i’ve been reading a book called the great chasm by derek engdahl and it has been hammering me with convictions that have kept me thinking. on this the first day of the new year i believe it is a significant direction I want to continue to walk in.
the contents of this book, as i’ve told many people, captures what it has taken me nearly 12 years to learn (and counting). it is a rare book (unfortunately) that brings together thorough biblical exposition with balanced real world application, especially to something so largely ignored from the pulpit. i couldn’t commend it more wholeheartedly.
the book speaks of God’s heart for the most vulnerable in our society and the danger that wealth poses to disconnect us from the marginalized and His heart.
as a person that considers myself middle class, but actually in the top 4% of the world in terms of wealth (80% of the world lives on less than $10 a day), this is an uncomfortable topic. yet, i must face it for that very reason. i’ve learned that having wealth, power, and/or status of any kind can blind you to it’s dangers. i never considered myself wealthy until i got to know and have befriended people who are not wealthy (by wealth i mean having more than i need in terms of food, clothing, shelter). those who “have” are not always aware that they have and are often not mindful of the “have nots.” those that “have not” are keenly aware of their lack and of the others who “have.”
there is so much in the book that has struck me but i’d like to share one idea (from the fourth chapter) that still won’t let me go: wealth preaches a gospel contrary to Jesus.
engdahl reminds us that wealth (or “mammon”) is not neutral, but is personified by Jesus as setting itself up in opposition to God, hence in matthew 6:24 He says “you cannot serve God and money.” The pursuit of wealth runs contrary to the gospel of grace. gospel means good news. wealth promises to give us the “good news” of (earthly) life and security. Jesus promises to give us the “good news” of (eternal) life and security. so who do we trust more in daily life? the true gospel reveals itself in how it is obtained. engdahl writes “At it’s core, Mammon, represents a meritorious worldview. It is opposed to grace because it is fundamentally about what can be earned and purchased.” if my life and security is based upon what i can accomplish and earn that is not much security for me (worldly resources are limited and i fail). if my life and security is based upon what God himself has accomplished and purchased that gives me a peace that can overflow (He is the limitless source of all life and He is able to keep His promises).
if we cannot serve both God and wealth can’t we at least have both, as long as I don’t “serve” wealth?
here, engdahl holds us again to the words of Christ by taking us back a couple more verses in that same section of matthew (v.19-21) and reflecting on it: “We deceive ourselves into believing we can have wealth as long as we do not put our trust in it. This is a great lie. What Jesus says is that if you have wealth you WILL put your trust in it: you will be enticed to serve it. You can store up treasure in heaven or on earth, and wherever that treasure is, THAT is where your heart will be.”
now, don’t get me wrong, no one is saying here that making wealth is a problem. it is what one does with it that reveals who serves whom. it is the keeping of wealth (putting our trust in it for security) rather than the giving of it (putting our trust in God for provision for us to bless others) that is an issue.
paraphrasing rankin wilborne, out of all the rivals that Jesus could have used to set up against God, He uses wealth. it is deadly precisely because we don’t think any of us have a problem with it.
let us choose this day (this year) whom we will serve.