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Let me guess, you want to get rich, right?

We really can't hide it anymore, we want to get rich. And we want to get rich NOW!
That's me, that's you, that's everybody.

Seriously, look around - look at your friends, your family, your workmates, the people on the streets, look at everybody. The major thought that is in most, if not all, of our minds is "How can I make (more) money?"

Some people even at any cost:

"You want me to kill someone for cash? Cool, just point me in his direction."
"Let me steal this money meant for orphans and use it to build myself a mansion"
"Let me place a quick bet in hopes I will win the grand draw"

This is what I want us to talk about today. Please hear me out.

Do you consider yourself rich?

Pause here for a minute and let me ask you - do you consider yourself rich? And we're talking about monetary value here.

I am serious by the way - Yes? No?

Got your answer? Cool, let's go on.

Why did you choose whatever answer you chose in the question above? What did you consider? What did you factor in?

Maybe you have done a mental calculation of the cash at hand, cash in you accounts, all your assets and come up with an estimate value, right?

But after that?

Let me guess, you did a comparison with the people around you to determine your estimate 'richness' hemisphere - rich or poor.

And that's the whole point of this exercise - comparison.

Am I rich? Well, that depends. You can compare me with one group of people and I would be the poorest; you can however compare me with another group and I would be the richest.

Being rich is not dependent on how much cash you have. It is only dependent on who you are comparing yourself to. And if you don't compare yourself to anyone, well, that would make you both the poorest and the richest.

Crazy, right? Yeah, I know.

Welcome to the Rat Race

Let's first define what a 'rat race' is:

A way of life in which people are caught up in a fiercely competitive struggle for wealth or power.

To most people, this is how we live our lives:

{In college} If I finish college, I will be happy.
{Job searching} If I get a job, I will be happy.
{After getting a job} If I only got a better job, I will be happy.

And on and on it goes. A race to the next 'high'. Like a drug addict looking for the next dose, a bird slowly led to a trap with the next seed.

We are all in a race to find and accumulate wealth for ourselves - we are working double jobs, working overtime, having multiple side hustles, cutting down our costs - just so as to increase our income. We want the biggest car, the biggest house. We are all racing towards a 'better life' we don't appreaciate the 'good life' we currently have.

Life has become a rat race for most people - always rushing but not sure where to. We are like a dog that chases a car but doesn't know what to do with it once caught. It is chasing after the wind.

This kind of life is what Paul warned Timothy against when he said:

  1. 1 Timothy 6:9-10
  2. But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.
  3. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

That those who desire to be rich, those who have their minds focused only on making money; fall into temptation and a trap. This temptation/trap is the rat race described above. This kind of life then produces in them all kinds of foolish and hurtful lusts which then lead them to destruction. Ultimately, their lives are filled with many sorrows.

REAL LIFE EXAMPLE:

Have you also ever realized that the rich people are usually the meanest? The people who have been blessed with material wealth are usually the most hardened in their hearts against their fellow humans. They better hoard millions in bank accounts than help a fellow believer buy supper for that day.

Why is that? The Bible gives us an answer: They have pierced themselves with many sorrows.

It's said a picture speaks a thousand words, let this one speak to you:

Daddy, not now son. Hey son, not now dad.

The vanity of wealth

One of my favourite books in the Bible is Ecclesiastes. This is because it breaks apart your worldly thoughts and desires in an 'in your face' kind of way.

Let's look at something the preacher said in chapter 2:

  1. Ecclesiastes 2:4-10
  2. I made me great works; I builded me houses; I planted me vineyards:
  3. I made me gardens and orchards, and I planted trees in them of all kind of fruits:
  4. I made me pools of water, to water therewith the wood that bringeth forth trees:
  5. I got me servants and maidens, and had servants born in my house; also I had great possessions of great and small cattle above all that were in Jerusalem before me:
  6. I gathered me also silver and gold, and the peculiar treasure of kings and of the provinces: I got me men singers and women singers, and the delights of the sons of men, as musical instruments, and that of all sorts.
  7. So I was great, and increased more than all that were before me in Jerusalem: also my wisdom remained with me.
  8. And whatsoever mine eyes desired I kept not from them, I withheld not my heart from any joy; for my heart rejoiced in all my labour: and this was my portion of all my labour.

