“Don’t wear yourself out trying to get rich. Be wise enough to know when to quit. In the blink of an eye wealth disappears, for it will sprout wings and fly away like an eagle.” Proverbs 23:4-5 (NLT)
Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness—the American Dream. Our media bombards us with the idea that we should pursue whatever makes us happy. If fame makes us happy, we should chase it. If academic degrees make us happy, we should acquire them. And if money makes us happy, then, whatever it takes, we should pursue wealth!
As a high school student, and not yet a Christian, I bought into the lie that money would make me happy. As I thought about college and the future, I spent many hours in the career counseling center searching for jobs that would lead to wealth and prominence. Earning money and respect were my two main criteria for deciding the direction I wanted to pursue in life. In my own way, I was pursuing the American dream.
Then, in college, I met Jesus. And He began to completely change my heart!
Over the next few years, I realized that only a relationship with God can provide joy—the kind of joy that doesn’t wax and wane as circumstances change. I also learned that at the core of God’s character is self-giving, generous Love. The kind of Love that motivated the Father to send His Son to save sinners. The self-giving Love that drove the Creator to live among His creation as a poor Man who didn’t even have a home. The humble Love demonstrated when Jesus, the One before whom all people will one day bow, bent down to wash His disciples’ filthy feet.
This is the kind of Love Jesus wants to radiate in and through our lives. And one of the biggest barriers to this kind of self-giving Love is the love of money.
In Matthew 19:16-28, Jesus has a conversation with a very confident, very rich man who wanted to know how he could get eternal life. When Jesus told him to obey the commandments, the rich man responded, “Check! I’ve kept all the commandments! Anything else?” Seriously, he had never told a lie, disobeyed his parents, or stolen anything, even as a little boy? Seeing the rich man’s pride, Jesus addressed the heart of the issue by telling him to sell all his possessions and give the money to the poor. The rich man refused and missed out on following Jesus.
Why did Jesus command the rich man to give all his wealth away?! When money takes the place of God in our lives, it hardens our hearts to spiritual truth.
Now, it’s important to note that Jesus was NOT telling the rich man that he could earn his salvation by obeying God or giving every penny to the poor. Jesus was, however, pointing to the barrier that kept him from seeing his spiritual poverty and need for grace.
God may not be asking you and me to give all our money away. But He is asking us to be honest about where we put our trust. As North American Christians, it is SO easy to get sucked into materialism and begin to think that more money and more stuff will solve our problems and make us happy. But deep down, we know it won’t!
So, as Christians, how should we think about money?
Proverbs 23:4-5 says, “Don’t wear yourself out trying to get rich. Be wise enough to know when to quit. In the blink of an eye wealth disappears, for it will sprout wings and fly away like an eagle.”
These verses teach us that God alone provides the security we all long for. Wealth is transitory, like an independent, illusive eagle. Eagles are amazing creatures. They symbolize freedom and independence. Wealth, like an eagle, can fly away without notice, at uncatchable speeds, to unreachable heights. And when wealth flies away, those who have spent a lifetime pursuing it realize the futility of their lives.
God did not design wealth to provide ultimate security; nor should we make it the object of our faith. In Matthew 6:19-34, Jesus assures believers that if we seek God’s kingdom and righteousness, He will meet our material needs.
Now, here’s the rub. Millions of believers around the world are barely surviving. They don’t have enough food and water, the basic necessities that make life possible. So, what is God’s plan to meet their needs? The Church, Christ’s Body.
God doesn’t have a Plan B for meeting the needs of the extreme poor. He gives more resources to some people not so they can increase their standard of living but so that they can play a part in His sovereign plan to prove His faithfulness. Has God given you more money than you need? Good! You have an opportunity to put into practice His self-giving, generous Love by meeting the basic needs of others. As a result, the extreme poor will be able to experience the Love and faithfulness of God in their lives.
The views expressed in this piece are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the position of Bright Hope.