Sunday, 11 October 2015
ABOUT BEING RICH
I’m sure you know the story about the rich man who was told by Jesus to sell everything he had, give it to the poor, and follow Jesus.
The man just could not do this, and went away sad.
Jesus also says that famous saying about it being harder for a rich man to enter Heaven than for a camel to go through the eye of a needle.
And people have been debating that hyperbole for years. What did it mean? Did Jesus refer to a gate called Needle, or was it a mountain pass which was so narrow you had to unload your camel of what it was carrying, pass the camel through, and then load it again.
It really doesn't matter. What matters is what Jesus meant in what He said to the rich man.
Jesus advised him to sell all he has and to give the money to the poor; and then to come and follow Jesus.
On hearing this the man went away very sad; he was not willing to follow the advice given.
Let’s pause here for a minute and reflect. What would you have done?
Let’s assume God spoke to you right now, in a dream, or a vision, and you were certain it was Him speaking. Just as certain as Abraham, Moses, Noah, Mary and Joseph were when God spoke to them. You know where I’m getting to …
And God asked you to sell everything and give it to the poor, and become a missionary or a volunteer helper somewhere far off your community.
Would you be able to do it? Would you leave your spouse and family behind and follow Jesus wherever He asks you to go? Would you sell off everything you have, give up your job, leaving your children with nothing; and moved on to a new life?
On reflection, perhaps we sympathise a little with the rich man. For we know not whether he had a family, friends and servants who relied on him – although we can assume he had. All these would have been left with nothing if the rich man followed Christ's advice to the letter.
So what is Jesus really saying then?
I doubt very much if every rich man on earth sold all their property and gave it to the poor that it would make any difference. It would be like putting a snowflake in a burning furnace.
Anyway, it is not physically possible, since if every rich person sold their property, by implication, they would sell it to someone else who would in turn be rich in order to be able to buy it. I’m sure you follow the tautology.
So what did Jesus mean?
He certainly was not speaking against wealth. Wealth creates wealth. It creates jobs and it creates the wherewithal to help others less fortunate than ourselves.
Christ condones, nay encourages, the creation of wealth in His parable about the servants given a gold coin each by their master. When he returned from his travels the master discovered that two servants managed to make their fortune increase whilst the third just didn’t bother. So he rewards the hard-working servants and punishes the other. Luke 19:11-27.
In this story about the rich man Jesus was teaching responsible wealth. There’s nothing wrong in working hard and amassing a fortune honestly. As long as we use it responsibly.
Those who are fortunate to have wealth should remember their responsibility to share it with others, and to help others, as best they can. This doesn’t mean sell everything and give it to the poor. It means be aware of those around you who are less fortunate than yourself; and share your good fortune with them.
If you were to sell everything then once it's gone, it's gone - you can no longer help the poor and you may well become poor yourself. What's so clever about that?
In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31) Jesus does not condemn the rich man for being rich; but for not even realizing, never mind caring, for a poor man starving at his gate.
So there you have it: work hard, be wealthy, but remember others less well-off than yourself.
And wealth does not necessarily mean riches and money.
Some people are wealthy in different ways: wealthy in wisdom and knowledge, wealthy in health and stamina, wealthy in talents and so on.
Those amongst us who are well educated and knowledgeable should not look down on others haughtily and with disdain. Use your knowledge to teach others.
Those who are fortunate to be healthy should remember the sick and if possible visit them or help them as best they can.
Those with talents for music, the arts, sports or whatever should share their talents with others. Imagine the good you can achieve as a sportsman if you visit a school and share a few moments coaching children in whatever it is you do. Or if a musician or celebrity shared a few moments with less talented yet aspiring youngsters. That visit would be imprinted on young memories for life – and may well inspire them to do better and achieve more.
Let’s all look at ourselves deeply and discover what wealth God has given us.
Money, good health, a talent for music, painting, singing or whatever … and let’s share it for the glory of, and in thanksgiving to, God our Creator.