Imagine you are young and highly successful in your work. Successful beyond your twenty-something years of living, much like Facebook’s founder, Mark Zuckerberg, and cofounder, Dustin Moskovitz. Now picture your successes, your economic conquests, your prestige, your billions of dollars, and consider what happens to them when you die. You can’t take them with you, but maybe you can use them to ensure yourself a place in heaven.
You wish to be sure this is possible. You want to know all of your efforts are not in vain, so you seek out a very popular preacher or prophet you’ve heard about. This is what happened with a very rich, young man back in Jesus’ day. His story can be found in Matthew 19:16-23:
Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?” “Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments.” “Which ones?” the man inquired. Jesus replied, “‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother,’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.'” “All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?” Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth. Then Jesus said to his disciples, “I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Wealth. No matter how great or small, our financial well-being is of great importance to us. So much so that even our soul’s eternal fate can be jeopardized for the physical comforts of today.
Humanity longs for wealth. Why is that, you ask? Mankind lives in a hostile world. Our bodies struggle against earth’s atmospheric temperatures, and disease, to maintain a constant 98.6 °F (37.0 °C). Our bodies crave vitamins, minerals, and moisture for health and wellness. Other creatures, and people, seek to do us harm for a variety of reasons. Wealth helps to ensure our three most natural, and essential, needs are met on a regular basis — clothing, food, and shelter. When these needs are met people tend to thrive, people can be content, people experience happiness.
When these “creature comforts,” as they are sometimes called, are not met regularly, then happiness flees. Stress enters our lives and we lose our contentment. As we cease to thrive, our minds and bodies react in a variety of ways. Sometimes such struggles cause illness and disease to enter into our bodies. As our physical bodies are mortal, we fight to avoid anything that would lead to our untimely demise. Wealth, in many of our minds, is the one thing that can practically prevent such dangers from entering our lives.
Our financial strength also comes close to guaranteeing a few of our other desires, such as companionship, pleasure, and power. People tend to not want to be alone, and all of humanity longs to experience the pleasures of this physical life. Some of our physical pleasure comes from being acknowledged by others; to know that we are somehow special and to ultimately use those special gifts to rule over the others that appear to not be as gifted. Wealth can be a means to acquiring such desires as these, but the one longing that our wealth can never buy us is a place in heaven. Eternal security is not achieved by monetary means. Heaven can only be achieved through a relationship with God’s only begotten Son — Jesus Christ.
That was what Jesus was trying to teach both the wealthy young man, and His disciples. Jesus, by asking the rich young man to sell all that he had, was making the statement that physical wealth really doesn’t matter as much as following the ways of God. If the monetarily blessed young man had done as he was asked, then he would have enjoyed spiritual and possibly even physical riches beyond his wildest expectations, but because his existing physical wealth was really the object of his worship, and not the ways of God, he failed Christ’s test and in the end lost everything — foolishness!
Christ teaches us very plainly that, “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.” (Matthew 6:24) This is not to say that monetary wealth is bad, but it is very clearly stating that to serve money, to worship this type of wealth, is wrong — even deadly wrong. Note what the apostle Paul wrote in chapter 6, verse 10, of his letter to Timothy:
For the love [worship] of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
When you love something so much that you abandon your faith in God for it, then you are exchanging the worship of the author and giver of life for the worship of the destroyer and taker of life. Death becomes your true object of affection.
When we meet next, Article 1, part two, will take us further into the dangers we face when we drink from the chalice of wealth, instead of drinking from the cup of Christ. We will read a contemporary story depicting these truths we have just revealed. So please return, and join us, as we continue this study of abundant faith and deadly fiction.
Truth or Dare by J. Scott Harden is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://www.jasonmin.wordpress.com.
The “NIV” and “New International Version” trademarks are registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by International Bible Society. Use of either trademark requires the permission of International Bible Society.
If your church or organization would like to talk with J. Scott Harden about a speaking engagement, or a writing project, please get in touch with Mr. Harden through Jason Ministries‘ Twitter account or Facebook page.