You Can’t Take It with You, but You Can Send It on Ahead! Five Teachings on Wealth

This Sunday’s Gospel is not merely a warning against greed; it is a teaching on income and wealth given by Jesus to help us root out greed. The Gospel begins by presenting the problem of greed and then prescribes the proper perspective on wealth.

I. The Problem that is Portrayed The text begins, Someone in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, tell my brother to share the inheritance with me.” He replied to him, “Friend, who appointed me as your judge and arbitrator?” Then he said to the crowd, “Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions.”

Notice that Jesus turns to the crowd (to avoid limiting his cautionary advice to just the one man) and warns without ambiguity that we all must guard against greed. Greed is the insatiable desire for more. It is to want possessions inordinately, beyond what is reasonable or necessary.

Greed is often downplayed today; accumulation and the ostentatious display of wealth are often celebrated. Massive houses, fancy cars, and the latest electronic gadgets are shamelessly flaunted.

Greed is at the root of a lot of evils and much suffering. Scripture says,

For we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world; but if we have food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and hurtful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all evils; it is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced their hearts with many pangs (1 Tim 6:7-10).

These are strong words indeed. Greed causes us discontent and ungratefulness, both of which are signs of unhappiness. It also leads us into temptations, into snares or traps that set loose harmful desires that seem to expand in ever increasing ways. This inordinate desire for more too easily leads us to personal destruction and to inflicting harm and injustice upon others.

On account of greed we almost never say, “I have enough; I will give away the rest or use it for the benefit of others.” Greed is also a reason that many people wander away from the faith; because wealth is generally tied to this world and its demands, and they feel they have “too much to lose,” they set aside faith in favor of the world; greed overrules God and the demands of the gospel.

II. The Perspective that is Prescribed The Lord does not simply condemn greed; He goes on to relate a parable that illustrates the proper perspective on wealth. Wealth is not evil in itself, but without the proper perspective it is easy to fall into greed. The parable contains five teachings on wealth to help us to keep it in proper perspective and to avoid greed.

1. The INITIATION of wealth The text says, There was a rich man whose land produced a bountiful harvest.

Notice that it is the land, not the man, that yields the increased harvest. Whatever we have has come from God. Scripture says,

          • But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth (Deuteronomy 8:18).
          • The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein (Psalm 24:1).
          • Every good and perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning (James 1:17).
          • What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not? (1 Cor 4:7)

We must never forget that God is the true owner of all things; we are merely the stewards. There’s a 1980s Christian song with these appropriate lyrics: “God and God alone created all these things we call our own. From the mighty to the small the glory in them all is God’s and God’s alone.”

God provides the increase and is the initiator of every blessing, but He remains the owner. As stewards, we are expected to use what belongs to God in accord with what He, the true owner, wills. It is easy to forget this and thereby usher in many woes.

What is the will of God regarding our wealth? The Catechism of the Catholic Church speaks of God’s will in this matter as the “universal destination of goods.”

The goods of creation are destined for the whole human race. … “In his use of things man should regard the external goods he legitimately owns not merely as exclusive to himself but common to others also, in the sense that they can benefit others as well as himself.” The ownership of any property makes its holder a steward of Providence, with the task of making it fruitful and communicating its benefits to others, first of all his family (Catechism 2402, 2404).

If we remember that we are stewards of God’s gifts and that He ultimately intends all to be blessed, we can understand that greed is a form of theft, for it inordinately clings to what should be given to another out of justice. If I have two coats, one of them belongs to the poor.

Remembering that the initiation of wealth is God, we can help to avoid greed by using our wealth for the purposes He intends. It is not just for us; it is for all people.

2. The INCONVENIENCE of wealth The parable continues, He asked himself, ‘What shall I do, for I do not have space to store my harvest?”

