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Some scriptures batter my head and won’t stop.

It’s a good battering, though; soul-deepening.

One of the prevalent ones for the last twenty years or so concerns wealth and discipleship. When Jesus taught about the cost of discipleship, one of His requirements was for us to renounce all that we have: “So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33).1 This requirement, along with the others from Luke 12, loom large for all those who seriously desire to follow Him. I’ve wondered “Do I really love Him more than all that I have, more than wealth? Am I truly His disciple?” This is a good and noble question to ask; God-honoring. How much money does one really need?

Jesus taught, “No one can serve two masters, for 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 God and money” (Matthew 6:24). Should Jesus’ disciples love God and despise money? As we shall see, we should be extremely careful with this commodity. Absolutely, we should not serve or love money.

However, I don’t see in Scripture that the Lord condemns wealth. In the Old Testament, it is sometimes looked upon as a sign of God’s favor, as in Abraham’s case, for example (Genesis 13:2). However, consider with me the Old Testament command about the Sabbath Year. Every seventh year, farmers were to leave their ground fallow (Leviticus 25:2-7; Exodus 23:10). After the sixth year, they could only eat from their land the produce which came up on its own. Can you imagine an American farmer leaving all his land fallow? This Sabbath-Year command intentionally diminishes wealth—or seems to. The Lord wanted Israel to obey this law in faith and teach them that He—not they—was the one who provided for them. I should add that Israel did not keep His Sabbaths (Ezekiel 20:19–21) and thus did not honor Him.

But enough about them. Do I truly trust God will provide for me?

No such Sabbath-Year law exists for Christians; however, in the New Testament, Jesus offers some challenges regarding wealth.

In the parable of the Good Sower, Jesus taught this about the seed sown among thorns: “As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful” (Matthew 13:22). Riches, Jesus said, are deceitful. Have you been deceived by them? Have I? In the U.S., everyone, it seems, wants to be rich, to have “the best” of everything. Eat sumptuous food. Live in comfort. Retire on a beach. How much wealth should I keep? How much do I really need? How comfortable is comfort? How much do I give? We favor the accumulation of great wealth because we have swallowed the lie that wealth brings happiness. It surely makes life easier, but it does not bring joy. It is not fulfilling to our souls. It puts us in the place of the unfruitful, choking “cares of this world.”

Second, consider this: Jesus didn’t assign any of His disciples to a specific ministry, except one: Judas. Which ministry was that? Stewardship of the purse. Stunning. He gave the oversight of the money for ministry to the one who would steal from that purse and eventually betray Him. How much did money mean to Jesus?

Finally, we have the parables about two rich men. First, we will look at the parable of Lazarus and the rich man. The rich man was a fellow who “was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day” (Luke 16:19), while Lazarus, the poor man, was “covered with sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table” (Luke 16:20–21a). When the rich man died, he went to a very hot place. When Lazarus died, he went to “Abraham’s side,” where it was pleasant and comforting. This is a sobering story, is it not? Are we rich? How much care should we have for the poor?

The second parable about a rich man concerns the one who tore down his barns to build a bigger one when his harvest was abundant. “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.” But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God” (Luke 12:16–21). It makes sense, does it not, to build a bigger barn if one’s harvest is more than can be contained in the existing structure?

Challenging. However, I find some comfort here. Wealth, according to Jesus, is a heart matter. It is not the treasure that is condemned here—after all, God provided it—but the laying up of treasure for ourselves and not being rich toward God.

I don’t know if the biblical truths about wealth are on your radar screen or not. If they aren’t, please pray that they will be. Join me in being battered about by Scriptural challenges about wealth, discipleship, the poor, and true treasure.

So, one last smack in the kisser: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19–21).

1All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

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