There’s a double whammy today. God speaks with us through Paul’s message in 1Timothy as well as through Jesus’ teaching in Luke. In 1Timothy 6:6-19 Paul warns against the relentless pursuit of riches, emphasized by the statement “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains” (6:10). To counteract this wealth-sickness, Paul encourages spiritual riches, which involves perceiving our eternal life in heaven as the true wealth. Paul also admonishes those rich in this world to be cautious and humble, to “store up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future . . . ” (6:19).
The message against toxic wealth is a key biblical theme, crucial to spiritual growth. Consider also that when Jesus spoke about greed and money he had more to say about these than most other sins. Extreme greed that builds to avarice corrupts many who are relentless in power, authority and privilege. But we must exercise caution. Demonizing the wealthy or privileged need not involve class warfare. We can become guilty of wrong judgment if we envy or hate someone simply because they have more of something than we do. It is how a person gains wealth and how they utilize it that subjects them to either praise or condemnation.
In Luke 16:19-31, Jesus gives a parable about a rich man who lived splendidly. The other character, Lazarus, is a sore-ridden beggar. Jesus states that when each man dies, different things happen. For Lazarus, who went to heaven, there are spiritual riches to enjoy. For the unrighteous rich man who once ignored the suffering Lazarus, there are torments and deprivation. This is the classic tale of a person who is high in this life going to pot in the next. The symmetry is complete in that the suffering person in this life gets comforted in the next.
Anyway, things are so bad in Hades/Hell that the rich man cries out to Abraham (founding father of the Jews) and asks Lazarus for a drop of water to relieve the suffering. Abraham says that there is an inseparable divide between heaven and Hades and that not even good intentions can pass between the two. An oft’ overlooked novelty in this dialogue is the fact that the two parties can talk so casually between the abyss separating heaven and hell. Are the residents of the smoking and non-smoking areas so close together? It seems like the intriguing questions don’t end as we attempt to visualize the odd situation.
It wasn’t mere wealth that condemned the rich man as much as his love of money combined with lack of compassion. This situation stands as a warning against those who are similarly inclined today. If wealth desire so blinds us to others’ suffering then we are living a hellish life even before we die. There’s a twist in this otherwise open-and-shut case because the rich man had compassion for his still-living brothers, those who were in danger of facing his same fate (if they didn’t turn their lives around). Abraham responded kindly to the rich man’s request to warn his brothers, but the patriarch said that there was already sufficient warning available to those willing to receive it. At least the rich man tried to do some good but it was too late. There’s a lesson here about doing what you can with what you have in this life.
Amid life’s materialistic distractions we mustn’t let money control us. After all, what good does it do to gain the entire world and yet lose our own souls? (see Mark 8:36). We should pause to think about these things and, more importantly, to alter our thoughts and behaviors accordingly—before it’s too late. The positive side of all this is what we are drawn to, namely God’s love and truth. We need not focus only on what not to do. We can embrace countless blessings which are far more valuable and satisfying than anything money can buy. To learn this positive lesson is greater than being scared or coerced about what not to do. –Reverend Larry Hoxey.