The start of a new year brings new resolutions, and oftentimes those resolutions center around finances—making more money, saving more money, being wiser about spending money, or even all of the above. Yet for Christians, there’s a famous message from Jesus that lingers for those who have wealth or are pursuing it: “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God.” (Mark 10:17-27, ESV)
In a 2019 sermon, David Platt summarized what we are to learn from this passage. We are not supposed to learn that it is impossible for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God. We’re also not necessarily supposed to apply Jesus’ command to “sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor” to our own lives. Instead, Platt said that “the key to overcoming materialism is believing that Jesus and his plans for you are so much better than the possessions of this world.”
Judging the Rich
For a long time, I had a chip on my shoulder regarding rich people. I had a negative attitude about people who traveled around the world and had big houses and nice cars. Because I didn’t have a personal relationship with these caricatured wealthy people, I translated their possessions as a lack of Christ-minded priorities.
I was not like them. I was proud of my thriftiness and generous with a cheerful heart in spite of
my more meager resources. After all, God calls us to store up treasures in heaven, not on earth.
I found additional proof for the paradox of a wealthy Christian in the life of the author of Ecclesiastes. He lived about as full a life as anyone can dream and still concluded, “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man” (Eccl. 12:13, ESV). The treasures amassed in life are a passing mist; therefore, I thought it was wrong to accumulate earthly possessions.
Reorienting Our Vision for Wealth
Later in his sermon, Platt claimed that “material reward on this earth for spiritual obedience [is no longer] promised to God’s people.” It is karmic to think that good behavior begets reward, even if it is attributed to the Father of lights who gives every good gift and every perfect gift (James 1:17).
Yet, some are entrusted with more resources than others—all for God’s purposes. In recognizing that God gives us what we have, there is no such thing as a self-made man. We must be willing to hold our possessions with an open hand, prepared for God to take away what he has given us.
Rather than use them solely for personal entertainment, wealthy Christians can use their resources, their homes, boats, or pools—as a gathering place to build relationships. Whoever is blessed enough to travel overseas should consider it a mission trip more than a vacation. They can learn how to bring the gospel in a way that that culture will respond to best.
I have experienced the generosity of the wealthy. I once attended a Sunday lunch party replete with a dining room full of desserts and live music. The homeowners know they earn more money than they need, so they host and entertain regularly. Some close friends who work for a non-profit organization overseas have many supporters that provide them respites (including a beach house) when they are in the States. These goods are supplemented with sincere friendship and an interest in the work they are doing abroad.
For the poor and for the rich alike, read and reread the following verses. They are reminders of where our true hope lies as citizens of heaven.
“You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day.” Deut. 8:18, ESV (italics added, see 5:1-6 for context)
“Honor the LORD with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce; then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine.” Prov. 3:9-10, ESV
“One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want.” Prov. 11:24, ESV
“For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” Mark 8:36, ESV
“As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes
on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.” 1 Tim. 6:17-19, ESV
The rich are no longer caricatures to me. They are my brothers and sisters in Christ and need God as much as I do. True Christians are obedient to God’s commands, no matter where they are or how much they have.