When one is contemplating a relationship with Jesus Christ, there are many questions to consider. How will my friends and family react? How will it change my daily life and all its responsibilities? Are there things that I should be giving up or doing differently? It’s important to know that each person’s experience in getting to know God is as unique as the individual. The one thing that stays the same is Jesus.
One of the most notable areas that may be confusing for new Christians is the issue of wealth. It is hard to reconcile at times how those with wealth could express a need for God. The pressing question would be, If you have all of your financial needs fulfilled here on earth, do you even have a need for God? The issue of wealth can also be a source of concern for those of lesser means as well. It may cause one to wonder, if someone is in severe poverty and they obviously need help, why hasn’t that help arrived already?
As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.
“Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”
Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth. -Mark 10:17-22 (NIV)
It is first important to realize that there are devout, sincere believers in all socioeconomic classes. This may be hard to understand at times even for long time believers, let alone those that are new to the faith. How can it be that a CEO of a national company be just as sincere about his faith as say a nun in the Order of the Little Sisters of the Poor? There is one common factor: Giving.
A clear example as to what Jesus thought about giving and how much we should be willing to part with came with his example in Luke 21:1-4: “As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. ‘Truly I tell you,’ he said, ‘this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.’”
By using this example, Jesus made the answer to the question “How much should we give?” – Give as much as we can. Our need for what God can provide spiritually is the same regardless of our vocation. Our ability to give back should not be tied to our income or means either. This is put most simply by the apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 9:7 “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”
One way to know if your priorities are in the right place, is to start each day with one simple question, “What can I give today?” It doesn’t really matter if you have one dollar or a million, if your focus is on giving rather than receiving, then you will be less obsessed about the newest car, computer or $500 jacket. So, is it possible to live a faithful life, a life of devotion while still being considered, by most standards, wealthy? Sure, but it seems that devotion to God may come in spite of wealth, not because of it.
When one strives for what the world considers success: independent wealth, vacations abroad, even shoes that cost more than most televisions, to the outside observer it would appear that a person is making the most of an opportunity. Becoming a Christian brings a different perspective to success. It is still making the most of an opportunity, but the rewards are shown more internally and eternally. You will find that spending your time, as opposed to money, is more likely to result in spiritual growth, and for lack of a better word, success.
One of most famous quotes in scripture is also one of the most taken out of context. Most people have heard of the phrase “Money is the root of all evil” from 1st Timothy 6:10. What is often left out are the three words that actually proceed it: “The love of…” It is a fact that money is necessary and actually can do significant good, mainly by helping those that suffer from the lack of it. It’s when the pursuit of it takes over any good that we may accomplish is where we often lose sight of what matters.The Message translation does a good job putting this statement back into context, giving actual food for thought: “But if it’s only money these leaders are after, they’ll self-destruct in no time. Lust for money brings trouble and nothing but trouble. Going down that path, some lose their footing in the faith completely and live to regret it bitterly ever after.”