The Savior taught often about the dangers that come from a love of money.
“Good Master, What Shall I Do?”
The record indicates that the rich young man spoken of by Matthew and Mark was a good person. He ran to the Savior and knelt before him and asked the great question:
And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life? (Mark 10:17).
When the Savior told him to keep the commandments, he responded that he had kept them from the time he was a young boy. He had another question: What lack I yet? (Matt. 19:20). Then the Savior said to him,
One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me (Mark 10:21).
One thing? He only lacked one thing? I think if most of us were to ask the Savior what we lacked to qualify for eternal life, he would need about eight days to go through the list. This young man seems to be good person.
But he could not comply with this last requirement. He could not trade his earthly treasure for a heavenly one. He wanted to, but he was unable, and went away grieving (Mark 10:22).
One of the lessons in this story is that money has damaged some good people. The scriptures are pretty clear about how it happens. In fact this rich young ruler is the perfect example of what happens when people switch the proper sequence taught in the Book of Mormon in Jacob 2:18,19.
But before ye seek for riches, seek ye for the kingdom of God. And after ye have obtained a hope in Christ ye shall obtain riches, if ye seek them; and ye will seek them for the intent to do good??to clothe the naked, and to feed the hungry, and to liberate the captive, and administer relief to the sick and the afflicted.
Jacob specifies a before and an after here. Before we seek for riches, we must seek . . . for the kingdom. We must obtain a hope in Christ. Then, after that, guided by our devotion and our love of the Lord, if we want to, we can seek for riches.
The wealthy young lord got the riches first, and then, when he was asked to use them in the way a true disciple of Christ would use them, he could not give up his riches to do good??to clothe the naked, and to feed the hungry, and to liberate the captive, and administer relief to the sick and the afflicted.
The Widow’s Mites
Mark does an important thing in a nearby chapter. He shows us the other side of this dilemma as he introduces us to someone who got the sequence right.
And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much. And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing. And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury: For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living (Mark 12:41-44).
This story makes it clear that Christ does not do his math with a calculator. For him to say that two mites were more than the abundance cast in by others is compelling evidence that Jesus does not care about how many spaces come between the dollar sign and the decimal in our bank accounts. He only cares about how much space there is between our hearts and our pocket books.
Through the Eye of a Needle
Jesus teaches this principle over and over again. Too much reliance on riches can be an immense deterrent to our entrance into the Kingdom of God. In fact, after the meeting with the young and wealthy man in Mark 10, Jesus taught this in three consecutive verses. Here they are:
(1) And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! (Mark 10:23).
It is difficult for rich people to get into the kingdom of God!
(2) Jesus answereth again, and saith unto them, Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God! (Mark 10:24).
In verse 23, having riches is a problem. In this verse the Savior defines the problem more clearly. It is hard for those who “trust in riches” to enter the kingdom.
Real disciples who seek riches seek them for the intent to do good. They do not want bigger houses and faster cars and sleeker boats and a cabin in the mountains. The do not trust in riches. They want do good and to bless others. When such men are asked to give of their resources to bless others, they can do so without flinching because their hearts are in another place.
(3) 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 (Mark 10:25).
It is not easy for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.
Brigham Young, the second President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said,
The worst fear that I have about this people is that they will get rich in this country, forget God and His people, wax fat and kick themselves out of the Church and go to hell. This people will stand mobbing, robbing, poverty and all manner of persecution and be true. But my greatest fear for them is that they cannot stand wealth (This Is The Place, Tambuli, July 1977, 25).
In Luke 12, Jesus hasmore to say about trusting in riches.
And one of the company said unto him, Master, speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me (Luke 12:13).
“Beware of Covetousness”
One of his followers (one of the company) thought his brother is cheating him and wanted the Master to intervene. Christ refused. AMan, who made me . . . a divider over you?@
And then he taught more:
Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth (Luke 12:15).
It is significant that Jesus would refer to a man’s desire for what was rightfully his as covetousness. The problem of trusting in riches is defined clearly in the concept of coveting what is actually ours.
The Lord makes it clear in Luke 12:15 that our lives are not defined by the amount of stuff we have, but by the kind of people we are.
I Will Build Bigger Barns
The Lord gave a parable:
The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully: And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? (Luke 12:16-17).
I have a lot more than I need, the man said. What shall I do with my surplus? Jacob could tell him. The Lord could tell him. Use it do good. Sell it! Give the proceeds to the poor. But this rich man found another solution:
And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry (Luke 12:18,19).
He decided to build a whole row of storage units, and put his property where it would be safe and where it would be available if he ever needed it.
But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? (Luke 12:20).
Years ago I read the account of a man very much like the barn-builder in Luke 12.
I think of . . . the mightiest palace an Arab ever built, just outside of Jericho . . . the prince took twenty?seven years to build it, and it was going to be the finest palace in the world . . . it was magnificent. We have no idea how expensive and luxurious it was. The night he was to enter it for the housewarming, there came a great earthquake. He had a heart attack and died, and the palace was completely destroyed. They were to have this big housewarming, and everybody was to come. After twenty?seven years, poof, that’s what happened (Hugh W. Nibley: Teachings of the Book of Mormon,Semester 2, Lecture 41).
All of us will one day go poof.’God will require a soul from every person. What then of those huge barns and storage units?
We must be careful that we are not like the man invited to becomethe owner of a great treasure. He knew that to claim this fortune, he had come without delays or distractions, but he could not resist the urge to stop and gather the pennies that he found along the way.
“Rich toward God”
The Savior compares the man with all those barns to us.
So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God (Luke 12:21).
This need to be “rich toward God” is another warning about the price of salvation. In order for us to get into the kingdom, we must be unencumbered by our love of riches. We must be willing to lay all that we have and are before the Savior. As the Lord said,
So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple (Luke 14:33).
“The Intent to do Good”
My wife bought a sewing machine for our neighborlast week.
For the first time in our married lives, we have enough money that we can live without worry. We have a wonderful lady in anearby apartment who has been incapacitated by health problems and financial challenges.
She mentioned to my bride one day that she wished he had a sewing machine so that she could make and market quilts to help meet her needs and expenses. My wife found one online and ordered it that very day. It came today and she delivered it. This is only the most recent example of many such events.
My wife, with her hope in Christ, loves to use our resources to do good. And I love her for it. She has internalized the Savior’s teachings about the love of money.
If the rich, young ruler had been a woman, and if that woman had been my wife, the story in Matthew 19 and Mark 10 would have a very different ending.