The Curse of Riches

Simon Ifeanyi Ezeh

There’s a story on Nairaland about some nine of the richest people in 1923 that ended their lives in miseries in spite of their colossal wealth. Whereas some died insolvent, some ran mad before they died and others committed suicides. The story teller ended by saying that the reason they died miserably was because they didn’t care for their families while they chased after money and that money isn’t evil in itself.

Those were the thoughts of an unregenerate soul because Christ teaches that money is intrinsically evil to the extent that he called it a demon – mammon of unrighteousness. Christ personifies wealth and avarice in the New Testament as an evil spirit known as mammon of unrighteousness. So, the ends of those men were expected because demons only kill, still or destroy: how could anyone have expected a different treatment from money (mammon of unrighteousness)? Even if they didn’t die miserably in the flesh, hell remains the eternal residence of rich people according to Christ.

They served a wicked master – mammon of unrighteousness – and he paid them in the only currency he has which is to kill them, steal God and godliness from them or destroy their souls in hell. I always shudder in pity (and sometimes, disgust) when I hear people remark that money is good because there’s NOTHING good about money. The highest level of distraction (from God and his kingdom) we encounter as human beings is engendered by money. Money is the only thing that frontally competes with God for our worship or allegiance so that we either serve God or money (mammon).

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We either serve God or mammon

Mat_6:24  No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

Luk_16:9  And I say unto you, Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations.

Luk_16:11  If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?

Luk_16:13 No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

It’s a rarity to meet someone who’s not a servant of mammon. Most people on earth are servants of this evil spirit known as money. Sometimes, we fool ourselves that we don’t love money, that we just love our jobs. Or, that we’re just working hard to support our families, etc. Our selfish excuses notwithstanding, whatever occupies our thoughts majority of the time is our god, according to scriptures.

To worship a thing is to keep it in one’s mind, most of the time. In view of this principle, anyone who doesn’t have a reasonable part of the day for communion with God, apart from keeping him (God) in his thoughts, hates God without verbalizing it. From personal experience, a man who couldn’t spend at least an hour with God per day is prayerless (and godless). The minds of prayerless and godless people don’t “stay” on God but on other gods. God is not their preoccupation.

Psa_10:4 The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts

Isa_26:3 Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.

Isa_65:2 I have spread out my hands all the day unto a rebellious people, which walketh in a way that was not good, after their own thoughts;

A lot of people have times for eating, school run, work, sleep, etc. but not for God. Sometimes when they manage to squeeze out time to pray, it’s never more than five minutes. Such people leave their lives to chance but are still surprised when “anything happens” to them. Some others are able to pray, even for hours but still don’t have a personal relationship with God because they pray the wrong (religious) prayers.  Sadly, “anything” could also happen to such people and no one makes it to heaven without a living personal relationship with the living God.

Religious and ignorant people would gather in public places to shout and chant “prayers” ostensibly to God, constituting a great deal of nuisance to others. Such misguided people are never praying to God because godly praying must be in private and not an empty, public religious activity. In fact, the emptiness of those religious prayers is manifest in the lives of the people who engage in it given their proclivity to violence and terrorism. You’re invited to repent now, if you’ve been a part of that religious barbarism. 

When we scarcely have time for rest and for God because of work, we’re serving money. It’s near impossible to find someone in Lagos, Nigeria, who’s not a servant of money. The uncontrollable road traffic, the amount of time commuters spend in traffic daily and people’s attitude in traffic, especially when hit by another road user are enough to prove that majority of Lagos residents are worshipers of money. A classical Lagos commuter would pull up to fight after his car has been hit by another car because forgiveness or turning the other cheek is completely alien to him, even if he’s a Christian. 

A money or mammon worshipper would consult everyone else but God when there’s an important decision to make. Since he doesn’t hear from God (because he won’t wait long enough), he replaces the word of God with peoples’ counsel. Many peoples’ relationships – marriage, friendship, business partnership, etc. are determined by mammon. If you’re poor and unsophisticated, you can’t be a friend of mammon worshippers because their code of conduct, value system and respect for human beings are determined by mammon. Mammon worshippers only respect and honour those who’re rich whereas they despise poor people.

