Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to go into the kingdom of heaven. – Matthew 19:24
When I was a frequenter of a “ye who shall not be named” cancer-causing fast-food restaurant’s drive thru, I became friendly with the folks working the windows (well, as friendly as you can be at crazy o’clock in the morning and conversations that lasted shorter than 30 seconds). One of the workers told me it was his last day there and that he got a job at a retail store nearby where he would make 2 more dollars an hour. I was excited for him, even though I knew what a mere $10/hour would afford him. The man… nice guy, gentle smile, always happy and friendly, could read, could write, could count money… but was making minimum wage.
Then I start thinking about our society and get irritated again. Whether good intentions or not, the entitlement system has made people believe that it’s better to rely on our tax money than to go get a job. They may be right. This entitlement system isn’t just found here in the good ole US of A. It’s in other countries too, especially in the UK.
So many people, Christians even, will throw their hands up in the air and say, “it’s not my problem.” So many people think the only people they should worry about are those folks with similar blood running through their veins. So many people think that if other people would just try harder they could have better lives.
Let me break down that last thought for you… let’s take an average person living in the inner city, who’s already living among drug dealers and prostitutes (because that’s the only kind of place they could afford), who’s taking public transportation (because that’s all they can afford) to a job that pays $8/hour and still manage to eat and clothe themselves… tell me how that person needs to try harder. OH… Education you say! Fine, now that person has to keep that minimum wage job while also going to school (after getting a school loan which would put them thousands of dollars into debt) to get a job where they will be paying on that student loan for the rest of eternity. I’m not saying it’s impossible, I’m saying it’s improbable.
And let us talk about that education for a minute. There are students attending schools in some very prestigious zip codes where the schools pay top dollar for the quality teachers. These public schools will also have fundraisers (who have parents that are those CEO’s) to keep those elite art, band, and science programs. Those students will go onto college, maybe good private colleges, and continue on to be top earners as well. Yet, a few miles in a different direction there’s a completely different scenario. There are schools where teachers have to deal with children who aren’t getting good meals at home, dealing with conflict and who knows what at home, who are dealing with pressures around them we don’t even want to think about. Those teachers have a hard time keeping the kids focused on school and doing school work at home, let alone getting those kids interested in learning. Kids at these lesser income schools aren’t getting those extra programs. They are lucky to be getting decent hot food or working air conditioning. Those kids just want to survive.
There’s an excellent book I read some years ago called Savage Inequalities that talks about these underprivileged schools. It’s a real eye opener.
Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help. – Isaiah 58:7
Friends, I know sometimes it feels weird. We’ve become cynical. We’ve given our money to the guy on the corner not knowing where it went to. We’ve tithed only to see it squandered on a Mercedes Benz or a renovation we did not want. We’ve seen our tax dollars being wasted year after year on programs designed to help but do nothing of the sort. Yet, it’s not for you to worry about. We are directed to do these things by Jesus.
And behold, there came a man up to Him, saying, Teacher, what excellent and perfectly and essentially good deed must I do to possess eternal life? And He said to him, Why do you ask Me about the perfectly and essentially good? There is only One Who is good [perfectly and essentially]—God. If you would enter into the Life, you must continually keep the commandments. He said to Him, What sort of commandments? [Or, which ones?] And Jesus answered, You shall not kill, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honor your father and your mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as [you do] yourself. The young man said, I have observed all these from my youth; what still do I lack? Jesus answered him, If you would be perfect [that is, have that spiritual maturity which accompanies self-sacrificing character], go and sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have riches in heaven; and come, be My disciple [side with My party and follow Me]. But when the young man heard this, he went away sad (grieved and in much distress), for he had great possessions. And Jesus said to His disciples, Truly I say to you, it will be difficult for a rich man to get into 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 man to go into the kingdom of heaven. – Matthew 19:16-24
Aaron Patton, a pastor at Oak Grove Baptist Church, gave an excellent sermon on money. He talked about how people who make less, share more (percentage wise). He introduced the Global Rich List where you can put in your salary and see where you rank in the world (FYI, if you make more than $33,000 you are in the top 1% of the world).
We’ve all become scrooges, people. We put our 401K’s and IRAs together and get all excited when we see the statements come in the mail (if you are able to wait that long). We like watching those cash piles grow. We’ve got to get our kids into private school. We’ve got to get our kids into college. We’ve got to save for retirement. We’ve got to save for that trip to Europe. We’ve got to save for those fancy boots.
I’m as guilty as the next guy. I like some things, yes I do. I’m not exempt from this. But I want to be chasing after God instead of chasing after retirement. I may die before I get to retire so what would that have gotten me?
Brothers and Sisters, there WILL come a day when we die – God willing it’s a long way from today. When we do, we will be held accountable for our actions and our sins. When God asks us, “what did you do for my kingdom?” how will you answer? I don’t think that the answer, “I gave 10% of my salary to the church” is good enough.
We are called to be Christlike, right? Would Jesus only share 10% of a loaf of bread if he saw someone hungry? Would he share half? Likely he would give away the entire lot and go hungry himself. We need to be more like this. We need to be smart about our giving, sustaining ourselves of course but providing for others. There’s no reason for an old person to die in winter because they couldn’t pay the gas bill or for a child in Africa to die because they had no food. The US has so much money that if we shared just a little, the entire globe would be fed.
Our society has us fooled that we get these houses with a mortgage, cars that we can’t afford to pay for, loans for education (all to get ahead – see above) and the list goes on and on. There are people at the other end of those deals that are profiting on us behaving this way.
Friends, the end of all of this goes back to that Matthew 19 verse quoted earlier. We absolutely cannot serve two gods. We cannot serve both Jesus and also our love of money (things, possessions, daily Starbucks coffee). It is impossible. The reason is because that money is the root of all evil… it really is.
But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. – Timothy 6:9-10
If I’m chasing after money so I’m taken care of for retirement, then I’m not trusting that God will take care of me. If I’m chasing after money to fulfill me and make me content, then I’m not making myself content with Christ.
God didn’t give us our things to be scrooges, he gave us our things to share. Some don’t have it as good as you do and if you sit on your high horse and think others just need to try harder and they can get their’s too then you just don’t get it.
Toward the end of his career, John D. Rockefeller suffered from a partial nervous breakdown. Many accounts tell the story that he had made so much money he wasn’t sure what to do with it all. The money was making him sick. After becoming a philanthropist (and even though we all joke about living like a Rockefeller – he gave away almost all that he had toward the end of his life at 98) his health dramatically improved until he died, 40 years later. In the mid 1890’s, Rockefeller’s worth was $900 million dollars. When he died, he had $26 million TOTAL to his name.
Money – Pink FloydMoney, get away
Get a good job with good pay and you’re okayMoney, it’s a gas
Grab that cash with both hands and make a stash
New car, caviar, four star daydream
Think I’ll buy me a football teamMoney, get back
I’m all right Jack keep your hands off of my stackMoney, it’s a hit
Don’t give me that do goody good bulls–t
I’m in the high-fidelity first class traveling set
And I think I need a Lear jetMoney, it’s a crime
Share it fairly but don’t take a slice of my pieMoney, so they say
Is the root of all evil today
But if you ask for a raise it’s no surprise
That they’re giving none away