Did you know that being rich and becoming rich are not the same thing? Here’s a quote by Nassim Taleb; “Modernity needs to understand that being rich and becoming rich are not mathematically, personally, socially, or ethically the same thing.” Taleb means, that it’s possible to make a lot of money and have a big savings account but not really be rich. At the same time, it’s possible to have very little money and still be very rich.
Jesus tells a story of a man who’s trying hard to get rich in Luke 16:1-7. Over the years this story has caused a lot of confusion. The guy in this story is dishonest. He is taking advantage of people and opportunities only to advance his own lifestyle. He would even go so far as to steal from his master to make his life easier. That’s not what is confusing about this story. That kind of stuff happens around us every day. What is confusing for most of us is what Jesus says next in Luke 16:8. Jesus actually commends this guy for his dishonesty. Jesus says this guy is a better businessman than most Christians because he knows how to make a profit even in a crisis.
It might help you understand the story a little bit better if you keep in mind that Jesus is describing the difference between an “immediate return on investment” and an “eternal return on investment.” I think one of the points of this passage is Jesus identifying what it takes to turn a profit. He’s suggesting that if you can invest in a way that turns a profit now- then take that same logic and apply it to eternal things. That’s why in Luke 16:13 Jesus says, no one can serve two masters. He’s reminding that you can either have an immediate return on your life’s efforts or you can have eternal return on your life- but you cannot have both! He goes on to say in Luke 16:14 that if you’re looking for the immediate applause of people you can have it. If you want the eternal applause of God you can have that also- but you cannot have both. So I want to ask you, would you rather have riches now on earth, or a rich reward in Heaven? If you had to pick only one, which would you choose?
I have known many men and women who’ve invested their lives in becoming rich. It’s all they think about. It’s all they work towards. It occupies their mind from the moment they wake up until the moment that they go to sleep. You could say they worship riches. Did you know that there are a lot of ways that a person can become rich? Here are just a few of them:
Let’s face it, we live in a materialistic society. Many people are consumed by money and possessions. They’re striving every day for riches. I want to ask you, what is your true measure of riches? Are you measuring yourself by your neighbors? Are you measuring your riches by Warren Buffett and Bill Gates? Or are you measuring your riches by the rest of the world’s population? Want to know how rich you really are… Check your wealth out by this website: http://www.worldwealthcalculator.org. It will cause you to radically relook at what you describe as rich.
Once while I was on a mission trip to a very poor part of South America I heard a statement from the principal of the local school. She said, “No one is poor who is rich in friends”. At the time that that woman made this statement she was the head of the school of some of the poorest children in the world. She was reaching out to families who were malnourished and uneducated and had very limited material possessions. She considered herself a very rich woman because of all of her relationships. I’ve never forgotten what that woman said.
I would rather have a few close friends than several million dollars. A few close friends will never leave you; several million dollars are here today and gone tomorrow. So are you rich socially?
Don’t get me wrong here, I’m not against riches. I hope you earn great wealth. I also hope you honor God with that wealth. It’s the idea of pursuing riches at all cost that I’m against. It’s the idea of turning to riches in hopes of answering all of your problems that is dangerous to your soul. You see, the real thrust of the story that Jesus is telling us about is spiritual riches. He’s describing what it looks like to be rich in relationship with God.
Let’s say you get it all. Let’s say you top the Forbes list of the world’s richest people. All of that money can’t stop your spouse from dying of cancer. All of those resources can’t prevent your child from dealing with depression. All of that money can’t keep you alive one second longer. In other words, riches are worthless eternally.
Here’s an even more important thought… You can’t take any of that money with you. No amount of money can earn God’s favor. If money could buy your way into Heaven God did not need to send his Son Jesus. So now I come back to the question of eternal riches or immediate riches… Which do you prefer? Be careful, the pursuit of one could damage the pursuit of the other.