Let's just consider this kind of life that the preacher is talking here:

  1. How many people today can claim that "He has the most possessions above everyone today"?
  2. How many people can truthfully claim and justify that "Whatsoever my eyes desire I keep not from them, I don't withhold my heart from any joy;"?

How rich do you think the preacher was? Food for thought.

But then in verse 11, he says this:

  1. Ecclesiastes 2:4-11
  2. Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labour that I had laboured to do: and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun.

It was all vanity and tiring of the spirit, with no profit.

Interesting statement there, right? Mhhhh
Let's continue.

What then did Jesus say about this matter?

One of the most profound and the most striking statements of Jesus that I have come to personally find in the Bible is this verse:

  1. Matthew 6:24
  2. No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

This was spoken during what we have come to call, the sermon on the mount. Let us examine the context of this verse. Matthew 6 starts off with giving in private, then the Lord's prayer, followed immediately by teachings on forgiveness and fasting.

Immediately, Jesus now goes on to talk about treasure; and this is what He says:

1. Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Your treasure is what is most dear to you, it doesn't really matter 'what' it is, but the fact is: where 'that' treasure is, that is where your heart is. This is what you think about when you wake up, what you dream about at night. This is where your mind is. This is what gives you worries and anxieties.

2. No one can serve two masters.
You cannot have two treasures. One MUST supersede the other. You cannot pledge your allegiance to two masters. You cannot be employed by two employers - because, you will love one and hate the other; or you will be devoted to one and despise the other.

It is at this moment when He says this profound statement. Let us look at it more closely.

You cannot serve God and money.

Why didn't He say you cannot serve God and satan?
Isn't satan the anti-thesis to God?

And also why did He use the word 'serve'?
Wouldn't it have made more sense to probably say: 'You cannot worship God and money'?

Let us closely look at the choice of words here:

1. Serve

From the Oxford dictionary the word 'serve' means:

to serve is to 'perform duties or services for another person or an organization'. A servant is one who then performs said duties.

So simply put, to serve is "to spend your time in the service of another".

When we say "We are serving God" we are spending our time in His service. Like reaching out or engaging in good works or fellowships.

Can't we then also say that "We are serving money" when we spend our time in the service of money? Like our jobs for instance. Can we work for free? Most likely not. So in real sense, we are serving money and not our employers. The reason why we wake up so early, beat through traffic, sit in an office apartment for close to eight hours in a day then go back home in the evening is simply - money.

2. Mammon / Money

Why would Jesus compare God to money?

Like we have seen above, to serve someone is to spend your time in the pursuit or duties of that someone. Which then brings the question, how do we spend most of our time?

It is in the service of money. We spend five or six days a week, eight or more hours a day in the service of money. And how much time do we spend in the service of God? Well, half a day on Sunday morning if we are in the mood; and we are ready to start complaining if the preacher extends the sermon by ten minutes.

Who are you serving?

The truth is that at any moment in your life, you are either serving God or money. Serving God is trusting that He will see you through; Serving money is trusting in your own strength and capabilities. And truthfully, you can't do both at the same time.

Do you now see why Jesus compared God to money?
I hope you do. So, which one are you serving? You can't serve both.

Jesus' attitude on wealth & riches

To fully comprehend what attitude Jesus had on wealth and riches, we need to look at more scripture and then look at all of them from a bird's eye view.

  1. Luke 12:15
  2. And he said unto them, "Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth."

Would you look at that, a man's life does not consist on his wealth. Wow!
He then goes on to tell the parable of the 'rich fool' from verse 16 - 21. You can check it out in your own time.

  1. Matthew 13:22
  2. He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful.

This is the explanation to the parable of the sower, and He very clearly explains that the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches can choke the word out of people that it becomes unfruitful. This is happening to a lot of people - who hear the word but are busy with the pursuit of riches.

