Theme: All Good Gifts from God
This week’s lessons remind us what the Christian’s attitude and response toward possessions need to be, as disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Scripture: Mark 6:7-11
Where should we go to get a proper perspective on riches? Negatively there is much to be said about them, but the place to begin is not with a negative but with a positive: All things come from God. God is the Creator. Therefore, possessions are to be received from Him with thanksgiving and are to be enjoyed fully as He intended them to be enjoyed. James wrote, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17).
There is a false idea in some forms of Christianity that things somehow are evil and that the only way to live a truly spiritual life is to part with them. It may be true, of course, as in the case of the rich young man, that the only way a given individual can find salvation is by repudiating the wealth that keeps him from discipleship. But that is not because things in themselves are evil. That view was present in the ancient world but was rejected by Christianity. That view was dualism.
It said that there are two spheres of reality: the sphere of mind or spirit (which is good) and the sphere of things or matter (which is evil). By nature, people are amalgamations; they possess a mind (which relates them to God and draws them upward), and they have a body (which is evil and draws them downward). The only way to be saved is to escape from the body. In life this is done by living in the realm of the mind and denying physical pleasures. In the Greek world dualism gave us the distinct formulations of its great philosophers. In the Christian world dualism produced monasticism.
Christianity does not teach dualism. According to the Bible, all that we see or know was created by God and in its original form—that is, before the Fall and the distortions that came from it—was pronounced utterly good by Him. Our bodies are from God; they are good. Our minds are from God; they too are good. The fruit of the field is good. The fruit of our labor, seen in homes and buildings and manufactured goods and social services and writing and art, is also good. God has given us fields, hills, mountains, seas, storms, sunrises, and sunsets all richly to enjoy.
But there is this to be said. First, it is God who has given these things, and because God is sovereign in His giving, as in everything else, it follows that He may (and, in fact, does) give to some more than others and that this is just. This is the Christian answer to egalitarianism, the idea that all people must be equal in riches and that, if they are not, it is the job of government or some other outside agency to redistribute them. This is not government’s job. Government is established by God to promote and enforce justice (Rom. 13:1-5).
If one individual grows rich by extorting goods from others, by fraud or by actions that deny or destroy basic human values and rights, it is government’s job to expose the evil, punish the injustice, and demand restitution. Beyond that, government should not go. Above all, it must not take what belongs to one individual (if it is lawfully acquired) and give it to another. That is itself an injustice. There is nothing in nature or Scripture to say that all persons must possess an equal share of this world’s goods; and, in fact, it is evident that even God does not so distribute His good gifts. One servant will always have five talents, another two, a third just one.
Second, because the things we possess are given to us by God it follows that we are accountable to Him for how we use them. This is what the parable of the talents is about. God distributes His gifts unequally—one servant has five talents, another two, a third one—but each is nevertheless equally responsible for the proper use of what He has been given. The man who is judged by Christ is judged, not because he had one talent rather than two or five, but because he did not properly use that one talent he had. So will we be, if we fail to use God’s gifts properly.
What is the basis of a positive perspective on riches?
What does the Bible teach about riches from a negative perspective?
Define dualism. Compare it to the teachings of Christianity.
Application: Ask the Lord to make you aware of areas where your attitude toward possessions needs to change? How does knowing that whatever riches you have come from God affect how you use them?