For those of us who live in the developed world, we have the challenge of dealing with our affluence. It is important for us to recognize the dangerous snare that the so-called American Dream lays out for us. While the American Dream promises comfort and an appearance of security, it has a high cost of superficiality and complacency. Jesus warned his disciples that we cannot serve two masters, God and money, because we will love one and hate the other (Matthew 6:24). Paul was even more pointed in his warning, declaring that those who desire to get rich, which is at the core of the American Dream, will fall into temptation which will lead them toward destruction. Paul even declared that some leave their faith in Jesus because they become so enamored with the attraction of riches (1 Timothy 6:9-10).
With this in mind, we are not surprised when we read Jesus’ teaching to the disciples that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven (Luke 18:24-25). To the disciples, Jesus’ words meant that no one could enter, but Jesus gave hope. With men, it is surely impossible, but with God, all things are possible (Luke 18:27). Chapter 19 of Luke demonstrates this very fact. A wealthy tax collector, Zacchaeus, gave away his wealth to the poor and restored what he had stolen, plus interest. Zacchaeus was a very wealthy man who entered the kingdom, not by his own power, but by God’s transforming love, revealed to him in Jesus.
In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus indicated why it is so difficult for the wealthy to enter into the kingdom. Jesus declared blessed those who are poor in spirit, hungry, sorrowful, and ostracized—but he declared woe upon those who are wealthy, well-fed, happy, and well-spoken of by all (Luke 6:20-26). Those who he referred to as blessed have a constant motivation to do what Jesus said. They ask, seek, and knock because they have need to seek out God, but those who have the woes of worldly blessings have no such need and, therefore, live in complacency (Luke 11:9-13). In other words, those who seek and achieve the American Dream may live in comfort and apparent security, but because of their affluence, they may mistakenly think that they have no need for God—and they may then refrain from seeking him out. According to Jesus, this is a woeful state in which to live. Paul gave us the key to living whether in plenty or in want to learn to be content, because in our dependence upon Jesus we know that we can do all things. (Philippians 4:12-13)