The Wealth by Which We Live
There is an underlying taproot of evil which continues to poison the stream of the worlds economic lifeof civilization itself. That bitter fountainhead can be summarized in a single, forceful word, which is found often in the Bible but infrequently in lifecovetousness.
What is covetousness? It is the desire to possess what we do not own, what we do not deserve. Covetousness is to lust after the possessions of another. It is the unholy fever to acquire what we have not earned, and it, therefore, amounts to thieverystealing from someone else. When it moves beyond its legitimate right and responsibility, the government steals from people and calls it progressive taxation. It then continues to throttle its own subjects by the hidden tax of inflation. It continues this presumptuous program by a tax euphemistically called a contributiontaxes for Social Security. Numberless businesses, individuals and enterprises steal what is not theirs. They know not or care not that they are thereby killing a nation.
Covetousness reigns! It is that ruinous self-destructive greed which can rule unchecked in the life of a person or a nation. It is the source of the threatened ruin of our economic system today. From this we should learn one of the great but forgotten economic principlesbehind money is morality.
We do well, therefore, to listen with new attention to the great statement of perceptive economic advice given to us by the wisest man who ever lived, the Lord Jesus Christ. The Son of God who made the worlds and all that is in them, this Man who is the author of all values, cut to the core of our need and our problem when He said: Take heed, and beware of covetousness (Luke 12:15).
We see then that covetousness is a matter so important, with consequences so ruinous, that the Son of God Himself tells us that it is a thing of which we should both take heed and beware. Covetousness says that all of life is finally summed up in what I may ownthat life is, therefore, enhanced and enriched solely by the things which I can acquire in the future, which at the moment belong to someone else. It is an attitude of the soul which is basically acquisitive and which therefore dictates that those who are thereby afflicted can never be satisfied. Covetousness never stops wanting!
The world, as we might expect, has a very different attitude about covetousness. It has elevated this vicious and debilitating sin to the level of a philosophy. It calls this philosophy by the dignified name of economic determinism (i.e.: a person is what he is because of his economic environment).
So wide is the interest in matters of money and what it will buy that it can be said with little fear of contradiction that economic determinism has become the major preoccupation, the controlling factor in individual, national and global policy. With a little thought, all who are intelligent will see the fallacy of economic determinism and realize that the nature of real wealth is different from anything which is held in Fort Knox or the Bank of England.
Money is Not the Wealth by which We Live!
We must realize that real wealth is very different from the money of this world and the things that it will bring into our temporary circle of control. When the Son of God warned us to beware of covetousness, He followed this by a statement of explanation which is one of the best brief expositions of economics available anywhere. It was Jesus Christ who said, a mans life consists not in the abundance of the things which he possesses. Here we have the clearest of all statements that there is a vital difference between what a person has and what he is. The essential being of an individual is not the same as the wealth which he may claim at a given moment to possess. Let every person who would understand reality in today s world print it upon his mind and never forget itREAL WEALTH IS NOT MONEY. The life of a man is essentially different from this and, therefore, the currency of the nation cannot be the ultimate value. So Christ advises us with great economic perception, Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth (Matt. 6:19).
What then is the wealth by which we live? Happily, in answer to this question we have a source of data, confirmed by experience, which is totally reliable. That source of data is the very Word of the living Godthe Being who, with that Word, formed the universe, the earth, the molecules of our physical bodies and all of the gold and silver of the world.
What then is true value, the wealth by which we live? Think of this as if life itself depends upon it, because it does. True value, as all but fools must plainly see, is divine favor, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The grace of God is that ultimate value from which all other values are derived and without which the idea of possessions is pure fantasy, and the hope of gain is a preposterous, dangerous delusion. The equation is simple: a person who knows not the grace of God is infinitely poor, and one who has come into the protection and provision of the grace of God is rich with a wealth beyond the collected possessions of the kings of the earth.
We see then that the only true wealth in the world is the possession of divine grace. Conversely, earth s only poverty is the absence of grace. A recognition of this categoric essential to straight thinking is the beginning of comprehending the issues of lifeviewing them clearly through the fog of ambiguity which obscures every horizon in our time.
Why is it the case that poverty consists in an absence of grace? The answer can be clearly understood by even a child when we remember the following obvious considerations:
1. Man is a sinner. Concerning this, we have the repeated and clear statements of the Bible, the Word of God. It tells us that, All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). The sinfulness of man is one of the most oft-repeated themes in Scripture, repeated because there are no other possibilities with the sons of Adam s race until they recognize their hopeless condition.
2. Humanity cannot save itself. The decadence of the human race has resulted in a most awful condition of man concerning his relationship to God. This relationship is that there is no relationship. Being dead in trespasses and sins, man has been given up by God as to having worth or possibility within himself.
God has given man up to a grim triad of degeneraciesto uncleanness, to vile affections and to a reprobate mind. The result is that man is totally without ability to improve his condition, to save himself or to produce anything of real value in the only way value can be measured, in the eyes of the eternal God. Make no mistake about it, the economic bankruptcy of our time is but the external evidence of the deeper bankruptcy of mankind, his moral bankruptcy. The basis of life is moral! When this foundation, the moral one which undergirds society, is broken, the superstructure of society must inevitably crumble.
3. Man must therefore depend upon divine grace for salvation. After announcing the total sinfulness, the moral bankruptcy of man, the Bible presents the only way of hope and salvation available to the sinner. Nothing is clearer in the Word of God than the fact that we are totally dependent upon the grace of the God whom we have offended because of our sins.
