Jesus wants me to focus on the country where Jesus is in charge. That is the Kingdom of God. The rules are clear. All that matters is what God wants. Jesus has a lot to say about materialism. Jesus warns me that I can’t serve two masters. I have to choose between materialism (money, wealth, financial prestige) and God. I choose God.
What about capitalism then? What about socialism?
Jesus is silent. Jesus has given us our marching orders. It will be difficult (but not impossible) for the wealthy to enter the Kingdom of God. The issue for Jesus isn’t how we get our wealth (capitalism or socialism) but what we do with our wealth.
Jesus wants to know what drives us, wealth or God’s will. Here is how the early disciples acted. There was no particular mandate to do this. It came natural as an outgrowth of learning from Jesus. This isn’t socialism or capitalism. It is the love of Jesus in doing the right thing.
Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and signs were being performed through the apostles. Now all the believers were together and held all things in common. They sold their possessions and property and distributed the proceeds to all, as any had need. Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple, and broke bread from house to house. They ate their food with joyful and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. Every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved. | Acts 2:43-47 (CSB)
Jesus had a lot to say about the homeless, wealth, prosperity, poverty, riches, the poor, the needy and giving. Here is a compilation of everything I have found. It is worth reading this to get a sense of what Jesus thinks about wealth and what He requires of us.
James 5:1-3 gives us another warning about riches that were wrongly gained:
“Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days.”
I get deceived about what is important. What Jesus is saying to gets lost in the shuffle of what I think “I need”.
“And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.” | Matthew 13:22
Jesus teaches His disciples that we are not to worry. Jesus encourages me to avoid worrying about my physical needs like clothing and food. Jesus assures me that my heavenly Father will take care of all my needs (Matthew 6:25-34).
We live in a extremely materialist culture. Money has become an idol and much is measured by how much of it we have.
I get sucked into this. It isn’t pretty. I like my stuff and I want more of it. I love having money to get it all. I am covetous. I am not content with what I have.
There is good news. Jesus sets me free from all of this. I have victory in Him.
Wanting to be rich describes a person who has to have more and more material things in order to be happy and feel successful. But riches are a trap; they lead to bondage, not freedom. Instead of giving satisfaction, riches create additional lusts (desires); and these must be satisfied. Instead of providing help and health, an excess of material things hurts and wounds. The result Paul described very vividly: “Harmful desires … plunge men into ruin and destruction”. It is the picture of a man drowning! He trusted his wealth and “sailed along,” but the storm came, and he sank.
It is a dangerous thing to use religion as a cover-up for acquiring wealth. God’s laborer is certainly worthy of his hire, but his motive for laboring must not be money. That would make him a “hireling,” and not a true shepherd. We should not ask, “How much will I get?” but rather “How much can I give?”