• johned@aibi.ph

Eternity 131 - Riches And The Kingdom

(Matthew 19:23-26 NKJV) Then Jesus said to His disciples, "Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. {24} "And 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 His disciples heard it, they were greatly astonished, saying, "Who then can be saved?" {26} But Jesus looked at them and said to them, "With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."

(1 Timothy 6:9-10 NKJV) But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. {10} For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

The kingdom is a place of utter simplicity. It is not a place of destitution or poverty - for there is "no more crying or sorrow or pain" and these things follow with great certainty where there is bitter poverty such as that experienced in much of the Two-Thirds World. The kingdom of heaven is glorious, in its final form it even has streets of gold, but even in its glory and wealth it shines with a holy simplicity that is of God.

Those who desire to be rich cannot desire this simplicity, it is foreign to them, and they clutter life up with possessions and acquisitions and schemes. They drown in the sheer complexity of their existence. They cannot live the unburdened and joyful life. The resonant simplicity of the Kingdom, the joy of giving and receiving in loving living, the free as a bird dependence of God is lost on them.

The "rich" in Scripture are those who identify themselves as wealthy and elite and who identify with that social class rather than with the Kingdom. The rich are those whose identity is defined by social status and the amount in their bank account rather than by Scriptural injunctions, who say "I am a billionaire" with greater pride than they say "I am saved.".

Rich people become used to admiration, respect and being in charge and for a while this satisfies, but sooner or later many wealthy people feel hollow, because they cannot sort out if they are really and truly loved. Their money has made them friends - but are these true friends? They give to the poor, they endow charities but underneath they are "nagged" but an inner dissatisfaction. Maybe a new project will fix it? Where can they find eternal life?

Jesus told the rich young ruler "sell all you have and give it to the poor, and come follow me". In other words "strip yourself down to just yourself and come and meet God". But rich people cannot do this. They and their money are so intertwined. Their identity is in their possessions, their safety is in having money to spare, and to be vulnerable like other people - is just unthinkable. Instead they want a project to do, a task to accomplish, something they can be in charge of that will bring blessing to millions and win favor with God. So they ask "What must I do to be saved". What's my job Lord? I'm capable, I'm strong, I'm obedient, just ask and I will make it happen for you! But that's avoiding the issue! The issue is "you, all by yourself, unprotected, face to face with the living God". The issue is the ability to be little again and to "be converted and like a little child". And its very hard to be little while surrounded with the trappings of power.

Some rich people will have to take Jesus literally and sell everything, give it to the poor and come follow Him. Some like, the young St. Francis, will give absolutely everything away and follow Jesus. Some will give up good jobs and tend lepers in Africa, others will give away their investments and find themselves pastoring an urban church. There will be a radical excision of the complexities of life.

Others will have their possessions taken from them by God's "severe mercies" and find Him in the midst of a bankruptcy, divorce or business failure. Others will get cancer and find themselves terrified, small, alone, unable to do anything with all the money in the world and face to face with their Maker at last. Getting the rich to meet God and do business with Him alone is not easy but "all things are possible with God".

Finally there are those that God gives up on for a time, those whose pursuit of money is like that of Judas Iscariot and Demas and Annanias and Sapphira; those who wander away from the faith and are pierced with many a pang. Those who hang themselves in the dark and who fall headlong and spill out their innards on the ground. Those struck dead by the Spirt of Holiness and carried out by the young men. These are those who come p[ to you in church with the latest "business opportunity" or income protection scheme or investments in ostrich farms and sure fire share purchase. They are the ones who are totally wrapped up in their cars and who are always "going to support" (but rarely do support) a bunch of missionaries.

In the last days we are going to be given a stark choice between "buying and selling" in the grand global marketplace - or following Jesus. On that day the rich are going to face an agonizing choice - their money or their God.
(Revelation 13:16-17, 14:9-11 NKJV) He causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads, {17} and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name........Then a third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, "If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark on his forehead or on his hand, {10} "he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation. He shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. {11} "And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name."

Its going to be a tough choice, an impossible choice for many for whom the fear of financial ruin will be more real than the fear of Hell. It will be God or Mammon, gold or salvation, no third choice allowed. We have to sort out the money thing now, well before that day. We need to find our identity in Christ and the radical joyous simplicity of the Kingdom. And whatever we give up to do that is worth it ! (see Matthew 19:28,29).