Tuesday, June 3, 2008

An Open Door but the Price is High

One thing you still lack, Jesus said to the person who inquired about the way to eternal life, sell all that you possess and distribute it to the poor and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come and follow Me. Luke 18:22

This entirely unique encounter has been in my mind in the last week. Let me explain: recently my wife and I spent a week in the Dominican Republic. So many things are different about the Dominican society that ours. One of the things that stand out in my mind is the visible evidence of contentment.

I understand that many of the homes in the Dominican Republic have little more that four walls. Few have electricity, few have running water (except when it rains), yet the lightness of the attitudes of so many of the people stands our in my mind.

I remember a time in our society when people would look in the face of the people they passed and smile and, often even, give a friendly greeting. Today, we seem far more protective and suspicious that at any time before. It is so interesting to contrast the two societies in terms of the possessions held and the attitudes displayed. It would seem that there is a relationship between the numbers of possessions and the amount of joy we experience.

He who trusts in his riches will fall but the righteous will flourish like the green leaf. Proverbs 11:28

Ask yourself, where is your trust placed; an employer, a 401-k, a reliable car, a good neighborhood, a solid investment portfolio; maybe “all of the above”?

Jesus was not being arbitrary or cruel in demanding that the inquirer sell all of his possessions. Jesus knew the “stickiness” of possessions.

Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Luke 6:21

But woe to you who are well-fed now, for you shall be hungry. Luke 6:25

How many possessions is enough? When will we reach satisfaction?

Think back over your life as an adult. What were the circumstances wherein you were the happiest? Is it, in any remotest way, related to the possessions that you held?

And if we have food and covering, with these we shall be content. But to those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. I Timothy 6:8&9

One difficulty that is inherent in the word “rich” is that it is a moving target. Certainly we recognize others whom we would qualify as “rich” and just as certainly we will never consider ourselves as rich. Hence the “snare”. All traps are invisible to the prospective prey!

Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again, I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. Matthew 19:23&24

So, where does this leave us? How is one to know whether riches are “plunging us into ruin and destruction”?

Who among your is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. This wisdom is not that which comes down from above but it is earthy, natural, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. James 3:13-17

The contrast is clear. The kingdom of heaven is available now for those who enter and remain through the wisdom from above. We simply cannot continue to live in the terms of the wisdom of this world and expect that we will find the kingdom of God.

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