Rich Toward GodBlog / Produced by The High Calling
Tis a gift to be simple, tis a gift to be free
Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be
And when we find ourselves in the place just right
Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
The beloved Shaker hymn plays a corresponding chord inside each of us. Isn’t this what we deeply desire? Life with space enough for the essentials, created by emptying ourselves of our preoccupations with having enough? But daily reality falls closer to the lament of William Wordsworth:
The world is too much with us, late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste to our powers.
We spend most of our waking hours acquiring the means to afford our comfortable lifestyles, fearful of not making enough. Beleaguered by our own concerns, others’ needs become an impossible load to bear.
So how do we come to that “place just right”? Fortunately, our struggle is not new. Jesus was confronted by a man fearful of not having enough, missing out on his fair share (Luke 12). Jesus addressed the real problem of greed in this man and then focused the listening crowd on the deeper issue of the heart. He told a story about a rich man obsessed with storing up his possessions—nowhere condemning the man for his considerable wealth, but for his shortsightedness. In verse 21, Jesus says, “This is how it will be (i.e., destruction) with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.” The man’s sole focus on the things of this world was his undoing.
What does it mean to be “rich toward God”? Jesus first reminds the people of their immutable place and value in the created world and of the Father’s tender care for their every need. His phrase, “Do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink,” is key, because Jesus wants to satisfy us in a way that all our search to fill ourselves, all the going after abundance, cannot touch. He says instead (v. 31) “seek His kingdom,” exchanging your present wealth for that forever treasure. And he says that you do that by almsgiving, by taking what you have and sharing with those in need.
The emphasis is on the emptying of our “storehouses,” which God promises to fill to overflowing. Isaiah 58:10 promises, “If you spend yourselves on behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in darkness, and your night will become like the noonday . . . he will satisfy your need in a sun-scorched land.” You will be made complete and satisfied—not by running after and hoarding what you believe is wealth, but in being rich toward God, holding all you have as funds available for Kingdom work.
So, if you are not a person of financial means, how does this passage apply to you? What constitutes wealth? God made each one of us in His image, uniquely handcrafted, designed with gifts and assets and abilities to use for His glory. All of that is your wealth, and we are called to a life of spending that capital on behalf of actually being Jesus’ hands and feet and presence in this world. We can keep these gifts for our own pleasure and sense of security, storing them up in the earthly barns we build, or we can offer ourselves as Christ did, sacrificially, emptying ourselves and our resources for His use, and in turn, find ourselves filled up to completion with all of the inheritance of His Kingdom.
Simplicity, therefore, is how we respond to and acknowledge the provisions that God has lavished on our every need. The New Testament word also is translated “a wholeness of heart,” which leads us to share liberally of our wealth and of our selves. All that we possess—our lives, our relatedness to one another, and even the work He has called us to—is a gift that we unwrap with each new day. With open arms, we receive the life He gives us, letting go of our frantic attempts to be our own sufficiency and thus being opened to learn how to, as Paul commands us, “. . . excel in the grace of giving (2 Cor. 8:7).”
Only then do we really find ourselves “in the place just right,” where our fear of lack in this world is finally laid at the feet of the One who promises, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.” We are now free to respond in gratitude, by extending His generosity, His Presence in all that is given us—which truly is the high calling of our daily work.