One of the distinguishing marks of America is that we prize upward mobility. We tell school children “Any one of you might be President someday.” We love stories about people born in poverty who rose to become really wealthy. This doesn’t mean that we’ve always lived up to that value system, and people certainly don’t start out on equal footing. But at least it’s one of the things we claim to cherish.
That brings us to today’s passage. To our knowledge, Baruch was Jeremiah’s only convert. Out of all the hundreds or thousands of people who heard the prophet’s voice, as far as we know this man was the only one who listened. His name means “Blessing,” and I’m sure he was one to Jeremiah.
But if he listened, he had to know that God was about to destroy the nation, to raze it down to the ground. And Baruch apparently was discouraged by what he saw and knew. He had hopes and dreams and goals and things for which to strive and plan. Imagine if you were in his situation and you were in the middle of paying off your house and was just about to get promoted at work. Your natural response to Jeremiah’s message might be “But what about me? Will I lose my house too? What about my job? Will I still have it after God goes through this place with his wrecking ball?” And it looks like that’s the sort of thing that Baruch was thinking.
What was the Lord’s response? “Don’t worry about it, Baruch. I’m going to make sure the disaster never touches you”? No. Jermemiah’s friend would see this disaster with his own eyes, and Jeremiah’s Master made no promise that Baruch’s lifestyle would be untouched by the disaster.
Let me paraphrase God’s response: “I’m about to come through this entire nation with a wrecking ball and destroy everything. Don’t invest in this sinkhole. Your plans and dreams and goals and investments are about to come crashing down too. But I promise you this: You’ll make it out of this alive. I’ll make sure you don’t get killed by what I’m about to do.”
Why do I want to focus on this? What’s the application for us today? Christians should know that this world is not our home. We know from Peter that this entire world will one day be burned up like dry kindling with gasoline on it. If you go to a modern city and see all the sky scrapers and huge structures, keep this in mind. When you go to a really nice home, remember. When you see evidence in a person’s life that he/she is financially well off or even wealthy, keep this in the forefront of your brain: It will all be dust and ashes someday.
So does this mean it’s wrong to be wealthy? Does the Bible condemn the rich man as being intrinsically bad? No. And if someone is wealthy, that doesn’t mean necessarily that they’ve lost this perspective. There are plenty of people in Scripture who were wealthy who also were counted as faithful before God: Abraham, Job, David, etc. They were a lot wealthier than the people around them, and not only did the Lord not condemn them, he pointed to them in his word as people we need to emulate.
I think the key here is one clarifying word: seek. It’s not wrong to be wealthy or to make plans. But the Lord told Baruch not to seek great things. If you’re seeking “great” things—things which are great in the eyes of the world—then it’s likely you’ve lost perspective. Paul condemned the love of money, not money itself, and he said that those who are “eager for money” tend to wander away from the faith and pierce themselves with many griefs.
Keep in mind that the original Hebrew didn’t have quotation marks. But if it did, I think it would have the word “great” in them. You see, what’s great in the eyes of the world—money, fame, power, sex, a long life, etc., are not great in God’s eyes. What’s great in his eyes? Faithfulness. Trust in him. Obedience. Investing in things which will last for eternity.
It’s not the size of your bank account as such which God is mainly concerned with. It’s the condition of your heart. It’s the status of your relationship with him. It’s your list of priorities. Are they the same as his?
Father, you have financially blessed me soooooo much more than most of the rest of the world. And sometimes I let that cloud my perspective and let the blessings get between me and the Blesser. Whatever it takes, bring my heart and my priorities right into line with yours. Yes, I mean that.
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