by Abraham Kuyper
21So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.
1 Timothy 6:17-19:
17Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy;
18That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate;
19Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.
Jesus understood the seriousness of the conflict between God and money, which constantly presses itself upon us; and one may safely say, that in our Western lands this conflict is more fierce than it ever was in the Eastern regions where Jesus ministered, and where the ordinary wants of life are more easily satisfied than with us.
We do not realize how largely life itself is dominated by money. Put all desire for wealth aside, love simplicity, and even then life is different and unfolds itself differently when financially you have a moderately free hand, than when from early morning till late at night you have to work hard for sheer sustenance of self and family.
To be intent upon making money may soon become a sinful passion, and at length may make the slave of money lose all sense of honor. Yet to be intent upon increasing one's financial means in itself is easily understood and entirely above blame. Only think how much this means with respect to the education of your children, your own development and the advancement of the Kingdom of God.
Money is an extraordinary power; and in times of pressing need the lack of it makes one painfully helpless.
The influence of money, therefore, upon a sinful, unconverted heart is exceedingly great. Again and again you see even a converted child of God caught in the snares. What then must be the fatal influence of money upon a human heart that, even though it entertain intentions that are more ideal, has never come to a definite choice of God and of His Christ.
To ensnare such people, money and Satan join forces, and this gives rise to Mammon. At first one may try to separate money from Mammon, but in the long run it can not be done. Money is a power in your hand; but before you are aware it becomes a power over you, a power that dominates you and that, whether you will or no, draws you ever farther away from what is high and noble, and subjects you to the power of Mammon.
Jesus saw this. He fathomed to the bottom the deep shamefulness of it, its desecration of human nature, and in Divine compassion for this gilded slavery He again and again called the multitude that flocked to hear Him, from Mammon back to God.
Only in this sharp contrast lies the power of resisting the tyranny of money.
If you are truly subject to God, money will be subject to you and will not harm you.
If, on the other hand, you undertake to defend yourself against the fatal influence of your money and its seductive power, you are lost before you know it, and deeming that you are your own master, you have found your master in the money-power.
Jesus therefore contrasts two kinds of riches with one anotherriches in money, or riches toward God.
Not, that the one excludes the other. If you are rich toward God, it will not harm you to be also rich in this world's goods. For then you know yourself as steward of the Almighty, and the money will serve you, and, through you, it will serve God.
You can also be rich toward God and poor toward the world, and be contented and happy, and revel in your far higher riches of soul.
To be poor toward God and rich toward the world, on the other hand, is nothing but a false show, a parade of wealth and pleasures that envelope you without refining your inner self, and which at your death, if not before, fall away and leave your soul empty and shorn.
And it is still harder to be poor toward God and poor toward the world. Then there is nothing to supply the wants of life. Nothing to sustain you. Only a biting discontent, that ruins your entire inner existence. Then full of vexation and carping care, life to you is shorn of every attraction.
What is it to be rich toward God?
To understand this, imagine for a moment everything you call yours in the world as taken from you. Picture yourself abandoned and forgotten of all, in utter isolation alone with your own heart. And then ask yourself: What have I now? What do I now possess?
When dying you will come to this. In solitariness of soul you will go into eternity. What then will you carry with you? Money and goods you must leave behind. You must even part with your body, and retain nothing but your soul, your heart, your spiritual self within. Will you go into eternity poor or will your heart then be rich? It can no longer be rich in this world. It can only be rich in spiritual good. You will die poor, or you will die richtoward God.
If such will be the case at death, then examine yourself now; think yourself deprived of all you have; take your soul by itself and ask: "What have I now? What do I own? Do worldly possessions impart worth to me as man, or am I something by myself? Do I own anything in the hidden places of my heart, which gives worth and significance to myself, or am I by myself actually nothing?"
Let no one deceive himself in this.
Without avarice, it is possible for any one to enrich his spirit with knowledge, to develop a talent for art, to excel by cleverness and versatility. All this has worth and meaning, and is not apart from God. Only it is all merely concerned with this life, and when life here ends loses its meaning; only so much remains, as has imparted a higher, nobler bent to your character. Whatever has established and enlarged our personality, character and inward strength, that and nothing else has become our personal property, of which neither catastrophe nor death can deprive us.