The most precious treasure, therefore, that man has ever received is the gift of divine grace, God s marvelous method of forgiveness and cleansing which is announced to us because of the Gospel of Christ. Our sins were placed upon Christ when He died on that awful cross on a hill just outside the city of Jerusalem. The result of this, the most important act and the only meaningful sacrifice in all of history, is the glorious announcement which is the Gospel: Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the scriptures (I Cor. 15:3-4). In this we find the message that atonement has been provided for our sin, and we are invited to receive forgiveness and cleansing by reason of the wonderful grace of God. Christ has paid our debt!
It is most obvious therefore that any person who is outside of the gift of divine grace is living in total, utter poverty. Whatever frivolous possessions he may claim in this worldlike money, houses, lands, stocks, jet planes or billions in gold, he is still a pauper. We must agree then, for it is preposterous to think otherwise, that wealth consists in divine favor and in nothing else. Hence, economic determinism is an absurd philosophy, believed only by atheists, secular humanists, Marxists and others who are blind to reality.
The Damning Plague
What causes this blindness? The acceptance of grace from God is difficult for some and impossible for others because of the great and damning plague of humanitypride. Pride indignantly denies that I am guilty and resents the need for forgiveness. Pride asserts that I have at least some merit, some desert. Pride, when pressed, pleads against total guilt and says, Surely there is something in me that merits favor with God. This is the voice of deathit must be denied with vehemence before grace expires and justice is wreaked upon the sinful soul. Because of pride, many refuse to admit their spiritual bankruptcy. The consequences are fatal.
Let us remember also that grace appears ephemeral, unsubstantial, merely spiritual to manyunreal. Nothing, nothing could be further from the truth, nothing. Grace is the real gold, the oil, the substance, the wealth by which we live. It is the only true value, for all other values have been cancelled for man by reason of his criminality. (He crucified Jesus Christ!) The claim that I deserve better than to be judged and condemned is invalidated by the divine pronouncement of guilty! This awesome verdict from heaven is indelibly stamped upon each of us by a divine hand. The human race has been sentenced to death! The single gleam of hope for mankind consists in the fact that his sentence of death has been briefly postponed because of divine grace, during which postponement man has been given space to repent. Upon repentance and faith, the person becomes heir to the greatest treasure in the universethe grace of God. This then, the reception of divine grace, is richesall else is hopeless poverty.
True wealth then is divine grace. These marvelous riches from above are so massive in scope and availability that we soon discover that, in salvation, we have only begun to tap the great treasure which is ours because of Jesus Christ. The new Christian who properly understands the basis of his salvationby graceis quickly astonished at the immensity of his present and promised possessions. He rejoices with joy unspeakable and full of glory, for he finds himself in the midst of riches beyond his capacity to expend and of delights from God beyond his powers (in that they have been jaded by sin) to enjoy. He finds himself moving into a succession of promises and provisions which are wonderful indeed. In fact, the whole course of our Christian lives is that of discovering in our experience those riches which we can appropriate from the treasure house of heaven which apply to our lives as we live them in this world. This Christian life is the progressive realization of the fact that the grace of Jesus Christ is the treasure by which we live, the only meaningful riches on earth.
We see, then, that by reason of the grace of God, the forgiveness and cleansing purchased for us by Christ on Calvary comes to our heart first in the form of eternal salvation. Salvation, God s greatest gift, is ours not by works but by grace.
The Continuing Stream
At this point, the point of our salvation, we begin to make a very remarkable discoverythis is only the beginning! We realize, with amazement and gratefulness, that the gift of salvation is not an isolated thing, no indeed! It is a fountainhead, a great wellspring that now issues into a stream of continuing blessing and divine provision which is available to us through all of our lives. By grace we are not only saved, but we are also sustained, prospered by a continued flow of heaven s resources.
For the Christian, saving grace now becomes sustaining gracethe continuing commodity that feeds the soul and strengthens the growing spirit. God, having given us life by grace, now nurtures you and me as children of His love and care. Just as we were unable to cause our own spiritual birth, so also we are unable to sustain ourselves in our continuing Christian life. So we rejoice in His sustaining gracegrace becomes the river of gold from heaventhe Christian is rich indeed.
The Christian has been rescued from the dark waters of sin and brought into the vessel of safety which is his salvation. The Captain then invites him to strip clean from his eyes the salt water and the seaweed and to look about him. With astonishment the believer discovers that salvation is not a leaky rowboat which is on its way to Davy Jones Locker. No indeed, it is a vast ocean liner with power, treasures, delights and even the privilege of eating at the Captain s table. The strongroom in which the treasure is kept is now the believer s personal possession. Wealth beyond measure is his!
This wealth continues! The same grace that has saved him now becomes the never-failing, everflowing supply by which heaven s provisions are daily his.
No discerning Christian, therefore, is ever so foolish as to join the indignant masses of this resentful world that are constantly clamoring for recognition, rights, respect and especially that frightening word, justice. The Christian knows that he lives by grace and not by justice. If he got what he deservedjusticehe would be lost! Grace, however, daily renews the promise of present riches and eternal life. This because of the death of Jesus Christ on the cross and the daily intercession of the Son of God on behalf of those who believe in Him.
This reception of the Son of God, this decision to receive Christ will produce access to the riches of heaven which a loving Father will begin to pour out upon you in abundance. It is a golden stream which will never fail for all of time and into the wideness of eternity.
From the writings of Dave Breese