There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ [Luke 16:19-26]
What if I offered you all the gold, all the diamonds, all the rubies, all the real estate, and all the money in the world? This would be more than trillions in dollars. It would be in the quadrillions at least. And what if I told you there was only one condition—that you give up your salvation. Would you do it?
Parenthetically, I need to make sure we don’t suggest or promote a false doctrine with this scenario. You cannot lose your salvation, if in fact, you are truly saved. [John 10:27-28] So you could not actually trade your salvation for all the wealth in the world. What some Hollywood actors and rap stars and other musicians and entertainers have claimed is that they sold their souls to Satan in exchange for fame and fortune, but if they did, it would appear that these people never knew Christ. Now let’s continue with this question I put to you about trading fame and fortune for your salvation.
I’m certain you would not make such a trade, if you could, but what are the implications of coming to this realization? In other words, once you realize you would not be willing to trade your eternal salvation for all the wealth of the world (if you could), how does that affect you today? What does that tell you about your reality?
What I want to examine here is not your simple answer to the question, “Would you trade your salvation for all the wealth in the world,” but the implications of your answer.
In the story of the wealthy man who goes to hell in Luke 16 above, we are seeing an example of someone who acquired material wealth and lived for the world, and when he died and went to hell, he could not escape hell. He was desperately thirsty, and he begged for one drop of water, but he could not get it, because once a person dies and goes to hell, it is too late to be saved.
The richest man in the world today may be pleased with his wealth, but when he dies and it’s time for his soul to enter eternity, he will either go to hell (and the Lake of Fire), or he will go to Heaven.
Having already told me that you would not trade your salvation for all the wealth on earth (assuming you would tell me that), what does that mean for you now? Let’s put all this in context in your life right now.
Have you been worried about your financial situation? Have you stressed out about work or the future? Are you frustrated with someone, because he or she is not meeting your exceptions? Do you feel like you are being treated unfairly by someone, or that you are misunderstood? Are you suffering, and you’re sick and tired of this life? There are many reasons for being unhappy with life.
But once having decided you would not trade your salvation for all the wealth on earth, are not you also saying that you consider your relationship with Christ more important than the whole world? Clearly the rich man in Luke 16 would agree with this, although it’s too late for him now. And if that is true, then let’s put some things in their proper place. Let’s gain a proper perspective on your life and eternity right now.
If you know how great and precious your salvation is in Jesus Christ (worth more than all the world’s riches), and you know the value of eternal life in Heaven, then you also know you are not to get caught up loving this world and living in the flesh. After all, that kind of thinking would be quite inconsistent with your own belief that salvation and your relationship with Jesus is worth more than everything on this earth.
And you would also know that you are to live by faith, depend wholly on God for your daily needs, and to rejoice always, pray constantly, and give thanks no matter what your circumstances. [1 Thessalonians 5:16-18] You would also agree that you are to consider the sufferings of this present time not worth comparing to the glory that is yet to be revealed to you in Heaven. In other words, you would believe what the Bible tells you, right?
So if you would not trade your salvation for all the wealth on earth, why would you lust after wealth on earth and why would you live as though you are disillusioned with this life? Why would you dwell on your own struggles and suffering, and why would you say in your own heart and mind “woe is me.”
I’m not downplaying reality on this earth. I don’t doubt you are suffering, and I don’t doubt you have been treated unfairly, and that you’ve had your heart broken (maybe more than once). This world is harsh, and Satan is the God of this world, so we shouldn’t expect a Garden of Eden. What I am focused on here is how this life and all these feelings fit within our spiritual reality and affect our thinking, our beliefs, and our behavior.
Is not Christ more than life itself?
Yes. A thousand times yes. In the first chapter of Philippians the Apostle Paul talks about suffering, but he puts the sufferings of this life in context by saying “to live is Christ.”
For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. [Philippians 1:21]
I encourage you to read the full chapter, including the verses before and after verse 21, because this is the context of Paul’s extraordinary statement. The lack of material wealth, the lack of recognition, the lack of comforts all mean nothing compared to living for Christ. This is why Paul said “to live is Christ.” Let’s unpack this deep concept.
When Paul says our sufferings “are not worth comparing” with the glory that will be revealed to us in Heaven in Romans 8:18, he is making the point that you cannot even compare the two. In other words, if we thought our present sufferings might be bearable if we knew that being in Heaven will make up for our suffering by at least exceeding our sufferings here, we might find solace and stop complaining here. We might even glory in our sufferings. For example, if God said to you, “I’ll repay you twice in glory for your suffering,” you might say that sounds like a reasonable bargain.
