How to handle money, Matthew 6:19‐24, September 12th. Matthew 6:19‐24 and also 2 Corinthians 9.
Father send your Holy Spirit, to teach us, as we dive into the Bible would you awaken our hearts, expand our minds and shape my identities and lives today. We want to live a Jesus shaped life … Amen.
Jesus in this chapter, he has pointed to two things which can block or hinder a Christian life. It is the desire to have the approval of others; and the desire to find security in material wealth. Jesus moves from seeking security in what people think; to seeking security in possessions.
He puts a blunt choice before us : ‘’ 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.’’ His words remind us of Elijah at Mt Carmel. ‘’How long will you waiver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; if Baal is God, follow him.’’
Jesus calls us to have an undivided heart.
a) Invest well
‘’Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.’’
What does it mean ‘do not store up?’
A)It does not mean that Christians have to, must, give away all they have. Only once does Jesus command a person to give away all their money – the rich young ruler in Mark 10, because that young man despite all the good he did, money had become his idol. We see in the first months of the early community, people used their wealth to benefit those in need. And in 2 Cor 9, Paul teaches on giving, that ‘’each person should give what they have decided in their heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.’’ We prayerfully give out of our possessions.
Yet Christian history does have examples of individuals who gave up everything they had. For example Francis of Assisi as a 25 year old ex soldier gave away everything he had to the poor.
Secondly (B). It is not wrong to make or invest money. The Parable of the Talents, speaks about making money. Talents then referred to money. Now the word means our skills or gifts. The first convert in Philippi was Lidia, a businesswoman, who was not called to stop her business.
Some people are called to make money for the glory of God and for His purposes. Nicky Gumbel shares a story from the 1980s of a young man from HTB, who said he felt called to work in finance and to make money, for the purpose of investing it in the kingdom of God. Nicky says, over the past years, he has seen how that man has been absolutely faithful to his calling, living relatively modestly compared to how he could live considering his income, and how he has increasingly given away large sums.
Thirdly (c ) it is not wrong to save. Paul teaches: ‘’If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.’’ There can be the money we give as the need arises; but for some family members, the Christian knew they would be in need sometime, so there was the need to save for the future needs of others. So the saving is again not driven by a love of money, but saving in order to help others.
Fourthly. It is not wrong to enjoy the good things of life. Paul tells the wealthy in 1 Tim 6 ‘’Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds and to be generous and ready to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves…’’ Money allows us to enjoy many things.
We can see here, Jesus’ concern is not so much with our wealth, but with our hearts and affections. He is not concerned with money but concerned with what Paul, says in 1 Timothy ‘the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.’’ Jesus is forbidding selfish accumulation of money;
note how he said, do not store up for ‘yourselves treasures’.
he condemns materialism and the unhealthy obsession with and trust in possessions.
Jesus teaches, that a problem with storing up treasures on earth, is that they promise security, but actually lead to insecurity. Insecure because ‘moth and rust destroy … thieves break in and steal.’ Dallas Willard says ‘’the first thing that Jesus tells us with respect to treasures, is that to treasure things that are ‘upon the earth’ is not a smart strategy for treasuring.’’ Treasures of the earth cannot be kept intact. Even the web, the cloud, our PC, isn’t safe, as we know, from viruses, power cuts, human error and disappearance of backups!
Leo Tolstoy, had become one of the world’s most successful authors. Yet he fell into a lengthy depression because of the vision, in his own words, that everything he valued would die or pass away.
It was through the teachings of Jesus, that he found an alternative and that alternative soon delivered him from hopelessness about life and from the meaninglessness of human work.
Secondly. Jesus tells : ‘’For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.’’ V21.
Materialism leads us away from God. We should invest in storing up ‘treasures in heaven’.
This is not about earning our salvation.
This is about investing in the kingdom of heaven – God’s rule and reign on earth.
To invest in this kingdom means putting our time, energy into investing in our relationship with Jesus.
We will also devote ourselves to the good of our fellow believers. They are God’s treasures. He laid down his life for them. We, they are the one lost sheep that was found, the lost coin discovered, the lost son welcomed. Paul reminds us : ‘’Therefore as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.’’’
That commitment of God, this treasuring, shows what he values.
It means for us, to invest means, putting time, energy, money into people who do not yet know the Lord, for he loves them. Martin Luther declared that part of loving your neighbor was to share with them the news about Jesus.
It will mean investing, among other things, in the evangelization of our cities, our countries, and the unreached parts of our world. The Joshua Project, is a Christian body, who review and gather data on the unreached people groups in our world. An unreached group means a group with no Christians, or so few Christians to be unable to evangelise their own people, without outside help.
Our world’s pop is 7.,84 billion; 3,27Billion are unreached – never heard the gospel, or have such few believers, that without outside help they cannot reach the rest of their people group.
There is much to be done in world evangelism. Invest.
We also care for this beautiful physical realm, our earth of which we and our neighbors are part of. God values our planet. He made it – his hands stretched out the earth and his understanding made the heavens ‐ he declared it good, all of creation was created for Christ and by Christ. God does not create rubbish. He never takes his hands off it. The Son sustains our world, (Hebrews 1). God loves our world, he values it, so our care of it is a godly work.
