It was reported in numerous papers on Monday that according to Oxfam, “the World’s 26 richest people now own as much as the poorest 50%”. Also this morning I read a passage from Matthews Gospel (chapter 14) about Herod’s reaction when he heard about the ministry of Jesus and that got me thinking…
Certain things haven’t changed since the days when Jesus walked among the poor people of Galilee. Two thousand years later and rich men still live in their ivory towers, the world population stands at around 7.5 billion and with the birth rate averaging about one every eight seconds, the poor are even more numerous.
Most of us in the UK would be numbered among the rich, not the poor. Even though our lives might not compare with the luxury lifestyles of the 26 people above, you would almost certainly be in the top 20% of the worlds top income earners.
And yet.. we are not satisfied. We think if we could just have a little more that we would be happy, or at least have peace. But it’s a lie.
Back to Herod…
Herod feared that John the baptist had risen from the dead and was the one performing all the miracles around town. John had been arrested for speaking against Herods plans to marry his brothers wife. Apparently, Herod wasn’t too fond of the bad press and so he had John imprisoned but didn’t execute him, well, not right away. The Bible picks up the story…
“And though he wanted to put him to death, he feared the people, because they held him to be a prophet. But when Herod’s birthday came, the daughter of Herodias danced before the company and pleased Herod, so that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she might ask. Prompted by her mother, she said, “Give me the head of John the Baptist here on a platter.” And the king was sorry, but because of his oaths and his guests he commanded it to be given.” (Matthew 14:5–9, ESV)
Bound By Fear
For all his wealth, Herod was in bondage to fear. He feared to kill John because of the reaction of the people. Herod lived in fear of the very people who were supposed to fear him. He feared, of course, because his power and wealth relied on the favour Rome and any insurrection would threaten his place at the table. So too with us, whatever wealth or power we may enjoy is always at the mercy of circumstances and can change in a minute.
Herod was also afraid of what people would think. He had spoken foolishly and now his honour was at stake. How much of our lives are dictated by how we look and what other people will think of us?
It’s tempting to think that accumulating wealth would somehow make us free of all this. Many of our problems would be solved and others would look up to us. However, for all his power and wealth Herod still didn’t have peace and his life was still ruled by fear.
We could also find numerous contemporary examples of the rich and famous who’s lives are far from peaceful and yet still we continue our pursuit of stuff, as though it has the answer.
The Bible has something to say about fear…
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” (1 John 4:18, ESV)
Above every other fear is the fear of death and judgement. The truth that we hide even from ourselves, that we are seperated from God by our sin. What will deliver us from fear and gives us peace that is not dictated by changing circumstances is to know that we are loved, loved by God and completely accepted by Him.
Contentment and peace is not the product of great wealth but great love.
I’ll leave you with the words of Jesus…
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world givesdo I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” (John 14:27, ESV)