Ellen G. White Writings

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The Review and Herald

January 15, 1880

The Danger of Riches

By Mrs. E. G. White

When the lawyer asked what he should do to inherit eternal life, Jesus told him that obedience to God's commandments was necessary for his salvation. But mark the answer returned: “Master, all these have I observed from my youth.” Jesus looked upon this deceived young man with pity and love. He was about to show him that he had failed to keep from his heart the commandments that he confidently asserted he was obeying. Jesus said unto him, “One thing thou lackest; go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in Heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow me.”

After calling attention to his own self-denying, cross-bearing life, Jesus entreated the young man to come and imitate his example, telling him that he should thus lay up treasure in Heaven. Did the young man's heart leap with joy at the assurance? Oh, no. His earthly riches were his idol, and they eclipsed the value of the eternal inheritance. He turned from the cross and from the self-sacrificing life of the Redeemer, to this world. He had a lingering desire for the promised reward, and reluctantly turned from the prospect. It cost a struggle to decide which he should choose; but he finally decided to continue his love for his earthly possessions.

Very few realize the strength of their love for money until the test is brought to bear upon them. Many who profess to be Christ's followers then show that they are unprepared for Heaven. Their works testify that they love wealth more than their neighbor or their God. Like the rich young man, they inquire the way of life; but when it is pointed out and the cost estimated, and they see that the sacrifice of earthly riches is demanded, they decide that Heaven costs too much. The greater the treasures laid up on the earth, the more difficult it is for the possessor to realize that they are not his own, but are lent him to be used to God's glory. Jesus here improves the opportunity to give his disciples an impressive lesson: “Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, that a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of Heaven.” “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.”

Here the power of wealth is seen. The influence of the love of money over the human mind is almost paralyzing. Riches infatuate, and cause many who possess them to act as though they were bereft of reason. The more they have of this world, the more they desire. Their fears of coming to want increase with their riches. They have a disposition to hoard up means for the future. They are close and selfish, fearing that God will not provide for them. This class are indeed poor toward God. As their riches have accumulated, they have put their trust in them, and have lost faith in God and his promises. The faithful, trusting poor man becomes rich toward God by judiciously using the little he has in blessing others with his means. He feels that his neighbor has claims upon him that he cannot disregard and yet obey the command of God, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” He considers the salvation of his fellowmen of greater importance than all the gold and silver the world contains.

Christ points out the way in which those who have wealth, and yet are not rich toward God, may secure the true riches. He says: “Sell that ye have, and give alms;” and lay up treasure in Heaven. The remedy he proposes is a transfer of their affections to the eternal inheritance. By investing their means in the cause of God to aid in the salvation of souls, and by relieving the needy, they become rich in good works, and are “laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.” This will prove a safe investment. But many show by their works that they dare not trust the bank of Heaven. They choose to trust their means in the earth, rather than to send it before them to Heaven. These have a great work to do to overcome covetousness and love of the world. Rich poor men, professing to serve God, are objects of pity. While they profess to know God, in works they deny him. How great is the darkness of such! They profess faith in the truth, but their works do not correspond with their profession. The love of riches makes men selfish, exacting, and overbearing.

To obtain wealth by unjust dealing, overreaching in trade, oppressing the widow and the fatherless, or hoarding up riches and neglecting the wants of the needy, will eventually bring the just retribution described by the inspired apostle: “Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you. Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days. Behold, the hire of the laborers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth; and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth.”

The humblest and poorest of the true disciples of Christ who are rich in good works, are more blessed and more precious in the sight of God than the men who boast of their great riches. They are more honorable in the courts of Heaven than the most exalted kings and nobles who are not rich toward God. The admonition which the apostle Paul exhorted Timothy to give the rich is applicable to very many who profess to believe the truth for these last days. He says: “Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not high-minded, 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.”

Those who hoard up means, or invest largely in lands, while they deprive their families of the comforts of life, act like insane men. They do not allow their families to enjoy the things God has richly given them. Notwithstanding they have large possessions, their families are frequently compelled to labor far beyond their strength to save still more means to hoard up. Brain, bone, and muscle are taxed to the utmost to accumulate. Religion and Christian duties are neglected. Work, work, work, is the ambition, from morning until night.

Many to whom God has intrusted wealth do not consider that they are working against their own eternal interests by selfishly retaining their money. The apostle shows them that by being rich in good works, they are working for themselves. They are providing in Heaven an enduring treasure, and laying hold on eternal life. In helping the cause and relieving the wants of the needy, they are faithfully doing the work that God has assigned them; and their self-denial and generous, loving acts will be written in the book of Heaven. Every deed of righteousness will be immortalized, although, the doer may not feel that he has done anything worthy of notice.

God has intrusted many with means to use in his cause, which they have employed for selfish purposes only; and when the Master comes to require an account of their stewardship, what report will they make? Have they made hearts glad by their liberalities? Have they given of their means to assist in the work of converting sinners? What fruit have they borne? If such could but stop one moment, and look back upon their past life, they would readily see how destitute it has been of good, noble, and generous actions. Opportunities for doing good have been lost, that can never be regained, while selfishness has marred the entire life-work. Against all such, “unfaithfulness” is entered in the records above.

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