It’s About the Money

Mar 31, 2024 820

It’s About the Money

It’s been estimated that there are 2,350 verses in the Bible about money and generosity. We often don’t like to face the reality that Jesus had a lot to say about money in his teachings, and what he had to say was very challenging. One of the ways that we try to avoid this truth is by spiritualising it away.

The story about a man we call “The Rich Young Ruler” is a good case in point. The story goes like this:

As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’”

“Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”

Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.

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 isto enter the kingdom of God! 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” (Mark 10:17–25.)

It is very difficult for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.

What just happened here? What is this story about?

If you ask different people, they will give you different answers. Some people will tell you that the story is about commitment. The young man wasn’t committed enough to follow Jesus. Or perhaps the story is about selfishness. The young man was too selfish to follow Jesus.

I think there’s some truth in both of these ideas. But they are both also ways of avoiding the uncomfortable truth that this story is basically about money and wealth, and our attitudes to it. Jesus says as much in the lesson that he draws from it for his disciples. It is very difficult for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.

Christianity has nothing at all to do with how much money you have.

That would have been a very confronting thing for the disciples to hear. That’s because they lived in a religious culture that taught that if you were wealthy, it was a blessing from God in recognition of the fact that you were his follower. The blessings of God, and especially things like wealth and health, were associated in the minds of the people with one’s standing with God. And, actually, if you think about it, there are strong streams of that kind of thinking in Christianity today as well.

By telling this rich young man to sell everything and to give it to the poor if he wanted to follow him, Jesus was effectively telling him and us that Christianity has nothing at all to do with how much money you have. You don’t need a single cent to follow Jesus. You can be a billionaire or a beggar and still be loved and accepted by God. There is absolutely no correlation between your wealth and your standing with God. Contrary to what many Christians today believe, that correlation is not a positive one: in other words, it is not true that the more faithful you are to God, the more he will financially bless you.

Our attitude to money reveals the truth of whom we worship.

But there definitely is a correlation between your attitude to money and your relationship with God. Throughout all the teachings of Jesus we see that this correlation is a negative one. In other words, the more you love money, the less you will love Jesus, and conversely the more you love Jesus, the less you will make money the centre of your life.

Why? It’s not because there is anything inherently magical or spiritual about money. It’s just metal and paper. But it represents power in our society, and every human being, whether we admit it or not, worships what we consider is most powerful and we want it for ourselves. As a result, money is the biggest idol. Our attitude to money reveals the truth of whom we worship, whether we sit in a church every Sunday or not.

So ask yourself: How generous are you? Or, another question: How do you justify your lack of generosity?

Eliezer Gonzalez

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