The scriptures above redefine wickedness as not retaining God in one’s heart for the greater part of the 24 hours in a day as against the regular vices like lying, stealing, murder, sexual immorality, idolatry, etc. Majority of the time, money is that thing which replaces God in peoples’ hearts and defiles them or makes them unrighteous.

One might say, “But we need monies for school fees, food, rent, etc.” Of course, we use money to pay all manner of bills but it shouldn’t be our preoccupation because you don’t have to earn the monies you spend – God provides by any method he chooses, our honest and hard work notwithstanding. So, if God is one’s provider, worrying makes absolutely zero sense. Our only legitimate preoccupation in God’s kingdom is God himself. God is all we need; we never need money.

If God isn’t one’s predominant thought, he’s evil, ungodly or unrighteous and won’t make it to heaven unless he repents. God takes records of a man’s works (Rev 20:12, Matt 25:31-46), every minute detail of the life of his children including numbering their hair etc. and recording their thoughts (Matt 10:30, Ps56:8, 139:16, Heb 6:10, Matt 12:36, Matt 6:20, Mal 3:16).

“Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another: and the Lord hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name” (Malachi 3:16)

So, we must be careful to purify our hearts (thoughts) and always make God our dominant thought.

How to relate with money (mammon of unrighteousness)

Those who have chosen money – mammon – instead of God would be received into the kingdom of mammon at the end of their natural lives.

Money is false riches and it’s governed by a demon called mammon. Christ prescribes, in a parable below, a way of relating with money if we’re to gain the true riches which is God himself. Let’s take a look at Christ’s prescription and place it side by side with the world’s approach to money and see the difference.

The Parable of the Dishonest Manager

Luk 16:1  And he said also unto his disciples, There was a certain rich man, which had a steward; and the same was accused unto him that he had wasted his goods. 

Luk 16:2  And he called him, and said unto him, How is it that I hear this of thee? give an account of thy stewardship; for thou mayest be no longer steward. 

Luk 16:3  Then the steward said within himself, What shall I do? for my lord taketh away from me the stewardship: I cannot dig; to beg I am ashamed. 

Luk 16:4  I am resolved what to do, that, when I am put out of the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses. 

Luk 16:5  So he called every one of his lord’s debtors unto him, and said unto the first, How much owest thou unto my lord? 

Luk 16:6  And he said, An hundred measures of oil. And he said unto him, Take thy bill, and sit down quickly, and write fifty. 

Luk 16:7  Then said he to another, And how much owest thou? And he said, An hundred measures of wheat. And he said unto him, Take thy bill, and write fourscore. 

Luk 16:8  And the lord commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely: for the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light. 

Luk 16:9  And I say unto you, Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations. 

Luk 16:10  He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much. 

Luk 16:11  If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? 

Luk 16:12  And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man’s, who shall give you that which is your own? 

Luk 16:13  No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. 

Explanation:

The rich man in this parable could be any rich human being while the servant or steward is an unbelieving or unregenerate staff. Upon the threat of being fired, the unregenerate staff quickly made deals with his master’s clients, cancelling their debts in order to secure a future for himself. In his wickedness, he came up with a very smart agenda to better his fortunes after his sack since he doesn’t want to suffer or beg. Although, there’s no future for anyone on earth, he made appropriate plans on the basis of what he knows as an unbeliever unlike children of God who know their future is in heaven and not on earth but make absolutely no plans for it.

On the contrary, believers also join unbelievers in acquiring the unrighteous mammon, the false riches, that which is the least of all possessions or another man’s, completely transferring their allegiance, reverence or worship to a wicked master called mammon instead of the living God. When unbelievers steal, they do well within the knowledge they have and the kingdom to which they belong but when believers steal, they become fools who don’t understand who they are and would lose the opportunity of getting their own inheritance or the true riches.

