Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from a Jacobite and Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal
Theme: Money And Possessions
Volume 8 No. 503 October 5, 2018
II. Featured: Money And Possessions

Do We Have to be Poor to Follow Jesus?

By Aaron Devine

There is a well-known story in the Gospels where a rich man asks Jesus about the requirements to inherit eternal life. Luke recounts the story in this way:

And a ruler asked him, "Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" And Jesus said to him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.’"

And he said, "All these I have kept from my youth."

When Jesus heard this, he said to him, "One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me."

But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich. Jesus, seeing that he had become sad, said, "How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! For 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."

Those who heard it said, "Then who can be saved?" But he said, "What is impossible with man is possible with God."
(Luke 18:18–27; ESV)

A question that naturally surfaces in this reading is whether Jesus considers wealth to be compatible with a life of faithful discipleship. Some interpret this story to say that material things and following Jesus do not mix well. This interpretation is sometimes based on a plain reading of passages like this, but it can also be motivated by material excesses in Christianity that make us uncomfortable. Too much focus on material blessing as a necessary indicator of God’s approval can stifle efforts at legitimate Christian disciplines, such as frugality, generosity, and financial sacrifice. As such, divesting material wealth is sometimes seen as a corrective to bad prosperity theology.

So, what then is Jesus saying about material wealth? Is it better to be poor than to be rich? Does one have to give up everything in order to follow Jesus? Does wealth itself ever keep people out of the kingdom of God? These are important questions, as they have implications for one’s personal call to discipleship and also for the ability of the Church to address social issues that require financial resources.

To provide context for interpreting this passage, it is helpful that Luke has a lot to say about material wealth throughout Luke-Acts. One of Jesus' woes is against those who are rich (Luke 6:24), and it is intentionally contrasted to the blessed poor who inherit the kingdom of God (Luke 6:20). There is the story of the rich fool who stores up material wealth to the point that his life is found forfeit by God (Luke 12:13–21). There is the parable of a rich man who finds himself in Hades, while poor Lazarus looks on from comfort in the afterlife (Luke 16:19–31). We are told about Ananias and Sapphira who die because they lie to the Apostles about the status of their possessions (Acts 5:1–11). Our things, it seems, can certainly get in the way of the right kind of life in the kingdom of God.

However, it is also clear that Luke does not condemn material things outright. We are told that while Jesus’ lifestyle was sparse (Luke 9:58), there were women who contributed to the needs of his ministry through financial means (Luke 8:1–3). Joseph of Arimathea had significant social prominence and was able to afford a private tomb for Jesus at his death. He was considered "good and upright… himself waiting for the kingdom of God" (Luke 23:50–53). There were also those in the early church who used significant financial resources to support the advances of the gospel. Lydia of Thyatira, for example, was an early convert of the Apostle Paul and was a "dealer of purple," a lucrative enterprise that made her wealthy. As such, she was able to provide a location for the first house church in Europe from her resources. This community became the church in Philippi that Paul wrote to in one of his New Testament letters with much affection (cf. Acts 16:13–15, 40). As such, it is clear that material resources were used in the early church to benefit the gospel, without requiring every individual to divest themselves of all possessions in order to be in right standing before God.

How then might we reconcile these various perspectives in Luke? It is a question that scholars of Luke have considered for awhile. A helpful model for framing Luke’s teaching on wealth is one that Christopher M. Hays promotes in his study Luke’s Wealth Ethics: A Study in Their Coherence and Character. It is a technical work and a comprehensive research project that seeks to reconcile passages on money and possessions that sometimes seem to be in tension throughout Luke-Acts. For example, does Luke’s understanding of wealth require us to give up all things, or is there a legitimate place for having some (or even significant) material resources? Why did the early church pool its resources communally in Acts, and to what extent is that model required of others? Why do we see some people condemned in the handling and keeping of their possessions, while other wealthy people are commended as being righteous? We will not answer all of these questions here, but part of the solution, Hays says, is to see the moral directive as not one that necessarily requires individuals to divest themselves of all possessions, but rather one that renounces everything in service to God’s purposes. Depending on vocation and social location, this can have various means of expression that are specific to individuals, vocations, or communities.