The man is burdened by his wealth because he does not consider generosity an option. “What shall I do?” he asks anxiously. Great wealth does bring comfort, but it is also a source of inconvenience. Consider just a few things that usually go along with wealth: locks, alarms, storage facilities, insurance, worries, fears, maintenance, and repairs. We live in an affluent age, but one in which many are overly stressed. Consider also the loss of more important values as we concentrate on the accumulation of wealth. We have bigger houses but smaller families; our increasingly massive residences are really more houses than homes.

Scripture says,

          • The rest of a laborer is sweet, whether he eats little or much, but the abundance of a rich man permits him no sleep (Eccl 5:12).
          • Better is a little with the fear of the LORD than great treasure and trouble with it (Prov 15:16).
          • Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting, with strife (Prov 17:1).
          • Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. This too is meaningless (Eccl 5:10).

Wealth certainly has its comforts, but it also brings with it many inconveniences that make our lives more stressful and complicated. Better to be free of excessive wealth in accordance with God’s will than to be burdened by it.

3. The ILLUSION of wealth- The parable goes on to say, And [the man] said, “This is what I shall do: I shall tear down my barns and build larger ones. There I shall store all my grain and other goods and I shall say to myself, ‘Now as for you, you have so many good things stored up for many years, rest, eat, drink, be merry.’”

Here we are taught that riches easily lead us to an illusion of self-sufficiency. We begin to rely more on our own self and our riches than on God.

Riches can buy us out of temporary troubles, but it cannot help with the central problem we face. No amount of money can postpone our appointment with death and judgment. Riches can get us a first-class cabin on the ship, but on the Titanic of this world those in first class are in no better shape than the people in steerage. In fact, because of the illusion it creates, wealth will more likely hinder us in our final passage, for it is only in trusting in God that we can make it to the other shore. Too much wealth and self-reliance can hinder our capacity to call on the Lord and trust Him. Yes, wealth tends to create an illusion that cripples us from reaching our goal. Scripture says,

          • But man, despite his riches, does not endure; he is like the beasts that perish. This is the fate of those who trust in themselves, and of their followers, who approve their sayings (Ps 49:12).
          • Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment (1 Tim 6:17).
          • Whoever trusts in his riches will fall (Prov 11:28).
          • For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits (James 1:11).
          • Give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, “Who is the LORD?” Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God (Prov 30:8).

There’s a gospel song that says, “Well the way may not be easy, but you never said it would be, ’cause when my way gets a little too easy you know I tend to stray from thee.”

The illusion of riches is well illustrated in the modern age. Our wealth has tended to make us less religious, less dependent on God. Deep down we know that all the wealth in the world cannot ultimately save us, but we buy into the illusion anyway. Like the man in the parable, we think, “Now I’ve got it; now I’m all set.” This is an illusion, a set up. Coming to recognize that will help us to avoid greed.

4. The INSUFFICIENCY of wealth But God said to him, “You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?”

Here we see the illusion give way to the reality of insufficiency. Scripture says,

          • There are men who trust in their wealth and boast of the vastness of their riches. But no man can buy his own ransom, or pay a price to God for his life. The ransom of his soul is beyond him. He cannot buy life without end nor avoid coming to the grave. He knows that wise men and fools must perish and leave their wealth to others. Their graves are their homes for ever, their dwelling place from age to age though their names spread wide through the land. In his riches man lacks wisdom, he is like the beast that perish (Psalm 49:5).
          • For what will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life? Or what shall a man give in return for his life? (Mat 16:26)

Money, wealth, power, popularity, and prestige can never get us what we need. We have sought so many saviors in this world, thinking they can somehow save us.

          • SCIENCE, can’t you save me? I can tell you how far it is from the Earth to the Sun. I can tell you how to fly in rocket ships into outer space, but I can’t tell you how to climb to Heaven. No, I can’t save you.
          • PHILOSOPHY, can’t you save me? I can tell you more and more about less and less until you know everything about very little. I can tell you about the thoughts and opinions of the greatest thinkers, but no, I can’t save you.
          • EDUCATION, can’t you save me? I can make you smart, but I can’t make you wise. No, I can’t save you.
          • CULTURE, can’t you save me? I can make the world a more beautiful and entertaining place from which to go to Hell, but no, I can’t save you.
          • ECONOMICS, can’t you save me? I can make you richer, but not rich enough to buy your salvation. No, I can’t save you.
          • POLITICS, can’t you save me? I can give you access to worldly power, but the world as we know it is passing away. No, I can’t save you.

