Jesus made a lot of striking statements during his ministry. And a great deal of them had to do with money. This makes us squeamish, but it’s reality: Jesus spoke about money more than heaven and hell. It’s not that he considered money more important than heaven. He simply knew that the way we treat our wealth is a massive barometer for the direction of our hearts.
Compared to Jesus’ original hearers, most of us have a lot more money. So these striking statements are as relevant as ever.
Like this one: “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” (Luke 18:24–25 ESV).
Jesus not only overturned the idea that someone can be good enough (or rich enough) to be accepted by God; he challenged their worldview even further by claiming that riches can hinder someone’s ability to enter the kingdom of God. G.K. Chesterton put it this way: “We don’t know if Jesus believed in fairies. There simply isn’t enough evidence to say. But we know for certain that Jesus believed rich people are in big trouble. The evidence is mountainous.”
Apparently, according to Jesus, monetary riches aren’t just irrelevant to our spiritual lives; they’re actually a liability. Why?
Because money is a form of power that quickly replaces our sense of need for God—in four key ways:
1. Money offers a form of power.
Power isn’t inherently evil. At its root, power is simply the authority and capacity to change the world around us. But power is seductive and endlessly tricky. Money provides power in a unique way, since you can actually measure and store it (which isn’t always the case with power). Plus, the power that money provides is so seductive that the moment you start delighting in it, you stop loving and delighting in God. You can’t desire, and delight in, and trust in, and pursue money and have any room in your heart for God. If you love the one, you’ll hate the other (Luke 16:13).
2. Money offers a sense of control.
When you have money, you can do what you want to do and avoid what you want to avoid. You can even make others do things they don’t naturally want to do. Ironically, the more money you have, the less you feel like you have. The control that money offers is addictive, such that the more you have, the more you crave. But this is where the tables get turned, because that craving for control begins to control your behavior. In your thirst for control, you end up more beholden to money than ever. You’ll do whatever it takes to get more of it, you avoid any decision that would give you less of it, and you resist giving it away.
3. Money promises you security.
With money in your pocket, there’s nothing tomorrow might bring that you can’t handle. It feels that way, anyway. But when you start to believe Satan’s lie that you’re like God, even if you don’t know you’re believing it, you think you’re untouchable. And sure, money provides actual security. But not ultimate security. At some point in your life, you’ll learn that money cannot protect you from your worst fears. When the spouse leaves, the diagnosis is discovered, or death comes for a loved one, all of that monetary security will feel worthless.
4. Money makes you proud.
Pride comes easily to most of us. So it’s no surprise that rich people generally assume that they got rich because they were better than others—smarter, more savvy, more hard-working, whatever. There are economic reasons for this, of course: People pay money for something valuable, and if people pay you lots of money, that means you must be valuable. Fair enough. But Jesus would tell you pretty plainly: You aren’t worth more than other people just because you have more money.
Granted, you probably wouldn’t say it that bluntly. But you feel it. And when you view yourself as “better,” that makes it hard to admit you’re wrong and to repent. To repent you have to say, “I was wrong; I deserve to be condemned,” but those words taste awful in your mouth if you’ve spent your whole life quietly telling yourself that you’re better. A life without repentance is a life of pride, which is spiritually toxic.