Coming back to the story of the rich ruler, there are two things to notice. First, Jesus does not say that it is not possible to enter the kingdom of heaven and have riches, but rather that riches can provide a significant kind of difficulty in doing so. Additionally, when Jesus addresses the issue of wealth with the rich ruler, he switches from God’s universal expectations in the law to something more personally directed: "You still lack one thing." Apparently for the rich ruler, wealth encouraged a specific type of vice that, while not a guaranteed pitfall for all who have much money, was not uncommon, either.

It is not a coincidence that Luke immediately precedes this story with another one that talks about entrance to the kingdom of God. Here is the story:

People were even bringing babies to Jesus for him to touch them. When the disciples saw this, they spoke harshly to the people. But Jesus called the little ones to himself and said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not prevent them, for of such is the kingdom of God. I tell you the truth, anyone who does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will in no way enter into it."
(Luke 18:15–17; translation mine)

There have been various opinions regarding what it is about little children that models the trait that allows entrance to God’s kingdom. Humility is perhaps the most common suggestion, and as such, it is often recommended that we should humble ourselves before God, as do children.

Although humility is commendable, in this case the children who were initially brought to Jesus were quite small, literally "babies" (Greek brephos). It is the same word used by Luke to describe children yet unborn (cf. Luke 1:41, 44) and also Jesus in his swaddled state (cf. Luke 2:12, 16). As such, they were probably not yet overtly exemplifying commendable models of biblical virtue. What is it that we might discern about very young children, then, that could possibly be held up as a model for adults? If we imagine little bundled children being brought to Jesus, there is perhaps one thing that we do know for certain that all children naturally affirm, not as a virtue but as a brute fact of reality: they are utterly dependent on resources outside of themselves for their well being. As an adult, this trait is not generally considered commendable, perhaps even less so to those who have acquired significant material resources. However, if we are honest, it is often an inflated sense of self-sufficiency that prevents us from responding in trust to God regarding our deepest spiritual needs.

Jesus called the rich ruler to recognize an utter lack of self-sufficiency in himself before God, just as very young children naturally recognize their dependence on others. To enter the kingdom of God, the man needed to put his trust in God to do something that he could not do for himself, namely be spiritually well before God. Spiritual realities can seem a step removed from our material possessions. However, significant financial resources can isolate many from the existential concerns of a fallen world that mirror our spiritual lostness and can thus discourage a trust in God that is spiritually transformative. As such, Jesus asked the rich man to renounce his wealth in a very specific way (i.e., full divestiture) that was specific to his need, such that he redirect his trust to God instead. In this case, it was a radical antidote to the most pressing spiritual need of the man. That the rich ruler insisted that he had done perfectly well on all of the other legal requirements suggests that self-sufficiency was at the heart of his specific need, and about which his significant financial resources served to obfuscate.

We can learn something from this episode and from Luke-Acts more broadly about the relationship between our possessions and the kingdom of God. For one thing, it may be a good thing that more of us are not significantly wealthy, as it can encourage a common problem in the spiritual life that Jesus describes. However, we should also be grateful that there are those with spiritual sensitivity who have been blessed by God with material resources, as it can serve the Church in significant ways, as it did the early church.

God is ultimately concerned with the condition of the heart in relation to our possessions, as we have simply been given temporary stewardship over material things that can be used in his service. God is also concerned that our things do not create barriers to the kind of transformative work that he wants to do in our lives, either for entrance into the kingdom of God or in service within it. The kind of trust that provides an initial entry into God’s kingdom is the same kind of trust that sustains us within it as well.

It leads us to pointed questions about our own possessions and God’s kingdom, just as it required of the rich ruler. Do I trust significantly in my own ability to take care of myself, or do I trust in God for my ultimate well-being? As such, in what ways does God ask me to loosen my grip on my possessions for the kingdom of God? Does this require full divestiture of certain things, or reappropriation of them towards other ends? The questions of wealth that pressed those in Jesus’ day are the same ones that press us now, not only as we seek to be faithful with the things we have been given, but as we develop hearts of trust that are sensitive to the work of God in the world.

Source: The Good Book Blog,

Money and Materialism May Rob The Richest Blessings of God From You

by Pete Briscoe

"Honesty is the best policy-when there's money in it." - Mark Twain

"Money can rob you." I know that sounds counterintuitive, but money can steal something very precious from you. If you find yourself lulled to sleep in a materialistic environment, you will miss untold opportunities to express and experience the love and life of Christ. The biggest mistake that we make with our money is this: We trust our money rather than God, and that steals from us the words of life:

"The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful."- Matthew 13:22

In Jesus' parable of the seeds, the Word of God is spread over four different kinds of "soils" representing four different types of responses to the Gospel. The thorny soil represents someone who accepts the Gospel and is initially excited and sacrificial... but then "the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word," robbing the person of the security, joy, and freedom that can only be found in Jesus.