At the end of the day, this world and all of its riches cannot save us; only God can.

5. The INSTRUCTION about wealth The parable concludes, Thus will it be for all who store up treasure for themselves but are not rich in what matters to God.

Again, wealth is not intrinsically evil. It is our greed that is sinful and gets us into trouble. Greed clings to wealth unreasonably and excessively. With greed, we “store up treasure for [ourselves] but are not rich in what matters to God.”

What matters to God? What matters is that we be rich in justice, mercy, love, holiness, and truth; that we be generous sharers of the bounty He bestows. The Lord instructs us to share what we have generously, above what we do not need. Consider the following teachings from Scripture:

          • I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings (Luke 16:9).
          • Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal (Mat 6:19).
          • Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life (1 Tim 6:17-19).

It is said that you can’t take it with you, but this is only partially true. The Lord suggests that we can send our wealth on ahead, that we can store it up in Heaven, that we can invest it in eternity. Do we put our gold in a balloon and float it up into the sky? No, we send it up, we send it on ahead, by bestowing it on the poor and the needy. This includes our family members, for charity begins at home, but it does not end there. Our generosity should extend beyond the family.

If we do this, the Lord teaches that the poor will welcome us to Heaven and speak on our behalf before the judgment seat. God says that when we bless the poor our treasure will be great, and it will be safe in Heaven. Further, our generosity and mercy will benefit us greatly on the day of judgment and help us to lay hold of the life that is truly life.

So, you can’t take it with you, but you can send it on ahead.

In a single parable we have five teachings on wealth meant to give us perspective so that we can avoid greed.

Trust God! Greed is rooted in fear, but generosity trusts that God will not be outdone. While our greatest rewards remain in Heaven, God sends “interest payments” to the generous even now. Scripture says,

      • One man gives freely yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want. A generous man will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered (Prov 11:24).
      • Cast your bread upon the waters: after many days it will come back to you (Eccl 11:1).
      • Give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For the measure you give will be the measure you get back (Luke 6:38).

Guard against greed by allowing these five teachings on wealth to give you the proper perspective.

Cross-posted at the Catholic Standard: You Can’t Take It with You, but You Can Send It on Ahead! Five Teachings on Wealth

What Does Heaven Cost? A Homily for the 28th Sunday of the Year

The Rich Young Man Goes Away Sorrowful, J. Tissot (1894)

The Sunday Gospel invites us to wrestle with these fundamental, essential, focal questions: “What does Heaven cost?” and “Am I willing to pay it?”

I. Problematic Pondering – A rich man asks Jesus, Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?

Though his question is a good one, it is problematic because he couches it in terms of his own personal power and achievement. He wonders what he himself must do to attain eternal life.

The problem is that none of us has the holiness, the spiritual wealth, or the power to attain Heaven based merely on what we do. The kind of righteousness we need can come only from God. The misguided question of the rich man betrays two common misunderstandings that people bring to the question of salvation and the need for redemption.

The first misunderstanding comes about because we underestimate the seriousness of our condition. We tend to think that we’re basically in good shape. Perhaps we have a few flaws, but fundamentally we mean well and are decent. We suspect that a few sacraments, occasional prayers, and some spiritual “push-ups” will be sufficient. Any look to the crucifix should belie these notions. If it took the horrible death of the Son of God to rescue us, then our condition must be worse than we, with our darkened intellect, imagine.

Jesus related a parable of a man who owed a huge debt—10,000 talents (cf Mt 18:24). This was an amount so large as to be almost unimaginable. No one with such a debt is going to be able to repay it merely by working a little overtime or picking up an additional part-time job. The point is that we humans are in deep trouble and have absolutely no ability to rescue ourselves.

