Is it possible to be wealthy and still be a disciple of Christ? Jesus’ own words in this regard appear to present a formidable task.
Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” (Luke 18:25)
Consequently many disciples especially in the past have espoused poverty as an act of discipleship. Saint Francis of Assisi is the most famous of these saints. Born the son of a wealthy merchant of Assisi, his encounter with Jesus led him to espouse “Lady Poverty”. This decision of Saint Francis was a radical way of imitating Christ. In all of Francis’ life, love for the poor and the imitation of Christ in his poverty were inseparably united, like the two sides of a coin.
Yet, we also see many wealthy disciples of Christ: Nicodemus whose tomb was used for Jesus’ burial, the house owner who gave his upper room for the last Passover and others who provided for Jesus and his crew. Jesus uses the resources they provided and does not condemn them for being rich. While we live in this world, it is inevitable that we will handle wealth for our needs for the needs of those around us. But being wealthy is not the same as being rich as described in the verse above.
There are four aspects of wealth that Christians need to safeguard against, failing which they will get in to the category of being ‘rich’, making it hard for them to preserve the values of the kingdom of God.
- Loving money:
For the love 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. (1Timothy 6:10)
For many, life is defined by a craving for money. Every person in life has a few driving forces that moves their life- education, family, power, tradition and so on. For many, the one drive that predominates and drives their life is a love for money. For them, getting rich is the mantra for life and cure-all for every problem in life. Chasing money, they cut corners, no longer prioritize their faith and often end up in the red with God and risk many griefs in life. Paul suggests in the above verse that it is very easy to sin when love for money is a primary driving force, as it is the root of all kinds of evil. Most crimes can be traced back to an uncontrolled love for money.
Imagine what would happen to the casinos and the lotteries if mankind lost its love for money! Interestingly, to be a lover of money, you do not have to be wealthy. A man can be poor and still have the love of money as the primary driving force in his life. Such a poor person is ‘rich’ as per the definition given by Jesus and would struggle to preserve the kingdom values. Another man could be wealthy and might have little love for money, handling money dispassionately and would not fit in to the definition Jesus used.
- Hoarding money:
The Bible abounds with passages that value generosity. The story of the rich man and Lazarus teaches us several lessons, one of which is the stark disregard that man can develop for the pressing needs of a neighbor.
19 “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. 20 At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores 21 and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. (Luke 16)
Having shut himself to the kingdom of God and its values, the poor hungry man at his gate was no longer visible to the rich man, who hoarded his wealth without giving to the man at his gate, who needed just a little to fulfill his hunger. A person who walks with God will be alive to the pressing needs of those around and will give generously as God leads him to.
Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. (2Corinthians 9:7)
We will look at the other two aspects next week. Feel free to comment on the website comments page.
- WHOSE SIDE ARE YOU ON?
- THE RICH AND THE KINGDOM OF GOD-II