The Deceitfulness of Riches
This is the third part of message related to the previous few posts regarding issues raised by the Grassley Investigation, in particular, the “Prosperity Gospel” as it is preached by the ministries cited in that congressional probe. If you did not read, the previous posts, please do, in order to have the proper backdrop and foundation for the message in this post. Otherwise, you may draw erroneous conclusions from reading this post as a stand-alone article.
Keep deception and lies far from me,
Give me neither poverty nor riches;
Feed me with the food that is my portion. (Prv. 30:8)
As I have been indicating in some previous posts, in many Kingdom-related matters, the difference between truth and error is excesses and extremes. Those excesses and extremes can be at either end of the spectrum. Or, if you prefer, the allegory of “the road of Truth” could be used, with the Truth represented by the road, and the ditches along either side of the road representing the excesses and extremes of error.
Such is the case with the real truth regarding the matter of prosperity and success versus whatever is the diametric opposite of that, which I suppose is poverty and failure. The real truth, that is, the Truth of the mind of God that is both concealed and revealed in Christ through the Spirit of Truth, lies somewhere between these opposing messages. The extremes on both sides are error and deception. We must be careful not to swerve too far to either side so as to fall into a spiritual ditch of error. There are a great number of passages of Scripture telling us how much God indeed does want us to “prosper and be in (good) health even as our soul prospers” (3 Jn. 2). But, the last part of that Scripture is the weightier and balancing part. From God’s perspective, true prosperity is commensurate with soul-prosperity, and not defined by the amount of mammon, or material things, we possess. Prosperity and success, and divine healing and health, taken to extremes and taken out of context of the rest of Scripture that speaks of counterbalancing matters can become an abomination to God: “A false balance is an abomination to the LORD; but a just weight is His delight” (Prv. 11:1).
Truth, in terms of human teaching, (please understand I’m not talking here about Truth itself that emanates from the Spirit of Truth), is virtually always found between opposing extremes, allegorically speaking. It’s the extremes that are an abomination to God. From the beginning of time, humans have taken truth and twisted, distorted, and perverted it to make it say whatever they need it to say as support and justification for their evil desires and deeds.
What I see is that there is two sides of this coin regarding this matter of God’s provision for us. The focus of the previous post was what the Word of God tells us about God’s desire to prosper and abundantly bless His people. Like Abraham, he has promised to not only bless us, but also make us a blessing. In this and the next post, my focus will be the abundance of Scripture that counterbalance the “prosperity” side of the same coin.
The Parable of the Sower (see, Mark 4:1-20), according to what Jesus Himself said about it, could be aptly called “The Paramount Parable.” When His disciples asked Him to explain it to them, He responded, as He did on several other occasions, with seeming frustration at their spiritual dullness, saying, “Do you not understand this parable? And how will you understand all the parables?” Jesus also indicated that this parable contained the key to understanding the “Mystery of the Kingdom.” That is the title of a book I wrote and published in 1984 in which I explained what the Lord showed me concerning the meaning of this Paramount Parable and the “secrets” it unveils of how to bear Kingdom Fruit as well as “hidden” principles of how the Kingdom of God operates here on Earth. The rest of this post is taken from that book. Click here to read more about the book, which is available in both e-book and print versions.
7 And other seed fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked it, and it yielded no crop. 18 And others are the ones on whom seed was sown among the thorns; these are the ones who have heard the word,
19 and the worries of the word, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.
Jesus identified in the Parable of the Sower four different categories of hearers, all of whom heard the Word, though only one responded properly and became doers of the Word, thereby producing Kingdom Fruit in their lives. As Jesus said, the Seed of the Word of God was sown on this category of hearers, which means they heard the Word, but there were also thorns growing in their lives along with the Word that eventually choked out the Seed, and thus it “yielded no crop” — that is, it produced no Kingdom Fruit in the lives of these hearers. In His explanation to the disciples, Jesus indicated these thorns were “thorns of worldliness,” and identified them as being, 1) the worries of the world, 2) the deceitfulness of riches, and 3) the desires for other things. He said these thorns of worldliness entered into these believers’ lives, and choked out the Seed which was sown into their lives by the Sower (Fivefold Ministers) as the two grew together in the soil of their hearts, and prevented the Word from becoming fruitful. We examine here one of those thorns of worldliness — “the deceitfulness of riches.”
Deceitful Characteristic of Riches
Even the small sampling of passages I have mentioned here, well establishes the foundation that God does not require or even desire that believers live in poverty or financial lack, and provides us with more than ample Scriptural evidence to conclude without equivocation that it is not riches or wealth themselves that will prevent the Word of God from bearing fruit in a person’s life. Rather, as Jesus indicated in the Parable of the Sower, it is the deceptive characteristic of riches that can cause tremendous spiritual problems and prevent the bringing forth of Godly fruit in a person’s life, even those who have heard the Word of God. It is trusting in and coveting the riches that will choke the Word of God and prevent it from bearing the fruit it is intended to produce. As God says it,
the LOVE OF MONEY is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. (1 Tim. 6:10, KJV)
Riches can be so deceiving. Many a person has been deceived by riches. One of the worst parts of the deceptive nature of riches is a false sense of superiority. There is an arrogant and haughty spirit that can invade and pervade a person when wealth and the trappings of wealth are his quest and, in effect, his god. That haughty spirit is one of seven things that God absolutely loathes and considers abominations (Pr. 6:16,17); in fact, it is at the top of the list. Yet, sadly, many people are consumed with such a false sense of superiority predicated on their wealth.
