The Narrow Road
Every family probably has at least one gambler. I do not mean the betting type who attend a race track where the windows clean the man. I mean the ones who are gambling with their eternal life. I would qualify them as baptized non-believers. Atheists have already chosen their future.
The danger for them is that we are probably in the End Times, and they could perish in the Tribulation. By contrast we will wave goodbye as we fly away in the Rapture of the church. Note that last word, church. That is the clue for these folks who do not favor church attendance in their schedule.
Now you can see I am not talking about atheists nor pagans, but people who could be “churchies.” Unlike dedicated Born-Again Christians, their life is like living in a vacuum. They miss the fact that God lets us see His works, deeds and marvels of creation every day. Part of their life is the struggle to exist, to succeed, to be someone. They must do everything themselves, whereas Christians trust God by faith, or at least they should. I’ve also actually heard someone say, “I have led a good life, and I believe God will recognize that.” What folly! God will certainly recognize that they never knew Him.
Are you looking for a prayer need? Consider these folks as well as millennials who are abandoning traditional Christian beliefs. They and a great number of Christians are fulfilling the End-Times prophecy about apostasy within the church. Pray for the unchurched or seldom churched that they may seek Jesus. Consider that a new survey released April 9, 2019, showed atheism is now the most dominant “religion” in the United States.
Jesus showed His concern by talking about the people on the roads to heaven and hell. In fact, three of the gospel evangelists show a conversation between Jesus and some men. These are the stories of the rich men that approached Jesus but could not accept His offer. They were to sell everything and follow Jesus. They did not understand what Jesus meant, and many of us do not either. When we read this, we think, “Wait a minute! I have a mortgage and I am making car payments. Besides, I have a wife and kids. This is not for me! Easy for Jesus to say this. He may have been poor, but that was different time and a different lifestyle.”
Did Jesus come from a poor family? We can start with the birth of Jesus and think that Mary and Joseph did not have the money for a birth room for the child. The reality is that the city was filled with people celebrating the feast and the census. However, the couple did not get there in time. Joseph was a carpenter; and as a tradesman he probably had customers and some money. But after the birth of Jesus and the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh from the Magi, they obviously had something to trade. They probably sold some to pay for their escape to Egypt as well as expenses there.
Perhaps what the wealthy Jews that approached Jesus did not realize was that, by His statement to follow Him, He meant to become one of His apostles or disciples. These three forgot about Moses’ Torah reminder to former slaves: “It is now forty years that He has been with you, and you have never been in want” (Deuteronomy 2:7b). This same Godly concern for us is extensively covered in Matthew, chapter six.
Today we can follow Jesus by adhering to His teachings. Yes, we have mortgages, car payments, or other debts. However, if we look to God as our source, we acknowledge that He is Lord and everything including economic life is ordered and controlled by Him. It is difficult to misunderstand Jesus’ advice:
“Your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But, seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:32-33).
Jesus was very specific when he stated that we should not worry about food, drink, or clothing. In other words, do not worry about anything, as He is in charge.
Now let us return to the young men who approached Jesus. They did not realize that riches do not buy happiness. In fact, Jesus said, “You cannot serve both God and money” (Matthew 6:24b-NIV).
As I read the narrative in the three gospels, I questioned the fact that they had many possessions. It just did not seem that anyone back then could have many possessions or “stuff” like we do today. I solved this mystery by going to the Greek lexicon, and learned that three words were used to describe what these men owned.
Matthew 19:21- “Sell your possessions” (Greek hyparchonta—wealth, property)
Mark 10:22- “He had many possessions” (Greek ktemata—estate, landed property)
Luke 18:23 – “He was very rich” (Greek Piousios—extremely rich man)
It appears that the possessions were property or vast lands. Regardless of my endeavors, the conclusion is they had a lot which may have been cattle or sheep on their extensive land. They may have been land owners, but they missed the opportunity to become disciples of Jesus. As we leave the land barons, here is a mystery: Why were there different Greek words for possessions? Were there three men with the same outcome or one man told similarly in three gospels?
