A friend sent me a news article today. It was about the government of Cyprus taking 6% to 10% of the people’s money out of their banks to pay for the country’s debt retirement.
Another article on Yahoo’s financial news stated: With hundreds of demonstrators outside the parliament chanting “They’re drinking our blood“, the ruling party abstained and 36 other lawmakers voted unanimously to reject the bill, bringing the Mediterranean island, one of the smallest European states, to the brink of financial meltdown.
Folks, the world is shaking and the wealth is rusting away! Oh, I know there are pockets of wealth out there but something fundamentally has happened to this world we live in. We live under a cloud but somehow we feel better watching American Idol and voting for the next new singer to go platinum. Don’t hear me begrudging anyone who wants to make a million or watch American Idol. I do too. So what’s my concern?
James speaks about it, when he tells the new Jewish believers in his day this:
“Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you.  Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes.  Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days.  Look! The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty.  You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter.  You have condemned and murdered innocent men, who were not opposing you.” James 5:1-6
These are some very disturbing and condemning words! And whether they are heard by people who are secure in their wealth or by those, who only wish they were wealthy, the result is the same. James is shocking the reader into recognizing that the most important thing in life is not how much money we have.
When we read about the encounter Jesus had with a young man in Mark chapter ten—also mentioned in two other gospels—there are a variety of adjectives used to describe the guy Jesus met. Matthew tells us he’s young. Luke describes him as a ruler. All 3 highlight his wealth.
Today we most often combine their descriptions and label him the “Rich Young Ruler.” (Money, youth and power) That’s a pretty powerful combination for any one person to possess.
Surprisingly, the young man was satisfied with his own ability to keep his nose out of trouble, and he responded confidently that in his 30 or so years, he had been a good rich young man.
“One thing you lack.” Jesus said, “Go. Sell your Jaguar and your mansion with the pool. Clean the Armani’s out of your closet; give the proceeds to the poor and invest yourself in heavenly treasure. Then you won’t have any reason to stay around here so you can come and follow me.” (My rendition) It was a bold choice that Jesus offered the man.
The Bible doesn’t say how long that rich young man pondered the choice. Maybe he wondered for a moment about waking up and not having to check the overseas market, first thing. For a split second it must have sounded appealing to not have to worry about wintering the yacht and making the payroll. We don’t know how long he took to ponder what Jesus was saying, but Mark records, “the man’s face fell.”
“He went away sad, because he had great wealth.” I wonder if that was the first time his great wealth had made him sad?
Right before our eyes, in today’s world, wealth makes people sad as they depend on it and then watch it rust away. As I said, there’s nothing wrong with wealth per se. The problem is when our attitude or modus operandi allows money to define who we are and what we do.
Let me say, when it comes down to loving our wives, children or caring about people—valuing relationship above all else—wealth will pale in the light of that. That’s what Jesus is about. He values you and me. His Cross proved it.