In the article posted here two weeks ago, entitled I Have Been Misled About Christian Giving–and It Is My Fault, As Well, I expressed my concern about the dangerous effect of money and power in the Church. This distress is based upon Jesus’ explanation of the Parable of the Sower in Matthew 13:18-23. These conclusions seem obvious regarding His teaching about the third seed:

  1. Riches are deceitful. Corollary one: Wealth can be a spiritual enemy. Corollary two: I am a fool if I don’t think I have been deceived by riches.
  2. The cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches cause the seeds that Jesus disperses, not to die, but to be unfruitful.

Therefore, I wrote, “And this, in my opinion, is one of the fundamental problems of the Church today and has been for a very long time.” The concluding statement of the piece was, “The pervasive influence of wealth in the Church has resulted in a systematized tendency toward spiritual poverty.”

Why does the pervasive influence of wealth in the Church result in a systematized tendency toward spiritual poverty? Consider this well-known passage:

“And Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God’” (Matthew 19:23–24).1

Do Christians believe this teaching from their Savior? Sure, they do—sorta. However, is it not true that the Church presents an impression of wealth to announce to everyone who walks through our doors that we are successful, that we are an up and coming church on the rise? Of course we do. Here’s the logic: Who would want to attend or financially support a church that wasn’t successful? In spite of the logic, however, if we return to Jesus’ teaching, we must ask this question: Why would the Church do things that actually make it more difficult for a Christian to enter the kingdom of God?

If you are stuttering right now and your head is spinning, you are in good company. Welcome to the fellowship of Heads-Spun-By-Jesus Christians.

In addition, let’s look at the disciples’ response to Jesus’ warning about rich people: “When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, ‘Who then can be saved?’” (Matthew 19:25). Why would the disciples ask this silly question? Because, in Jesus’ time, someone who was wealthy was considered to be blessed by God and possessed God’s favor. Now, born-again believers do not think that financial wealth and salvation are connected in any way except, well, we kinda do. Otherwise, we would not go to such great expense to avoid the perception to believers and unbelievers alike that we are in any way impoverished.

This is treacherous spiritual ground for us to tread, but we do not seem to be concerned at all.

However, we should be. Look at these words from Jesus to a church:

“I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked” (Revelation 3:15–17).

Please note that the people in this church were working: “I know your works.” However, whatever they were doing was not pleasing to Jesus in the least. And the primary reason for their predicament was the deleterious effect of wealth on their church. Riches had caused these believers to think that they didn’t need anything. Are riches deceitful? Do they choke out Christian growth? Is it difficult for a rich person to enter God’s kingdom? Jesus’ words to the church at Laodicea were caused by a tragic refusal to give heed to His warnings about wealth from the Parable of the Sower and the difficulty of rich people entering God’s kingdom in Matthew 19.

1All scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.