Although there is some sadness in the refusal of the three young men, I look for humor in scripture; and I found it in Matthew’s narrative. Jesus told the man that if he wanted to attain eternal life, he should keep the commandments. The man replied, “Which ones?” Isn’t this reply the modern view of the commandments being like a dinner buffet and which item to choose or not? Imagine someone today saying, “I can take some of the commandments, and I go to church sometimes. I do not have a problem with the murder one, but killing live children is terrible. I also have trouble with not coveting the neighbor’s goods as my neighbor drives a Cadillac. The others are okay.”
In our generation, why are so many godless people among the wealthy? It is a very simple reason: they do not need God because their wealth enables them to acquire anything or accomplish anything. This includes goods as well as the best medical care. They look to their wealth rather than to God. Moses reminded the people about to enter the promised land, “Understand this that the Lord your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness, for you are a stiff-necked people” (Deuteronomy 9:6). Jesus later stated, “Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5b).
Jesus was accurate when prophesying that it is difficult for the rich to enter heaven. He then gave us a picture of a wide road to depravation and a narrow road to heaven. Why the wide road? It is necessary to accommodate the throngs of Godless people who chose the world for answers. The narrow road to heaven might be rough, but is beautiful for those who accept Jesus as Lord and Savior.
Fortunately, there are some wealthy Christians who use their God-given wealth to build the church or hospitals, or to feed the poor. However, Jesus also pointed out that all things are possible through Him. By contrast, we hear some people claim that they built the business themselves by their own hard work. One of the maladies of some wealthy or the elite in modern America is the belief that they can comment on anything. Somehow, catching a ball, singing a song, or being a manager supposedly conveys wisdom. NOT!
As we close on economic issues, we have to include one more controversy. Some churches preach tithing (Old English meaning one tenth), yet scriptures say we are free from the curse of the law. Yes, people were under the law until Jesus came to bring about our justification through faith. We do not sacrifice animals nor practice other components of the law. Therefore, why should this one component still be promulgated in some churches? Paul points out that observance of the law does not justify anyone as it only points out what is sinful. Paul does an excellent job of summarizing the act of giving for our conscience: The willingness to give should accord with one’s means, not go beyond them. The relief of others ought not to impoverish you (2 Corinthians 8:12-15).
To settle some of these issues, I frequently discussed them with our Lord. Here are His replies:
“How is your economy? Are you worried? Perhaps you listen to your media. You need to heed my media, my words. Have I not said to not be concerned about food, or drink, your clothes or your job? Remember, I will never forsake you nor abandon you. Your storehouse is so finite while my storehouse is never empty. It awaits your call. Place your trust in me always, for nothing is too big nor too small. Consider what I can do with a few fish or a stormy sea. I can feed you and calm your fears, but you must trust me as your Lord. You do not have to look, for I dwell within you. Seek a quiet time and know my presence and seek what you need. I will hear your voice” (September 21, 2008).
“What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world? Look about you and see these people everywhere. It is greed, but greed is not confined to absolute dollars and power. Greed can be a stirring for something small, something electric like the latest gadget.
“There is nothing wrong with things. It is the mindset for acquisition that can be wrong. “Gotta Have” is not my principle. My plan is to seek our Father’s will and be concerned with His provisions. For some it will be riches to help spread the gospel; for others it will be a kitchen knife, but it will still be our Father who supplies it” (September16, 2009).
“Do not doubt my love for you nor my concern for you and remember my storeroom has many treasures for you and it is never locked. Ask and you will receive” (January 2, 2011).
We have seen in Matthew’s gospel that, yes, our heavenly Father is aware of our needs. However, there is a condition: “Seek first His kingship over you, His way of holiness, and all these things will be added to you besides” (Matthew 6:33).
Author of A Gilded Walk; Gifted-How God Is Glorified; Choices for Our Eternal Home; and Together-Never Alone.