I’m about to make two bold statements here: based on the fact you’re reading this blog, I’m going to assume that (one) you speak English and (two) you are a citizen of either the U.S. or another developed, wealthy country. If not, none of what I’m about to say applies to you. But if I’m right, I urge you to keep reading.
Growing up near the wealthiest metropolis area in the nation (Rancho Santa Fe), I was always exposed to people with more than enough. It was a rarity to own a car more than 5 years old. There was no such thing as sharing a room with your siblings… and sometimes kids I went to school with even had their own bathroom. Everyone had the latest and greatest, whether it be toys or technology or fitness equipment, you name it. I certainly know that all of America is not this affluent, however I would dare to assert that it isn’t that far off. Much of our upper and “middle class” can afford luxury. Think about the last time you met someone without an iPhone, for example.
You see, I also attended a church in Rancho Santa Fe and witnessed people within the community attributing their wealth to “God’s blessings.” I never thought much of it until I realized that materialism can deeply hinder a relationship with Christ. I would venture to say that these people, for the most part, are wrong and so are all the other Americans who believe their wealth is a gift from God.
Jesus said, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”
Then why exactly would God be “blessing” us with earthly possessions and high incomes if it kept us from getting into heaven?
I don’t think Christian Americans are living the way Jesus intended us Christians to live. We have too much and need God too little. When so many Americans struggle with eating less, it’s clear we have more than we need and are over-consuming. The only concern most of us have about food is not if we will eat that day but what we will eat that day.
All of this money and all of these things are standing between us and God. I’ve never needed God for food or water or clothing, I’ve never prayed for shelter. While I’m confident that He would provide in that situation I was in need, I have never been in a position where I rely on God to stay alive…
But that’s the way it should be. Americans operate under the unspoken rule that we rely on no one but ourselves. We are self-made individuals, in the worst way possible. Face it: God didn’t give you that Mercedes, you gave yourself that Mercedes.
We’ve got it all wrong. God blesses us with abilities, with spiritual gifts (like healing and prophesy and preaching), with eternal life… not with cars and diamond rings and big houses.
“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change,” says James 1:17.
No, I wouldn’t say the riches of this world are “good.” In fact, I’d say the riches of this world are actually a curse. They curse us in the sense that keep us from feeling like we need to draw near to God. They keep us from seeking His hand in every aspect of our existence. Instead we think, I’ll take care of myself financially and God will take care of me spiritually and emotionally. We think it’s not God’s job or not within His ability to take care of our physical needs. However, it says in Matthew 6:31 that God understands we need food and clothing and hydration, so we shouldn’t worry that He won’t provide them for us.
There’s a reason James wrote, “Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom.”
So what are we to do? It’s not like we will willingly become poor and needy overnight. Well, you could, but that’d be a pretty radical step of faith I don’t see very many people making.
More practically, I’d say take some time to ponder the things in your life that are extras, the luxuries that you really don’t need. Maybe this is your new car, or your big house with more rooms than are left unused, or your selection of delicacy foods. Try giving. Downgrade to a functioning but not-as-nice mode of transportation and use that money to clothe someone. Use those extra rooms to house those who don’t have a home. Buy two sandwiches instead of a steak and share with the homeless man on the corner. Devote less hours to work and spend more time with God; avoid having too much money altogether.
The riches and rewards of Christ for doing so will outlast and outweigh anything you could ever earn for yourself here on earth.