Monday, December 26, 2005

# 116: What Money Can and Cannot Buy/Do

It is totally understandable and natural why money is a necessity in life. It would be impossible to live without it. It is also comprehensible why no one would purposely desire to live in poverty. Nevertheless, as necessary as money is, there are basic human needs that money can’t supply. And these are the needs that God is concerned with, which only He can bring into existence. Also, the negative repercussions of riches will be exposed along with the effect it will have on wealthy Christians and those who seek wealth. Beyond that, the question that will be explained in detail is the elusive answer of why the complete New Testament has not one good word to say about wealth, money, riches, prosperity, the desire for money, or wealthy people. You will readily become aware of how Jesus Christ deems wealth, the perception of wealth via credit, or the desire for wealth as the forbidden apple for all who desire to be His followers. This next quote, along with another 20 or so more verses—which will appear at the end of this post—for some reason does not tell the whole story about the love of money or the harm it does. When the Apostle Paul was writing to Timothy in 1st Timothy 6:10, he says, “For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.” Still, he does not answer the question of why the love ofor money is evil. Nevertheless, Jesus Christ commands Christians not to engage in the desire for wealth, which usually leads to an extravagant lifestyle. This post will attempt to give a clear and succinct (short and not-so-sweet) answer, and then elaborate in further paragraphs. By the way, this section will contain some repetition, especially with pertinent details.

Here is the answer, and it is guaranteed that you will never hear it preached from behind any pulpit: Wealth and the desire for wealth is one of the best, if not the best, GOD SUBSTITUTES (replacements for God) in existence. God cannot compete with man’s/woman’s desire for wealth. God will, in most if not all cases, end up the loser. You might be thinking, If God is all-powerful, how can money be more powerful than He is? Answer: God gave all humans a free will; in order to defeat wealth, He would have to take our free will away. And He can’t do that and still be called a God of love. If He did take our free will away, we would be worthless puppets, and He would be no more than a tyrannical God. Therefore, it is not money/wealth, but our desire for it and what it can do for us that He cannot conquer in this age.

Actually, the best, if not the only, way to drive a desire for prosperity out of one's life is to find/experience one of greater value: Guess what it is? Repeating, actually, money is of no value in and of itself. It is therefore not money that has value; the value lies in the power money has to buy and do whatever the possessor desires. Since that is true, the above verse should read, “For the love of the power that money can produce is the root of all kinds of evil.” One of the reasons God is against Christians having excess money is that, in most cases, it separates instead of bringing people closer to Him. Remember, the only time a person goes after whatever is when he/she is aware of a need; the greater the need, the greater the desire to fulfill that need, be it spiritual or material. Although I will hesitantly say, which is a bit contrary to Scripture, that there may be wealthy people who truly love the Lord and their neighbors in desperate need, who denounce wealth, and who generously give most of what they make, save the bare necessities. Then the question remains: What are the bare necessities of the wealthy?

There are only two wealthy believers mentioned in the gospels: Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea. The question I pose is, How long did they remain wealthy with all the needy in the early church in Jerusalem? I will quote Acts 4:32. “No one claimed that any of his possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had.” If one reads between the lines in the above verse, it seems to indicate that the seemingly almighty power that wealth wields is contrary to all that God desires for His people. Here is a hard choice for anyone in his/her right mind: Almighty God, or the almighty, powerful dollar? Of course, as the Apostle Paul said, “If I am out of my mind, it is for the sake of God. . . .” 2nd Corinthians 5:13. That verse implies that Christians have to be out of their [worldly] minds in order to live and believe as Christ commands.

In God’s sight, what are some of the negative qualities that tag along, as ever-present shadows, in the lives of wealthy “Christians”? One of the most prevalent, though quite unknown, attributes of wealth is that it deceitfully says, “I can satisfy all your needs”; nevertheless, we have many human needs that money cannot touch. As is written in Mark 4:19, “. . . but the worries of this life, THE DECEITFULNESS OF WEALTH and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful,” [emphasis added]. Also, wealth, or even the perception of wealth, makes people believe they are mighty gods, along with a feeling of being invincible. Here are more: The emotions that wealth produces are what offend God: emotions that mimic attributes that belong only to Almighty God. When people are mindful of being barefoot and hungry (human frailties), they can be made aware of the needs that God alone can provide. Let me mention just a few more. Rich people lack true, inner contentment, which money cannot supply. The reason is that wealth has always been an unstable commodity, as it was in 1929—here today, gone tomorrow, whereas Godly contentment works in all circumstances: in the good, the bad, or the in-between. As mentioned in previous posts, money can’t give the love humans need. Wealth is not conducive to making a person humble. It cannot make a person more understanding and sensitive to the needs of others. Money does not make for a better person. The desire for “enough money” can never be satisfied. A rich man was once asked, “Does your money really make you happy?” He answered, “Absolutely not, but it lets me choose my misery.” Another wealthy person was asked, “How much money do you need when you can say, ‘Now I have enough’?” She answered, “Just a little more.” You see what I mean?

