*Why must we be persistent in prayer?
*Why is covetousness so harmful?
*How can wealth be a curse?
*What did Jesus say about wealth?
*Who is a faithful servant of God?
In Luke 11:1 the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray. Jesus then recited what is commonly called “The Lord’s Prayer.” What Jesus meant by this sample prayer was covered in Number Five of this series. What is important for our instruction in Luke, chapter eleven, begins in verse five. Notice what Jesus said.
. . .Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go unto him at midnight, and say unto him, Friend, lend me three loaves; For a friend of mine in his journey is come to me, and I have nothing to set before him? And he from within shall answer and say, Trouble me not: the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give thee. I say unto you, Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth. And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him? (Luke 11:5-13).
What is the lesson here? Because the man persisted in his request for bread, the friend relented of his reluctance and gave him all that he asked. This, then, is what must be realized about requests to God. Jesus promised, be persistent and God will eventually grant our needs. However, the most important gift of all, Jesus said, was the gift of the Holy Spirit. What is implied here is that if God is willing to give us His Holy Spirit, which is the most important gift of all, certainly He would be willing to grant us lessor gifts. This matter of persistence is repeated in Luke 18:1. “And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint.” We should remember, though, that what we ask for should be according to God’s will (Eph. 5:17).
A wonderful example of importunity or persistence is found in Matthew:
Then Jesus went thence, and departed into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon. And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil. But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us. But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me. But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs. And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table. Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour (Matt. 15:21-28).
Because this Gentile woman was persistent and at the same time humble, Jesus granted her the request she asked. This woman had heard of Jesus. She knew who He was. She knew the real hope and solution to her problem rested with the Christ. She persisted and her request was granted. Her reply to being likened to a dog is revealing. She knew Jews had nothing to do with Gentiles, as they were regarded as unclean. But she was not arrogant and proud; her attitude was one of humility. She accepted the position to which she had been assigned. So, she persisted. Jesus was greatly moved by her attitude and faith. He listened to her request.
In Luke 12:13 we learn another lesson, this time about the wrong kind of motives. “And one of the company said unto him, Master, speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me.” After a parent dies who gets what has been a catalyst that has destroyed many family relationships. This is because greed persists in the hearts of too many siblings. Each seems to want the lion’s share, or at least what he feels is his due. People often learn what their brothers and sisters are really like when the inheritance is divided. Often for one reason or another, equanimity does not occur. Hatred, pain, anguish, and suffering are often the consequence. What was Jesus’ reply to the man? “. . . Man, who made me a judge or a divider over you?” (v. 14). Then Jesus went on to give a warning. “. . . Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth” (v. 15). The problem in today’s world is that success is equated on the basis of a man’s wealth-what one’s possessions are, how successful one is financially. What people crave and desire, Jesus said, is not the important thing in life. Jesus, then, went on to illustrate the transitory nature of wealth by this parable:
And he spake a parable unto them, saying, 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? 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. 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? So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God (Luke 12:16-21).
What was the folly of this man? First, he thought wealth would give him all the enjoyments of life; and secondly, he thought it would last forever. He did not take into account his own mortality. Life is very short, but he forgot that. He failed to realize that nothing is more unstable than wealth, whether caused by the vicissitudes or frailty of human life. The real fault of the rich man was that while he was rich toward himself, he was not rich toward God. Wealth in itself is not wrong. What is wrong is wealth along with the neglect of one’s spiritual obligations-love for God and obedience to His commandments. This covetous man had no room for God in his life; wealth was all that counted. And did he get to enjoy it? We can assume, if he had any children, his squabbling sons and daughters fighting over his inheritance probably did not get to enjoy it either.
The problem with many of the rich is stated in Luke 6:24. “But woe unto you that are rich! for ye have received your consolation.” Jesus said, the only reward the rich will receive is in the here and now. They will have no eternal reward. Paul admonished, “Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life” (1 Tim. 6:17-19). These are the true riches. “Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world to become rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him?” (Jas. 2:5). Many of the rich have the wrong security. Wealth and prestige are temporal only, of no lasting value. Faith and confidence in the wrong kind of security will eventually lead to bitter disappointment (Luke 16:25). The lesson Jesus wants us to understand is that the man who is rich toward himself and not rich toward God is an utter fool!
The quest for wealth often begins with the desire to have an adequate standard of living. For many the desire does not stop there. The quest for more and more often becomes insatiable. This is why Jesus went on to say:
. . . Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought [anxious, worried concern] for your life, what ye shall eat; neither for the body, what ye shall put on. The life is more than meat, and the body is more than raiment. Consider the ravens: for they neither sow nor reap; which neither have storehouse nor barn; and God feedeth them: how much more are ye better than the fowls? And which of you with taking thought can add to his stature one cubit? If ye then be not able to do that thing which is least, why take ye thought for the rest? Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. If then God so clothe the grass, which is to day in the field, and to morrow is cast into the oven; how much more will he clothe you, O ye of little faith? And seek not ye what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind. For all these things do the nations of the world seek after: and your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things. But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you (Luke 12:22-31).
Jesus said it was a lack of faith to worry about these physical things, to be constantly wrapped up in the material amenities. Those who make the Kingdom of God their priority, He said, will have these material things added without all the anxiety and worry that goes along with materialism. Who should not want that kind of peace of mind? The quest for materialism never really satisfies, as those who have this bent only want more and more. This is the lesson Jesus wants us to understand.
What is important, Jesus said, is the quest for the Kingdom of God. This is an admonition that applies to all peoples for all times.
Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning; And ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately. Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he cometh shall find watching: verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them. And if he shall come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants. And this know, that if the goodman of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched, and not have suffered his house to be broken through. Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not (Luke 12:35-40).
Christians should be prepared at all times for the Second Coming of Christ. They cannot be if their minds are continually on the physical amenities of this life, if all they think about is wealth and material possessions with all their attendant worries. “And the Lord said, Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his lord shall make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of meat in due season? Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing. Of a truth I say unto you, that he will make him ruler over all that he hath” (vv. 42-44). But what will happen to the Christian who gets tired of waiting, who puts the return of Christ into the distant future? “But and if that servant say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to beat the menservants and maidens, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken; The lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers” (vv. 45-46).
We are held accountable for the knowledge we have received. “And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more” (vv. 47-48). The lesson here is that we had better be ready at all times for the eventual return of the Lord. But, what if we die before it happens? No matter. The one who has prepared himself and faithfully waited will receive his sure reward at the resurrection of the dead!