The Injustice of It All (Matthew 6:19)

Photo by George Bakos on Unsplash

The Lord once sent the prophet Nathan to King David, telling him a story about a rich   man who had much, and a poor man who little; “There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. […] Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him.” David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, “As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this deserves to die!”  

Nathan’s point was to show David the error of his way. It is a grave injustice for the rich to take what they need from the poor so they can keep what they have for themselves.  David’s visceral response is common to all who innately understand the idea of fairness. Yet all who know the full story of 2Sam 12 know just how ironic David’s response was, and how what he said to Nathan would immediately come back to bite him. For the Bible reader has already been informed by the prior chapter, “The thing David had done displeased the Lord.” That was probably an understatement. David’s sin was not unlike sticking his finger in God’s eye, and yet ironically it was only David who was blind to his personal folly. 

What then of us? Surely God Himself has at least as strong a reaction to injustice as David did. Certainly God knows that all around us are the very poor. What does God know about us that we don’t recognize, or that we won’t recognize? Are we just as blind to what we are doing as David was to what he had done?

In Deuteronomy 15, the Lord warned us that hard-heartedness toward the needy is not mere folly. It is sin. “Be careful not to harbor this wicked thought: “The seventh year, the year for canceling debts, is near,” so that you do not show ill will toward your needy brother and give him nothing. He may then appeal to the Lord against you, and you will be found guilty of sin. Give generously to him and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land.” 

God expects us to care for the less fortunate. He expects us to care enough to do something about their lack. It is not an understatement to say that the reason He gives wealth to us to start with is that we might share it with the less fortunate so that we might exercise His character of compassion, generosity and mercy. That we might see others through His eyes. That they might know that God (through those made in His image) has not forgotten them. That both they and us would build relationships that honor Him. But none of that happens if we just put the wealth and gifts God gives us on a shelf.  To that point Jesus said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.” 

God doesn’t just see what we do with our wealth – He also knows what will happen to it as a result of our choices. Therefore, to accumulate treasure just for the sake of storing it up is not unwitting misuse or simple ignorance. It is taking the blessing God gave you (not just for yourself, but that you might honour His Name by blessing others), and feeding it to moths and giving it to thieves. That is not just simple foolishness. It is a great affront to the One who gave that treasure to you, for you are deliberately setting aside His purposes for your own. What then will be your reward? Surely there will be none. Only wrath. 

The end of each life and the final judgment show that the person and the possessions are not durable. Trusting in wealth because it supposedly “retains its value” is trusting in a charade.

Kurt A. Richardson

APPLICATION: Thankfulness

Thank God for His grace to you, that you might both receive and give to Him, and that you might both receive and give to others.

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