A second misunderstanding comes about because we tend to intellectualize and minimize what the law of God requires. We ask, “What must I do?” rather than “What must I become?” This bespeaks a law-based approach that seeks a manageable list of things to do in order to be saved rather than an open-ended relationship with God. “Okay, so I’m not supposed to kill anyone. No problem, I don’t like the sight of blood anyway. I’ve got this commandment down!” This thinking minimizes the commandment and what it asks of us.

These two misunderstandings seem to undergird the problematic nature of the rich man’s question. In order to engage the man further, Jesus in effect plays along with the premise; this leads us to the second point.

II. Playful Prescription – Jesus decides to follow up on the man’s premise, saying to him, You know the commandments: You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; you shall not defraud; honor your father and your mother.

Jesus is being playful here in that He continues with the flawed premise of the man: that he can attain to Heaven by something he does.

It is interesting to ponder why Jesus quotes only the Second Table of the Law, the part pertaining to love of neighbor, omitting reference to the First Table of the Law, the commandments pertaining to love of God. Perhaps it is because the Lord recognizes that the man does love Him, for he is seeking the Kingdom of Heaven and asking how to enter into it. Therefore, the Lord focuses on the Second Table of the Law, which is in evidence in this man’s life, at least in this interaction. Further, as Scripture says elsewhere, How can you say you love God whom you do not see, if you do not love your neighbor whom you do see? (1 John 4:20) Hence, the Second Table of the Law fleshes out the First Table of the Law.

The Lord is not affirming here that the keeping of the commandments can save us or justify us. Even if we consider ourselves blameless, Scripture says, the just man sins seven times a day (Prov 24:16). We can affirm with Isaiah that, I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips (Is 6:5), and we must say with St. Paul, I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died for no purpose (Gal 2:21).

While the law gives us a necessary and clear frame of reference for what pleases God, its summons Be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy (Lev 19:22) is not attainable through mere human effort unaided by grace. Jesus makes it clear that when God says, Be holy, He does not have in mind mere human holiness, for Jesus says, Be perfect, as your Heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5:48).

Thus, Jesus is drawing out the man’s problematic premise, but as we next see, the rich man doesn’t take the hint.

III. Perceived Perfection – Strangely—and humorously to our mind—the man boldly says, Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth.

Notice that the man’s perfection is perceivedsimply noting it in himself does not mean that he actually has it in himself. Having heard Jesus quote the Second Table of the Law, he announces that he has observed all of these from his youth.

To be fair, his self-analysis was not uncommon for a Jewish man of his time. The Jewish people had a great reverence for the law, a beautiful thing in itself, but they tended to understand it in a fairly legalistic and perfunctory way.

For example, in a conversation with Jesus, a scribe of the law asks Him, And who is my neighbor? (Luke 10:29) It’s as if he is saying, “If I have to love my neighbor—and I acknowledge my duty to do so—how can I define ‘neighbor’ in such a way that this is manageable?” In other words, I recognize that I have limits. If justice comes to the law, then the law must have limits, defined in such a way that the keeping of the law remains within my power.

Jesus sets aside such thinking in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5-7), in which He calls for the law to be observed not in a minimalistic sense but in a way that fills it to the fullest. Jesus says that it is not enough not to kill; we must also reject anything that ultimately leads to killing or to wishing people were dead. The commandment not to kill requires not only that we not take life, but also that we banish from our heart and mind, by God’s grace, hateful anger, retribution, and revenge. The commandment not to commit adultery requires not merely that we avoid breaking the marital vows, but also that we banish from our heart and mind, by God’s grace, any lustful, impure, and unrighteous sexual thoughts.

Hence, the commandments and precepts of the law cannot, and should not, be understood in a minimalistic way. Jesus sets aside the usual manner of the people of His day: reducing the law to something manageable and then declaring that they have kept it. God seeks more than perfunctory observance. His grace desires to accomplish within us wholehearted observance. We need grace in order to be saved, in order to qualify for anything that God calls holy.

So, Jesus sets aside the rich man’s claims of righteousness and is now is ready to address the question, “What does Heaven cost?”

