Jesus talked about the dangers of the love of money a lot—eleven of his thirty-nine parables have something to do with it. His consistent message was that you and I cannot serve both God and money—the love of money can become a serious spiritual problem, a form of idolatry, in fact (in other words, breaking the second of the Ten Commandments). The thrust of Jesus’ message is that we are always being tempted to choose things other than God to satisfy us and give our lives meaning—money, possessions, pride, rank, looks, sex, sports, gadgets—the list goes on. It was the trap into which the Rich Man fell and which delivered him into the torment, flames and agony of Hades we heard about in Luke's gospel this morning (Lk 16.23-24).
The children of Israel fell into a similar trap by choosing gods other than the God who delivered them from death and slavery in Egypt. That resulted in the dark days in Jerusalem in our Jeremiah reading. Besieged by Babylon. God had had enough of Israel’s sin and choosing to go their own way. The promised land of milk and honey was going to be taken away from them an they were about to be delivered into an hellish exile.
Fast forward to Paul’s first letter to Timothy, his protégé, and a warning to do with succumbing to similar temptations. Those wanting to be rich, he warns, can fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that can plunge them, like Jeremiah's contemporaries and the Rich Man, into ruin and destruction.
And he has some words of warning for those who are already rich (people like us, who by the world’s standards today, are rich). Don’t he haughty—act superior or be disdainful or, like the Rich Man in the gospel, neglectful of those in need—and don’t set our hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but rather on God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment (1 Tim 6.17). Our enjoyment! We are invited, encouraged, to enjoy the good things with which God provides us—Jeremiah’s promised houses, fields and vineyards—Paul’s good and plenteous food and clothing. The trick is to not to fall into the Rich Person trap by letting the enjoyment turn into being entangled in the senseless and harmful desires and the love for money and things which is the root of all kinds of evil and which cause us to wander from the faith and pierce ourselves with many pains and to ignore the plight of poor people like Lazarus.
Don’t fall into the Rich Person's trap by making money the main thing in your life. Enjoy your God given prosperity AND do good, be rich in good works, generous and ready to share what God has given you—it all comes from him, you know.
Above all, don’t fall into the Rich Man's brothers' trap by being one of those who fails to be convinced even when someone rises from the dead. Jesus did. It changed everything. Live as a witness of that fact, pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness (1 Tim 6.11). The greatest gain for anyone to have, Paul writes to Timothy, is not in lots of money and things, it's in godliness combined with contentment (1 Tim 6.6). That's what taking hold of the life that really is life looks like (1 Tim 6.19). The source of life that really is life, forever and Amen, is Jesus.