Poor Rich People is what Francis Chan is talking about on pages 88-90. He begins this section with a story about a young man name Ronnie from Uganda who is poor, as well as blind. Ronnie’s closest friend is a girl who is deaf. But, what stands out about these two isn’t that they are handicapped or very poor, but that they are totally content and in love with Jesus.
In the following paragraphs, I agree with Chan’s thoughts in regards to our society being filthy rich in comparison to poverty-stricken countries. Chan goes on to say that, in reality, being rich is a serious disadvantage spiritually. He then points out that WilliamWilberforce, an English politician and philanthropist in the 1700-1800’s said, “Prosperity hardens the heart.”
With all due respect to Mr. Chan and Mr. Wilberforce, their statements disturbed me. And yet, the scriptures in Luke 18:22-24 clearly point to the words of Jesus when He told the wealthy person to sell all he had and give to the poor, and he would have treasure in heaven, then “come, follow me.” But, the man chose not to do so, and walked away. Jesus responded: “How hard it is for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God!” He said (verse 25) it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God.
I wanted to get a handle on the statement Mr. Chan, and Mr. Wilberforce made, as well as what the above Scripture was saying. So, hang with me while I talk this out with you and, above all, ask God to clarify it for you.
First of all, I believe that an entire doctrine cannot be based on one scripture, such as Luke 18:22-25. Jesus did say that, but the Bible also says in 3 John 1:2: “I wish above all that you prosper and be in health even as your soul prospers.” So, it appears as though God does want us to prosper in our soul, as well as in health and financially.
Now let’s take a look at another scripture in regard to wealth in 1 Timothy 6:10. “For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows.” Now, didn’t that say the love of money?
Think about this: Could it be that the rich man’s (Luke 18) soul was not prospering, not because he had wealth, but because of his love of money? Could it be that his soul was not prospering, not because he had wealth, but that his wealth had him?
The old saying: “You can’t come back from where you ain’t been,” is why I felt so compelled to look at the topic Poor Rich People from another angle by sharing a personal experience.
You see, I was put through the test about 20 years ago with those very words from Jesus: “Come, follow me.” Without going into all the specifics and details, to follow Him meant leaving the teaching profession I had been in for years…a job I dearly loved. I was okay with that but, to follow Him meant facing other issues also. So, I made my excuse list to God. For example:
- Your timing is all wrong; ask me again in 10 years, and I will follow You.
- What You are asking is way out of my comfort zone.
- It will bring opposition, and I don’t like facing conflict.
- I went to college for four years to be a teacher. Sounds like such a waste to give all that up.
- Public schools need Christian teachers like me.
- My identity will be gone; I will not be able to call myself a teacher.
- And besides, and besides, and besides—the list went on and on.
These things were hardening my heart.
The beauty of all of this was that God kept pursuing me to follow Him, even in the midst of all my excuses. I have to believe it was that Crazy Love for me that Mr. Chan talks about.
One of the scriptures that finally helped me make my decision was: Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now, I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live! (Deuteronomy 30:19 NLT)
May I quickly point out that we are no longer under the curse, so I knew that God was not going to cause a great calamity to come upon me if I chose not to follow Him. So, I began to see that He had a plan for my life, and He had a path He wanted me to go down in order to fulfill that plan. But, it was up to me to make the choice.
And, yes, I answered His call to “Come, follow me,” and turned in my resignation and started my journey. My journals are filled with that time period in my life. If I may borrow a phrase from Mr. Chan: “It was CRAZY!!!”
In conclusion, I’d like to offer my own personal opinion about what Poor Rich People means:
Our heart can be hardened by things other than wealth. Mine was. Only as I humbled myself before the Almighty God to trust where He was leading me, did I become Rich in Spirit. And may I add: He is still working on me in other areas to become ‘more rich’ in Him.
Father God, first of all, we open our hearts to the convicting power of the Holy Spirit to show us where our hearts might be hardening. We ask Your forgiveness, and help us to turn from those things and follow You. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.
Do you see anything that has hardened your heart?
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