"Why The Rich Get Richer

Sermon Delivered By Reverend Richard E. Stetler – November 13, 2011

Centenary United Methodist Church

Psalm 123; Matthew 25:14-30

     This morning we are going to be discussing the well-known parable of Jesus that discloses why the rich get richer. The one piece of information that sets the stage for our understanding of this parable is the way Jesus introduced it.  He said “The Kingdom of God will be like this . . .”   His introduction cancels any idea that Jesus was preparing his listeners for a sermon on how they should manage their money.   

    There is always a danger in describing spiritual wealth by using material terms, particularly in our generation where countless Christians take the Bible literally.  When people do that without an informed interpretation, they can miss what the Scripture can teach them.  

    For example, when the Bible mentions that The New Jerusalem has streets paved with gold (Revelation 21:21) or believers make references to entering the Gates of Heaven, what exactly are they describing?  Through the years such descriptions have led people to believe that Heaven is an opulent piece of real estate somewhere in the Cosmos.  They may believe this way because the Bible states that it is.  (Revelation 21:19f)

    When children hear stories that the streets of Heaven are paved with gold, it is confusing.  I remember asking my Sunday school teacher, “Are there also going to be cars and streetlights?”  She said, “No dear, this means that Heaven will be a very beautiful place.”  As for the Gates of Heaven, I once asked my Dad what the gates were attached to.  Innocently, I asked, “If we believe the gates are attached to walls, is God trying to prevent some people from coming in?”  I do not remember his answer. 

    What Jesus is teaching in this parable is the age old struggle that each of us experiences between faith and fear.  Both responses can happen to us on a weekly basis and are part of the human condition.  We either trust that the flow of our lives has a distinct and highly personalized purpose for our growth, or we become fearful that the flow of circumstances has no rhyme or reason other than to make our lives miserable. 

    Jesus’ parable began when a wealthy man gave his three servants a sum of money, “each according to his ability.”  Two of them immediately put the money into circulation by investing it in various business ventures, and the third one became so fearful of the potential of his master’s wrath if something happened to it that he buried it. He probably worried about the safety of the money during the entire time his master was away.    

    What happens next is the lesson Jesus was teaching.  All three of them experienced the consequences of their thoughts, emotions and actions.  The rich got richer and the one who became immobilized by fear lost even the little that he had.  Jesus said, “This is what the Kingdom of God is like.” When we translate this from the language of materialism into the language of spirit the passage may become more meaningful to us. 

    When we are born, we come equipped with something of great value -- the ability to create.  This is what is meant when the Bible tells us that we were created in God’s image. In essence, God is saying to each of us, “See what you can do with what I’ve given you.” Two of them in Jesus’ parable produced and they grew richer.  The third one never took any risks.  He did not even use his imagination to consider depositing the asset into a bank where it would have drawn interest.

    There is a true story that brings Jesus’ parable into even sharper focus for us.  Once again it is an illustration that describes in material terms the same spiritual consequences that caused the darkness, crying and the gnashing of teeth experienced by the third servant that did nothing with his master’s money.  

    Many years ago there was a farmer that owned hundreds of acres on which he grew crops each year.  He began to hear stories about people becoming wealthy by their discovery of diamonds.  While he was a successful farmer, he felt that farming was hard work and he decided to seek his livelihood elsewhere.

    He sold his farm and went in search of the precious mineral that had made millionaires out of countless people in other parts of his country.  He never found a single diamond.  After spending the last of his life’s savings, he became very despondent.  As the story continues, he took his own life by throwing himself off a high bridge.     

    What makes the point of Jesus’ parable more clear is what happened next.  One day, the man who bought his farm was crossing one of the numerous streams that wound its way through the property.  He saw the sun’s rays reflecting off a bright object located in a shallow portion of one of the streams.  That object turned out to be a large raw diamond. In fact, the farm was literally covered with them. 

    The property eventually became one of the largest and most profitable diamond fields in South Africa.  The original owner literally possessed acres of diamonds but he did not take the time to explore what he already owned before abandoning it in order to seek his fortune elsewhere.  

    This is one of the saddest stories imaginable, but it happens repeatedly in so many people’s lives.  Jesus concluded his story with words that reflect the title of my message, “To everyone who has something, even more will be given.  Each will have more than enough.  To those who believe that they have nothing, even the little they have will be taken away from them.”  (Matthew 25:29)  Jesus literally was teaching that the rich only become richer and the poor become even more so.   

