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The Sorrows of Wealth

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     I have never know the sorrow of being extremely rich.  When I preached a recent sermon and referenced the account of the rich young ruler, I joked about the fact that "extreme wealth sorrow" was an emotion I had never experienced, and it got a solid laugh.  It's a good thing to connect with people through humor when you're preaching, but in this case I'm afraid that I missed a real opportunity for true growth.  When we read the Bible and roll our eyes or laugh at those who reject Jesus, we miss out on an opportunity to identify some of our own heart idols and areas where we may not be following Jesus as he deserves.  Let's take a look at the passage from Luke 18:

 

[18] And a ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” [19] And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. [20] You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.’” [21] And he said, “All these I have kept from my youth.” [22] When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” [23] But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich. [24] Jesus, seeing that he had become sad, said, “How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! (Luke 18:18-24 ESV)

 

     Most days I don't feel like an extremely wealthy man.  I live a very average American life.  But the reality is...an average American life is indeed one of extreme wealth in comparison to the vast majority of the world population.  If I honestly embrace that as truth, and I then consider some of the things that Jesus has called me to release, and if I am also as honest about how difficult that is for me to do, then I am suddenly in position to learn from the rich young ruler's rejection of Jesus and to feel convicted by it.  I don't roll my eyes or laugh at "that guy".  I take a hard look in the mirror at "this guy."  I learn from his failure and, Lord willing, repent and change my heart...willing to surrender all to Jesus if and when He requires me to do so.  

 

     With this approach to reading scripture, I can learn from the many failures and shortcomings of those who it would be easy to ridicule.  

 

My thoughts begin to change...

 

From: "How could Adam & Eve have disobeyed their Creator?"

To: "How have the lies and false promises of power and pride crept into my heart?"

 

From: "God just led Israel out of Egypt and across the Red Sea...how could they doubt Him?"

To: "God has proven Himself so many times in my life...why am I struggling to trust Him with this latest challenge?"

 

From: "The Pharisees have studied the scriptures...why can't they recognize God when He is standing right in front of them?"

To: "Have I become so familiar with my own idea of who God is that the things I read in the Bible no longer surprise, convict or challenge me?"

 

     The Sermon on the Mount begins with the words..."Blessed are the poor in spirit."  Spiritual poverty involves acknowledging your own brokenness and need for a Savior.  If you can relate to the broken, the disobedient, the confused, the doubting, the the sick & the poor in scripture then you are in a position to repent of your own flaws and failures and lean into the grace and mercy that Jesus freely, abundantly and joyfully offers to you and to me every day.

 

1 Comment

I am ever thankful to my spouse who introduced me to the phrase "first world problem". That's the phrase which gets my attitude back in check when I am frustrated with something which is not really worthy of my frustration. For example, how can I honor that we are ALL God's children if I get frustrated with highway traffic or packing the wrong shoes on a trip, when some of God's children have to walk to get their daily supply of water with no shoes on their feet? I am wiser to save my frustrations for issues where people are not treated with respect and dignity, like those in child or elder care for whom the going wage is minimum wage.

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