The Blessing of Jehovah Makes Rich
“It will be a difficult thing for a rich man to get into the kingdom of the heavens.”—MATTHEW 19:23.
1, 2. What contrast can be drawn between types of riches?
WHAT if someone notified you, “You have become rich”? Many would be thrilled to be told this if it meant that they were rich with money, land, or luxury possessions. But consider the matter of riches from this standpoint: “The blessing of Jehovah—that is what makes rich, and he adds no pain with it.”—Proverbs 10:22.
2 As God dealt with the ancient patriarchs and the nation of Israel, he blessed their faithfulness with prosperity. (Genesis 13:2; Deuteronomy 28:11, 12; Job 42:10-12) King Solomon was one so blessed. He became immensely wealthy. Yet he learned by experience that a life centered on material riches “was vanity and a striving after wind.” (Ecclesiastes 2:4-11; 1 Kings 3:11-13; 9:14, 28; 10:10) So when Solomon wrote, “The blessing of Jehovah—that is what makes rich,” he was not stressing material riches. He was stating the truth that if you have God’s blessing, your life is incomparably richer than that of those not serving him. How so?
3. In what ways are you truly rich if you have God’s blessings?
3 If you are a Christian, you can enjoy Jehovah’s approval now and receive from him blessings such as godly wisdom. You can be accepted into a familylike congregation of Christians who are basically happy, trusting, and interested in you. God’s laws shield you from many diseases and dangers. You also have reason to hope for divine protection through the “great tribulation” that lies ahead for this wicked system—and then for life in the endless Paradise to follow on earth. So, you see, with such marvelous blessings and prospects, you can truly say, “I am rich!”—Matthew 24:21, 22.
4. How could you jeopardize your being spiritually rich? (Revelation 3:17, 18)
4 Your being “rich” with Jehovah’s blessings could, though, be jeopardized by other riches—money or material wealth. Few of us (whether financially secure or of limited means) would readily admit, ‘I face a real danger of being led astray by the love of money.’ Recall, however, the warning: “The love of money is a root of all sorts of injurious things, and by reaching out for this love some have been led astray from the faith and have stabbed themselves all over with many pains.” (1 Timothy 6:10) That was written at a time when all approved Christians were anointed with God’s spirit as a token that they could become heavenly rulers with Christ. Likely many had personally met apostles and others who had walked with Jesus. If money “led astray” some of them, how great the danger is for us!—2 Corinthians 5:5; Romans 8:17, 23.
The Rich Man and the Camel
5. What was Jesus’ view of riches?
5 Jesus often brought up the peril of riches, for it is a danger facing everyone, those who are wealthy and those who are not. (Matthew 6:24-32; Luke 6:24; 12:15-21) As a basis for personal examination, consider what Jesus said on one occasion, as related at Matthew 19:16-24; Mark 10:17-30; and Luke 18:18-30. In fact, why not pause now to read one or all of those accounts?
6, 7. (a) What conversation took place between Jesus and a young man? (b) Afterward, what counsel did Jesus offer?
6 A young ruler came to Jesus and asked: “By doing what shall I inherit everlasting life?” Jesus directed him to the Law, thus showing that Jehovah had not failed to indicate what was necessary. The man replied that he had kept God’s commands ‘from his youth on.’ It was as if he were at the door to life, but he sensed that he was yet lacking something. Perhaps he thought that there was some added good, some heroic act, that would be the final step through the door into everlasting life. Jesus’ response has broad implication: “Sell all the things you have and distribute to poor people, and you will have treasure in the heavens; and come be my follower.” What happened? “When he heard this, he became deeply grieved, for he was very rich [or, was holding many possessions].” So the man left.—Luke 18:18, 21-23; Mark 10:22.
7 Afterward Jesus observed: “How difficult a thing it will be for those having money to make their way into the kingdom of God! It is easier, in fact, for a camel to get through the eye of a sewing needle than for a rich man to get into the kingdom of God.” (Luke 18:24, 25) Was that counsel only for that rich ruler? Or are you involved, whether you are wealthy or poor? Let us see.
8. (a) What was the young Jewish ruler like? (b) What fault did he have, and why should that concern us?
8 You may be helped to understand that young ruler’s situation if you imagine a modern equivalent—a clean young Christian with good Bible knowledge, fine morals, and coming from a wealthy family. You might envy such a person today. But Jesus found a major lack with the young Jewish man: His wealth or possessions were too important in his life. Thus Jesus counseled as he did. You can see why this Bible account is for all of us, whether rich or poor. Money and possessions could become too important for any one of us, whether we already have them or we just long to have such.
