Monday, October 2, 2006

Consecration, Sacrifice and Wealth

A wealthy young man came to Jesus and asked: “What good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?” Our Lord’s answer was the same as the prophets have given through the ages. It was: “If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.”

The next question was: “Which commandments?” Jesus listed them: “Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honor thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”

Then came this response and question—for the young man was a good man, a faithful man, one who sought righteousness: “All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?” We also might ask, “Isn’t it enough to keep the commandments? Is there more than the law of obedience?”

In the case of this rich young man there was more. He was expected to live the law of consecration, to sacrifice his earthly possessions. Jesus’ answer to him was: “If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.”

As you know, the young man went away sorrowful, “for he had great possessions.” (Matt. 19:16–22.). Many people use this instance as scriptural justification as to why having material possessions and wealth is contrary to the heavenly order. But there is another part of the story that is often overlooked.

Using the experience as a teaching opportunity for his disciples, Christ explained:

“And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” (Mat 19: 24)

This statement has served to confirm the assumption that riches are evil and has been the coup de grace to most Christians hopes of being both righteous and materially prosperous. They naturally assume that Christ was referring to the eye of a sewing needle. However, there was a well-known gate in Jerusalem called Needle's Eye. After the main city gates had closed for the night if a traveler arrived to the city after dark they could still gain entrance through the Needle’s Eye which was just big enough to fit a man. It was built so low that a camel could only pass if it entered kneeling and unencumbered with baggage.

A camel is not emotionally attached to their baggage and would make no protest to removing it. The stance of humility, or entering on their knees was also easily achieved since no pride has to be overcome in achieving the position.

A rich man with great wealth and material possessions would have a harder time entering the kingdom of God if his heart were on his riches instead of God. Yes, consecration is required to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, which is to give all to the Lord and withhold nothing.

However, once we have gained entrance into the kingdom Christ concluded his lesson by promising, “And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name's sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.” (Mat 19: 29)

The erroneous assumption of many Christians is that Heavenly Father requires sacrifice because He expects His righteous to go without certain things, or to exist in a state of deprivation. The exact opposite is true. When His children are righteous Heavenly Father blesses them with riches and prosperity. The scriptures teach, “it is the will of the Father to give [riches] unto you.” However, the scripture concludes with a warning, “but beware of pride, lest ye become as the Nephites of old.” (D&C 38:39) The problem arises when those blessed stop looking to their benefactor and instead focus on the blessings they have received, “Ye have set your hearts upon [your riches], and have not hearkened unto the words of Him who gave them unto you.” (Hel 13:21) God uses the law of sacrifice as a tool in order to keep our minds and hearts on Him.

Another oft quoted scripture in Matthew says: No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” (Matt 6:24) Mammon is defined as riches or wealth. In other words, Ye cannot serve Heavenly Father and money. One is the true and living God, the other… just one of many inanimate objects used as the focus of idolatry.

On mount Sinai the Lord addressed this issue by issuing as the first of the ten commandments, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them” (Exod 20:3,5)

This commandment applies to anything that would take our hearts away from the true and living God. Idol worship comes in many forms. People will worship, money, cars, houses, boats, or jewelry. The idol doesn’t even have to be an object. Sports, hobbies, and even the airwaves viewed on television have taken precedence in some people’s lives. It is not to say that having or doing any of these things is inherently wrong. No thing can be bad. Things are tools. How a person uses them is where the sin or righteousness is determined. A hammer can be used to build a house or smash a finger. The difference is in the utilization of the person holding it. Money is no different. Money is a tool. How a person uses and views money in their lives will determine if they are a good steward or an unrighteous idolater. “He that trusteth in his riches shall fall: but the righteous shall flourish as a branch.” (Proverbs 11: 28)

God requires sacrifice and consecration as a demonstration that our hearts and minds are on Him and not the blessings He desires to pour out in our lives. The Lord Himself has proclaimed, “the rich have I made, and all flesh is mine, and I am no respecter of persons.” (D&C 38:16) God is the author of prosperity, not the author of poverty and want. He will bless all of His children equally with prosperity and wealth, as each are obedient to the commandments upon which those blessings are predicated.

Covered next time: True wealth determined by wisdom and knowledge. Sharing wealth with others. Blessing the poor temporally. Production vs. idleness.