Dec 12 2013
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth … Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or … what you will wear” (Matthew 6:19-34).
These two ‘do not’ statements uttered by Jesus have troubled Bible readers for centuries. Does ‘Do not store up treasure’ mean we should not save or invest money? Does ‘Do not worry what you will eat’ mean we should not budget for the future?
The Parable of the Talents gives another side to Jesus’ thinking (Matthew 25:14-30). In this parable the master congratulates the servant that invested his five talents of gold saying “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things.” But to the servant that did nothing but hide his one talent of gold the master said “You wicked, lazy servant … you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.”
This parable strongly suggests that Jesus expects us to be diligent with any money we have been entrusted with, and that we should even invest some of it so that it gains interest. ♦ So when Jesus says we should not store up treasure on earth he cannot mean that we should not save. And when he says that we should not worry about what we will eat tomorrow he cannot mean that we should not budget.
The key to understanding Jesus’ two ‘Do not’ statements in Matthew 6 is found in a verse sandwiched between them which says; “You cannot serve both God and money” (24). Here we see that Jesus is talking about what we serve, or what controls us and drives us on a daily basis. It’s good for us to be controlled by God, but not by money. Jesus said “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (6:21). He is telling us that money is not to be our treasure; it is not to be something that captivates our hearts. Our hearts must belong to God alone.
Remember the Rich Young Ruler to whom Jesus said ‘Sell all you have … and follow me’? He could not part with his material riches because they were his treasure. But remember the poor widow who put two coins in the temple offering? She gave all the money she had because money wasn’t her treasure; the God of the temple was. So the bottom line is this: save, invest and budget, but don’t let your money become your treasure. Don’t let it have your heart.
If you ever decide to study the most influential people that have ever lived, guess who you would have to start with? Jesus! Yes, he tops the list – the statistics are available, but too vast to list here. And what would we expect of someone who was the world’s most influential person? We would expect him to have been different to everyone else in some way; and Jesus certainly was. He didn’t chase after money, property, fancy transport or women. He was primarily interested in one thing: the Kingdom of God (or rule of God) and people’s responses to it. He spoke about the Kingdom and looked for a heart response wherever he went. Nearly every parable was a description of God’s Kingdom aiming to evoke a heart response. He saw the wrong response of the self-righteous Pharisees, and he saw the right response of the repentant tax-collectors and prostitutes. He saw the wrong response of the Rich Young Ruler, and he saw the right response of the widow with the two coins.
When Jesus said in verse 33 “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these [material] things will be given to you as well,” he was not telling us to give up our jobs and start preaching. Someone who is in God’s Kingdom doesn’t just go around telling people about the King, they go around acting like the King. Jesus was saying that if we adopt the character of God money won’t be a problem, it will always be there. Why; because godly people work hard and are diligent in their use of money. Such people are unlikely to be without money for very long. So we don’t have to worry, and we don’t have to store up treasure; we just need to be godly! Proverbs 28:20 says “A faithful man will be richly blessed, but one eager to get rich will not go unpunished.” This gives the right balance. Don’t chase after money; just be a faithful to God and your family.
Ultimately God is not interested in us being rich in money; he wants us to be rich in eternal things like relationships and character. This is what Jesus meant when he said “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.” If your treasure cannot go with you to heaven it’s not real treasure, it’s a cheap substitute.
Gaining real treasure like character and godly relationships isn’t easy; it often involves pain and a right response to it. And so God would often prefer that we suffer financial pain and grow in character than win the lottery. Too many people have got money the easy way; like through a large inheritance or a lottery, have destroyed their lives because they did not have the discipline to continue developing themselves or to spend their money wisely. Proverbs 19:10 says “It’s not fitting for a fool to live in luxury.”
Jesus said, “Seek first his kingdom” and went on to become the world’s most influential person. What do you want to achieve by the end of your life? Do you just want a family, house and educated kids like everyone else? Or do you want to change thousands of lives for generations to come like Jesus and Paul? I would suggest that if your vision isn’t to change the generations, at least in your hometown, it’s too small. You and I have the opportunity to extend the work that Jesus started. Let’s not get side-tracked by this world’s treasure. Jesus said “You cannot serve both God and money.” Have you made the choice?
Other Illustrations used: Opposites Marry – Responsible but fearful and Trusting but Gullible | Two rich men – one with the image, the other without | Jesus watched the heart – Judas watched the money bag | The Curse of the Lottery.
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