Affluence is a Barrier to The Gospel

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20 ‘All these I have kept,’ the young man said. ‘What do I still lack?’
21 Jesus answered, ‘If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’
22 When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth. 23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.’
25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, ‘Who then can be saved?’ 26 Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.'” – Matthew 19:20-26

For God so loved the whole world that he gave us Jesus…that means rich, poor, every race, nation, etc…God does not show favoritism and neither should we. I think if there is favoritism among us, chances are it leans toward the rich and not the poor. The Bible has a lot to say about this topic.

In Mark 4, Jesus tells us why it is so difficult for the wealth to truly trust God in faith,

18 Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; 19 but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful.”

One of the things I hear from those I know who have great wealth is that with greater wealth comes greater worry. Worry and wealth can both be obstacles to faith. How does wealth deceive? It is an allegiance issue, which means it is a faith issue. Sometimes the things that are required to maintain a certain standard can run contrary to kingdom principles. People start cutting corners, undermining their integrity, etc to keep climbing that ladder. This is not a law or a rule but it does happen and we must be careful to not replace faith in God with faith in things. And the more things you have the harder this becomes. And most of us in the U.S. are wealthy.

There is another parable in Luke 14 where Jesus talks about a man who was going to throw a great banquet…but all of his first picks turned him down. In his aggravation he invited the lame, blind and crippled into his party and when there was still room he invited people from the streets into his party!

If you listen to the excuses as to why the first group of invited guests turned him down it was because of their possessions (Luke 14:18-19). It can be hard to respond to God’s invitation if your heart is already occupied. Wealth and material possessions have a way of worming their way into our heart. They can very quickly take possession of us and skew our priorities.

I believe the church should try to seek and save the lost just as Jesus did…rich and poor alike. Everyone needs Jesus. But I also wonder if our focus is often on those who produce the least kingdom fruit but instead produce more worldly fruit. We must take great care that our fleshly desires don’t influence where we focus our time and energy. It is tempting to reach out to those who might attend your congregation and make you look good or who might be able to fund the next big project. Just be aware…all that time and attention with the wrong motives might be better spent among the people who are most open to having God in their lives.

If you want to get your heart in check on this whether you are wealthy or in your treatment of the wealthy you might want to read James 2.

Last, money isn’t evil…it is the love of money that is the root of evil. Please don’t hear me demonizing the wealthy. God can and does leverage the wealthy for amazing kingdom work every single day. Some of the people I know with the deepest faith are quite wealthy. We just need to check our hearts on our attitudes toward this and make sure we are not overlooking others God is calling us too because of our flesh.

Let’s close with these words from Paul to Timothy that drive us toward contentment,

But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 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 Timothy 6:6-10

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