Wealth and poverty – their coinciding and the consequences

Luke 12:16-21

It is very interesting how wealth and poverty, and the attitude of the wealthy towards the poor is a common topic in the Holy Script and a very common subject of the Christ’s evangelic stories and messages.

When contemplating about it a little more one comes to realize that it just leads to a deeper, more essential question: and that is the question of our own attitude towards material things and values. In brief, do these things and garments belong to us or do we belong to them; who owns whom and who serves to whom

The wealth itself is not a bad thing nor is it at issue. Christ, therefore, the Christians do not now any extremes, and so is the one that all the wealthy are destined for the depths of the hell, while all the poor, are granted the ticket to heavenly places.

We saw that many of the people of God were very wealthy. For Abram the Holy Script says that he was very wealthy in livestock, silver, and gold. (Genesis 13:2). And for Jacob it is said that he became very wealthy and he had an abundance of livestock, and female and male servants and camels and donkeys. (Genesis 30:43). The hero of the Old Testament, Judah, was so powerful that he could allow himself to tie his donkeys to the vine, and his donkey’s foul to a choice vine, to wash his clothes in wine, and his robes in the juice of grapes. (Genesis 49:11). His eyes are red from wine, and his teeth are white from milk, (Genesis 49:12), is how the historian of the Old Testament spoke about him

Also, the Holy Script does not state that any way of gathering wealth is evil as such. The wealth can also be a gift from God, and often God awards those that He loves, and makes them rich. After all the suffering that righteous Job went through and all the sacrifices that he made staying true to God, God awarded him with even more than what this righteous man who went through many temptations had before. “And the Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning, and he had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, one thousand yoke of oxen, and one thousand female donkeys. ” (Job 42:12). To king Hezekiah from the Old Testament, “God gave very great wealth” (2 Chronicles 32:29), “and he made for himself treasuries for silver, for gold, for precious stones, for spices, for shields, and for all kinds of valuable items, and he also built storehouses for harvests of grain, wine and oil, and stalls for his cattle, and pens for his flocks of sheep.” (2 Chronicles 32:27-28

It is pointed out in the Holy Script that all wealth that was earned in an honest way required very hard work. Only “diligent hands bring wealth.” (Proverbs 10:4)  Not even hard work is sufficient unless combined with cleverness and knowledge. “By knowledge, the rooms are filled with every treasure”(Proverbs 24:4) No matter how odd it might seem, but even for gathering riches one needs a lot of abnegation, ascetic discipline and willingness to sacrifice. “He who loves wine and olive” – says the wise Solomon – ” will not become rich.” (Proverbs 21:17) And those who care for idleness, and not for their work, will never have enough bread but they will eat with the poor. (Proverbs 18:19

And in the end, when we look at the bright side of this medal, let’s remember that sometimes there were wealthy people in the company of Christ (Zacchaeus), and that Christ himself let His body be buried in the tomb of a wealthy man, Joseph of Arimathea

Now we flip the medal, looking at its dark side, we come again to another big: but. But, what is the attitude of the wealthy towards their wealth. No matter how controversial the way of gathering wealth could be – and it usually is – the most controversial part is the selfishness and the self-sufficiency into which a wealthy man can loll. And everyone who, like the rich fool from the Gospel, surrounds himself with riches and treasure, and then tells himself: “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink and be merry”, (Luke, 12:19) has sentenced himself to a spiritual death, the physical one is already definite.

The material treasures cannot mean everything to us

Even if there is some good recognized in the wealth in the Old Testament of the Holy Script, it never is presented as the greatest good. Complacencies are valued more than the wealth. “Better to have little with the fear for the Lord than great treasure and trouble with it.” (Proverbs 15:16) as it is said in Solomon’s stories. As anticipated, a clean name and honesty are more valued than the wealth and the riches. If anything is achieved with wealth: independence (proverbs 22:7) and security (Proverbs 18:23) for example, it does not give you much in the end. Human death brings everyone back before the inevitable judge, and everyone is judged equally. “The ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough to live forever and never see the grave. For all can see that the wise die,” – says king David – “that the foolish and the senseless also perish, leaving their wealth to others.” (Psalm 49:8-10

The most essential question of all is whether a man, for the sake of wealth, delivers his soul to the devil in exchange. We saw what an abundance of wealth Hezekiah owned, but he was humble before God (2 Chronicles 32:26) and when he died, he was buried and “all Judah and the people of Jerusalem honoured him when he died.” (2 Chronicles 32:33). But his son Manasseh, he did what was evil in the eyes of the Lord, (2 Chronicles 33:1), and because of that he was bound with chains and taken as a prisoner to Babylon. (2 Chronicles 33:11). Neither his nor his father’s wealth helped him

Wealth can also be a road to salvation. When a young man asked Christ about perfection, Christ told him he would reach it if he gave all his wealth to the poor. No matter how hard it seemed – nowadays it even seems foolish to many – from an eternity point of view, it in fact is a small contribution. With riches and wealth that are short-lived and perishable we pay for the God’s treasure, everlasting and eternal. Christ compares the Kingdom of Heaven to the treasure hidden in a field, “which a man found and hid again and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field”. (Matthew 13:44). Therefore, Christ advises us, to make friends with wrongful wealth, so that when we get poor we get accepted to the eternal dwelling

God stops the rich fool in his intention to selfishly surrender himself to the pleasures. “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves, but is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:21)

This evangelic story puts all of us before the crucial question: if my soul were to be taken in this moment, or in the darkness of the coming night, before who is it that I would find myself wealthy or poor, before myself or before God? Exposed and small, in the death hour, no man could think of his own greatness, but truly of his own vulnerability. Therefore, the first answer has to be out of the question. Thus, all there is for a reasonable man is to try and get rich in God through faith and good deeds.

Because when one dies he does not take anything with him other than his deeds while his arms are crossed, and powerless.