Blessings from God are often measured in terms of material wealth. It has been so throughout most of recorded history, and it remains the prevailing thought in much of Christendom today. Whether that wealth is measured in flocks and herds or money and cars is irrelevant; possessions are seen as a harbinger of the blessings of God. Indeed an entire subculture has sprung up around this teaching, the so-called “health and wealth” theology. Subscribers to this thinking believe that the Bible actually guarantees that if you will follow Christ with all your heart you will become rich and experience an abundant life. This teaching is of course in direct contradiction to Jesus’ teaching of forsaking your earthly possessions and that the poor would be blessed, not the rich (Matthew 19:16-28; Luke 6:20; Luke 16:19-25).
What if we have it all backwards? What if instead of our possessions being a blessing they are actually a curse? The more material things we own, the more we have to lose. The greater our collection of stuff becomes, the harder we work to keep it all. Suddenly we wake up one day and realize that instead of being the lowly and humble servant of Christ we intended to be, we have become the rich young ruler who cannot let go of his possessions. Before we go further, let me be clear that I am not saying that wealth and possessions are necessarily a curse or even inherently bad; just humor the thought for a moment and open yourself up to think about this in a different way. Ultimately whether or not the goods entrusted to our care are a blessing or a curse depends on our attitude toward them and our willingness to release them for the service of Jesus.
When we are generous with our resources I believe it becomes easy to get lulled into a slumber where we dream we are not controlled by money. Meanwhile, regardless of how extravagant our giving may be, the probability is that we continue to pad our savings account and add to our retirement funds. We give much away, yet we also store away considerable sums for ourselves. But what if we stopped being concerned with saving for ourselves and instead poured all of our resources into building the Kingdom of God? What if we kept only enough money for ourselves to cover our food, shelter, clothing and transportation? Simply doing that would still place us in the top 15% of the richest people on the planet. Yet if we would so simplify our lives, how many more resources could be released to feed the hungry, care for the sick, and take the message of Jesus into places that have never heard? It is a challenging and difficult concept to ponder, and I will tell you up front that I don’t have the answer to this paradox; it remains a burden on my heart about which I continue to pray diligently.
No longer storing away for a rainy day or our own retirement comes with great risk. What if we lose it all? Who will care for our needs? But isn’t losing it all exactly where Christ said we would find true life? Didn’t He say that we must forsake everything to follow Him? When did we determine that those words did not apply to us? Perhaps we in our affluence have molded Jesus into a God of our choosing rather than choosing Jesus for the God that He is. The message of Christ has not changed; His message and mission are the same today as they were when He walked the earth. As Jim Elliot once said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep, to gain that which he cannot lose.”
We have been numbed and blinded, and now we are in the precarious position of trusting our possessions more than we trust God. Don’t believe me? Try this test: by the end of the week, withdraw all your money from the bank and cash in any retirement and investment funds you might have. Take all of that cash, drive downtown and distribute it all among the poor. Please leave a comment below and let me know how you did. Is that ludicrous? Is it irresponsible to take our earthly wealth and use it for the things Christ told us to do? The only reason we find this to be a crazy idea is that we have become comfortable in, and seek assurances from, our wealth. What we may have perceived as a blessing is now a curse and an anchor because it stands between us and God.
Again, I do not have the answer to this dilemma. I confess that I have not fully liquidated my assets and given it all to the poor. I am haunted by my own lack of faith and selfishness, and am seeking God’s answers and strength in this matter. How about you? Are you at the place where you can give absolutely everything away for His purposes? Have the perceived blessings in your own life become a curse, something that stands between you and God? I think it’s worth pondering this to determine just how tightly we hold onto our possessions, and to examine how ready we are to totally rely on God to provide for our needs. Let us boldly and prayerfully seek God and give serious consideration to what He would have us do with our resources. Praise Him for all He has provided; glorify Him in all that you do with those gifts. Hold loosely to your material possessions so they do not come between you and your faith in God. Don’t allow your blessings to become a curse.