The danger of riches: Mark 10-11

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Today’s reading: Mark 10-11.

“Abundance isn’t God’s provision for me to live in luxury. It’s his provision for me to help others live. God entrusts me with his money not to build my kingdom on earth, but to build his kingdom in heaven.” ― Randy Alcorn, Money, Possessions and Eternity

“Why is money a root of evil?”

As Jesus made his final journey to Jerusalem, two events highlighted the power and danger of wealth. First, he encountered a rich young man who sincerely wanted to find eternal life. The young man had lived morally, but Jesus saw that his wealth had become an idol blocking his way to heaven.

Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth. Mark 10:21-22

In Jerusalem itself Jesus entered the temple and found it swamped by the buyers and sellers. Some were changing money so that pilgrims could pay the temple tax with the required coin. Others were buying and selling animals for the sacrifices and offerings. The traffic interfered with worship, but the main problem was the greed and unscrupulous practices of the men selling the animals and changing the money.

On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple area and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written: ” ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’ ? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’ ” Mark 11:15-17

Wealth can become a false god. The rich young man wasn’t bad. He had lived a moral, upright life, but he loved money more than God. Jesus saw it right away. The young man couldn’t let go of his money in order to take hold of God. He may have obsessed over it in thought or spent all his time working to make more money. Jesus wasn’t calling on everyone to give away all their riches, but he would tell anyone who idolizes money to abandon it in order to find God.

Wealth makes us focus on the temporary rather than the eternal. Where is your treasure? Jesus wanted the rich man to find his treasure in heaven, but the young man was blinded by the riches in front of him. The sellers in the temple were surrounded by reminders of God’s glory, but they only had an eye for their profits. Profits are not wrong, but when the love of profit crowds out any thought of heaven it becomes very evil. Randy Alcorn has written compellingly about the foolishness of pursuing worldly wealth while ignoring eternal treasure. Our lives here are but a dot on the map of time. Eternity stretches out before us like an unending arrow according to Alcorn. We are extremely short-sighted if we put all our effort into enriching the dot while failing to deposit treasures into our eternal home. As Jesus said, “what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his soul?”

Wealth tempts an individual to make foolish choices. The rich young man desired to live a moral life and please God. In the end he foolishly abandoned his quest in order to hold onto his hoard. The businessmen in the temple began by performing a needed service. They were doing work for God, but along the way they lost sight of God and began charging exorbitant rates for exchanging money and for buying animals. They allowed their workplace to push worshipers out of the temple. They lost their way as a result of being blinded by the lure of riches.

Here are a few steps to defeat money’s power to lure you away from God:

  1. Be generous. Giving causes you to let go of your belongings.
  2. Be content. Don’t always crave the latest, greatest, thing.
  3. Acknowledge God’s ownership of all possessions; be a good steward of them for his kingdom and his glory.
  4. Invest for eternity more than for yourself.

“Not, how much of my money will I give to God, but, how much of God’s money will I keep for myself?” ― John Wesley

Christians are God’s delivery people, through whom he does his giving to a needy world. We are conduits of God’s grace to others. Our eternal investment portfolio should be full of the most strategic kingdom-building projects to which we can disburse God’s funds. ― Randy Alcorn, Money, Possessions and Eternity

Image by Jin on Flickr, CC by 2.0

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