Not For Sale
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iii) The difficulty experienced by the rich people
It is paradoxical, but the majority of rich people are not so good in sharing. For many of them, the reason they are rich is because they would rather accumulate rather than share. Once a person gets into the mood of accumulating material things, one may not be so keen on sharing. I would wish that the reader doesn’t mistake “saving” for the “undue” accumulation of material things. Unless it is the savings of a miser as we shall see in chapter 11, reasonable saving is part of stewardship.
The Apostle Paul noted the difficulty the rich people experience to the extent that he asked Timothy to exhort them to share and to be humble.
“Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.”—1 Timothy 6:17-19.
The reader may have noted that the apostle Paul is talking about both distributing and contributing. In the above context, willing to communicate can as well be translated as willing to share. Why did they have to be charged to distribute? The reason is that it is very likely for the majority of the rich to withhold what was primarily meant to be passed along.
Some rich people think that those who are poor are poor because they are lazy. This is not true because some of the poor people have worked harder than the rich people. It is true that hard work brings wealth but this can be affected by other factors outside the control of the worker.
For many rich people, to ask them to share is like asking a hyena to deliver meat. It is an extremely difficult test for them. A hyena who faithfully runs errands delivering meat is to be praised more than the one who faithfully delivers vegetables. The idea here is that hyena likes meat so much that if he were to give in to temptation, he would certainly eat the meat along the way. The affinity of the rich people to materialism is so strong that they would want to accumulate as much as crosses their path. A rich man who would share needs a radical spiritual surgery to remove the love of the material things from his heart. Let us look at two examples of rich people—one rejected the surgery and the other accepted the radical surgery.
“And a certain ruler asked him, saying, Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? none is good, save one, that is, God. Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother. And he said, All these have I kept from my youth up. Now when Jesus heard these things, he said unto him, Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me. And when he heard this, he was very sorrowful: for he was very rich. And when Jesus saw that he was very sorrowful, he said, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.”—Luke 18:18-25.
The rich man actually walked away and Christ let him. The Lord would rather the man went away than have him as a disciple who would not give away his wealth. He never lowered the requirement, telling him that he could keep his wealth as he followed Him. Christ made it clear for him that the condition of inheriting the kingdom of God is to distribute his wealth to the poor. For the rich young ruler, it was a command to distribute his riches—he was not going to decide how little or how much he would give away. Though he had been religious, he disqualified himself by clinging to his wealth.
His love for wealth brings to suspicion how he acquired it. It is very likely that he accumulated what he was supposed to share or distribute.
There was another rich man who prior to meeting Jesus was not even careful about the commandments of God. He was in a special class, loathed more than just being a sinner. Whenever his likes were mentioned in the Bible, they would say, “sinners and tax collectors.” When this latter rich man met Christ, he didn’t even wait to be told to share. He took the initiative to declare what he was going to do with his wealth.
“And Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. And, behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus, which was the chief among the publicans, and he was rich. And he sought to see Jesus who he was; and could not for the press, because he was little of stature. And he ran before, and climbed up into a sycomore tree to see him: for he was to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house. And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all murmured, saying, That he was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner. And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord; Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold. And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham.”—Luke 19:19.
Jesus was indeed impressed with Zacchaeus’ decision. Distributing and sharing of wealth is not optional. It is a big consideration to qualify as a good steward.
Reflections and Questions to Ponder
- Do you share? How would you rate your sharing? Is the kind you would describe as an offering or a sacrifice? What is the difference?
- Do you sometimes get a thought sneaking into your mind saying, for example: ‘If only this money was mine, I would have bought X or done Y?
- How much must you have before you consider that you have extra so that you can share? Must you have extra in order to share?
- Why is sharing part of stewardship?
- Do you think the disciples in John 6:1-12 could still have distributed the food if Christ wasn’t there and the instruction to share out the meagre food was delivered by a messenger? Today, does it make any difference especially considering that Christ is not present physically?
- How much would the rich young ruler in Luke 18 be comfortable in the church today as one of the ‘committed’ followers of Christ?
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