The Bare Soul
June 5, 2011
Proverbs 18:11 - A rich man's wealth is his strong city, and like a high wall in his own imagination.
According to a recent news report, a certain gentleman had it all, or so he thought. A few years previous to this news story, he found out that he was the lottery winner from a more than 300 million dollar Powerball ticket. Years later, he says he wishes he would have torn up the ticket because it left a curse on his life. He had dreams of helping people with that large sum, which he did for the first few years. However, the greed of those who knew of his "fortune" soon became overwhelming. Countless pleas for money poured in over the years. Some were as outlandish as someone wanting new carpet, to another needing a new entertainment center for their home. He ended up giving millions away to help others, as well as to build churches. However, lawsuits became frequent during this time against his construction company. Many considered him to have "deep pockets" and they apparently felt no qualms about trying to put their hands therein. He was led to despair, turning to alcohol and illegal drugs. Someone very close to him was also the victim of a heinous murder. He believed this was a direct result of him having won the lottery. This once normal businessman and family man, in his opinion, was driven to desperate straits, all because of having won this inordinate amount of money.
While this man's account is certainly not everyone's story who might win the lottery, it does suggest an important lesson taught to us in scripture. As Proverbs 18:11 tells us, worldly wealth is an illusion. It is something that the rich, and those who undoubtedly desire to be so, imagine giving them security in this life. As the wisest man that ever lived (besides Jesus), Solomon was also one of the richest. He had a thing or two to say about the deceptiveness of riches bringing security, and he did not shy from stating the truth regarding this matter. The wise king suggests that just when we think we have an understanding of how to manage our wealth, it will inevitably disappoint us. As soon as we set our eyes upon it and determine in our hearts that our future is secure, it "makes itself wings like an eagle that flies toward the heavens". (Proverbs 23:5) Not allowing this to happen seems to be the key to not giving abnormal place to wealth in our hearts. It is to understand that riches earned respectively and honestly are to be viewed as a tool and not as an idol that displaces the One who helped us create the wealth. For truly, whatever we set our affections toward will eventually own us. That is why the Lord desires that we would build wealth according to His desire. Often, that wealth has nothing to do with earthly riches but has everything to do with using what God has given us to further His kingdom on earth.
When I read this news story, it made me think of another Proverb that promises a curse when money is gained in an unnatural manner. Proverbs 20:21 states: An inheritance gained hurriedly at the beginning will not be blessed in the end. How true this is for the man in our aforementioned story. However, are there others among us that have done similarly, possibly not with the lottery but with our desire for wealth and comfort? I have known men that have sacrificed their friends, family, and all that they hold dear for their careers and the opportunity to attain "success". They have side-stepped God, telling Him they will give their heart to Him once they have made their mark upon the world. In their minds, it may be making that first million and creating a retirement portfolio that promises a life of relative leisure by the time they are 50 years old. Jesus told a story about a man that planned much like many today for a retirement where they lacked nothing. However, the Lord called this man a "fool" because his life was taken from him before he had a chance to enjoy all that he had schemed for throughout his earthly life. (Luke 12:16-21) Jesus told the crowd to be on guard against every form of greed, because it will often take the most benign forms and deceive us.
Those who have won the lottery or have gained wealth through other objectionable ways have created a situation that is rife for exploitation. Not only by greedy individuals or other human agencies, for these are just the physical manifestation. Of even worse consequences is the spiritual dynamics of greed and lust that is loosed in the unseen realm. Beloved, we can be assured that if people are clamoring jealously over ill-gotten gains, there are spiritual forces at work behind the scenes creating destructive scenarios to trap humans in their covetous dealings. Jesus told us in simple terms how we should manage our wealth upon this earth in order to be free from these snares. The best advice is from the Lord Himself when He told the crowds during the Sermon on the Mount:
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. - Matthew 6:19-21
For those of us who call ourselves Christians, it is questionable whether we should ever put ourselves in the position of acquiring wealth through something such as a game of chance. Many say, "Oh, but I could do so much good helping others with the money!" However, is it really blessed money or is it cursed? Has it been created on the desperate hopelessness of millions of others trying to strike it rich? Jesus told us to avoid "every form of greed", no matter how altruistic we might think we would be with the payout. He told us to not trust in earthly riches, but to set our minds on building the kingdom with what he entrusts to us. The earth is the Lord's and all it contains. Surely, He is able to give us what we need, and not what we want. He desires to give us all His riches, yet they will often not be in the form of earthly treasures. May we yearn for ONLY the riches that He desires to give, and when He decides to give them.
Heavenly Father, may we store up heavenly treasure, always looking to You to make us good stewards of the wealth You have entrusted to us. May we give our hearts toward Your wisdom for our lives, and shun the temptation of managing our own "wealth". Free us from all forms of lust and greed. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Your Barefoot Servant,
The Bare Soul Archives