“Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. And again I say to you, 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’ ” (Matthew 19:23,24).
MATERIAL WEALTH BY ITSELF CAN’T KEEP US AWAY FROM GOD, BUT THERE CAN BE NO DOUBT THAT IT IS A GREAT DISADVANTAGE TO US SPIRITUALLY. Wealth draws our attention and our affection away from God. The more we have, the harder it is to remember our need for Him (Deuteronomy 8:10–18). And the more comfortable our lifestyle, the less incentive we have to seek Him. Our reverence dissipates, our worship disappears, and at last we discover that we’ve become proud and ungrateful.
Ours is a capitalistic society, however, and warnings about the disadvantages of wealth sound unpatriotic, unambitious, and possibly even irreligious. All in all, it would be hard to imagine a more counter-cultural statement than Paul’s remark to Timothy that “those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition” (1 Timothy 6:9). In these words, Paul does not denounce wealth per se, but what he does say is not to be taken lightly: (1) wealth is dangerous, and (2) those who long for it are not thinking wisely about their spiritual welfare. For those trying to get to heaven, there is no greater disadvantage than wealth.
But what if we find ourselves, as most of us do, already among the affluent? Then we need to be honest about the difficulties and dangers that face us, and we need to do whatever it takes to compensate for the disadvantage of our possessions. “Command those who are rich in this present age,” Paul continued, “not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life” (1 Timothy 6:17–19). Yes, it is possible to be an Abraham, a man who kept his faith despite the possession of great wealth. But how many Abrahams are there in the world? Realistically, how many of us have his faith?
“Few people have the spiritual resources needed to be both wealthy and godly” (Erwin W. Lutzer).