Christians possess riches unknown to the world. Our heavenly treasures abound, and we praise God for the spiritual bounty He gives us in Christ (Eph. 1:3). We do not measure our wealth in dollars, land holdings, stocks, bonds, commodities, or other material possessions. All these riches are fleeting and attended by sorrow (Eccl. 5:10-17). Spiritual blessings are beyond the reach of moth and rust and thieves (Matt. 6:19-20). Here are just some of them: (1) Redemption from sin by God’s grace (Eph. 1:4-14). We are chosen, adopted, accepted, forgiven, saved, given an inheritance, and sealed. (2) Full assurance of understanding in Christ (Col. 2:2-3). His disciples abide in His word, know the truth, and are freed from sin (John 8:31-32). (3) Prayer (Phil. 4:6). Our Father hears the prayers of His children, so we continue earnestly in prayer (Col. 4:2; 1 Thess. 5:17). (4) The church (Eph. 1:22-23). We are members of Christ’s body and, therefore, “members of one another” (Acts 2:47; Rom. 12:4-5). What a rich blessing to be brothers and sisters together in Christ (Matt. 12:46-50). (5) An eternal inheritance (Eph. 1:18). Peter assures us it is incorruptible, undefiled, and reserved in heaven for us (1 Pet. 1:4). (6) A living hope (Eph. 1:18; 1 Pet. 1:3). Our hope secures our souls because Christ arose from the dead (1 Cor. 15:19-20; Acts 24:15). (7) Joy (Phil. 4:4). We rejoice in the Lord always, in good and troubled times (James 1:2-4). God does not add sorrow to those He enriches (Prov. 10:22). The world tries to do so, but we are of good cheer because Christ has overcome the world (John 16:33).
The world defines wealth by material possessions – money, land, businesses, precious metals, etc. Those who own the most things are named the wealthiest people on earth. Of course, we know that material wealth will never measure up to the storehouse of spiritual riches in Christ, “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:3). The “unsearchable riches of Christ” are inseparably linked to God’s “goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering” (Eph. 3:8; Rom. 2:4). God is rich in mercy and grace, without which we would not be saved (Eph. 2:4-7). In today’s verse, God’s goodness is His kindness that appeared to show us mercy in Christ (Tit. 3:4-5). God’s forbearance is the restraint He used to hold back His severity while extending His compassion to sinners (Rom. 3:25; cf. Psa. 78:37-39). God’s longsuffering does not hastily retaliate when we sin against Him (Acts 17:30). These riches of God do not minimize, discount, or overlook sin (cf. Rom. 2:5-6). They are the resources from which God draws to offer salvation to every sinner in His Son. Instead of despising (“to think against,” disregard) the spiritual riches extended to us by God in His Son Jesus Christ, let us repent toward God and obey the truth (Rom. 2:1-4). Judgment is coming when God will judge sinners (Rom. 2:3, 5).
21 Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.” 22 But he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. (Mark 10:21–22, NKJV)
Wanting to follow Jesus is not the same as actually following Him. That may seem obvious, yet we easily convince ourselves we follow Him when the evidence says otherwise. “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven” (Matt. 7:21). Doing the Father’s will begins in the heart and produces conduct consistent with the heart’s intention and devotion. This man had kept the commands of God from his youth (Mk. 10:19-20). But he lacked one thing. His heart was greedy and he trusted in riches more than God (Mk. 10:24). His love for personal possessions controlled his conduct toward others. His unwillingness to sell and give exposed his selfish heart. Why do we emphasize complete obedience to Jesus? Not because it earns us treasures in heaven, but because it expresses a heart that loves God “with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength” (Mk. 12:30; Rom. 6:17-18). One thing prevented this man from having heavenly treasures. If even one thing is hindering your obedience from the heart, repent, and do what Jesus says (Lk. 6:46). Jesus knows our hearts just like He knew this man’s heart. Do we (2 Cor. 13:5)?
John, now the aged apostle, expressed a three-fold love of Gaius, which was no doubt prompted by the disciple’s faithful walk in the truth (3 John 3-4). John’s love for Gaius prompted prayer for his health and prosperity “in all things” as his soul prospered. Is this proof of the “prosperity gospel” that many preach? Hardly. The word “prosper” contains the idea of progress, of “help on the road,” and thereby to successfully reach one’s destination (Strong, G2137). Gaius’ spiritual life was progressing – he was on a spiritual journey. (So are we, 1 Peter 2:11.) John prayed that his health and all things would progress well, too. Christ did not mandate material abundance as evidence of spiritual fullness. Indeed, the Son of Man did not have a place to lay His head (Matt. 8:20). Far from covetous enrichment for selfish pursuits, the gospel teaches material wealth is a blessing that gives opportunities and the spiritual responsibility to be “rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share,” and to do so thankfully (1 Tim. 6:17-19). Gaius was undoubtedly doing these very things when he hospitably supported faithful workers for the truth (3 John 5-8). May our souls faithfully progress on our pilgrimage with the health and the means to do the work our hands find to do “while it is day,” for “the night is coming when no one can work” (John 9:4).