    Jesus lived in the Kingdom of God during his sojourn on the earth.   Many people during his lifetime as well as those living in our century still find themselves looking forward with great hope to another environment, an eternal reward, and leaving here at their transition from this life to be with God.  Jesus wanted his listeners to join him while they were still living on the earth.

    This is why he taught, “Those who strive to be first in this world will be the last in my world.” (Matthew 19:30)  “What good will it do for some people to have power over the entire world if they allow their spirits to starve to death?” (Matthew 16:26)  “Where your treasure is, there will your hearts be also. (Matthew 6:21) 

     Jesus was not against material wealth; he was teaching that the currency that makes the rich become richer is the constant use of skills and abilities that can neither be bought nor sold.  Most of these treasures are connected to our attitudes.

    Each one of us is like a diamond mine.  When we are young we have no idea what we have until we begin to respond to the material world. When we learn to interpret all the abrasives that we find in our world as helpful agents to polish our people-skills, to polish our imaginations and to polish our recognition that everything coming up for us is an opportunity for our growth, we become wealthy beyond measure.  

    In one of my former churches, I met a young man who lived on the streets of Washington.  From time to time he would come by the office to talk.  He never asked me for anything, but now and then I would give him some money.  He had no idea who is father was. His mother had a number of male live-ins who came and went.  When he was old enough, he left home to fend for himself.  He had little education and very few known skills.       

    One afternoon while we were visiting, I said, “I want you to try a new approach to your future.  Go across the street and ask the owner of the gasoline station if you can clean his bathrooms and clean people’s windshields when they drive in to fill-up their tanks.  Don’t ask for anything.  Tell him that you need something to keep yourself busy during the day.  Show up everyday and do the best job you can on those bathrooms and windshields.  See what happens.” Well he did that and I forgot about him.

    Several months later, my secretary buzzed me on the intercom and said, “Dick, I’m sending Lionel up to your office.  I would love to see the expression on your face when you see him.”  When I opened my office door he was wearing an official shirt that said, “Exxon Mobil” and underneath of those words was his name embroidered on that shirt.  I have never seen him so proud of himself.  Lionel said, “Rev. Dick, Mr. Jim is paying me.  He told me that his bathrooms never looked so good.”

    Years later, after my appointment to St. Matthew’s United Methodist Church in Bowie, Maryland, Lois and I returned to our former neighborhood in Washington, D.C. Lionel must have recognized us as we were walking toward the gas station.  The little guy was still there.  He came running out of one of the service bays in the garage to greet us.  He said, “Rev. Dick, Mr. Jim has taught me how to become a mechanic.”  He went on to tell us that he and his girlfriend have their own place.  He was beaming with pride and so happy with his life.  He had become a contributor by accessing and using his inner treasure.

    It is absolutely amazing what each of us has inside of us.  Of course, none of us has a crystal ball that helps us to anticipate the future.  What we can do is use what we find within us and invest our assets in serving others in some capacity.  Everyone in the work place is doing that even though they may not view their tasks that way. Our wealth will expand and grow just as Jesus’ parable described.   

    We have all known people who have spent their lives just polishing one thing -- their people skills.  They have learned how to make the little irritants in life become stepping stones to the place where very little bothers them anymore.  They don’t complain.  They never blame anyone or assign responsibility to someone else for what has become of their lives.

    One of the lessons from Jesus that combines the best of our spirit and material worlds is this one:  “Seek first the Kingdom of God and God will provide you with all other things.” (Matthew 6:33)  And where do we find this Kingdom?   Jesus gave his listeners the answer when he said, “The Kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:21)

    In a collection of my most favorite poems is one by author Helen Steiner Rice.  Listen to these words:

We cannot all be famous or be listed in “Who’s Who,” but every person great or small has important work to do. 


For seldom do we realize the importance of small deeds or to what degree of greatness unnoticed kindness leads.


For it’s not the big celebrity in a world of fame and praise, but it’s doing unpretentiously in undistinguished ways the work that God assigned to us unimportant as it seems that makes our tasks outstanding and brings reality to our dreams.


So do not sit and idly wish for wider, new dimensions where you can put into practice your many good intentions, but at the spot God placed you begin at once to do, little things to brighten up the lives surrounding you.

For if everyone brightened up the spot on which they’re standing by being more considerate and a little less demanding . . .


This dark old world would very soon eclipse the Evening Star if everyone brightened up the corner where they are.

    Who could have imagined that a humble carpenter and twelve uneducated men would eventually change the world?  It is happening! Now that torch has been passed to us.  It is our turn to let our lights shine and allow God to use us as part of the design for God’s Kingdom to become more visible here on earth.