the rich man and the camel

i think it was in primary school that i first realised i was rich.

yellow rice jia dan was the king’s meal back in the day. at least i know that now. for a long time that was my standard recess order, and i thought nothing of it. then one day i saw my friend eating a packet of hello panda for recess. i asked him why he wasn’t eating a full meal, and his reply was, ‘cheaper lah bro. money cannot anyhow spend.’

till this day i have much to grow in the way of financial responsibility. neither the source of money nor the guilt of spending has ever been a major factor in my financial decisions; that said i don’t spend an exhorbitant amount.

but does it really matter that i don’t?

the fact is that my family lies in the top percentile of income earners in singapore, and that experience in primary school was just a sliver of evidence that showed how ignorant i was, and still am today.

blind. conceited. greedy.

i may not spend a lot, but i could. and indeed there are parts of my lifestyle that demand i do when i eventually live apart from my parents. car, private housing, maid. what might my life look like i wonder, apart from my family’s income?

this came to a head when my christian fellowship did a study on Ecclesiastes.

in short, there was a portion of scripture that expounded on the vanity of pursuing riches. and i was supposed to lead a discussion on it.

the guilt i felt during that moment was unparalleled. here i was, a member of a high income family, from a high income nation, lecturing others on how vain money was. the hypocrisy! the absurdity! you? you would seek to teach others how to forsake the pursuit of money? of course you can say money was vain, you have so much of it!

who am i then, but a rich boy in the clothes of a priest, dressing myself with the garments of religious humility but returning daily to a mansion. there are so many who have suffered, so many who are poor, so many whose faith has been tested more than me – how could i speak in their presence?

how then? how might a rich man preach the Word? how might a rich man preach Christ?

when he remembers that he was saved by Christ.

the effectiveness in the preaching of the Word doesn’t come from our social status, anymore than the effectiveness of our salvation is. effective preaching of the Word comes from a heart filled with the Holy Spirit, a heart submitted to the cross, a heart that rejoices in the words of God, a heart that seeks nothing than Christ esteemed.

if the effectiveness of teaching was founded in my ability to garner sympathy, then indeed i would be unfit for that position. my life has been filled to the brim with all measure of physical blessing. money, possessions, status – i am indeed the envy of most men.

but like all men, my state without Christ is to be pitied. scorned, laughed, dethroned and cast to the trash where all my works and possessions belong. such are the riches of Christ, that my wealth is rendered as dust before his throne, and my money like feeble scraps.

Romans 2:22b-24

For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus

so this then is the answer: as i have recieved Jesus Christ my Lord, so i walk in Him.

not in my own wisdom, not in my own status, not in the opinions of others, not in the intelligence i garner, not in the experience i accumulate –

in Christ Jesus my Lord, my Rock and my only Salvation.

and i pray that this spills out in all measure of good work, all measure of good teaching and preaching, all measure of praying, all measure of continual submission, all measure of generosity. i do all these things in utter humility, knowing that i speak from a position of utter thankfulness and reverence and awe and worship – i, a rich man, have been saved. i pray that what comes through my teaching is not my social status, but Christ who dwells in me.

Mark 10:23-27

And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.”

all things – even the salvation of a rich man.

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