This is the third in a three part series on wealth and relationship with God. In the first part, we looked at the story of the rich young ruler. He was self-reliant, self-righteous and saddened at the prospect of parting with his wealth and following Jesus. In the second piece we looked at Zacchaeus, the tax collector, who responded joyfully to Jesus’ invitation to stay with him and offered, without prompting, to give half his wealth to the poor and payback four times what he took by fraud from people.
We have considered that God knows our hearts, and His knowledge of the rich young ruler and of Zacchaeus made a difference in how Jesus related to them. We have considered that our relationship with God does not depend on how many commandments we keep, how much we give to the poor or what we can do to earn God’s favor. We can’t be good enough, and we can’t do enough to earn God’s favor.
God’s favor is freely given to those who freely and genuinely receive Him. Eternal life isn’t earned; it is wholeheartedly received.
With the third story, we face some sobering truth. The stakes are high. The story of Ananias and Sapphira shows us that our heart’s condition is not only important, it is ultimately a matter of life and death. Pretense leads to death; while genuineness of heart leads to life.
In the first installment of this three part series on wealth and relationship with God, we looked at the rich young ruler who was self-reliant and reacted with sadness at the prospect of being asked to sell all he had to give to the poor and to follow Jesus. We aren’t told what the rich young ruler does in response to Jesus’ challenge. What would you do?
I’m afraid I don’t truly know the answer to that question, if I am being honest with myself. It’s not as if Jesus has confronted me with that question in person. If Jesus is talking to me and telling me to do the same, I am not hearing His voice. Has He challenged me to do that same thing and I have ignored Him or refused to listen?
These are questions we can’t just brush aside or take lightly if we want to follow Jesus. A servant cannot serve two masters; we cannot serve both God and money at the same time. One must yield to one or the other. In this second part in the series on wealth and relationship with God, we will look at the more heart-warming story of Zacchaeus the tax collector.
I recently read this entry in a local paper that allows readers to call in and leave anonymous messages of current and political import. Excuse the length of the following entry that I am reproducing here. I think it is important enough to reproduce in its entirety, because it bears some comment:
My parents had four daughters. We are all in our 60s now. Three of us earned master’s degrees. The happiest daughter is the daughter who spent a short time in college and married young. She has a wonderful husband and children and grandchildren. The other three are without husbands and can be very crabby. I know because I am one of them…. The three single sisters are all working because we have to work. Our married sister has a job, by choice, and loves her life. To all the 20-something girls out there… You cannot hug a diploma. A wall of degrees will not fill your heart with love. You will be alone night after night wondering what it would be like to have a nice guy at your side. Marriage is far better than a life of degrees.
Before commenting, I need to preface what I am going to say. Marriage is no guarantee of a happy life. Plenty of married people are unhappy. If that weren’t the case, the divorce rate would not perennially hover around the 50% mark. Marriage is no magic pill.
Gaining a college education is also nothing to snub. The reasons people go to college, however, are many: to get an education (duh!), because it is expected of them, to get a good job, because they don’t know what else to do, to find a spouse….
Looking back 40 years later with the kind of clarity that hindsight reveals puts those reasons into perspective, apparently. If only we could gain that perspective looking forward! But then, looking back may not really be 20/20 – unless you are looking back at a 75 year Harvard study. Continue reading “The Secret to a Happy Healthy Life”→
And, this is the problem: if God is perfectly good, and there is no bad in Him, we would corrupt Heaven if we entered there. Even the comparatively little bit of bad in the best person would pollute the perfect goodness of God. Just as the physical characteristics of people are virtually indistinguishable 110 stories atop the John Hancock Building, our relative goodness is indistinguishable from the perspective of the perfect goodness of God.
It is not that God would refuse us because of our imperfection; our own corruption (sin) is the problem. As Ezra pined, “Here we are before you in our guilt, though because of it not one of us can stand in your presence.” (Ezra 9:15) Our own sin keeps us from God; our sin separates us from God. The problem is us, not God.
We can not enter Heaven in our present state, the “place” where God dwells, because whatever “bad” we have in us would prevent us from entering. Like an invisible force field, we could not enter in. Our sin would catch us short.
The pagans knew their place in the world, the utter separateness between them and the creative force of the world and the fearful sense of a being so much greater than us that might as soon squash us as let us live. That creative force it turns out, however, loves us and desires relationship with us.
Abraham, by Sufjan Stevens, ends with these words:
Put off on your son
Take instead the ram
Until Jesus comes
Abraham lived around 2000 B.C.E. in Mesopotamia. (Answersingenesis) Child sacrifice was common practice in that time in that area of the world to appease the gods that people thought existed. It would not have been a foreign concept to Abraham for God to ask him to sacrifice his son. That practice was part of the life and culture of the time in which Abraham lived.
The request, however, would have been particularly difficult for Abraham to honor. God had promised him a son. God promised that Abraham’s child would populate the earth as the stars in the sky. Abraham was already old and past normal child rearing age when God made these promises.