June 20

“As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.” (Matthew 13:22)

Once there was a wealthy woman who sought to reach the pinnacle of spiritual wisdom. She happened to live in the time of the greatest spiritual teacher who was accepting disciples. The wealthy woman had done everything she could to attain the wisdom and knowledge she sought. So she decided to study under the great teacher if the teacher would accept her as a disciple. Upon meeting the teacher, this wealthy woman humbly told him how she had observed all the laws of spirituality correctly but was still not satisfied. The wise teacher told her there was one thing left to do, to give away all her money and possessions to the poor, to prove that her heart was not devoted to her wealth more than spiritual matters. The woman refused this instruction and left, even more deflated and unsatisfied than before.

This story should sound familiar since it is based on the account Mark reported in chapter 10 of his gospel (vs. 17-22). I have retold it for a fresh view of the teaching that Jesus offered his disciples following the encounter. “‘How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God…Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.’” (Mark 10:23-25)

Jesus is not promoting monastic living, as if being poor is a way to heaven. He is also not condemning the use of reasonable finances to live. He is, however, reiterating his teaching that “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” (Matthew 6:24) The rich young man would not accept two vital truths. Firstly, he was serving his money as if it were a god, rather than use his money to support his life. Secondly, he was unwilling to stop serving his wealth—trusting in it for security—in spite of his dissatisfaction with his spiritual life.

In the parable of the sower and the seeds, Jesus also taught that the deceitfulness of riches chokes out the work of God, the Word. Riches deceive us because they can purchase anything material in this world, and many other things, such as power, influence, and prestige. All the benefits of wealth are seductively enticing to our sin natures. The wisdom of Proverbs reminds us that they are worthless to provide for the ultimate hope of going to heaven. “Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death.” (Proverbs 11:4)

You and I probably don’t think of ourselves as worshippers of money, but we should examine our attitudes toward certain earthly pleasures. In what way may we be serving our pleasures or possessions? Will we consider ditching them for greater spiritual wisdom in Christ?

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