Results tagged “Inheritance” from Reformation21 Blog

Neither Poverty nor Riches

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Recently, I had the privilege of meeting a new family in our church. They've spent the last several years of their life in Connecticut where they struggled to find Christian fellowship, and by God's providence, they have been able to move down to Charleston. On this past Sunday, our families had lunch together, and we spent most of the time just getting to know each other. Eventually, we discussed the spiritual state of many of the people they knew in Connecticut. They mentioned that they had numerous wealthy acquaintances, but they were among the most miserable people they knew. We all nodded heads because as Christians, we know that money cannot buy the happiness and longing that many desire. However, a statement was made during the conversation that has been on my mind for several days: "I don't know what's worse: the rich, miserable man who is attached to his wealth or the poor, miserable man whose great hope in life is to become wealthy."

That statement has stuck with me because it's speaks about the reality of materialism. There is much discussion among Christians regarding the materialism of those who are wealthy in this world. There's much discussion of families who are public successes and private failures - those who live (and boast about) a life of luxury for everyone to see, yet in truth, they are miserably addicted to their love of wealth. These are individuals who live to work, live to make money, and showcase their extravagance for all to see, yet they have neglected their souls and their families.

However, there is not much discussion of the materialism of those who are poor in this world. Even though they may have meager possessions, their heart is still addicted to the hopeful prospect of wealth. They love to watch and mimic those who are wealthy so that they can fantasize about what they would do if they were wealthy. These are individuals who "fake it until they make it" - pretending to have wealth and possessions because they pine for the status that wealth brings. Even when the private failings of wealthy individuals become public, their only lesson is to not repeat their private failures.

In reality, there are many similarities between the materialism of "the rich" versus "the poor". In both cases, their hearts are set on wealth. However, there is an important difference between the two: the rich have received their reward and their hope, whereas the poor have not. For the rich in this world, the question becomes: What do you do when your hope fails you? The consistent Christian message is that one's life does not consist only of His possessions (cf. Luke 12:15). Jesus Himself explicitly warned His disciples concerning the dangers of storing up treasures on this earth (cf. Matthew 6:19-21) and that it is impossible to serve God and wealth (cf. Matthew 6:24). The Apostle Paul repeats these admonitions in 1 Timothy 6:17-19:

"Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed."

However, for the poor in this world who yearn to be wealthy (but still remain poor), the question becomes: What do you do when your hope of wealth is crushed? How should Christians respond to such individuals? The response of Christians to these individuals should fundamentally be the same because the root of the matter is the love of wealth. The sinful attachment to wealth (and the greed and envy that these usually produce) is the true problem - not one's social or financial position in society.

I've found that this message is easy to proclaim to those lovers of money who are wealthy, but it is becoming more and more offensive to those lovers of money who are poor in our culture. Rather, I am finding that another message has been substituted for the gospel message, and it is the belief that someone (whether it is society, politicians, wicked businessmen, or Satan) has robbed the poor of their wealth. In many cases, it is true that poverty in this world is caused by corruption and oppression, but Scripture also emphatically teaches that the gospel is the remedy needed for the poor, not freedom from poverty (cf. Matthew 15:1-5). This is not a theraupetic, "pie-in-the-sky" message that ignores the real problems of the poor. Rather, it is a clear and consistent message that the ultimate problem is deeper than political and economic oppression. Materialism (in all of its forms) is a harsh taskmaster to all who serve her; materialism breaks the spirit of all who serve it. Chasing after wealth and putting one's hope in it is just as worthless as chasing after the wind. Solomon's life is a testimony of this (cf. Ecclesiastes 2:1-11). Moreover, materialism is a foolish religion to all who serve it and is nothing more than superstition; it can never deliver on the promises that it offers. The reality is that the riches of God's mercy is worth more than this superstitious pursuit for wealth.

It is this last point that serves as a message to us all: Do we believe in the claims that materialism promises? Do we hold tightly to our possessions or do we have the heart attitude of the Hebrew Christians who could rejoice in the seizure of their property (cf. Hebrews 10:34)? Do we still have a part of us that still desires an inheritance and a claim in this present world? Do we have the disposition of a pilgrim (cf. Hebrews 11:12-16)? Do we live with the truth that we are citizens of a heavenly Kingdom (cf. Philippians 3:20) and that this Kingdom is not of this world (cf. John 18:36)? Do we have a "worldly" faith - a faith fixed upon liberation from the problems of this world and hope for a comfortable future in this world? To all of these questions, we should remember and cling to the reality that our hope is built upon Christ and the redemption that He has accomplished.

Gabriel Williams (Ph.D., Colorado State University) is assistant professor of atmospheric physics at the College of Charleston and a member of Christ Church Presbyterian in Charleston, SC. He also writes at The Road of Grace. The views and opinions expressed in this article are his own and do not necessarily reflect the official positions of the College of Charleston.

