19 ‘Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
22 ‘The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!
24 ‘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 6:19-24
A couple of weeks ago, my wife, Claire, and I went to speak to a financial advisor. Our lives are about to change significantly; in about two weeks we will welcome our first child into the world. As a consequence, we thought that it would be a good idea for us to ensure that our finances are in order, and to make sure that we can provide not just for ourselves, but our new son. I don’t particularly like talking about money; I always feel uncomfortable since, on a global and a historical scale we (and by that I mean all of us in the western world) are comparatively wealthy, and I always have at the back of my mind Christian teaching on wealth. Yet confront these issues Claire and I must as we think about our family’s future.
Jesus, in the passage above, outlines how Christians should regard their ‘treasure’. He is very clear that we must not store up for ourselves treasures on earth. We must ensure that we do not fall into the easy (and compelling) trap of materialism. Acquisition of wealth and possessions for ourselves might seem attractive, but ultimately it is pointless, since it decays, degrades, devalues and can be stolen. Instead, we should aim to store up treasures for ourselves in heaven, since our treasure there is not subject to the same weaknesses of earthly wealth.
Focusing our attention on earthly wealth is harmful, both to God’s kingdom, and also to ourselves.
It is harmful to God’s kingdom since acquiring and storing wealth purely for ourselves does not enable us to support the poor, the needy, the sick and the starving. It is people like these that were right at the heart of Jesus’ ministry; he went out of his way to support those seen as outcasts from the rest of society. As Christians we have a duty and a responsibility to continue Christ’s work of supporting people such as these. Giving our money to charities that work to support them is a vital task of building God’s kingdom here on earth.
Storing up treasures for ourselves is harmful to ourselves, since it exposes the darkness of our hearts and brings into question the depth of our confidence in Christ. As Jesus says above, ‘where your treasure is, there your heart will be also’. If we place our focus on earthly treasure, then our heart is stuck in the sinful, earthly realms. But if instead we seek to store up treasures in heaven by following Christ, loving our neighbours and committing to always place the needs of others before ourselves, then our heart is lifted to the realms of the kingdom of God. We cannot serve both God and money; we must decide where our priorities lie.
Is it wrong, therefore, for me to be investigating life insurance, pension provision and mortgages as Claire and I prepare for the arrival of our son? Well, this is the difficult question to which I keep returning, and which I know different people will have different views on. My own view is that it is eminently sensible and desirable. I believe that we are commanded to provide for our families and to secure our financial future. Indeed, Paul writes to Timothy, ‘Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever’ (1 Timothy 5:8). Additionally, Proverbs states, ‘Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest’ (Proverbs 6:6-8). With this in mind it seems like a sensible idea to plan for our future. As for spending money on treasures that are solely about the instant gratification of a consumerist society – well that’s an entirely different matter.
Listen to this reflection/download Podcast: