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OPINION

A Quick, Compelling Bible Study Vol. 79: Jesus, Money and Pop Culture

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
AP Photo/John Minchillo, Pool

Author’s Note: Interested readers can find all previous volumes of this series here. News Flash: The first 56 volumes have been compiled into a new book titled “Bible Study For Those Who Don’t Read the Bible.” More details at the end. Now back to our regular programming. 

Thanks for joining us today! Before we study what the Bible says about money, let’s review pop culture’s prevailing influence:

“I’ve Been Poor, and I’ve Been Rich. Rich Is Better!” – attributed to many entertainers. 

A more obnoxious version: “I’ve been rich, and I’ve been super-rich. Super-rich is better” – 2006 cartoon in The New Yorker. 

“Money Can’t Buy Me Love” (1964) –The Beatles song title.

“Buy Me A Boat” (2015) – Country singer Chris Janson’s song has 144 million YouTube views. His opening lyrics reflect mainstream American attitudes:

“I ain't rich, but I damn sure wanna be
Workin' like a dog all day ain't workin' for me
I wish I had a rich uncle that'd kick the bucket
And I was sittin' on a pile like Warren Buffett
I know everybody says money can't buy happiness - but it could buy me a boat.
It could buy me a truck to pull it…”

Biblical references appear in the third stanza:

“They call me redneck, white trash, and blue-collar
But I could change all that if I had a couple million dollars
I keep hearing that money is the root of all evil
And you can't fit a camel through the eye of a needle
I'm sure that's probably true
But it still sounds pretty cool – 'cause it could buy me a boat…”

What Chris Janson “keeps hearing” are the Apostle Paul’s words:

“For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs” (1 Timothy 6-10).

Janson also references Jesus’s warning recorded in three of the four gospels, Matthew 19:23 - 26, Mark 10:23 - 27, and in Luke:

“‘How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God. ’ Those who heard this asked, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus replied, ‘What is impossible with man is possible with God’” (Luke 18: 24-27).

What is Jesus teaching? He is explaining the relationship between earthly wealth and inheriting the kingdom of God. During Jesus’s time, wealth was a sign of God’s approval. The rabbis taught that the richer you were, the more God blessed you, the more likely you would go to heaven. But Jesus contradicted the notion and explained that we are saved (going to heaven) by God’s gift, not by our own merits or wealth when he said: “'With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible’” (Matthew 19:26).

But Jesus’s answer perplexed the disciples. They thought if the rich had trouble getting into heaven, the poor would have an even tougher time, and why they asked, “Who then can be saved?”  

Earlier in Matthew, Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:3). Spiritual poverty is one’s inability to justify oneself to God.

Jesus taught that the rich man could be blind to his spiritual poverty because he is so proud of and content by his wealth. Thus, he is as unlikely to humble himself before God as a “camel is to crawl through the eye of a needle.”

Paul later explained the concept when he wrote:

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—  not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). 

Jesus also taught about money from the perspective of our short time on earth, warning:

“‘Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also’” (Matthew 6:19-21). 

Jesus cautioned against money becoming your “God”:

“‘No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money’” (Matthew 6:24).

Jesus explained the difference in behavior and faith between the rich and the poor: 

“As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. ‘Truly I tell you,’ he said, ‘this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on’ ” (Luke 21:1-4). 

The Apostle Paul believed and wrote:

“And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).

God supplied Chris Janson’s material needs when “Buy Me A Boat” became his first hit. Now, with a net worth of $6 million, Janson has yet to buy a boat, but he does own some kayaks. Reportedly Janson is also serious about charity: “The singer/songwriter, who has been on a mission to make the world a better place since the earliest days of his career, spent the last year doubling down on his efforts to give back.”  

Janson speaks openly about his faith, “number one, I'm a Christian,” and “I figured out over the years that God has a greater plan.” In April, part of that “plan” was shown to his family when a “significant” fire broke out in their home. Janson told Taste of Country, “I've said it multiple times, God has our back.” Miraculously, the fire “spared a book that is very special to him and his wife — their Jesus Calling devotional book.”  

Wealth and success will bring Janson new challenges. But, as a Christian, he is called by Jesus to know His teachings about money and how only by God’s grace will Janson (and the rest of us) enter His Kingdom.

Myra Kahn Adams is a media producer and conservative political and religious writer with numerous national credits. Her new book, “Bible Study For Those Who Don’t Read The Bible,” reprints the first 56 volumes of this study. The publication date is Sept. 27, with pre-sales on Amazon, but the e-book is available now. Myra is also Executive Director of SignFromGod.org, a ministry dedicated to Shroud of Turin education. On Oct. 9, the Museum of the Bible hosts a Shroud speaker’s event that includes SignFromGod board members. Contact: MyraAdams01@gmail.com or Twitter @MyraKAdams.

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