A RADICAL PARADIGM SHIFT
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 someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.’
The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, ‘Who then can be saved?’ Jesus looked at them and said, ’With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.’ (Mark 10: 23-27).
That comment got the disciples going! What Jesus had just said flew in the face of their understanding of wealth. They believed that prosperity was an indication of God’s favour and blessing while poverty meant just the opposite. But Jesus was telling them that a rich person had a hard time getting into the kingdom of God? It made no sense to them.
In the company of Jesus they had to “unlearn” many of the ideas they grew up with. They believed, for example, that illness and physical disabilities were a punishment for sin. Hence the question, when they encountered a man born blind (John 9), ‘Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ Some of their beliefs almost resembled the idea of karma – a kind of fatalistic outlook on life.
Time and again Jesus had to pull them back to reality. They had just witnessed what money and possessions did to a man who could not let go. Wealth was not a blessing for him. It was the thing that stood between him and eternal life. He chose to trust in his money instead of following Jesus. But what was the problem? Was it wrong to have money? No, money was not his problem; his attitude towards his money was the issue.
Jesus was adamant that no one can serve God and money. He did not say “Have money!” He said, “Serve money.” What’s the difference? Money is a good servant but a terrible master. One of the “thorns” which choked the Word of God was “the deceitfulness of riches”. Why is money deceitful? Because it cannot deliver on what it promises.
Money and possessions cannot buy health, happiness or peace of mind, and certainly not the assurance of eternal life. Money dehumanises people. The more they have, the more they want. “Enough” is always just out of reach. Instead of using their money to serve people, they use people to make more money.
We don’t have to be brilliant to realise that it is money that drives the world. Unfortunately, the love of money is just as real in the church as it is in the world. The same philosophy drives many in the church as it does outside. How many wealthy pastors unashamedly attribute their affluent lifestyle to “God’s blessing” while, in actual fact they mild their congregation through guilt.
In Jesus’s equation, quite the opposite is true. Zacchaeus revealed one of the real evidences of a changed heart – his attitude to his possessions. Was it only because, as a tax collector for Rome, he had extorted money from his fellow Jews to line his own pocket? Perhaps, but he had also become a “new creation” in the presence of Jesus. He changed from being a greedy money-grabber to being will to give away where he saw need, and make restitution for his theft.
His was not an isolated case, either. After Pentecost, when three thousand people came into the kingdom of God in one day, a new spirit prevailed among them. Instead of being “getters” they became givers. They sold their possessions and shared their wealth so that there was equality among them.
Only God can change ah greedy heart. Jesus told Nicodemus that entry into the kingdom of God required a work of God’s Spirit. It was like being “born again”, starting life all over again with a different disposition and perspective. It took a miracle of God’s grace to do that. A good was to discern whether a person, including oneself, is truly a citizen of the heavenly kingdom is to examine his (or your) attitude to money. How willingly do you share with those in need?
But it goes even deeper than that? For some people, giving money away is not the issue. Why they do it is the issue. Is it to get praise from admirers for their generosity like the Pharisees? Is it because they feel sorry for the poor? Is it because they feel good about being benevolent? None of these count for God. There is only one worthy motive for being generous – gratitude to God for His mercy. It’s not about us. It’s about Him! That’s the spirit that reveals where your heart is.
Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
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