Here are a few more of God’s pet peeves: Wealth makes people proud, arrogant, and causes them to look down on those not as well-off as them. It gives a false belief of being high and mighty, and being superior to the rest. Wealth produces greed, wastefulness, gluttony, insensitivity to the needs of the less fortunate, and worst of all, laziness, which leads to an unhealthy life. For instance, engaging in physical activity is one of the best health promoters. But what happens when there is plenty of money and little desire or time for a chore that requires a little physical exertion? It is farmed out to professionals, such as having the grass cut, shoveling the snow off the driveway, doing any form of landscape maintenance, etc. Along with that, take a look at what wealth does inside the home: one may have someone clean the house once a week or refrain from cooking many meals, therefore going to restaurants too often (all restaurants attempt to make their food scrumptious, at times with unhealthy additives, and at the sacrifice of nutrition). Prosperous people believe they have the world at their beck and call; in essence, that is true. In short, whatever makes for an easy life is embraced. I am sure there are plenty of exceptions. Here is one: About 36 years ago, I had a doctor friend who was way ahead of his time. He was a brilliant orthopedic surgeon. His motto was that only he did all of the “stupid work,” as he coined it. He would not allow his children, wife, or anyone else do anything that required physical exertion. He rode his bike and walked whenever possible. And I am sure, with a few exceptions as just mentioned, that most wealthy people fall into some, if not most, of the above categories. But worse than all the above, the most distasteful amenity about wealth, in God’s sight, is that it replaces a need instead of producing a need for what God has to offer. And one wonders why. With all the luxuries this world offers to the wealthy, they have little or no need or time for what God offers, other than possibly a semblance of goodness. Remember, God demands to be the most valuable entity in one’s life. God won’t settle for playing second fiddle to wealth or even the desire for wealth, which could, in ways, be more damaging than wealth itself.

Notwithstanding, all of the above does not apply to the secular crowd, unbelievers, counterfeit Christians, and those of other religions. To them, the aforementioned attitudes and pleasures of wealth are priceless gems. And I can understand why. All college students hope to graduate, get a good-paying job, and ultimately make big bucks; thus, have life easy as their wealth accumulates. And most who didn’t get a higher education work their buns off, hoping for the impossible dream: to somehow become rich. I truly believe the vast majority of the world’s population would readily admit to having dreams and desires of being wealthy, although, for the vast majority, they are illusionary pipe dreams.

Therefore, when Jesus Christ downplays riches and an easy life, He is bucking the desires of almost seven billion people. For some who desire to heed to the commands of their Savior, this could appear to be their ultimate sacrifice. Not so. As they grow into the ways of the Lord, they will realize what a blessed life it is to be more than content with as little as possible (frugality), while they seem to always have enough to be exceedingly generous when the occasion calls for it. But it is extremely important to make known that it is Jesus Christ doing the giving, and we are only His helpers. If we give without telling it is Jesus, we receive all the credit and God gets no glory. No glory for God, no Godly credit for us. We do this work to make known the will of our great God, Savior and Lord. The above station is where I am at, and I wouldn’t trade it for all the wealth in the world. Amen. Here is an amazing phenomenon: The DESIRE for worldly wealth, possessions and attitudes usually disappears—not necessarily overnight—to the point of not recognizing the person living in one’s body. That will happen, but only to the degree that one’s life actively corresponds with the Word of God. This uncontainable, secret joy of living with only the basic essentials could easily be called a Godly windfall of windfalls (serendipity), to say the least. The main, if not the only, reason I have this blog is because I am compelled by the Spirit of Jesus Christ to share the complete gospel, to the best of my ability, with all that are aware of a need/desire to live life to the fullest, without the need for WORLDLY BAGGAGE.

I know all this Godly talk about the degradation of wealth by the New Testament will never fly in a world society which is predominantly money-oriented and wealth-seeking; this includes even a majority of people who call themselves Christians, and understandably, since they were taught by “religious experts” the exact opposite, since who knows when. But to put it more bluntly, the avoidance of wealth will never be accepted by the Christian community no matter what the New Testament of the Christian Bible commands, or how clear it is made in this post. Although Christ Jesus already knows it, still, that is not good news for Him; He wants all men/women to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.

This is what irks me more than words can describe: preachers on TV and elsewhere who preach material prosperity (the prosperity movement) for all generous Christians. And the greatest transgressor is the Trinity Broadcasting Network. They say, “You can’t out-give God. God desires the very best of everything for His people.” Sure! You wonder why the mega-churches and TBN are flourishing, those who preach this unbiblical but pleasing message. The only thing is, the very best of all things is to receive the love, goodness, and power of Jesus Christ. Throughout the New Testament, this message to abstain from having or seeking financial wealth is by all means the most unnatural and absurd anomaly that God commands. That is the reason the majority of church-people will either make some type of miserable excuse to disobey it, just blatantly ignore it, or attempt to water it down until it fits their present lifestyle, and then simply go on with their churchy Christianity.