No Little Sins?

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After reading Nick's article on whether some sins are worse than other sins, a related conversation came to mind. Some time ago, I was talking with a man who did not believe in the scriptural truth regarding eternal judgment. He certainly believed that some sins are worse than others; however, his conclusion from that statement was that God will not hold "little sins" to his account. In thinking about this conversation, two examples come to my mind.

The Sleeper's Dream

One of my favorite books of all time is The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan--a book that I read almost once a year. In the third scene of the book, Christian reaches the house of the Porter. In this house, Christian meets three young women named Piety, Prudence, and Charity. As Christian takes a temporary rest from his journey, he converses with these three young women about his journey thus far. In recounting the events, Christian recalls his account of hearing the Sleeper's Dream where a man named Sleeper is warned of his judgment through a dream. Even though the Sleeper is temporarily frightened, he does not earnestly repent of his sin because he viewed his sin as a "tiny sin".

Piety had known Sleeper and thus, when Christian tells this story to Piety, she informs Christian that Sleeper had been intending to repent of this "tiny sin" since her grandfather was a small child. Christian pitied Sleeper because in Christian's eyes, Sleeper suffered in his condition because of "one small sin." However, Piety does not interpret Sleeper's predicament in the same way. Piety makes the following statement:

"It was not tiny at all...if it was so tiny, then why would he not trade it for all the riches of eternity?"

In asking this question, Piety gets to the heart of the matter. It is correct to say that not all sins are equally heinous; however, it is also appropriate to state that when a person clings to any sin, this person is making an exchange. In clinging to a "little sin", a person is making a subtle statement that this sin is greater to him than all the world to come. In other words, clinging to "small sins" means that we are choosing sin over Christ himself. This is why there are no small sins. When Adam and Eve ate the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, their sin was a "small sin" when viewed from a humanistic lens. However, in choosing this fruit, Adam preferred the words of the serpent over the command of God.

The Death of Moses 

Another example from Scripture that illustrates this point is the death of Moses foretold in Deuteronomy 32:48-52:

"That very day the LORD spoke to Moses, "Go up this mountain of the Abarim, Mount Nebo, which is in the land of Moab, opposite Jericho, and view the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the people of Israel for a possession. And die on the mountain which you go up, and be gathered to your people, as Aaron your brother died in Mount Hor and was gathered to His people because you broke faith with me in the midst of the people of Israel at the waters of Meribah-kadesh, in the wilderness of Zin, and because you did not treat me as holy in the midst of the people of Israel. For you shall see the land before you, but you shall not go there, into the land that I am giving to the people of Israel."

My wife and I have been reading through the Pentateuch over the past several months and when we read this passage, it brought great sadness to our hearts (even though we have both read this passage several times).

In reading through Exodus through Deuteronomy, we learn many aspects of Moses' godly character, such as his humility (cf. Numbers 12:3). We also learn that Moses has spent the majority of his life in the wilderness: about 40 years in Midian and about 40 years during the wilderness wanderings with the nation of Israel. However, what we also learn is that Moses' failure to follow the divine instruction exactly during the rebellion at Meribah (cf. Numbers 20:2-13) forfeited his right to enter Canaan. From man's superficial perspective, Moses' striking of the rock twice seems to be a rather minor error and based on Moses' life experience up to this point, there's a natural human desire for God to overlook this particular sin since it's just a minor error. However, behind the action of striking the rock twice, there is a commentary about Moses' carelessness and anger. In Deuteronomy 32, we are told that Moses "did not treat me as holy in the midst of the people of Israel."

At the end of Moses' life, he is told to go up to Mount Nebo and view the land of Canaan. As mentioned numerous times throughout Exodus and Numbers, the land of promise is always sharply contrasted with the wilderness. Whereas the wilderness is characterized by scarcity, the land of Canaan flows with milk and honey. Whereas the wilderness is characterized by famine, the produce of the land of Canaan is so great that poles are required to carry them (cf. Numbers 13). When Moses sees the lush land of promise in contrast to the wilderness in which he has lived the majority of his life, there is an implicit commentary: Moses traded the riches and glories of this for his "small error". Furthermore, Moses' single sin had a permanent consequence, which is to demonstrate that there are no "little sins."

Our Inheritance

This scene in Deuteronomy 32 is a picture of the Christian life for us. Although we are redeemed by the blood of Christ and are united to Him, we still live a pilgrim's life and we have not received the fullness of our inheritance. We are in the middle of our journey to the heavenly city where we will obtain our promise. Right now, we see the riches and glories of this inheritance dimly, but we indeed see our promised inheritance through the eyes of faith. However, there will be a day when what we see by faith will be turned into sight. Until then, may we never cling to even "small sins". May we never be as Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal (cf. Hebrews 12:17). Rather, as the writer of Hebrews exhorts us, let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus who is the founder and perfecter of our faith.