But that’s not the case at all. Paul said the difference between our suffering now and the glory we will see is not even worth comparing. There is no comparison. The difference is so great, there is virtually no comparison that can be made. If Paul could have said that we will be repaid a thousand times, he would have, but the reason Paul used the phrase “not worth comparing” is because there is virtually no mathematical way to compare the two. The glory will not be 1,000 times better than the suffering you experience. It will not be 10,000 times better. The glory you will experience will be so much greater than all your suffering, there is no valid comparison!
We cannot escape suffering anyway. In fact, we are told we will suffer for Christ. It is actually part of living on this earth for all believers. Suffering is part of the method God uses to conform us to the image of Christ. Who is our example? Jesus Christ suffered more than any of us will ever suffer, and he is our example.
For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake. [Philippians 1:29]
When Paul says “to live is Christ, and to die is gain,” he is saying something that turns everything upside for unbelievers, because they think what they are experiencing now is life and that they need to live it to the fullest. That’s how we ended up with the Schlitz beer commercial that became famous for saying, “You only go around once in life. Go for all the gusto you can.” The reason that theme became so popular for decades is because it is the unbeliever’s theme for all of life. It was also the theme for the rich man who ended up in hell in Luke 16.
What Paul said also turns everything upside down for far too many believers, because far too many believers (assuming they are genuinely saved) have also fallen into the belief that their lives are found on this earth and that all their glory is to be found in their material prosperity and their physical pleasures on this earth. This is why these believers do not comprehend Paul’s statement, “to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”
That statement just blows a mental fuse for many, because they are so invested in the belief that their life is defined by their time on this earth that they cannot bear to face the idea of death. Death terrifies most people, so much so, they won’t even talk about it, except to make a joke and then change the subject.
Not only do they not see death as gain, they cannot comprehend the corollary or the meaning of “to live is Christ.” The point Paul was making that is so relevant for us today comes with a couple of eternal realities. I want to emphasize these points in this way by setting them apart.
• Heaven is going to be so much better than life on this earth amidst our current suffering that the two cannot possibly be compared.
• Since we represent God and are to do his work while we are here, we are to live for Christ now, and this living for Christ is what should define our lives.
When you put all of this together, it explains why some Christians will say things like, “I can’t wait for the rapture,” or “I’m so looking forward to the rapture,” or “I’m done with this life.”
To the unbeliever or the Christian whose faith is shallow and who is living with lust for the things of this world, such statements sound suicidal or depressing. Such statements are actually the sign of a mature believer who knows that all the wealth of this world cannot be compared to what it will be like in Heaven, where there will be no more tears and no more pain and no more suffering.
This also explains why mature Godly believers and worldly believers (if they are believers) have almost nothing in common. The person who is living for this world and lusting after the things they think will bring them happiness wants to talk about how much money they make, or where they’re going on vacation, or the new car or home they bought, or the incredible opportunities they have to do this or that. Their conversations are all about them.
There’s nothing wrong at all with running a successful business and even making a lot of money, but the mature believer who longs for Christ’s return because they live and breath Christ in this life and they know that dying will be their gain, is repulsed by the behavior and conversation of someone who is so full of worldly lusts. Such lusts and worldliness seems to ooze out of a person, and it is spiritually ugly.
You’ve heard the cliche that “like kinds attract?” They do. People who are full of lust for the things of this world tend to be attracted to each other. Why? They enjoy talking about the same things, and they thrive emotionally on a conversation that feeds their lusts. They laugh at the same course jokes.
On the other hand, Godly believers who understand Paul’s admonition, thrive on talking about what God is doing in their lives and in the world, about how current events fit within the revealed end-times prophesies, and they experience pleasure talking about how they anticipate the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in the rapture, which they love to emphasize could happen any day.
What a difference between the genuine or mature believer and the carnal Christian! One lives for Christ and looks forward to the gain, which will happen instantly with the rapture, and the other lives for this world and has no thoughts about the rapture and no desire to think about death.
No wonder these two have no great desire to spend time together! In fact, spending time together is drudgery for both of them. This can explain why some parents and their adult children seem to have nothing in common anymore and don’t enjoy spending time together. Many young people today are unbelievably carnal and living to fulfill their lusts. “To live is Christ” is not in their vocabulary and it’s not in their hearts.
Such worldly living in adult children almost always causes them to be judgmental toward their parents. They see their parents through their lens of the world, rather than through Christ’s eyes. Sad, isn’t it?
Would you trade your salvation for all the wealth on earth? Probably not, but then the question is how will you live now?
Taken from Chuck Marunde’s book, Living For God: Pursuing Christ With Passion.