Can money buy these things?


No. The next dip in the market, the next crooked investment advisor, the next greedy bank can take it all in an instant. Beyond that, even when you do have it, there's the continual insecurity that comes from the fear that it could all evaporate tomorrow.


Oh sure, little happy moments, but excessive wealth is followed by an underlying emptiness because money didn't follow through on the promise it made me.


No, again. Actually, quite a bit of bondage. How many of our worries in life are centered around money and things? Honestly, haven't we become slaves to all this stuff?

Yeah, someone can steal your money, but the odds are far, far greater that money will rob you instead.

Jesus, gently, but firmly, show me where I have allowed money and materialism to rob me of the richest of blessings that are found only in You. By faith, for my own good, I ask that You would do whatever it takes to refocus my trust on You, to place my hope in You, to serve only You. Amen.

Source: Experiencing LIFE Today

The Money vs. Happiness Debate

By Valerie Young

My nephew Jason was pretty excited about starting college.

"Do you have any idea what you'd like to do when you graduate?" I asked.
"Something in the sciences," he said adding, "and where I can make a lot of money."

"Is that all?" I asked. Jason paused for a moment before replying. "Well, I just hope I can find a job I don't hate too much."

Time for a little auntie-to-nephew pep talk, I thought.

"You have your whole life before you," I said, "don't you think you should be shooting higher than just short of misery?"
Jason looked confused. "What should I be shooting for?"
It was becoming obvious I was going to have to spell it out. "Satisfaction, fulfillment, you know – HAPPINESS!"

By the look on my dear nephew's face I knew he wasn't buying it. This got me thinking about the great debate raging inside many working adults today: Money vs. Happiness.

Money: 10 – Happiness: 2

At 41, my friend Eva is not rich, but she does earn a very good salary as a human resources manager in a federal agency. She has a closet full of clothes, owns a great house, drives a shiny new car and can afford in-home care for her two children. Last year she and her family rented a beach house for two weeks.

By all accounts, Eva should be happy, right? Wrong.

Eva works in one of those high-stress, need-it-yesterday type jobs. (Sound familiar?) Like

  • a lot of people, she longs for the good old days. A mere decade ago, giving your employer
  • a highly productive eight or nine hour day meant you were a dedicated employee. Give up
  • a lunch hour once a week, come in on a Saturday once every few months and you were on
  • a fast track to the top. How things have changed.

For Eva, career advancement isn't even on the agenda. Instead, she's just trying to stay afloat in the rising workflow rapids. Employees are expected to arrive before 8 a.m., work through lunch and often through dinner. On those rare occasions when she needs to leave by 6 p.m., Eva feels compelled to apologize for having to "skip out early."

Then there's personal time – what's left of it that is. Tethered to her job by technology and the new "ever available" work ethic, Eva is expected to pick up voice and email messages from home, put in time on the weekends and check into the office during vacation. To say that Eva is unhappy would be an understatement.

Oh, but did I mention she makes a great salary?

Why There Is More To It

No one in his or her right mind sets out to be miserably well off. Quite the contrary. If we are to believe the advertising industry, money, and all the goods and services it can buy, is precisely what it takes to achieve that elusive state of "happiness."

So earn and spend we do. But are we any happier?

Not according to Your Money or Your Life authors Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin. The authors asked over 1,000 people from the United States and Canada to rate themselves on a happiness scale of 1 (miserable) to 5 (joyous), with 3 being "can't complain."

Even Dominguez and Robin's were surprised to find there to be no correlation what so ever between income and happiness. In fact, people earning between $0 – 1,000 a month reported being slightly happier than those whose monthly income exceeded $4,000.

Even though we own more than our parent's generation, the percentage of Americans describing themselves as "very happy" peaked in 1957. Since then it has remained fairly stable or declined. This, despite the fact that American's consume twice as much as they did in the 1950s, when the average size of a house was about the same as many two-car garages today.

What about you: Does your income far exceed your level of bliss? If so, you may be suffering from a case of "Affluenza?" Producers of the PBS television program by the same name, describe the disease as:

The bloated, sluggish and unfulfilled feeling that results from efforts to keep up with the Jones

An epidemic of stress, overwork, waste and indebtedness caused by dogged pursuit of the American Dream.