Beyond that, many wealthy people are under the delusion they are somehow right with God simply because they are rich. The power, prestige, prominence, preeminence, and preferential treatment afforded the affluent in the world’s system often produces a blind self-righteousness and elitism which leads to the wholly false assumption that they must also be right with God.
However, monetary worth certainly does not impress God in the slightest, nor can it buy rightstanding with Him. Rightstanding with God can be gained by no other means than on the basis of grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 3:21-24). High-standing in the Kingdom of God is not based upon monetary worth, but on servitude to others: “whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant; and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be the slave of all” (Mk. 10:43,44). There is no partiality with God, for He is no respecter of persons. It is for certain that one’s financial status will be of no consequence on the Day of Judgment and one’s wealth will produce no advantage, for: “Riches do not profit in the day of wrath” (Pr. 11:4).
“How hard it will be for those who have riches to enter into the kingdom of God,” Jesus said (Mk. 10:23). He did not say it would be impossible, but that it would be hard, or difficult, for the rich to enter into the Kingdom of God. He did not say that it would be hard for true believers who have riches or who are wealthy to enter, because all true believers enter into the Kingdom by grace through faith in Christ, regardless of their wealth or lack thereof. Jesus is not talking here about believers having money, rather He is talking about unbelievers who have not yet entered the Kingdom of God, and how hard it will be for them to do so.
The reason it will be difficult for them to enter the Kingdom of God is this arrogance and pride to which I have already alluded. There is only one way for anyone, whether rich or poor, to enter the Kingdom of God—by recognizing your utter spiritual poverty, that you are a totally lost and condemned sinner, and that you desperately need the saving of the Savior. Coming to that realization is often the stumbling block for the rich of the world, however. Pride prevents them from ever admitting the fact that, though they may have financial wealth and prestige in this world, when it comes to their spiritual condition, they are bankrupt and destitute. That is the essence of “the deceitfulness of riches,” and many of the rich, unfortunately, have been deceived by it.
Jesus went on to say, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” (Mk. 10:25). Now Jesus’ allegory here really was not of a camel passing through the eye of a literal needle, for that in reality would not be merely difficult, as Jesus said it would be for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God, but rather that would be altogether impossible.
Very familiar to His listeners, was something known as “the eye of the needle,” which was a very short and narrow passageway in the wall surrounding Jerusalem. It was the only way into the city at night when the main gates were closed as a deterrent against enemy attack. Merchants returning home at night from their business forays usually did not arrive back at Jerusalem until long after the main gates had been closed. When they did finally return, the only entrance into the city was through “the eye of the needle,” through which both the merchant and his camels had to pass.
Now the passageway by design was only large enough to allow a man to barely make it through down on his hand and knees, which design precluded en masse attacks by marauders. It was difficult enough for a man to negotiate the entryway, but the merchant’s camels also had to pass through the same portal. In order for the camels to be able to pass through “the eye of the needle,” they would first have to be stripped bare of their cargo of wares which they had been carrying. Then, one at a time, with some firm prodding the merchant would coax the unwilling camels to bend down on their knees and to slowly crawl through the ever so short and narrow entrance.
Jesus said it was easier for those camels to pass through that tiny passageway, aptly dubbed “the eye of the needle,” than for a rich person to enter into the Kingdom of God. For, you see, everyone must enter the Kingdom of God, the Heavenly Jerusalem, in the same manner the camel entered the Earthly Jerusalem, allegorically speaking, that is, stripped totally bare of all worldly possessions and merit, down on your knees in true humility, realizing you possess nothing with which to commend yourself to God and that you are entering only through the wholly unmerited acceptance afforded you only through faith in Jesus Christ, and with profuse, heartfelt, and eternal gratitude and thanksgiving.
Everyone must repent of their pride and false sense of superiority in order to enter the Kingdom of God, no longer glorifying and exalting their self, but glorifying and exalting the King of kings and Lord of lords, Jesus Christ. As James said, “Let the rich man glory in his humiliation” (Jas. 1:10). How fitting also is the admonition in this passage directed to those who have attained unto wealth in this life:
Beware lest you forget the Lord your God by not keeping His commandments and is ordinances and His statutes which I am commanding you today; lest when you have eaten and are satisfied, and have built good houses and lived in them…then your heart becomes PROUD, and you forget the Lord your God….Otherwise, you may say in your heart, “My power and the strength of my hand made me this wealth.” But you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth, that He may confirm His covenant which He swore to your fathers as it is this day. (Deut. 8:11-18)
Do not love the world, nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away, and also its lust; but the one who does the will of God abides forever. (1 Jn. 2:15-17)
The church needs an en masse deliverance from the spirit of the world that has marched in through the open door of the love of the world. The number one leaven that is defiling the church today is not Islam, Hinduism, counterfeit sects and cults claiming to be a form of Christianity, New Age, or any of the many false religions we identify as such, but rather the false religion of materialism. And the number one idol to whom the church pays homage is the god of mammon. Both John in the above cited passage and Jesus in the below cited passage made it clear that doublemindedness or spiritual schizophrenia, wherein one is deceived by the belief that they have both the love of the world in them and the love of God at the same time, cannot be reconciled and will result in damnation of one’s soul:
No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one, and love the other, or else he will hold to one, and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. (Lk. 16:13)