Some people imagine that to possess wealth is a good thing. When they hear of someone winning a big prize, they admit that they would gladly be in his or her place. They think of security as a relief from financial strain that only wealth can bring. They dream of the many things that they could purchase.
Jesus spoke of the deceitfulness of riches. When we possess riches, we may be deceived about our position in life. We may tend to feel independent, to rely and to trust in our riches rather than in God. We may start to feel safe apart from God and forget that we may die at any moment.
Jesus said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, 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” (Luke 18:24-25, NIV).
That statement shows how riches and good fortune in life tend to lead not to blessing but to tragedy. In this materialistic age in which we live, our values are upside-down. We put the emphasis on the wrong things.
In the 12th chapter of Luke, Jesus tells the story of a rich man who rested in his materialism and said to his soul, “‘You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you’” (Luke 12:19-20, NIV).
The rich man in this story felt secure. He thought he did not need God; he did not need prayer, for he had so much else. He hardened his heart, stifled his conscience and dulled his mind. He did not think of the possibility of death and the judgment of God. He felt that his financial security was a bulwark against all evil. Yet Christ taught that it is a false sense of security.
Life is never secure for anyone apart from God, Jesus said. No deep, satisfying rest and security exists apart from Him, and anything that supposedly gives a sense of security apart from God is considered a source of evil in the Bible. Christ not only is talking about money, bank accounts, investments and insurance policies. If a man is rich in anything apart from God–whether it be talents, brains, abilities or popularity–he is in no less danger than the man who is rich from money.
Christ plainly asked, “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:36, NIV). Many people teach that prosperity and a high standard of living are the highest goals attainable. The Bible teaches that materialism apart from God will destroy a nation as well as an individual.
Fifteen hundred years ago the people of imperial Rome were living in luxury, ease and prosperity. The Romans laughed at the rugged barbarians of the north. These people had a far lower standard of living than the Romans did. They could not possibly conquer great imperial Rome. Yet they did. Those illiterate barbarians conquered rich and luxurious Rome because Rome had become morally and spiritually weak. The city fell almost without a fight.
The rich man in Jesus’ story had ensured himself against every contingency. His plan embraced the distant future. He knew when to retire, and he made careful and detailed plans to enjoy his wealth in his period of retirement. But this materialistic man had not consulted God, and his plans were spoiled because he had considered only his own welfare. His plans, inspired by selfish ambition, were all folly–because God always has the final word.
There is nothing in the teachings of Jesus to indicate that it is wrong to be rich. Jesus talked about the motives, thoughts and intents of the heart. He spoke about covetousness and stewardship.
We may say to ourselves, “I will plan carefully. I will do this or do that.” But God can say, “I have other plans for you.” We may try to be masters of our own circumstances and lords of our own destinies. We may try to maneuver people and situations to suit our ends and get our own way. Our plans may succeed for a time, as they seemed to for the rich man in the story Jesus told, but what folly and tragedy it proved to be! This road leads to destruction.
This materialistic man had forgotten God. And God does not call many people fools, but He called this man a fool. That night the rich man died. Jesus draws our attention to this: “This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God” (Luke 12:21, NIV). From the world’s point of view, the rich man may have been a success. His funeral was probably attended by hundreds of people. Perhaps he was officially mourned. But how pathetic is his life when seen from the other side of eternity! How pathetic is his success, in view of his end!
God requires that we should have riches toward Him. He demands an inward righteousness that the world cannot always see–but which is always before God. God looks for riches in the heart and the soul. Christ says that a person’s life is a tragedy and a failure if he or she has been a success in everything else but in the end lacks the one thing that matters most of all. To the rich young ruler, Jesus said, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven” (Luke 18:22, NIV).
Are you like this rich man? Have you been trusting in money to be your security? Or are you trusting in Jesus Christ?
Our world will some day fall apart. The Bible teaches that our buildings will crumble and fall, and everything in this world will pass away, “but he who does the will of God abides for ever” (1 John 2:17, NKJV). Come to Christ. Give your life to Him now. He is the only security we have.