IV.  Pricey Prescription – What does Heaven cost? Everything! Jesus, looking at the man with love, says to him, You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.

Ultimately, the cost of Heaven is leaving this world and everything in it to go and possess God and Heaven. To have Heaven we must set aside this world, not only its life but its pomp, ephemeral glories, and passing pleasures. If you want Heaven you’ve got to leave here!

Although we know this, we often live in a way that seeks to postpone the inevitable and to ignore the joke that this world is ultimately playing on us. The world says, “You can have it all!” Yes, you can, but then you die and lose everything. We like to postpone facing that fact, pretending that perhaps it ain’t necessarily so. We’re like the gambler who goes to the casino thinking he will be the exception to the general rule that the house always wins. You can’t cheat life; whatever we have when we die, whatever we claim to have won, we lose.

In the end, there is only one way to attain the things of lasting value. Only what you do for Christ will last. The Lord says, Store up for yourselves treasure in heaven, that neither rust nor moths can corrode, nor thieves break in and steal (Lk 12:33).

The Lord says that being generous to the needy and poor is a way of storing up treasure in Heaven. Sadly, most of us don’t believe that, thinking that clinging to our “treasure” here is a way of keeping it. It isn’t. Whatever we have here is slipping through our fingers like so much sand. The only way to keep it unto life eternal is to give it away to the needy and poor and to allow it to advance the Kingdom of Heaven and its values.

Otherwise, wealth is not only not helpful it is actually harmful. There are many texts in the Scriptures that speak of the danger and the harm of wealth, how it compromises our souls and endangers our salvation:

  • Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!” The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 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(Mk 10:23-25).
  • For we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world; 8 but if we have food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and hurtful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all evils; it is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced their hearts with many pangs (1 Tim 6:7).
  • No servant 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 (Luke 16:13).
  • But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort. Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep (Luke 6:24-25).
  • But many that are first will be last, and the last first (Mat 19:30).
  • Listen, my beloved brethren. Has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which he has promised to those who love him? (James 2:5).

While the Lord’s claim that Heaven costs everything bewilders us, we cannot fail to see its truth and that the world’s claims on us are rooted in a lie, in false declarations that we can be secure in the passing glories of the world. You can have the passing glories of the world, but then you die—end of glory. Because we like the lie, we entertain it. In the end, though, we give everything back because it was never ours to begin with, it only seemed that way.

How foolish we are, how blind! Speaking of blindness, note that the Lord looked at the man with love, yet the man went away sad. That look of love from the Lord never reached his soul. If it had, the result would surely have been different.

V. Powerful Possibility – So shocking is this teaching that even the apostles, who had in fact left everything to follow the Lord, are shocked by it. They see and are in touch with the depth of this wound in the human heart, the depth of our delusion that the world and its goods can satisfy us. They see and know how strong and numerous are the hooks that this world has in us. Thus, they cry out, Then who can be saved? Jesus responds, For man it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God.

In the end, salvation must be God’s work. He alone can take these tortured hearts of ours, so rooted in passing things, and make them willing to forsake all things for the Kingdom of Heaven.  Only God can take our disordered love and direct it to its proper end: the love rooted in God and the things awaiting us in Heaven. Only God can remove our obsession with the Titanic and place us squarely in the Noah’s Ark that is the Church, the Barque of Peter.

Yes, God can give us a new heart, a properly ordered heart, a heart that desires first and foremost God’s love, a heart that can say, “I gratefully receive what you give me, Lord, and I covet nothing more. Thank you, Lord. It is enough. You, O Lord, are enough.”

Don’t miss the look of love that Jesus gave the young man, the look that He gives you. In the end, only a greater love, God’s love received, can replace the disordered love we have for this world.

St. Augustine wrote,

Such, O my soul, are the miseries that attend on riches. They are gained with toil and kept with fear. They are enjoyed with danger and lost with grief. It is hard to be saved if we have them; and impossible if we love them; and scarcely can we have them, but that we shall love them inordinately. Teach us, O Lord, this difficult lesson: to manage conscientiously the goods we possess and not covetously desire more than you give to us (Letter 203).

