Are you wealthy? As you look around youself at the people you see, do you feel that you are richer than they, or do you feel poor? Yet, as you answer this question, are you merely considering your finances, or are you also taking into account the wealth of your soul?
“And He [Jesus] said to them, ‘Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.” (Luke 12:15)
I recently was privileged to see photos of a particular wedding. It was a lovely wedding: the bride and groom were radiant, the bridesmaids and groomsmen perfect, the parents happy, and the photos perfect. But it was their home, I must admit, that surprised me–it looked like a small castle!
Now, don’t get me wrong: I love our home; it’s exactly right for us. It’s where I want it to be, our neighbors are an eclectic mix of interesting individuals, and the interior has all the things people think a home needs these days. Yet it isn’t a castle, and it never will be. But–in all fairness–do I need a castle? Do I even want a castle? Should I want a castle? And, what does God think about all of this?
Just as there are two different realties that we live in, there are two different kinds of wealth we can possess. Because there is the physical world which we live and function in, there is physical wealth: castles, yachts, Maseratis, and all the things most people think about when you ask them if they are rich. But because there is also a spiritual reality–an experiencing of the life Christ gives–there is also spiritual wealth, which Jesus actually spoke much about. “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth,” He teaches us, “where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.” (Matthew 6:19-20)
Material wealth and position is a peculiar thing; it doesn’t last. My mother and father came to this country with what they could carry in a suitcase when the fled political oppression seventy years ago. No one cared that my mother’s grandfather had been a baron with property and lands in Latvia, or that her father had been a respected attorney and mayor of their small town for a time. It didn’t matter that her mother was a well-loved high school German language teacher, or even that she herself had received a job offer to be a French/ German translator in France after completing her education in Austria. All of this was irrelevant; when she came here she had to paint clock faces in a factory to survive. When I was growing up I doubt our neighbors even knew that my father had taught school in Lithuania, and they certainly didn’t care that he sat at the piano for hours every evening after work writing beautiful music. To them, he was just a simple draftsman.
When we look around and see that we’re not at the top of the financial totem pole, it shouldn’t bother us particularly. Of course we should do our best and get the most education we can, but always, the preoccupation of our lives should be Christ’s kingdom. We may or may not be able to significantly alter our wealth in this world; we certainly cannot change whom we were born to or in what circumstances we grew up. But we can impact the condition of our souls–our financial wealth in the spiritual realm.
We can commit ourselves to loving the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul, might, and strength. We can seek His kingdom first and trust that whatever else we truly need to survive will be somehow provided if we are diligent and faithful. We can cultivate the condition of our souls by immersing ourselves in that precious book, the Holy Bible. We can seek His face in prayer, and faithfully intercede for those we love. We can make a point of fellowshiping habitually with others who love Jesus too.
We can, furthermore, fill our minds with the good things the apostle Paul advised us to:
“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” (Philippians 4:8)
And the scope of things which are true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous, and praiseworthy is huge; it is what my mother called “wealth of the soul.” They are the intangibles you can possess regardless of your immediate financial circumstances or environment–but you must recognize the need for them and make the effort.
There can be intelligent discussion as to what, exactly, falls into this category, but I believe good books–books that uplift the soul and teach valuable lessons–and classical music are part of it, as well as beautiful art.
Jesus said, “For a good tree does not bear bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. For every tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they gather grapes from a bramble bush. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:43-45)
The excellent creative works produced by those with good in their hearts can bless us when we partake of them, which is why, rather than surround ourselves with ugly books, films and TV, and music and art, we should partake of that which is lovely, so that our souls, too, would become more lovely, full, and rich.
As I look at the family in the wedding photos, I remember when our paths crossed. At the time, I did not know their financial situation; I did, however, observe how nice the mother was–how modest, friendly, kind, and faithful to her duties she seemed to be. I also noticed how diligent her children were and that they appeared to exhibit consistent academic excellence–something typically rare in the absence of a spiritually rich home environment. And I am happy for them–not specifically because they seem to be doing well financially, but because I believe they also possess spiritual wealth–the most desirable of riches, which all can gain.
Thank You that You give each of us exactly the amount of physical wealth You know we need and can be expected to be faithful with. I ask, however, that You bless us LAVISHLY with the spiritual riches which come in Christ and through the knowledge of Him. LET US OVERFLOW with them, and I thank You for this! Amen.