Looking up the hill, the house stood regally perched above my head. A long driveway led from the house to where I stood on the street below. I wanted to go up and knock on the door, but the locked gate in from me communicated, “keep out.”
When Pastor James and I began doing outreach in this new neighborhood, we didn’t have any expectations of it being different from the neighborhoods we had already gone to. On a typical evening I can expect to get three to five contacts from people expressing interest in learning more about our church.
But this neighborhood was different. For three consecutive nights of two to three hours, James and I pounded the pavement only to come out empty. Zilch. Not a single contact. What was more disheartening though was the large number of people who professed no interest in spiritual things. In any neighborhood I’ll always have a few, but not like this. What was unusual about this neighborhood? We were still in Yucaipa, but one thing stood out…conspicuous wealth.
Jesus had a lot to say about the corrupting influence of money. On one occasion a young man came to Jesus asking how he could attain eternal life (Mat 19:16-20). While he had been obedient in following the commandments, Jesus knew there was one thing that inhibited his relationship with God: money. So he told him to go sell his possessions and give them to the poor. For this rich young man it was too much to ask, and he walked away sorrowful. Afterward, Jesus declared to his followers, “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”
Wealth holds a powerful influence over us because it gives us a sense of security and control. If we have a lot of it, it is easy to have a false sense of self-sufficiency. “Why do I need God? My money is proof I have what it takes to conquer the world on my own.” So money can harden our hearts to the very one who created us, endowed us with gifts, and enabled us to earn money in the first place.
The only sure way of not allowing money to control us is to do what Jesus told the rich young man to do—give it away.