I prayed, and prudence was given me;
I pleaded, and the spirit of wisdom came to me.
I preferred her to scepter and throne,
and deemed riches nothing in comparison with her,
nor did I liken any priceless gem to her;
because all gold, in view of her, is a little sand,
and before her, silver is to be accounted mire.
Beyond health and comeliness I loved her,
and I chose to have her rather than the light,
because the splendor of her never yields to sleep.
Yet all good things together came to me in her company,
and countless riches at her hands
(Wisdom 7:7-1).

https://youtu.be/u62uYEssk7o/p>

A Meditation on the Poverty of Riches, as Seen in a Video

At Mass for Wednesday of the 25th Week of the Year, we read this passage:

Give me neither poverty nor riches; Feed me [only] with food that I need for today: Lest I be full, and deny you, and say, Who is the LORD? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain. (Proverbs 30:9-10).

One of the great problems of our time is satiation. Because of our own inordinate drives, we accumulate and indulge beyond reason. Filled, we have little room for God or others for that matter.

The more affluent we become in material things, the more spiritually poor we seem to become. The higher our standard of living, the lower our overall morals. The more filled our coffers, the emptier our churches. The numbers demonstrate clearly show that over the past 60 years our standard of living has risen while church attendance and other signs of belief and spirituality have plummeted—so has family time and the developing of deep human relationships. Marriage rates have plummeted while divorce has soared. Birthrates are down. Children are considered a burden in a satiated world with a high standard of living. These are the evils of our times.

It isn’t just wealth, either; it’s all the things that distract and divert us. There are so many pleasures available to us, most of them lawful, but often it’s just too much of a good thing.

One might imagine another scenario in which we were astonished by God’s providence and fell to our knees in gratitude; in our riches and possession of so many good things we prayed and went to Mass even more often out of sheer gratefulness. Alas this is seldom the case today.

Our affluence creates the illusion of self-sufficiency and self-fulfillment.

St. Augustine sadly noted, in a time far less satiated than our own, I, unlovely, rushed heedlessly among the things of beauty You made. You were with me, but I was not with You. Those things kept me far from You, which, unless they were in You, would not be (Confessions 10.27).

Many other Scriptures warn of the spiritual danger posed by wealth and worldly satiation:

  • But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and hurtful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all evils; it is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced their hearts with many pangs (1 Tim 6:9-10).
  • No servant 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! (Luke 16:13)
  • But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort. Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep (Luke 6:24-25).
  • But many that are first will be last, and the last first (Mat 19:30).
  • How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God … 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 (Mk 10:23-25).

It is amazing that despite all of this most of us still want to be rich and would jump for joy if we won the lottery; instead we should soberly cringe with fear and look for good ways to shed our excess.

Alas, this is the human condition, or at least the fallen version of it. It isn’t very pretty and is proof positive that we are going to need a lot of grace and mercy to get home.

Think of that this as you watch this video. It’s a stark portrait of modern man. Consider how full, yet lonely, the man in the video is. He speaks only of himself and seems to interact with almost no one. He’s lost in a self-referential world of excess, filled with every good thing, but too full for God. Somehow the man knows that the worldly things fill him for only a moment and then pass, but still the answer is more! It’s quite a commentary on too many of us today.

As the Proverb says, he is rich and says, “Who is the Lord?”

Two Teachings on Discipleship from Jesus

In the Gospel for today (Monday of the 13thWeek of the Year) Jesus gives two teachings on discipleship. They are not easy, and they challenge us—especially those of us who live in the affluent West.

Poverty– The text says, As they were proceeding on their journey someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus answered him, “Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.”

Here is a critical discipline of discipleship: following Jesus even if worldly gain not only eludes us but is outright taken from us.Do you love the consolations of God or the God of all consolation? Do you seek the gifts of God, or the Giver of every good and perfect gift? What if following Jesus gives you no earthly gain? What if being a disciple brings you ridicule, loss, prison, or even death? Would you still follow Him? Would you still be a disciple?