But without more this will not avail.
A fully developed personality, a well established character, inward strength of spirit, and will-power, all these are only a benefit when you can use them for good. Satan is the most strongly developed personality imaginable. It is seen with great frequency to what lengths a man can develop himself in evil.
Hence the question is, have you developed those powers of personality, and those traits of character, that are adapted to the life of eternal blessedness? If not, at death your other achievements will be of no use to you. There are strongly developed characters and cultivated talents in hell; but these bring no blessedness, they rather add to the misery, because they are apart from God and provide no riches toward Him.
Thus your heart, by itself, can speak of "owning property" only when you have developed in yourself those powers and capacities that will be used in heaven, that will make you feel at home there, and that will enable you to develop still further powers in the heavenly realm.
You cannot acquire these powers save as you enter into fellowship with God. Through God the powers of the Kingdom must operate in you, which will fit you for heavenly citizenship. In Christ you must be reconciled to God; the Father must come and make His abode with you; and then that other life will spring up in your heart that is fed from heaven, that enriches you with higher power, and satisfies the cravings of your inner emptinesswith God.
Then you become possessor of the riches which God pours out into your heart.
To be rich toward God is to own God Himself, to be a temple of the Holy Ghost, to carry about in your heart the Holy and Glorious One whithersoever you go, and every morning and evening to be refreshed anew at the Fountain of the water of life.
There is still on earth, Oh, so much that prevents you from enjoying this blessedness to the full; but it is nevertheless the privilege of being rich toward God that the more you become detached from the world the more these riches increase. And when at last the world fades from sight their increase will still be endless.
It is a wealth that can not be used up, but ever increases itself. It is interest upon interest in the holiest sense. It is always the Fountain and never the cisterna wealth which always exceeds boldest expectations, because it is to be rich in the Infinite.
And then of course there is the inheritance.
Again and again Scripture refers you to it.
There is an inheritance of the saints in light, and he who is rich toward God is additionally enriched with this inheritance.
The difference between being rich in God and this inheritance depends upon the difference between the inward and the outward life.
Riches toward God are inward. "Now already in part. Presently yet more."
But in addition to this inward state of being rich toward God, there also belongs a being rich in an outward state. And this as long as we are here we still lack; but that shall come when the inheritance shall be divided which now is being kept for you in heaven.
An inheritance of glory. An environment of elect persons and elect angels only. A dwelling in palaces of everlasting light. A fruition in glory such as here has never entered the heart.
No more sin and no more sorrow.
Eternally in Christ with our God in the fullest, richest satisfaction of what our human heart in its best moments can desire or expect.
Rich toward God and therefore rich through God.
Oh! how deeply have we fallen, that this being rich toward God charms so few people, and that those who are charmed by it still hunger so often for the things that draw away from God and therefore impoverish our person.
* * * * * * *
This devotional classic offers 110 meditations on a single thought from Psalm 73: "As for me, it is good to be near to God." The author states, "The fellowship of being near unto God must become reality ... it must permeate and give color to our feeling, our perceptions, our sensations, our thinking, our imagining, our willing, our acting, our speaking. It must not stand as a foreign factor in our life, but it must be the passion that breathes throughout our whole existence."
The meditations reflect the blending of spiritual vigor with doctrinal loyalty so consistently expressed in the life of Abraham Kuyper. These are devotions with true substance, avoiding the extremes about which Kuyper adds a word of caution: "Stress in creedal confession, without drinking from the Living Fountain, runs dry in barren orthodoxy, just as truly as spiritual emotion, without clearness in confessional standards, makes one sink in the bog of sickly mysticism."
Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920) was a Dutch political leader and Calvinist theologian. Elected to parliament in 1874, he became Prime Minister in 1901 and served in that capacity until 1905. As a theologian, he revived a systematic, orthodox Calvinism. He founded the Free Reformed Church and the Free University of Amsterdam. His other works include Principles of Sacred Theology, Lectures on Calvinism, and The Work of the Holy Spirit
Further information about Abraham Kuyper's life can be seen in the translator's "Biographical Note"; further information about To Be Near Unto God can be found in Abraham Kuyper's "Preface" to that book.