Blinded by Things and Stuff
By Paul R. Blake
Possessions redirect vision. Open your Bible to Luke 12:13-21, clip a dollar bill over the page, and ask a friend to read the passage. In all likelihood, he will look at you and reply, “I can’t. The money is in the way.” The material blurs sight of the spiritual.
Moses had no such difficulty. While the treasures of Egypt were constantly before his eyes, he by faith managed to see through them to the riches on the other side of the reproach of Christ (Heb. 11:24-26). Faith enabled Moses to see the insubstantial, transient nature of gold and the eternal opulence of the glory of God.
In contrast, the rich man of Luke twelve suffered from myopic materialism. He allowed prosperity to degenerate his spiritual vision, and he walked by sight and not by faith.
Materialism prevented the rich man from seeing God as the source of his success. Instead of expressing thanks to God for the abundance, he immediately focused on solving the problem of a healthy harvest. Limited vision gave him the impression that he alone was responsible for the large haul, for he identified it as “my crops.” As a farmer, he should have realized how much he needed God to supply proper amounts of rain, sunshine, and clement temperatures to ensure a good harvest. God is the origin of all blessings (James. 1:17). His children thank Him for the gifts, because they can see that all things come from God (1Thes. 5:18). Wealth is not given to glorify men, but to remind them of their dependency on God.
Materialism prevented the rich man from seeing the profit in wise counsel. He consulted no one about the disposition of the plentiful crop; he only “thought within himself.” It appears that he was unable to see anyone else qualified enough to ask. Oh what a remarkable counseling session he held with himself. In three brief sentences he delineated the problem, developed a solution, determined the long range outcome, and still found room for fifteen personal pronouns and self references. Physical wealth kept him from seeing that he was not enough; he wasn’t up to the task of directing his path and deciding his future alone. One of the temptations in which wealth places one is to think that he doesn’t need anyone, including God. The wisdom writer said: “…Give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food you prescribe for me; lest I be full and deny you, and say, ‘Who is the Lord?'” (Prov. 30:8-9). Wealth does not bring freedom, but rather it increases temptation.
Materialism prevented the rich man from seeing others in need. He could only see future pleasure for himself; he gave no thought to the state of others around him. The Lord concluded this parable with, “So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God” (v 21). Jesus is not condemning wealth, nor is he remonstrating against increasing it. He is rebuking the shortsighted notion that prosperity is for the recipient alone. It is incumbent on the prosperous to share with the unfortunate. Timothy was to command the rich to be humble, to trust in God, and to be busy with the good work of sharing as a condition of obtaining eternal life (1Tim. 6:17-19). Wealth is not to confer personal pleasure but to increase responsibility.
Materialism prevented the rich man from seeing the ephemeral nature of his own life. He assumed he would be around to enjoy the abundance; God told him that he would not survive the night. He assumed he would live pleasurably on the profits; God told him others would enjoy his wealth. God will have his own for the poor, whether by purposeful generosity of the living, or by redistribution at the death of the selfish. Even the wealthy must prepare for his own passing. Money would not buy another day for the rich man; it did not influence God at all. Rich and poor both die, and both will answer to God (2Cor. 5:10).
It is ironic that history speculates Paul may have suffered from eye trouble, when he had such clear spiritual vision. He knew how to handle prosperity and poverty (Phil. 4:11-13). How? He wrote: “We walk by faith, not by sight” (2Cor. 5:7). With the eyes of flesh, man sees the material world. When he walks by faith, he sees the eternal. Materialism distracts clear spiritual vision. “…For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2Cor. 4:18).
I Am Like a Green Olive Tree
By Kent Heaton
“(To the Chief Musician. A contemplation of David when Doeg the Edomite went and told Saul, and said to him, “David has gone to the house of Ahimelech.” Why do you boast in evil, O mighty man? The goodness of God endures continually. Your tongue devises destruction, like a sharp razor, working deceitfully. You love evil more than good, lying rather than speaking righteousness. You love all devouring words, you deceitful tongue. God shall likewise destroy you forever; He shall take you away, and pluck you out of your dwelling place, and uproot you from the land of the living. The righteous also shall see and fear, and shall laugh at him, saying, “Here is the man who did not make God his strength, but trusted in the abundance of his riches, and strengthened himself in his wickedness.” But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God; I trust in the mercy of God forever and ever. I will praise You forever, because You have done it; and in the presence of Your saints I will wait on Your name, for it is good” (Psalm 52)
Adam Clarke writes: “The history to which this alludes is the following: David, having learned that Saul was determined to destroy him, went to take refuge with Achish, king of Gath: in his journey he passed by Nob, where the tabernacle then was, and took thence the sword of Goliath; and, being spent with hunger, took some of the showbread. Doeg, an Edomite, one of the domestics of Saul, being there, went to Saul, and informed him of these transactions. Saul immediately ordered Ahimelech into his presence, upbraided him for being a partisan of David, and ordered Doeg to slay him and all the priests. Doeg did so, and there fell by his hand eighty-five persons. And Saul sent and destroyed Nob and all its inhabitants, old and young, with all their property; none escaping but Abiathar, the son of Ahimelech, who immediately joined himself to David.” (See 1Samuel 21-22 for complete story)
King Saul committed a massacre in his effort to kill David. It saddened this son of Jesse that his king would spend his life trying to kill him and yet David loved Saul respecting the place of the chosen one as king of God’s people. This contemplation of David shows the calm assurance he had in the midst of great upheaval. No matter the evil about him he would be like a tree of hope in the Lord that God’s will would be done in all things. With Saul seeking to kill him and so many people being murdered at the hand of a jealous king it would be difficult to keep his composure of faith. David trusted in God. He trusted in the strength of God.
Do you get overwhelmed at times? It is sad to hear the news of innocent people being killed for no apparent reason other than greed. Death takes our loved ones. Worries over money make our lives filled with gloom and despair. Health declines and we face treatments and surgeries with fear of the unknown. Immorality abounds with no limitations as the world turns darker with its sinful pleasures. How can we overcome such adversity? Plant an olive tree. Be an olive tree. Stand before the olive tree of David and see in the midst of his world what he saw in the blessings of God. Trust in the mercy of God today. Praise His name today. Face the hardship of today with the knowledge that God loves you. He cares for you. He sees your tears and He hears you cry. He loves you! He really does. We have a Father who knows our names and will not allow our hearts to be burdened more than we can handle. The goodness of God endures continually. He will never forsake us or leave us. Trusting in His grace is putting our lives into His hand. Be the olive tree in His presence. Trust, praise and wait.