Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
June 27, 1983

How Jesus Regarded Riches

T. F. Bohannan

From a Biblical point of view how much does it take to make a "rich" man? Be it always remembered that it is not the amount one possesses, but his attitude toward that amount which determines whether he is, or is not, "one who trusts in riches." The young ruler who came running to Jesus to ask him, "Good Master, how may I inherit eternal life?" was told to keep the commandments. And when he was specifically told which ones, he replied, "All these have I observed from my youth. What lack I yet?" Upon being told to go and sell all that he had and give to the poor, he turned away with deep sorrow. The amount of his riches was not important; his attitude toward them was what counted.

This young man might have been a saint, perhaps an eminent apostle, had he been poor. From this incident, and others like it, we can realize that it is often a misfortune to be rich. But who is aware of this and who believes it? Jesus astonished his disciples by saying, "How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!" They were puzzled, and began to say among themselves, "Who then can be saved?" Jesus told them that with God all things were possible. It is the love of money (not money itself) which is the "root of all evil." (I Tim. 6:10.) The salvation of a rich man is difficult not because of his riches, but because of his trusting in his riches.

In the well-known story of Luke 12:13-20 Jesus condemns the folly of one who would trust in riches. A "foolish rich man" was a term in common use among the Jews. On a certain occasion a multitude had gathered to hear words from the "great Teacher," and someone in the crowd said to him, "Master, bid my brother to divide the inheritance with me." Jesus said, "Man, who made me a judge or a divider of your affairs?" Then, turning to the multitude he warned them to take care and guard themselves against any form of greed, for, said he, "a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth." This was followed by the parable: "The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully: and he reasoned within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have not where to bestow my fruits? And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns and build greater; and there will I bestow all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night is thy soul required of thee; and the things which thou hast prepared, whose shall they be? So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God."

The Master gave this parable to teach the uncertainty of life and the worthlessness of material things. He was not criticizing the way the man accumulated his wealth, nor the fact that he was rich, but the fact that the man's whole concern was with material things. He gloried in the possession of his wealth. Notice, "my crops, my grain, my fruit, my barns." He even claimed possession of his own soul — forgetting that his very life itself was dependent on God. He was looking forward to a life of ease and pleasure, in which he would enjoy this life to the full.

Poor, deluded man! Little did he dream that that very night his eyes would close in death, and that all he possessed would pass into the greedy hands of others, for whom he perhaps cared nothing at all. In his book, "Jesus And His Parables," Murry comments on the vanity of human wishes in this connection: "The man was suddenly called to his accounts. That very evening he was on his death bed. When the morrow dawned, his barns would stand unaltered; there would be silence in his darkened home. Disease or disaster laid him low. And where were all his earthly treasures now? Shriveled into nothingness, huddled into a paltry heap. What worth to him now were his broad fields? A few feet was sufficient for him now forever, a lone corner in some place of the earth. Earth was to open up for him; only eternity remained."

How often, O! how often we see similar happenings. While sitting at the breakfast table, reading the morning paper, we read of a bride falling dead on the steps of a church after waiting long years for her lover to return from the war. Over the radio comes the news reporter telling of a great man, chosen by his President to be ambassador to a foreign nation, suddenly dying of a heart attack only a few hours before he was ready to board the plane to fly him across the Atlantic. Every single day men and women, full of eager interest, absorbed in life, busy with pleasure and engrossed in great plans for the future, are called upon to yield up their lives without a moment's notice. Never before has death struck so swiftly and cruelly, and with less warning, than it does today. There may be those reading these words this very hour to whom it might truthfully be said, "This night is thy soul required of thee!" Yet how careless and unconcerned we go about our daily affairs, giving neither thought nor time nor attention to the eternal kingdom of God. Let us all be warned! You may gather together treasures beyond measure, you may build mansions great and high, as did the builders of ancient Babylon; yet you cannot build walls so high, nor gates so strong, as to shut out the messenger of death!

To live for the flesh is to perish; it is the will of the flesh to get, to draw to self; it is the spirit of Christ to give, to sacrifice, even to give Himself for others. Instead of centering our energies upon earthly treasures, seeking to lay up treasures for ourselves in this place where moth and rust and thieves shall rob us of it all, we are to seek those treasures which are above, laying up treasures that can never be destroyed and can never be taken from us. May God help us all to do — exactly that!

— Van Nuys, California