BECAUSE CHRISTIANS BELIEVE that the Bible is alive and speaks to us today, it’s sometimes possible to miss the context in which those words were originally written or spoken. In doing so, we can fail to grasp some of their significance.
Take Jesus’s admonition about the dangers of money. In Matthew 19:24, He warned His disciples: “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, 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.”
In case you’re wondering, one financial services company says that anyone with a net worth of $2 million might be considered rich/wealthy. But before we are too quick to think that lets most of us off the hook, let’s consider that categorizing through a wider lens. Globally, someone with an annual income of $41,000 is in the top 3% bracket in the world. Make you squirm?
Wherever we stand, most of us would probably acknowledge that God wants all of us to be on our guard against the lure of lucre, but I’m not sure we take that charge quite seriously enough. Take a moment to consider when He spoke these words. In the first-century Middle East, there were few options for spending money. Food, clothing and shelter—and those in limited choices—were pretty much it.
There was no:
- Fashion industry
- Leisure industry
- Travel industry
- Entertainment industry
- Mail-order catalogs
- Online shopping
And so on.
Yet Jesus felt it necessary to clearly urge His followers to be aware of the dangers of covetousness. Given their sparse opportunities to follow their temptations, if that was the case for them then, how much more should His words cause us pause in today’s consumer-driven world?
After all, it’s been estimated that we are exposed to more than 4,000 advertising impressions each day—many of them predicated on the idea of creating dissatisfaction and longing for more. You know the kind of thing—your life will be better:
- If you wear this
- If you drive that
- If you eat here
- If you vacation there
And it’s worth bearing in mind that dissatisfaction is at the heart of the fall: when Satan came to tempt Eve it was with the idea that God was holding out on her. The devil argued that she deserved more: “God knows that when you eat of [the tree of the knowledge of good and evil] your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5).
No wonder Jesus also told His followers, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15).
Contentment comes with a price.