Mk 10:21 And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Jesus consistently confronted people with whatever lie they believed. He always told them what the lie was and that they must forsake the lie and align themselves with Truth. In this case Jesus confronted the rich young man with his false god: his wealth. If the man would have turned from his false god (wealth) and accepted the Lordship of Jesus, he would have been happy. Instead, he went away sad. The man might have known Pr 10:15 and simply misunderstood it. Or perhaps he felt the money brought him happiness and what Jesus was offering wasn’t any better.
Pr 10:15 A rich man’s wealth is his strong city; the poverty of the poor is their ruin. Most people would read this and think God is saying we need to accumulate wealth in this life as best we can to protect our families and avoid ruin. I confess, I thought the same thing myself when I first read it. Then, with prayer, God revealed something more to me. There are at least two other ways of looking at this passage. First: The spiritual wealth of the Holy Spirit places you in the company of fellow believers, a part of the Body of Christ. There is strength in numbers, and the New Jerusalem is surely going to be a strong city. The poverty of the poor, in contrast, speaks to the spiritually poor who will face ruin in that day. Second: Yet another revelation about this verse can be drawn from the “golden rule.” If you share your wealth, you build a stronger community. Share your material wealth with your fellow believers who are less fortunate and your whole group benefits. It tears down strife and envy and you fulfill what James calls a good religion (Jas 1:27). The spiritually poor are unwilling to share what little they do have and are ruined by their hardened hearts.
Rev 3:15-18 I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. The Lord is telling these people they don’t realize how wretched they are, wallowing in their wealth instead of helping those who really need it. These are materially rich people who think they’ve gotten what the Lord has to give them. They don’t see they’ve been deceived. Their wealth is a lie, distracting them from true obedience to the Lord’s highest command – to love one another. If they loved one another, they would serve each other while serving the Lord. In fact, they would serve those in need because in doing so, they are serving the Lord. If they would see themselves as God sees them, they would realize the need to zealously help those less fortunate and would step into the mission field right before their eyes. You don’t have to travel 5000 miles to be a missionary. Sometimes 5 feet is far enough. By repenting (changing their thinking to align themselves to God), they would through their obedience by buying the gold of true wealth, the white robes which cover our shame and the anointing which allows us to see clearly what is now so dim.
This post is an excerpt (Question 10.3) from my book Ask James one.