“Money is like love; it kills slowly and painfully the one who withholds it, and enlivens the other who turns it on his fellow man.” —Kahlil Gibran (1883-1931), Lebanese-American poet and writer.
PRAYER: (from the Lectionary)
“O God, you declare your Almighty power chiefly in showing mercy and pity: Grant us the fullness of your grace, that we, running to obtain your promises, may become partakers of your heavenly treasure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.”
SCRIPTURES: (from the Lectionary)
Command them [those who are rich in this world] to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life (1 Tim 6:18-19 NIV).
PRAYER FOCUS: Being Rich
Have you ever heard of a monkey trap? Apparently all you need is a gourd, some seeds and a rope. Cut a hole in the gourd just a little bit bigger than a monkey’s hand, drop some seeds in the gourd, and use the rope to tie it to a tree or stake it to the ground. The monkey discovers the seeds and reaches his hand in to grab some. The hole in the gourd is wide enough to allow a monkey hand to pass in and out, but not a clenched fist. The monkey becomes trapped by its own desire for the bait. As the trapper approaches the monkey is fully aware of the danger but it usually loses its freedom, ultimately its life, due to its refusal to simply let go and run away.
The same principle works with humans. Anything we hold that tightly can trap us—it could be a relationship, a job, or even a machine. But it is oftentimes money we cling to like this. It is a Biblical paradox that money may, or may not, be a blessing.
Three of the four Lectionary Scriptures this week carry the theme of money and wealth. Jeremiah invests in a vineyard and his family’s fields. Paul’s first letter to Timothy instructs about the correct priority we are to give money and wealth. Finally Luke records some of the most sobering words that Jesus ever spoke, concerning the consequences of pride and the selfishness that can proceed from loving wealth in this world.
Throughout the Bible we find ample warnings how the pursuit of money can cause problems in our faith. To be sure—having plenty is a blessing. But unless our blessings are clearly seen as gifts from God, they can become dangerous, even fatal, temptations to lust, to greed, and to forgetfulness of God and the legitimate needs of others. There is nothing wrong with eating good food and wearing nice clothes, as long as these blessings do not become the fuel of pride and selfishness, and so turn us to sin. Indulging in the spoils of wealth while turning a blind eye to the distress of the poor and afflicted is both offensive to God and corrosive to our souls.
Arrogance and pride are warning signs of taking one’s wealth too seriously. With the way the world looks up to the affluent, it is all too easy to believe the illusion and begin to trust in our accomplishments or acquisitions. There is great danger in this. Trusting in wealth undermines our trust in God.
Paul said it well: “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” (1 Tim. 6:10). It isn’t the money that’s evil—it’s our own evil propensity to love it. We must pray against that.
Nothing reveals the condition of our hearts more clearly than where we spend our money—or where we don’t.
In Luke 16:19-31, Jesus talks about the Rich Man (known to the Medieval Church as Dives) and Lazarus. This is not a parable, but rather a rare glimpse of what lies beyond the veil of death. Through the words of our Lord Himself we see both heaven and hell, and why these two men ended up where they did.
In life, Lazarus was a genuine object of charity, and a very moving one. He was presented to the Rich Man at his own gate. Apparently Lazarus, although destitute, was a man of good character and good conduct. He wished for only the crumbs and scraps from the Rich Man’s table. And yet, despite his wealth and excess, The Rich Man didn’t offer Lazarus lodging in the barn or an outbuilding, or even the scraps of food that he gave to his dogs. He let Lazarus lie there, on his steps, degraded and in obvious need, until he died.
It is not enough not to oppress the poor. God expects us to share with those in need—and especially those whom He lays at our very steps.
The other side of money’s paradox is what happens to us when we give it. Jesus challenges us in Luke 6:38, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” God loves cheerful givers. There is no one-way traffic on the highway of God’s blessings. The more we give, the more we receive. The more we give, the more we will love.
To avoid the love of money, we give enough back to God that we love Him more than the money.
It’s Monday Morning. Are you holding on too tightly to something? Maybe it’s time to let go of it. Instead, be rich in good deeds; be generous and willing to share. And may God bless you this week.