the commandments since he was young (which is probably a lie). Jesus advised him that he lacked just  one thing. He needed to sell everything he had and give to the poor so that he could have treasure in heaven. This made the rich young man very sad. He had much and even though Jesus had not advised that he give it all away, he was still deeply disturbed by what Jesus had said.

When Jesus was questioned about it, He advised that is was easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven.  The crowds then wondered out loud if anyone could possibly get into heaven and Jesus said, "what is impossible with men is possible with God."

I think Jesus' point in all these stories about rich men is about their attitude toward their wealth.

If we see our wealth as things that God gives us, things that He has made us stewards over, then we will be on the right path. So how can we be proper stewards over the wealth God gives? By sharing and caring in our actions as well as our words. 

This is not a Marxist ideology. This is simple sharing and caring for our fellow human beings. We need to be helping each other in the material sense and in the spiritual sense with what ever talents and treasures God gives us. He will bless those efforts accordingly, maybe now and most definitely in the Kingdom that is to come. There is nothing wrong with being rich. Money wealth and talent are gifts to us from God who owns everything. We must use them wisely as His stewards for His glory until He returns.        

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