Happiness: 10 – Money: 2

Ok, what if you could reverse the equation? What if you could trade money for happiness? Would you?

Doug Ellis did. While he was in the corporate world, Doug had a better than average income. The fact that he had retirement vesting and other so called "golden handcuffs" made it tough to think about leaving. In the back of his mind, though, he knew money was only part of the happiness equation.

As his fifth year rolled around, Doug began to question whether being constantly "stressed and squeezed by the pressures of middle management" was worth it. As Doug explained it: "There are a lot of pressures forcing you to conform to a Dilbertesque existence. Eventually you either leave the cube farm, or hunker down in your cube and become an occupational veal calf."

For Doug, the choice was hard, but clear. He handed in his notice, packed up, moved to a small town in Colorado and never looked back. Surrounded by mountains, Doug now walks to his new job as a writer for a small software company. "Life is short," he says, adding "…one of the saddest things that can happen in pursuit of making a living is enslaving yourself to your boss's dream, or giving up your own dream out of fatigue and fear. No paycheck, no matter how steady and fat, is worth it."

Since the Choice is Yours, Here's How To Avoid Misery

Well, where do you come down on the great debate? Is that paycheck worth the sacrifices? If you are leaning toward the happiness camp, you're not alone. In a survey of 1,000 workers conducted by Robert Half International, two-thirds said they would willingly trade pay for more free time. For many, making a living is starting to take a back seat to having a life.

Is the thought of earning less money scary? You bet. That's why I stayed in my own high-stress job for as long as I did. Then, without warning, my mother died of heart attack. She was five months away from retirement.

It was only then that I understood that predictability is a double-edged sword. Financial security wasn't the only thing I could count on. If I didn't take control of my life, I was destined to remain miserably well off.

Walking away from a good job with good benefits was risky. To me though, the real risk is that of looking back at my life twenty years down the road and knowing, that I was miserable, but I at least I had a good dental plan. End of debate.

What are your thoughts on the money versus happiness debate? Can you have both?

About the Author:

"Profiting From Your Passions®" expert Valerie Young abandoned her corporate cubicle to become the Dreamer in Residence at offering resources to help you discover your life mission and live it. Her career change tips have been cited in Kiplinger's, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today Weekend, Woman's Day, and elsewhere and on-line at MSN, CareerBuilder, and An expert on the Impostor Syndrome, Valerie has spoken on the topic of How to Feel as Bright and Capable as Everyone Seems to Think You Are to such diverse organizations as Daimler Chrysler, Bristol-Meyers Squibb, Harvard, and American Women in Radio and Television.

Source: ETR
2016 © Early to Rise Publishing – All Rights Reserved

True Riches

By Amy Boucher Pye

Gospel: Luke 12:22–34

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Luke 12:34

At the memorial service for my friend’s dad, someone said to her, “Until I met your father, I didn’t know a person could have fun while helping others.” Her dad contributed his part in helping to build the kingdom of God through serving people, laughing and loving, and meeting strangers who became friends. When he died, he left a legacy of love. In contrast, my friend’s aunt—her father’s older sister—viewed her possessions as her legacy, spending her latter years worrying about who would protect her heirlooms and rare books.

In His teaching and by His example, Jesus warned His followers to avoid hoarding possessions, to give to the poor, and to value what will not rust or decay. “For where your treasure is,” Jesus said, “there your heart will be also” (Luke 12:34).

What we value reveals the state of our heart.

We might think our things give meaning to our life. But when the latest gadget breaks or we misplace or lose something valuable, we begin to realize that it is our relationship with the Lord that satisfies and endures. It is our love and care for others that does not wither and fade away.

Let’s ask the Lord to help us see clearly what we value, to show us where our heart is, and to help us seek His kingdom above all (12:31).

What do you value? Read the story about the manna in the wilderness in Exodus 16. Consider how this story relates to Jesus’ words to the crowds in Luke 12.

What we value reveals the state of our heart.


The theme of true riches, as seen in today’s devotional, is one that is also found in the book of Proverbs. Since this book is a collection of wise sayings, it is no surprise that it would have much to offer about our attitudes toward wealth and material possessions. In Proverbs 8:18 we read that all of the blessings of life, whether material or spiritual, are a gift from God.

Source: Our Daily Bread  


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