So, the only appropriate reaction to wealth or relationship with money is to give it away (and not to horde it) by using it to take care of God’s people (see Matt 25:31-46) and secure one’s future in God’s kingdom because when we “fail” and we all would fail at the appropriate time, the children of God we helped in their times of trouble or affliction would welcome us into everlasting habitations.

That’s why Christ counseled the rich young man to sell all he has and give out the proceeds to the poor (the brothers of Christ are called the poor) but the man failed to understand the raison d’être and missed his real inheritance, unfortunately. If one’s not consistently giving away “his” money to the brothers of Christ but is hording it instead, he won’t make it to heaven. When he “fails”, there won’t be anyone in heaven to recommend him to Christ for salvation. The wisdom of this world says to make money and keep it whereas the wisdom from heaven says to give money away for godly causes and not to keep it as the way to escape the curse of wealth and inherit the kingdom of heaven.

The Rich Young Man

Mar 10:17  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? 

Mar 10:18  And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God. 

Mar 10:19  Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother. 

Mar 10:20  And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth. 

Mar 10:21  Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto 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. 

Mar 10:22  And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions. 

Mar 10:23  And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! 

Mar 10:24  And the disciples were astonished at his words. But 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! 

Mar 10:25  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. 

Mar 10:26  And they were astonished out of measure, saying among themselves, Who then can be saved? 

Mar 10:27  And Jesus looking upon them saith, With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible.

It’s important to mention that Christ didn’t mean that he wasn’t good by asking the young man “why callest thou me good?”, that there’s none good but God. The guy called him good even though they still were questioning his origin and authority. Christ had to teach him that no one could be good without God. So, if they agree that Christ is good, then they have unwittingly agreed that he actually came from God and wields God’s authority.

So, the only wise and appropriate use of mammon of unrighteousness or money is to use it to buy friendship with God’s children by giving them to cushion their afflictions on earth. This doesn’t mean that thieves could actually use stolen monies to buy salvation. A thief who repents has to give back what he stole to underscore his repentance, if he holds on to what he had stolen before his claim to repentance, he didn’t repent at all. This is clearly demonstrated below.

Jesus and Zacchaeus

Luk 19:1  And Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. 

Luk 19:2  And, behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus, which was the chief among the publicans, and he was rich. 

Luk 19:3  And he sought to see Jesus who he was; and could not for the press, because he was little of stature. 

Luk 19:4  And he ran before, and climbed up into a sycomore tree to see him: for he was to pass that way. 

Luk 19:5  And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house. 

Luk 19:6  And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully. 

Luk 19:7  And when they saw it, they all murmured, saying, That he was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner. 

Luk 19:8  And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord; Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold. 

Luk 19:9  And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham. 

Luk 19:10  For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost. 

The story of Lazarus and the rich man emphasizes the same theme: the rich don’t go to heaven! No matter how one’s riches came, if he fails to give it away to God’s children and for godly purposes, he won’t make heaven. The rich man’s only sin as in the parable below is that he was rich!! If you make money and horde it, you’ve rejected the kingdom of God and chosen the kingdom of mammon which is hell.

The Rich Man and Lazarus

Luk 16:19  There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: 

Luk 16:20  And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, 

Luk 16:21  And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. 

Luk 16:22  And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; 

Luk 16:23  And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. 

Luk 16:24  And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. 

Luk 16:25  But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. 

Luk 16:26  And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence. 

Luk 16:27  Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house: 

Luk 16:28  For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. 

Luk 16:29  Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. 

Luk 16:30  And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. 

Luk 16:31  And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead. 

The rich man’s only sin (as in above parable) is that he was rich!! If he gave as Christ commands us, he won’t have been rich and would have escaped the curse of the rich or the curse of riches. Ladies and gentlemen, a camel could never go through the eye of a needle, it’s impossible. That’s how impossible it is for the rich to enter into heaven. The only way out is for him to impoverish himself or give up his riches. One may have stolen, inherited or earned his wealth, it doesn’t matter; simply give it away for godly causes if God’s kingdom is your goal. Pastors know these facts but won’t teach their congregations because they (pastors) are servants of mammon themselves.

The rich don’t go to heaven, that’s the curse of riches.

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