  1. Matthew 16:26
  2. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?

The question is self explanatory - would you rather gain the world and lose your soul OR lose the world and save your soul?

  1. Luke 18:22-24
  2. Now when Jesus heard these things, he said unto him, "Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me."
  3. And when he heard this, he was very sorrowful: for he was very rich.
  4. And when Jesus saw that he was very sorrowful, he said, "How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!"

Note: Kindly read from verse 18-30 for the whole context. For now, let us just look at these three verses.

This young ruler, even though he kept the commandments faithfully, he had an attachment to his wealth which had hardened his heart and choked life out of him. The mere thought of giving away his riches was unthinkable. After he had left, Jesus said that it will be difficult for the rich to enter into God's kingdom.

Something else, in Matthew 6:19-20, Jesus tells us to lay our treasure in heaven and not on earth. You can check it up in your Bible. The question then becomes, how do we actually do that? The answer is given in verse 22 above - "sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven"

Verse 22 is a very interesting verse, and I personally believe Jesus meant it literally.

  1. Luke 6:24
  2. "But woe unto you that are rich! for ye have received your consolation."

In the beatitudes according to St. Luke, we have both the blessings and the woes. And guess to whom the first woe is directed to, well, the rich.

BIRD'S EYE VIEW:

If you look at all this scripture references above, what would you say Jesus' attitude to wealth and riches is? Would you say that:

1. He wants us to be extremely rich and wealthy in this present world
OR
2. Is He warning us against the riches and wealth

I would surely go with the second one. The scriptures above are clear, His attitude on being rich is negative: that of a warning, a caution.

The Disciple shall be as his Master

Well, if my understanding of Jesus' attitude on wealth as outlined above is true, then He must have taught His disciples the same. Which would mean that somewhere in the scriptures, we will find them obeying this teaching and also teaching the same, right?

Like Jesus said:

  1. Luke 6:40
  2. "The disciple is not above his master: but every one that is perfect shall be as his master."

Let us dive in:

1. The Early Church

The first example we find of this is in the book of Acts. This is the communion of the believers.

  1. Acts 2:44-45
  2. And all that believed were together, and had all things common;
  3. And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.
  1. Acts 4:32
  2. And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common.
  1. Acts 4:34-35
  2. Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold,
  3. and laid them down at the apostles' feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.

Doesn't this communion reflect to what Jesus said to the rich ruler in the reference above: "sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor"?

The First Christians

As quoted from the book "The Early Christians: In Their Own Words by Eberhard Arnold."
http://www.eberhardarnold.com/
Download PDF book at plough.com for free.

Page 11 says:

Hermas described the Spirit ruling in the church. He said that the wealthy could be fitted into the building of the church only after they had stripped themselves of their wealth for the sake of their poorer brothers and sisters. Wealth was regarded as dangerous to the owner's well-being and had to be made serviceable to the public or given away. In general, material goods were seen as common property, just like light, air, water, soil and other natural necessities.

...

According to Christians, the private ownership of property was the result of sin. However necessary property might be for life in the present demonic epoch, the Christians could not cling to it. The private larder or storeroom had to be put at the disposal of guests and wanderers just as much as the common treasury.

Doesn't this confirm what Jesus taught and how the early church lived?

Isn't this real love? Isn't this what Jesus meant by "Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13)?

Which John the Apostle then repeated as "Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren." (1 John 3:16)?

Conclusion

I don't think if I can make it any more clear - as a Christian, we are not supposed to cling to anything this world can offer especially wealth and riches.

I will conclude this topic by quoting some Bible verses below - he that has ears, le him hear.

Matthew 6:24b: "Ye cannot serve God and mammon".

Joshua 24:15: Choose this day whom you will serve.

1 Kings 18:21b: "If the Lord be God, follow Him: but if baal (mammon), then follow him"

Deuteronomy 30:19: "I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life that you and thy seed may live.

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