If potential Christians were told the whole truth about the conditions and commands the New Testament requires for living the genuine Christian life before being asked to commit their lives to Christ, or to receive Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, the size of the Christian church would be an extremely small fraction of what it is now. And, most likely, the majority of adherence would be true Bible-believing Christians. I say “Bible-believing Christians” because a person can’t truly believe the Bible unless and until they know what is in it—by personally reading it and then reading it again, and then meditating, studying and retaining key verses, while not depending on what the devious, greedy, lying, conniving clergy say is the Word of God. Of course, even though I quite often bad-mouth the clergy, I know that God has a few who are an exception to my analysis. And their church attendance will, most likely, be small. Jesus said, “Many are called, but few are chosen.”

The Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 13:8, “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the debt to love one another . . .” Did you know that before the 1920s, credit was not available to most people in the United States? That was a time in America when only wealthy people could live the highlife. But since then, almost anyone can now live a wealthy lifestyle on credit. With good-paying jobs, a husband and wife could easily buy a palatial estate, new motor vehicles in the three-car garage, expensive furniture throughout, and have a good line of credit to buy all that the human heart can desire plus a few other amenities only the wealthy can afford—all this on credit, without a cent in the bank. Therefore, I ask, Are these people wealthy who strictly depend on credit? Absolutely not. It is only an appearance/illusion of wealth, although in God’s opinion, they are in the same category as those that are actually wealthy, because it is not so much what one has that God condemns, but the power, attitudes and desires this type of wealthy lifestyles creates. This is worth repeating. The fact of the matter is that wealth by itself is not the main offender; the culprit is the extravagant, though ungodly, ATTITUDE of people who live or desire to live high on the hog. People that are void of inner values that give contentment, which human words cannot describe, are mainly the type that attempt to full that cavity with things of material value.

As I have said previously, I don’t expect to win a popularity contest or have a large number of hits on this post for writing this hard-nosed part of the Gospel message. That is okay. If I hear anything from the Holy Spirit/God, He keeps saying, “Just continue writing and I will take care of the rest.” I know there are some who read my posts just out of curiosity, and there are others who take to heart what is written and then check to see if it corresponds with the New Testament teaching.

Repeating, all I can say is to please read the Bible to see if I am just making up this hard-edged Christian stuff. Nevertheless, I am quite joyful that God has given someone the courage and audacity to make known vital information which most people/Christians are not aware of. I do this regardless of who gets intimidated or enraged, or what will happen to me, knowing there is nothing to lose and everything of true value to gain.

All Bible verses are taken from the New International Version New Testament. These are some of the verses that will corroborate what has been written in this unpopular post, which will be extremely difficult to accept or put into practice.

1) “But Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” 1st Timothy 6:6-10.

2) “What is highly valued among men [money] is detestable in God’s sight.” Luke 16:15.

3) “Your silver and gold are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days.” James 5:3.

4) “Jesus answered, ‘If you want to be perfect, go sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come follow me.’ [There are prerequisites before following Jesus]. When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth. Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle then for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.’” Matthew 19:21-24. Jesus, in essence, is saying it is impossible for prosperous, rich, or wealthy men/women to be Christians.

5) Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have . . .” Hebrews 13:5.

6) “Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you.” James 5:1.

7) “You cannot serve both God and money.” Luke 16:13.

8) “The Pharisees [the guys that Jesus loved to bad-mouth], who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus.” Luke 16:14. Will some readers also sneer at Jesus and me for being so hard-edged? I think so.

9) “But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your reward.” Luke 6:24.

10) “In the same way, the rich man will fade away even while he goes about his business.” James 1:10.

11) “‘Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.’” Luke 12:15.

12) “The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, ‘What should I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ Then he said to himself, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to myself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.” But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself and is not rich toward God.” Luke 12:18-21.

13) “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven . . . For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21.

14) “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, LOVERS OF MONEY, boastful, proud . . . lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.” 2nd Timothy 3:1-5. [emphasis added].

15) “. . . not a lover of money.” 1st Timothy 3:3.

16) “In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything, he cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:33. Some may be thinking, “Does this leader of His stupid religion think we are jerks? What we have worked hard for all our lives? He wants us to give it to some poor bas . . . .? No thanks, I’ll stay where I am and enjoy listening to a pleasing and relaxing Gospel.”

17) “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. . . . The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. In hell, where he was in torment . . . [Abraham speaking to the rich man in hell] ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony.’” Luke 16:19-25.

18) “. . . not greedy for money but eager to serve.” 1st Peter 5:2.

19) “Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted . . . .” Luke 12:33.

20) “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?” 1st John 3:17.

In summation, it is a disgrace to Jesus Christ when anyone who calls oneself a Christian leaves this world without becoming aware of what little, if any, power money has for acquiring things of true and lasting value.

The following definitions are from Webster’s College Dictionary: Rich: "having more than enough of material possessions.” Wealthy: “much money or property.” Prosperous: “well-to-do; well off; having continued success." Do American Christians desire to be rich, wealthy, and prosperous? I won’t answer that. All a person has to do is to somehow convince himself/herself that they do not seek or have more than they need, and then the complete message in this post would not include them. That is the easy way out and may lead many straight to the dregs of eternity.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey - I am definitely happy to discover this. cool job!