My grandchildren live in a world centered around instant gratification. When they want ice cream, they want it right now. When they want to play, they want to play right now. When they want a big loving hug from grandpa, they want it right now. Well, I guess that last one is okay, and I am more than happy to oblige.
When we grow up we become more patient and disciplined when it comes to getting what we want. We adults are very good at delaying gratification and we will always put our piece of mind, love for others and relationship with God above obtaining material possessions, right? Ha! Of course not! You and I both know that the older we get the more and more we are conditioned by the world (and our own naturally selfish impulses) to get get get! For some, the pinnacle of success may be a combination of a fat bank account, a sizable investment portfolio, a big house, fancy cars, exotic vacations, and lots of power and prestige. In short, people like having stuff. Never mind that these things may not bring inner peace or contentment. In fact, God tells us in 1 Timothy 6, that we are to flee from the love of money, and we are to fight the good fight of the faith.
So the question is, how do we win this battle against our own impulses that tend to be cultivated and perpetuated by the systems and tendencies of the world. Well let’s dive in and find out!
In our last blog post, we learned that the rich young ruler in Matthew 19:16-26 refused to recognize God’s “terms” for gaining eternal life. He did not recognize his utter spiritual bankruptcy before a holy and righteous God. He also refused to pay the cost of discipleship by being willing to give up all his property and earthly possessions.
Right now, I imagine you’re probably saying, “What? Is Jesus telling me I must give away my 401(k) and bank account?!” And again, I am not saying that. And neither is Jesus. The young man thought his riches were proof of God’s blessing and favor on his life. Jesus was making a point that His “terms” of success were different.
The young man was unwilling to assess the cost of being a disciple of Christ, and invest into His Kingdom. Jesus was calling this man to an absolute, unconditional surrender of his entire life, not just abandoning his material possessions. The point of the story for all of us is this: Are we self-righteous and self-sufficient like the rich young ruler? Or are we poor in spirit as Jesus talked about in Matthew 5:3, in which he states, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
The rich young ruler was reluctant to confess his spiritual bankruptcy. He was restless, anxious and had a sense of being unfulfilled, otherwise, why would he have asked Jesus about what it took to gain eternal life. He may have been blameless in terms of his external actions, but not in terms of his internal attitude and motives. He loved his possessions more than his neighbor (Luke 19:18). He refused to obey Christ’s direct command. He would not submit to Christ’s Lordship and refused to admit his sin and repent, keeping him from the eternal life that he sought.
On the contrary, let me tell you about the story of Zacchaeus from Luke 10:1-10. Zacchaeus, a chief tax collector at Jericho, exhibited that he was “poor in spirit,” because he was willing to make restitution and give up status as proof that his conversion had been genuine. It is important to realize that this was not a condition of salvation. He made the choice to be humble, and showed his trusting dependence on God. He had just found incomprehensible spiritual riches that the rich young ruler totally missed. He found something so valuable that he was willing to give up his physical possessions to possess it!
Are you and I more like the rich young ruler or are we more like Zacchaeus? Planning for retirement and making wise financial decision can be biblical wisdom. We definitely should be wise stewards of money – something that we will continue to talk about in subsequent blog posts. But if we are truly going to be rich in God, we have to be “poor in spirit” and prove to Him that we are willing to be totally and utterly dependent on Him despite the what the world may be telling us. Zacchaeus understood this. He recognized that he had made many mistakes in his life (he had sinned before God), and he discovered something so valuable (a relationship with Christ) that he was willing to give up everything he had to follow Jesus.
In conclusion, as you look at all the material things you have, and all the material items you want, continue to consider whether or not you’ve found the incomprehensible riches (in the person of Jesus Christ) that may be more important to you than your material wealth.
Thanks for reading!