In this verse, the potential disciple of Jesus seems to have had power, prestige, or worldly gain in mind. Perhaps he saw Jesus as a political messiah and wanted to get on the “inside track.” Jesus warns him that this is not what discipleship is about. The Son of Man’s kingdom is not of this world.

We need to heed Jesus’ warning. Riches are actually a great danger. Not only do they not help us in what we really need, they can actually hinder us! Poverty is the not the worst thing. There’s a risk in riches, a peril in prosperity, and a worry in wealth.

The Lord Jesus points to poverty and powerlessness (in worldly matters) when it comes to being disciples. This is not merely a remote possibility or an abstraction. If we live as true disciples, we are going to find that piles of wealth are seldom our lot. Why? Well, our lack of wealth comes from the fact that if we are true disciples, we won’t make easy compromises with sin or evil. We won’t take just any job. We won’t be ruthless in the workplace or deal with people unscrupulously. We won’t lie on our resumes, cheat on our taxes, or take easy and sinful shortcuts. We will observe the Sabbath, be generous to the poor, pay a just wage, provide necessary benefits to workers, and observe the tithe. The world hands out (temporary) rewards if we do these sorts of things, but true disciples refuse such compromises with evil. In so doing, they reject the temporary rewards of this earth and may thus have a less comfortable place to lay their head. They may not get every promotion and they may not become powerful.

Thus “poverty” is a discipline of discipleship.What is “poverty”? It is freedom from the snares of power, popularity, and possessions.

Jesus had nowhere to rest his head. Now that is poor. However, it also means being free of the many obligations and compromises that come with wealth. If you’re poor no one can steal from you or threaten take away your possessions. You’re free; you have nothing to lose.

Most of us have too much to lose and so we are not free; our discipleship is hindered. Yes, poverty is an important discipline of discipleship.

Promptness (readiness)The text says, And to another he said, “Follow me.” But he replied, “Lord, let me go first and bury my father.” But he answered him, “Let the dead bury their dead. But you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”

The Lord seems harsh here. However, note that the Greek text can be understood in the following way: “My Father is getting older. I want to wait until he dies and then I will really be able to devote myself to being a disciple!”

Jesus’ point is that if the man didn’t have this excuse, he’d have some other one. He does not have a prompt or willing spirit. We can always find some reason that we can’t follow wholeheartedly today because. There are always a few things resolved first.

It’s the familiar refrain: I’ll do tomorrow!

There is peril in procrastination. Too many people always look to tomorrow. But remember that tomorrow is not promised. In Scripture there is one word that jumps out repeatedly; it’s the word now. There are many references to the importance of now or today rather than tomorrow:

  • Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD (Isaiah 1:18).
  • behold, now is the day of salvation (2 Cor 6:2).
  • Today if ye will hear his voice, Harden not your heart (Ps 95:7).
  • Boast not thyself of tomorrow; for you know not what a day may bring forth (Prov 27:1).

That’s right, tomorrow is not promised! You’d better choose the Lord today because tomorrow might very well be too late. Now is the day of salvation.

There is an old preacher’s story about delay: There were three demons who told Satan about their plan to destroy a certain man.The first demon said, “I’m going to tell him that there is no Hell.” But Satan said, “People know that there’s a Hell and most have already visited here.” The second demon said, “I’m going to tell him that there is no God.” But Satan said, “Despite atheism being fashionable of late, most people know, deep down, that there is a God, for He has written His name in their hearts.” The third demon said, “I’m not going to tell them that there’s no Hell or that there’s no God; I’m going to tell them that there’s no hurry.” And Satan said, “You’re the man! That’s the plan!”

Yes, promptness is a discipline of discipleship. It is a great gift to be sought from God. It is the gift to run joyfully and without delay to what God promises.

Here are two disciplines of discipleship. They are not easy, but the Lord only commands what truly blesses. There is freedom in poverty and joy in quickly following the Lord!

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