1 Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. 2 Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 3 But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly. (Matthew 6:1–4, NKJV)
Giving to the poor is undeniably a way Christians “do good to all” (Gal. 6:10). The rich are reminded to be “ready to give” (1 Tim. 6:17-18). (In today’s world, most of us qualify as rich.) We should look for and use our opportunities to help others. When we do, God sees the motive of our heart. Jesus said we ought to seek God’s honor and not the praise of men for our acts of charity. To announce our charitable deed is like blowing a trumpet before us so they will know how generous we are. It is selfish hypocrisy to help others out of a heart that wants others to honor us for it. Though honored by people, such will not be rewarded by God. Let us do our charitable deeds from a heart of compassion. In due time, we will reap what we have sown (Gal. 6:7-10).
19 There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day. 20 But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate, 21 desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. (Luke 16:19–23, NKJV)
Jesus told “the Pharisees, who were lovers of money,” about two men in life and after death (Lk. 16:14). The unnamed rich man lived in luxury, while failing to give even the leftovers of his table to the poor man who was laid at his gate. Infected with sores, Lazarus endured disease, humiliation, poverty, and the lack of common decency every day. There are important lessons here for us to learn and live. First, wealth does not define one’s value, nor does it prevent one’s death. Whether rich or poor, death comes to us all (Eccl. 9:2-3). Second, the sin of selfish indulgence ignores the needs of others, but it is not ignored by God. Thirdly, God sees the injustices and suffering of the righteous (2 Thess. 1:4-7). Fourth, we must not trust in riches, but lay up heavenly treasures (Matt. 6:19-21). Riches are uncertain, so trust in the living God and use your material blessings to be “rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share,” that you may lay hold of eternal life (1 Tim. 6:17-19).
10 The name of the Lord is a strong tower; The righteous run to it and are safe. 11 The rich man’s wealth is his strong city, and like a high wall in his own esteem. (Proverbs 18:10–11, NKJV)
Where do you run where there is danger? What protection do you seek in the hour of uncertainty, doubt, confusion, and loss? The righteous run to the power and integrity of the Lord. Like a strong tower, He will not leave or forsake those who put their trust in Him (Hebrews 13:5-6; Psalm 27:1; 118:5-9). Yet, the one who trusts in riches runs to his wealth in time of trouble. Here, the rich man is set in contrast to the righteous, and since it is the love of money and not money itself, that is the root of all kinds of evil, we conclude this describes the covetous man who puts his trust and hope in his wealth (Luke 12:15-21; 1 Timothy 6:9-10). The “strong city” and “high wall” of the one who holds money in high regard (“in his own esteem”) will eventually fail (Matthew 6:19). Choose wisely and lay up treasures in heaven by trusting and obeying the Lord Almighty (Matthew 6:20). When trials and dangers come to your life, you will run for safety to where your heart has put your treasure (Matthew 6:21). What will you find there, eternal salvation or eternal sorrow? Put your trust in the Lord and not in uncertain riches (1 Timothy 6:17-19).
23 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 And 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.” 25 When His disciples heard it, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” 26 But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:23–26)
The kingdom of Christ is a spiritual realm (John 18:36). It is not defined and evaluated by worldly metrics. The kingdom (the church, Matthew 16:18-19) is not entered based on one’s wealth (verses 23-24). Gold and silver do not give a person ready access through Zion’s gates. Nor is God’s approval manifested by the wealth of a church, although that is the conclusion many draw. This is what men expect, but the kingdom of God is not defined by human expectations (verse 25). Rich people often expect to be given places of honor due to their wealth. That’s how it is in the kingdoms of men. But, only when the rich person humbles himself is he fit for the kingdom of God (Matthew 19:20-22).
23 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 And 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.” 25 When His disciples heard it, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” 26 But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:23–26, NKJV)
It is not riches that will keep a person out of heaven, but how one views and uses his wealth. Just before Jesus said these words, a rich young man had turned away from following Him after Jesus told him to sell all he had and give to the poor (Matt. 19:21-22). His love of money prevented him from following Jesus. When we love money and material things more than putting Jesus first and obeying Him, then we will not be saved (1 Tim. 6:10). You had just as soon try to pass a camel through a needle’s eye, as try to get to heaven serving riches. God has and will save rich people (Abraham, for example, Gen. 24:35). Jesus is not saying wealth is evil. But, it is evil to love money more than God. Godliness with contentment is the lesson we must all learn and live, whether we are rich or poor (1 Tim. 6:6-10).
4 Do not overwork to be rich; Because of your own understanding, cease! 5 Will you set your eyes on that which is not? For riches certainly make themselves wings; They fly away like an eagle toward heaven. (Proverbs 23:4–5, NKJV)
Wealth is not the panacea many believe it to be. Riches are perishable; they come and go. For example, billionaire Donald Trump has filed for corporate bankruptcy four times since 1991. Solomon (himself vastly wealthy) advises not to work yourself to death trying to be rich because earthly wealth is temporary. The wise person understands money can be used for good or evil, just as one’s attitude toward it can either be thankful and generous, or covetous and miserly. Content with food and clothing, and thankful for much more than that, lay up treasures in heaven. The imperishable riches of eternal life are laid up there for the faithful (1 Pet. 1:4-5).