(Still not talking about money! We are talking about whatever riches God has given you. Did you come up with a list on Wednesday?)
Consider Jesus’ story about the seed sown on many different types of ground, a parable about how God’s Word does or does not produce a harvest in our lives. Hear again the Lord’s caution about “wealth” in our lives.
The seed that fell among the thorns represents those who hear God’s word, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life and the lure of wealth, so no fruit is produced. (Matthew 13:22)
Again, the word wealth is a word that refers to abundance. And isn’t this exactly what happens in our lives? When we are busy trying to accumulate, trying to ensure our own comfort and pleasure, trying to protect the luxury of abundance we’ve been given, then God’s Word somehow is pushed aside or completely out and never produces fruit.
The NIV uses the phrase the deceitfulness of wealth. Have we been deceived by the riches in our lives? (Remember—NOT talking about money!) Do we think these blessings are given only for our own pleasure and comfort? I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that very little of what we’ve been given, including comfort in suffering and strength in distress, is given only for our benefit. God’s purpose for us in this world is to further Christ’s mission. He gave up His life to bring people to God. Are we so protective of the abundance in our lives that we choke out any harvest God wants to produce?
Read again James’s warnings:
Look here, you rich people: Weep and groan with anguish because of all the terrible troubles ahead of you. Your wealth is rotting away, and your fine clothes are moth-eaten rags. Your gold and silver have become worthless. The very wealth you were counting on will eat away your flesh like fire. This treasure you have accumulated will stand as evidence against you on the day of judgment … You have spent your years on earth in luxury, satisfying your every desire. You have fattened yourselves for the day of slaughter. James 5:1-3, 5 (NLT)
Does that sound strange to you? Is it possible that blessings can turn to thorns? Yes. This is exactly what James is warning us of. Our fine clothes become moth-eaten rags, our money becomes worthless, and the very abundance we counted on eats away at us—painfully.
Think about those areas of your own life where you have great wealth. God had a purpose in giving you those blessings. When we hoard and live in luxury only for our own advantage, then what we’ve been given can destroy what God intended to do in our lives. I could give you examples from my own life of such misuse and resulting trouble, but some of those still smart too much to put here in black and white.
Suddenly, Jesus’ warning is clear, and it applies to every one of us. “How hard it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God!” (Mark 10:23) Abundance can be a snare if kept for ourselves and used for our own pleasure and comfort. Suddenly, we’re all about getting want we want, protecting what we have, and maybe getting even more of what we want … and our desire and passion to live a life in the Kingdom of God is soon choked out.
The good news is that it’s possible to have great wealth (of ALL kinds) and live in the Kingdom! Jesus followed up his warning to all who are rich with this: “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But not with God. Everything is possible with God.” (verse 27)
Hallelujah! Everything is possible—in spite of our humanity! Every child of God learns this: We can only live a Kingdom life by the power of God’s Spirit. (We often learn that lesson quite painfully.) Humanly, we’ll fail at using our abundance well; we will covet and hoard and jealously guard. But living in step with the Spirit and following His teaching and leading makes living in the Kingdom of God possible.
He will do it in us!
May we follow the Spirit into ways that use our wealth well. With God, it is possible.