9. How do we know that Jesus was not condemning wealthiness as such?
9 Jesus was not saying that a person with material riches could not serve God. Many have done so. That young Jewish man had done so—to an extent. There was the tax collector Zacchaeus, who “was rich.” (Luke 19:2-10) Some anointed Christians in the first century were wealthy and hence had the special challenge “to be liberal, ready to share.” (1 Timothy 6:17, 18; James 1:9, 10) And there are some wealthy Christians today too. They have often given generously to support the Kingdom work, opened their homes for meetings, and used their automobiles in the ministry. Why, then, did Jesus say what he did about the rich man and the camel? What can we learn from it?
10. We can conclude what from Jesus’ counsel on that occasion?
10 As you can appreciate, it is one thing to begin worshiping God; it is another thing to prove faithful to the end. (Matthew 24:13; Philippians 3:12-14) Jesus may have had this in mind when saying: “It is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” (Mark 10:25) No camel could squeeze through the tiny eye of a sewing needle, so Jesus obviously was using a hyperbole, an exaggeration not meant to be taken literally. It shows, though, how hard it is for a rich man to do something. What? Not just to begin serving God, no, but “to enter into the kingdom,” actually to gain everlasting life. No matter how you stand financially, Jesus’ counsel can aid your thinking, your spiritual progress, and your gaining lasting life.
Why So Difficult for the Rich?
11. How were the poor and the wealthy affected by Jesus’ preaching?
11 Through the preaching done by Jesus and the apostles, ‘the poor had the good news declared to them.’ (Matthew 11:5) There was no discrimination against the rich. Yet it seems that more of the poor recognized their spiritual need and responded to the message of hope. (Matthew 5:3, 6; 9:35, 36) The rich Jews were more satisfied with how things were going. (Compare Luke 6:20, 24, 25.) Still, there were exceptions back then, and there are exceptions today. Some wealthy persons accept the Bible’s message and serve God. The outcome for them can be marvelous. It was in the case of Paul, who did not let his station in life stop him. (Philippians 3:4-8) Nevertheless, Jesus said that it would be more difficult for the rich.
“Deceptive Power of Riches”
12, 13. (a) In an illustration, what point did Jesus make about anxieties? (b) Why do the wealthy face an added obstacle?
12 In his illustration of seeds falling on different soils, Jesus said that some “fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked them.” He explained: “As for the one sown among the thorns, this is the one hearing the word, but the anxiety of this system of things and the deceptive power of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful.” (Matthew 13:7, 22) Almost all people experience some of “the anxiety of this system of things.” It is easy to see why that is so for a person who is impoverished, unemployed, or handicapped. The financially secure person might not have the same anxieties, yet even he or she could be quite anxious over the effect of inflation, changes in taxation, or the danger of theft. So wealthy and poor alike may have anxieties.—Matthew 6:19-21.
13 Jesus showed that some would be hindered also by “the deceptive power of riches.” Becoming a financial success can be all-consuming. The millionaire Aristotle Onassis once commented: “After you reach a certain point, money becomes unimportant. What matters is success. The sensible thing would be for me to stop now. But I can’t. I have to keep aiming higher and higher—just for the thrill.” Similarly, a Christian could find it thrilling to struggle up the corporate ladder. Or he could be seduced to expand his business long after reaching what earlier in life he would have viewed as “enough.” Rather than reduce his work (or retire) so as to become a full-time minister, he ‘tears down his storehouses [or homes] and builds bigger ones.’ (See Luke 12:15-21.) Could that happen to you? Do you think that God would judge anyone in that situation as serving him whole-souled?—Matthew 22:37.
14. That riches could hinder a Christian can be illustrated how? (Proverbs 28:20)
14 There are yet other ways in which riches (or the passion to gain them) can hinder a Christian from ‘inheriting everlasting life.’ One is that love of riches might move him to adopt worldly tactics, such as underreporting profits or using other dishonest but common tactics. Or if he employs fellow Christians who are honest and hardworking, he might put his own personal gain ahead of their spirituality. For instance, in order to lock them to their job, he might encourage them to develop a more expensive life-style (or even to go into debt for luxuries). And since he is their boss, this relationship might tend to carry over into congregational dealings.
15 Some wealthy Christians in the first century may have been among those who fell victim to “the deceptive power of riches.” James wrote of ‘the miseries coming upon you rich men.’ They owned costly garments, had accumulated gold and silver by underpaying employees, and had grown fat in luxury. (James 5:1-5) It is similar today. Wealth often permits a person to have rich food and drink that may damage his body. It may also allow for constant travel that separates him from the local congregation. This is not to say that nice clothes, jewelry, food, and travel are in themselves harmful. However, the “rich men” that James wrote about were not helped by such; with their low spirituality and standing before God, they had reason to ‘weep, howling over the miseries that were coming.’
