Gong Xi Fa Cai – treasures in heaven

It’s Chinese New Year (“CNY”) and we hear shouts of “Gong Xi Fa Cai!” which means “Wishing you Prosperity and Good Fortune!”

We hear “Niannian You Yu!” which means “Surplus and Abundance Year after Year!”

We hear “Ji Xiang Ru Yi!” which means “Good luck, Good fortune!”

We greet each other with greetings of good fortune, prosperity, longevity, wealth, and happiness. Yet, the first blessing that Jesus gives us in the Beatitudes is:

“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.”

What is this talk of being poor and of poverty, especially during CNY? We like money, prosperity, wealth and happiness, everything going up, up, up like the “loh hei” in the yee sang. We don’t want to be poor in any form or manner be it materially or spiritually.

Upon closer scrutiny, I realise that there are many layers to this verse. Jesus was addressing a crowd of people, both the rich and the poor. To the poor, the announcement of being blessed and that they would inherit the Kingdom of Heaven must have been a godsend. Finally, a Messiah had come to stand in solidarity with them against their oppressors.

But there were rich folk listening too. Surely their consciences were pricked, and they were disturbed by the message. And I think most people, including myself, fall into this latter category. We all have some money; we are not dirt poor.

Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God[1]”. I am also unsettled by this verse because deep down I know there is truth in this paradox.

No one who is rich and comfortable can ever enter the Kingdom of Heaven. The reason is very simple: the rich and self-contented are happy to be in their own little kingdom. The rich do not want God to reign in their lives. It is unsettling and unnerving. There is no need to enter. There is even an aversion to being part of this Kingdom of Heaven in which God indeed is King in our lives.

The human heart prefers to be king in its own little kingdom. We prefer to do it our way. Until some tragedy strikes, some suffering, some problem arises then we run to God.

Yet the key to entering this Kingdom of Heaven requires one to be poor in spirit – literally bankrupt in the spirit. Truth is, only a lowly soul crying out for God will be able to find God and enter His Kingdom.

In Matthew 19:23 – 24 Jesus reiterates:

“Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Again, I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God.

Again, in Matthew 6:24, Jesus says:

“No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despite the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.”

Does this mean that people with some money are barred from Heaven? What does God have against money anyway? Doesn’t He know that we need money to live? In fact, we use money every day. Does God want people to remain poor?

To the last question, I am sure God does not want people to remain poor. Poverty is the scourge of the earth. In Luke 4: 18 – 19, Jesus Himself said of His mission to earth:

The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor, He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”

I believe God views true wealth differently. In God’s Kingdom, true wealth is treasures where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal[2]. True wealth in God’s Kingdom has eternal value, is everlasting treasure, has real worth.

Sure, money and material possessions, even good health, are one of the indicators of God’s blessings and grace in our lives. But they are only an indicator. Sometimes we have it, sometimes we don’t[3]. In fact, we will lose all of our material wealth and health when we die.

But true treasures in the Kingdom of heaven do not change and are permanent. We will have always have them, in this life and after death. These eternal treasures are peace, joy, hope, love, righteousness, justice, mercy, purity, kindness, our souls, and God Himself. God wants us all to have them. He does want us to be rich with true wealth. He wants us to inherit the Kingdom of Heaven, now and ever after.

Money, however, is merely one of the tools to achieve a fruitful life on earth. Money is useful and necessary but only as a means to the end. God knows that we need money. Jesus Himself also dealt with money while on earth[4]. Money is manmade and temporary. It is made, gained, consumed, used, lost, and sometimes stolen. Finally, it is all burnt up at the end of the age.

Since money is necessary and useful for daily living, we can get easily sucked into thinking that making money is the ultimate goal in life.  We have been deceived to think that money is our security; that our bank balance/net-worth determine the value of our life and self-worth (because it is easy to put a figure on it).

Truth is, the love of Money is a false-god and is a horrible slave-driver. Once we worship Money, we will never have enough of it. We will be driven to want more and more. The appetite for money is insatiable.

Moreover, when we love money at the expense of our health, family, and relationships; when we use money to gain power to abuse, oppress and manipulate people/systems and destroy the environment; when we enrich ourselves unjustly; when there is corruption etc – we will surely pierce ourselves and others with much sorrow.

I believe God wants us to have true wealth, treasures in heaven. He wants us to control money but not let Money control us. The answer lies within our hearts. As Jesus says “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”[5]

What is in our hearts?

[1] Luke 6:20b.
Kingdom of Heaven [God] means the spiritual realm in which God reigns as king or the fulfillment on Earth of God’s will – Britannica. Jesus meant a particular level of human consciousness, not a place to which Christians are destined after death. – What Jesus taught about the Kingdom of Heaven by Laudato Si Movement.

[2] Matt 6:19 – 21

[3] When we lose our health and wealth it doesn’t mean that God has stopped loving us. Loss is one of the vicissitudes of life

[4] What did Jesus teach about wealth and poverty – Center for Faith & Culture.

[5] Matt 6:21

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