There is a story about a rich man who came to Jesus and asked what he needed to do to inherit eternal life. Jesus told him the answer, but he would not do it because he was unwilling to give up his possessions and follow after Jesus. Afterwards Jesus turned to his disciples and said, “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.”
That image is a vivid illustration of the struggle that exists in every human heart. Will someone pursue possessions, or will they pursue God? Will someone lay up treasures in heaven, or will they settle for investing in the corruptible riches of this world? It can be a surprisingly strong battle in our hearts unless we have been trained to see that wealth often leads away from God because it leads to wickedness.
The apostle Paul made this clear when he wrote, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils.” We often hear that verse and think it refers to people in the world. The gambler who ruined his family to feed his addiction. The greedy politician who embezzled funds. The shocking realization about Paul’s warning is that he was writing to the church! He wrote, “It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.”
The tragedy of pursuing wealth is that it often deadens a Christian to the pain they are inflicting upon themselves. Like a leprosy patients who burns themselves without knowing it, a Christian in pursuit of wealth can hurt their spiritual health without knowing it. Their conscience can become deadened to the clear teaching of Scripture which means they are in danger of damaging their soul.
Hebrews 10:24-25 says “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” I have met many professing Christians who act as if this verse has been removed from their Bibles. They know they should prioritize meeting as a church family, but they act as though Sunday is just Saturday with a different name.
Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?” (Matthew 16:24-26) Our society is super-charged with consumerism. It is built around the premise that the whole world can be yours if you work hard enough. If that means working on Sundays then so be it. As Christians we must be aware of the madness of materialism. We must remember we are different than the world. We take every thought captive. We live to please the Lord and not the consumerism of our society.
A good litmus test for this is to ask yourself how often you attend church. If you have been able to go a month without attending church, then your conscience has clearly become deadened. If you only go to church when you are scheduled to serve your local congregation, then there is something wrong. If you have taken a job that has you consistently working on Sundays, then you need to reconsider your priorities. Starving your soul in order to pay the bills will have consequences. How much is your soul worth? How much is your relationship with God and the local church worth to you?
So how do we counter our culture’s incessant cry for more wealth, more money, more things? It is quite simple. We have to think of wealth the way the Bible does. Jesus said, “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.” We have to ask ourselves is this purchase helping me serve God or money? Does this job allow me store up treasure in heaven or only here on earth? Do our plans for this weekend help us serve God or ourselves?
The apostle Paul gave the solution to the wickedness of pursuing wealth. He wrote “But godliness with contentment is great gain.” (1 Timothy 6:6) How can we be godly? We have to repent of our sins and commit our lives to Christ! How can we be content? We have to trust in the sovereignty of God. He will provide. And if you can live a godly and content life then your life will natural result in great spiritual gain. Jesus put it like this, “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.” (Matt. 6:19-20)