the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25
"Jesus said unto him, If you will be perfect, go and sell that you have, and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions." Matthew 19:21-22
There cannot, perhaps, be a position, however peculiar and difficult, in which the believer may be placed, but he will find that Jesus, either by precept or example, has defined the path in which he should walk. The subject of this meditation pointedly and solemnly addresses itself to the rich. Circumstanced as you are by the providence of God, you have need closely and prayerfully to ascertain how, in your situation, Jesus walked. One of the peculiar snares to which your station exposes you is high-mindedness, and consequent self-trust and complacency. But here the Lord Jesus presents Himself as your example. He, too, was rich; creating all things, He possessed all things. The Creator of all worlds, all worlds were at His command. Yet, amazing truth! in the days of His humiliation, He was as though He possessed not-"Though He was rich, yet for our sakes He became poor." In view of such an illustrious pattern, what is your duty? Simple and obvious. You are in a degree to become poor, by devoting your substance to the glory of God. To amass wealth, for the purpose of hoarding it, is contrary to the spirit of the gospel, and is opposed to the teaching and example of Christ. It is a sin, an awful, a soul-periling sin. Your property is a talent, for which, as a steward, you are as certainly and as solemnly accountable to God as for any other. It is, perhaps, the one talent that He has given you. What if you bury it in covetousness and parsimony, or in a prodigal expenditure and self-indulgence, refusing to relax your grasp of it to promote His cause and truth, who became poor to enrich us, how will you meet His scrutiny and His glance when the judgment is set, and He demands an account of your stewardship? Nor is it a small, though perhaps a solitary talent. Bestowed upon but few, the obligation becomes the greater to consecrate it unreservedly to the Lord. And how can you withhold it in view of the claims which crowd upon you on either hand? What! are you at a loss for a channel through which your benevolence might flow? Are you inquiring, "How shall I devote my property to God? In what way may this, my one talent, best answer the end for which it is bestowed?" Cast your eye around you-surely you cannot long hesitate. Survey the map of Christian missions-is there no part of Christ’’s kingdom languishing through an inadequacy of pecuniary support? Is there no important enterprise impeded in its course of benevolence by the lack of funds? No useful society discouraged and crippled through the narrowness and insufficiency of its resources? Is there no important sphere of labor in your vicinity neglected, no spot in the moral wilderness entirely untilled, because the means to supply an effective agency have been lacking? Is there no faithful, hard-working minister of Christ within your knowledge and your reach, combating with straitened circumstances, oppressed by poverty, and toiling amid lonely care, embarrassment, and anxiety, studiously and delicately screened from human eye, which it is in your power to alleviate and remove? Is there no widow’’s heart you could make to sing for joy? no orphan, whose tears you could dry? no saint of God tried by sickness, or need, or imprisonment, from whose spirit you could lift the burden, and from whose heart you could chase the sorrow, and from whose feet you could strike the fetter? Surely a world of need, and woe, and suffering is before you, nor need you yield to a moment’’s hesitation in selecting the object around which your charity should entwine.
Here, then, is your example. Jesus became poor, lived poor, and died poor. Dare you die a rich man-an affluent professor? I beseech you ponder this question. If your Lord has left you an example that you should follow His steps, then you are called upon to become poor, to live poor, even to die poor for Him. Especially are you exhorted to rejoice in that, by the grace of God, you are made low. That in the midst of so much calculated to nourish the pride and lofty independence of the natural heart, you have been made to know your deep spiritual poverty, and as a sinner have been brought to the feet of Jesus. By that grace only can you be kept low. Here is your only security. Here wealth invests its possessor with no real power or greatness. It confers no moral or intellectual glory. It insures not against the inroad of evil. It throws around no shield. It may impart a measure of artificial importance, authority, and influence in the world’’s estimation; beyond this, what is it? Unsanctified by Divine grace, it entails upon its unhappy possessor an innumerable train of evils. As a Christian man, then, exposed to the snares of even a moderate degree of worldly prosperity, your only security is in drawing largely from the "exceeding riches of Christ’’s grace;" your true wealth is in the fear of God ruling in your heart, in the love of Christ constraining you to "lie low in a low place;" to bear the cross daily; to walk closely, obediently, and humbly with God; employing the property with which He has entrusted you as a faithful steward; your eye ever "looking unto Jesus" as your pattern. You "know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ"-the rich, the amazing, the sovereign, the free grace of Jesus, to which you owe all that is precious and glorious in the prospect of eternity-let this grace, then, accomplish its perfect work in you, by leading you to glory only in Jesus, to yield yourself supremely to His service, and to regard the worldly wealth God has conferred upon you as valuable only as it promotes His kingdom, truth, and glory, who "though rich, for your sakes became poor, that you, through His poverty, might be made rich."