16. Why did Jesus offer such clear counsel about riches, and what should you ask yourself?
16 Jesus certainly knew of the pain and the obstacles to spirituality that the wealthy often experience. He knew also that valuables may rot literally or turn out to be worthless, which will never happen to Christian riches. (Proverbs 11:28; Mark 10:29, 30) Hence, Jesus was doing all of us a genuine service by warning: “How difficult a thing it will be for those having money to make their way into the kingdom of God!” (Luke 18:24) His warning can benefit us even if we have very limited resources. How? By our stifling any ambition that we have to become wealthy now. Christians believe that Jesus spoke truth. We believe and live by what Jesus said about his Father, about the end of this system, and about cultivating love. This Truth-Speaker also said: “It is easier for a camel to get through a needle’s eye than for a rich man to get into the kingdom of God.” (Matthew 19:24) Do you truly believe that? Do your actions, life-style, and attitudes prove that you do?
Continue to Be Rich—God’s Way
17. How are many Christians putting themselves in line for being enriched by Jehovah?
17 Evidence is coming in from all over the world that by far the majority of God’s servants are taking to heart counsel such as that found at Matthew 19:16-24. Many young Christians are resolving that once they complete the normal amount of public schooling, they will pursue the full-time ministry. Wives who could do secular work to increase the family income are, instead, devoting more time to Christian activities, making themselves and others richer spiritually. Even some men who have the Scriptural responsibility to provide materially for their families are finding ways to have a greater share in the ministry.
18, 19. What steps have some taken who have sought Jehovah’s blessing?
18 One elder in his mid-30’s admits that “being a full-time minister was always just words that rolled from my lips.” He was earning over $25,000 a year, besides which he had an expense account and use of a company car. Then he was asked to deliver the 1983 convention talk “Setting and Reaching Proper Goals.” He confesses: “As I eagerly read over the material, I was so embarrassed and ashamed that my conscience was just killing me.” Before the convention arrived, he and his wife discussed their situation. Soon he got a part-time job and joined his wife as a pioneer. They are still pioneering, happily enjoying many spiritual blessings.
19 Others have moved from areas where financial possibilities abound to places where they could expand their spiritual activities. A Canadian couple wrote concerning their pioneering in Latin America: “Although there is much poverty here among the brothers, they have a marvelous zeal for the truth. They may be poor in a worldly way, but spiritually they are millionaires. We have 38 publishers, 10 of whom are regular pioneers. Double meetings are necessary because there are so many attending—from 110 to 140 on the average. The two elders and three ministerial servants have to take care of all these meetings. We are relearning from our humble brothers here what it means really to put Jehovah first in our lives. They show us that Jehovah can be served whole-souled no matter what our circumstances might be.”
20. How should we feel in our hearts about being materially rich?
20 Such Christians have no valid reason to envy a rich person, whether outside or inside the congregation, or to be preoccupied with materialistic ambitions. They realize that some money is needed for normal life. (Ecclesiastes 5:3; 7:12) But they appreciate also that Jesus told the truth—the wealthy face many spiritual obstacles, challenges, and dangers. One difficult challenge is for “those who are rich in the present system of things not to be high-minded, and to rest their hope, not on uncertain riches, but on God.”—1 Timothy 6:17.
21. What is the lot of those who pursue spiritual riches?
21 Sadly, the young ruler who spoke with Jesus failed to meet that challenge. Others like him have served God for a time but have later suffered pain and spiritual failure related to their wealth. In contrast are the millions of loyal Christians who continue to prove that “the blessing of Jehovah—that is what makes rich, and he adds no pain with it.” (Proverbs 10:22) Their lives have meaning; they have valuable goals and a sense of accomplishment. Their good works will last forever, providing them with intense joy now and in the future. Let each of us strive to be rich in that way.—Philippians 4:1; 1 Thessalonians 2:19, 20.
Thoughts to Consider
□ What sort of riches are meant at Proverbs 10:22?
□ What was the point of Jesus’ comment about the rich man and the camel?
□ Why is life often more difficult for the wealthy?
□ How can we strive to be rich in God’s way?
[Box on page 10]
Wealth and the Family
WHEN thinking about the potential effects of wealth, do not overlook your family. Consider these items:
From Canada comes a report from psychiatrists who had studied the children of the superrich: “Life bores them. They have no goals other than pleasing themselves and cannot tolerate even the smallest frustration. They feel few emotions of any kind. Their main pursuits are buying things, traveling, and searching out new sources of excitement.”
The New York Times commented on a former millionaire: “As he became more successful in business and gained wealth, he says he saw his family change. ‘My wife and daughter would measure people by the money they had, and if I gave one daughter a $300,000 home I’d have to give the other daughter $300,000 in cash.’” After suffering a heart attack, “plus seeing what wealth had done to his wife and children,” he changed his way of life.
Concerning an oil-rich land in the Middle East, Arnold Hottinger observed: ‘Wealth as pathology is something also familiar to the many foreign physicians who come here to earn high incomes. Nowhere, they report, are psychosomatic ailments as common as here—ailments which cause genuine suffering but are not caused by any demonstrable failing in the physical organism. There are, they say, young people who give every sign of being elderly, and old people who behave like juveniles.’