It has often been quoted in religious circles that ‘money is the root of all evil’ which can lead us to believe that we should avoid it at all costs. Of course in this day and age we need money just to cover the basic costs of living, unless you want to sleep in the forest and share nuts with the squirrels. Many righteous people prefer to live a simple and humble life and they need money. So how should we as religious people spend wealth – regardless of our current status in the world?
In the bible there are a number of teachings from Jesus on this subject and once we look at them we gain an overall understanding on how we actually deal with our wealth. He taught us that no-one can serve two masters because he will love one and hate the other; you can’t serve both God and Money. He also told us not to store up treasures on the earth but to store up treasures in heaven instead.
One story that comes to mind is the rich man who asked Jesus the question “How can I inherit eternal life?” Jesus told him that he should follow the Ten Commandments to which the man replied that he had followed them since childhood. The man also asked what else he should do and Jesus told him to go and sell all his possessions and give the money to the poor.
Only one task and the man could follow Jesus. However the man could not commit to this task and walked away sad because he had great wealth. Jesus took the opportunity to tell the crowd “It is easier for a camel to enter the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” So why did this man, who had followed the Ten Commandments since he was a young boy, find himself unable to complete the one task he needed to be able to follow Jesus and inherit eternal life?
Because, like many of us in the material world, the man had a strong attachment to his wealth and possessions. He could not bring himself to sell the material items that he had worked to buy over the years and give a large amount of money away. Maybe if Jesus had told him to offer a small gift of money as charity to help the poor he would have been willing to do so, but to sell everything he owned was too difficult for him.
What does this all mean to us? Should we sell off all our possessions and give the money to the poor? Certainly not because we need money, we can’t all live on the streets relying on others who decide to give all their wealth away and join us in poverty. Maybe Jesus was testing the man to show his followers how the love of wealth can be an obstacle.
For the majority of us money is something we need in this world and therefore there is no real religious requirement to do without. However many of us fail to see wealth and possessions only as something we need in this life in order to survive. We live in a world where we are regularly tempted with the many attractions that money can buy: the latest fashion, trips around the world, the latest must-have gadgets, the finest foods and so on. We are surrounded by things that we believe we need but most of them are what we want rather than need.