In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus warns of the coming day of judgement and encourages his audience to be mindful and aware so that it does not come as a surprise. The following verse comes about halfway through the message:
And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares.
This verse is significant because it represents the only time that Jesus spoke of drunkenness in a negative way. Obviously there are other passages in both the New and Old Testament that mention the dangers of drunkenness, but this is the only time that Jesus Christ himself mentioned the issue.
Let us now consider the teachings of Jesus concerning wealth.
First we have the section of Matthew 6 where Jesus encourages his followers to look beyond the treasures of the current life, to not worry about how we will live, and to trust in and seek after God first and foremost. We are explicitly told “You cannot serve God and mammon.” Given that mammon can translate into money, wealth, or possessions, it is a strong statement against materialism. The same statement is found in Luke 16, as well.
Wealth is again mentioned as a part of the parable of the sower and the seeds. After describing seeds that are planted among and eventually destroyed by thorns, Jesus explains the meaning in Matthew 13:22: “Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful.” Jesus clearly sees the riches and wealth of this world as a danger to a believer’s faith and eternal life.
We even have the story of the rich young ruler who comes to Jesus asking what he should do to be saved. Jesus tells him that he needs to sell his possessions and give to the the poor (a command also given in Luke 12:33 in a separate context,) a command that the young ruler is unable to accept. After he leaves, Jesus tells his disciples that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven. The same story is found in both Luke 18 and in Matthew 19, and the focus on wealth is inescapable.
Jesus Christ, the Chief Corner Stone, the Son of God, the Great High Priest, the Good Shepherd, the Light of the World, was obviously very concerned with how his followers would deal with the wealth and riches of the physical world. He spoke explicitly of the danger of allowing wealth to take priority in our lives and so supplant our hope of salvation. He called out the issue by name and focused his attention and teaching on that subject alone. The danger of wealth was not mentioned casually or as an offhand comment, it was what teachers call the lesson objective, the focus of attention.
I know I’m already in dangerous waters, but I’m going to wade in a little deeper. It seems as though Jesus was very concerned about the issues of wealth when it came to living rightly. More so, it would seem, than in the issue of alcohol and drunkenness. He only mentions drunkenness once, and even then it is only as part of a list of examples in a lesson on something larger. The difference in coverage and focus is distinct, and I would argue it to be intentional as well.
If Jesus was so much more concerned with wealth, why not us?
Why is a DUI considered a disgrace, but tax evasion is merely an embarrassment?
Why do we forbid our children alcohol but encourage them to hoard money?
Why is a drunken father abhorred while the father who sacrifices his children to the altar of work respected?
Why is it hypocrisy when a Christian drinks in public, but not when a Christian walks past a homeless man begging for change?
Why does the Bible need to be taken literally when it mentions drunkenness and figuratively when it calls us to give up our possessions?
Why would you react differently to a man coming to church obviously drunk than to a man coming to church obviously wealthy? And which happens more?
Why are there interventions and rehabs for those who struggle with alcohol, but not for those who struggle with greed?
The questions above are obviously pretty inflammatory, and intentionally so. Of course the issues surrounding money and alcohol are nuanced and not easily understood. Of course alcohol and money are not the same thing. Of course alcohol can do terrible things to people and we can see the pain it causes. Of course it would be difficult to live without money or careers. Of course most of the good things Christians can do for the world require money.
But maybe the current system of looking at these issues is not the best one. Maybe we need to be more concerned about our fellow Christians who are on the path to serving mammon. Maybe we need to reconsider our priorities. Maybe we don’t have it all figured out yet. Maybe…
To be a Christian is to be a follower of Christ. It seems that a follower of Christ would be concerned with making His teachings a fundamental part of the way we live out our lives and the way that we view our world. When we look at the emphasis of Christ’s teachings and look at the things we emphasize, there should probably be a noticeable similarity. Unfortunately, when it comes to our perceptions of wealth, there doesn’t seem to be as much in common as there could be.