Why should we invest in storing up for ourselves treasures in heaven?
Jesus gives us two reasons we can see. First, it is totally secure and lasts for ever.
It is a good bargain, a good investment, to exchange the transitory for the eternal. Paul reminds us in 2 Cor 4:18 – ‘For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory which far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.’’
Secondly Jesus says our hearts will follow our treasure. ‘For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.’’ Remember our heart is our will and spirit, the center of our being from which our life flows. It gives orientation to everything we do.
Giving is one of the disciplines Jesus spoke about earlier. As we give to the kingdom of God, our hearts will follow our money.
Sometimes you can see people looking at their share prices online… why, because they have invested their money in that company and they really care about how well it does. If we invest money in God’s kingdom, then Jesus says our hearts will be passionate about it as well.
b) Look in the right direction.
Jesus puts before us, next, two possible visions for our lives. He calls us to be single minded. ‘22 ‘The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light.
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!’ So, Jesus says, ‘if our eyes work properly, we have light inside. If our eyes are bad and we are blind, then we have darkness.’
So where do we set our spiritual sight? Do we set our spiritual sight on God or on greed? What do we spend our time planning? What do we dream about? Where does our effort go? Jesus warns us – if our eyes are bad, then our bodies are full of great darkness.
The phrase the NIV translates ‘unhealthy’ can be translated better as ‘bad’, the GK word literally means ‘evil’. An evil eye – fixed not on Jesus but on selfish gain and materialism. It is set on gaining more for ourselves. This eye is full of lust, greed, resentment, jealously. The darkness of the vision reflects darkness in their souls. Willard says: ‘To be in the dark. You are, simply, lost. You don’t know where you are or where you are going.’’ Willard, Divine Conspiracy.p.228.
The ‘good eye’ is translated from the Greek word for ‘single’ – it means to have a single vision, to be looking in the right direction.
A couple of years ago, we were able to spend time beginning to learn how to surf in Devon in the UK. This summer, we discovered something else called Skimboarding. In both sports, those teaching would say – you look where you want to go – where you look matters. So in the spiritual realm, our hearts will follow our eyes. This reminds us of what the writer to Hebrews says: Fix your eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of faith.
If we have our eyes fixed in the right direction, everything else falls in place. Our attitude to wealth, possessions and why we work. Our lives will be full of the light of the Spirit of God.
As Christians, we are all saints. Well, a few years ago, a little boy was asked to define a ‘saint’. At first he could not think of anything. But then he looked and thought of all the saints represented on stained‐glass windows in the church.
He saw that a ‘saint is someone through whom the light shines.’
c) Whom shall you serve?
‘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.
In these words Jesus puts before us two possible gods, and calls us to a surrendered will. People may feel that they can have treasures on earth and also treasure the invisible kingdom.
Maybe we can make this work for awhile but there will come a time when one must be subordinate to the others. We cannot simply have two ultimate goals or points of reference for our actions, for our lives. That is how life is.
Money is not something impersonal. The word used in the original GK was Mammon. Mammon was the god of wealth in the city of Carthage. And, to be honest, money is a kind of god. It seems to offer security, freedom, power, influence, status and prestige. Simon Cowell known in the UK for X Factor was interviewed. The interviewer in the article wondered ‘why is he so obsessed with adding to his already vast fortune?’ Simon Cowell has said many times, the interviewer commented, that money is what drives him, that it is his god.’’
Money can inspire this kind of devotion in people. And it requires a single focus. And it demands sacrifice and ultimately human sacrifice.
Many sacrifice their health for money through stress, long hours, no exercise or relaxation.
Worse still they sacrifice the lives of others as human relationships are damaged or destroyed No time for a spouse, for children, friends or God. ‘’Fourteen hour days … followed by weekends at the office, forfeited holidays and midnight oil.’’ The result is often broken marriages, and single parent families, the latter created not only through divorce, but because one of the parents is always always out at work.
Jesus warns us that we cannot serve two gods. Dietrich Bonhoeffer put it this way. ‘’Our hearts have room for one all‐ embracing devotion and we can only cleave to one Lord.’
Money is a good servant, and much good can be done through it. But it is a bad master. The problem with money is that we think we own it and in fact if we are not careful, it ends up owning us.
In the ancient Roman port of Pompeii in the year AD79, among those who fled from the torrents of lava erupting from Mount Vesuvius,
was a woman who sought to save not only her life, but also her valuable pearls.
With her hands full of rings, bracelets, necklaces, chains and other treasures she was overwhelmed by the rain of ashes from the volcano and died.
In the course of modern building operations outside the area of the buried city, her petrified body was unearthed, discovered, in a sea of jewels. She lost her life to save her treasure.
Jesus warns us – if money is our God, we will ‘despise’ the only true God. The word ‘despise’ that Jesus uses, means ‘to be indifferent to, or unconcerned about something.’ This is what is exactly happening to the church in the West. As materialism has flourished, people have started to serve the God Mammon and become apathetic and unconcerned about God. In the Parable of the Sower, thorns and thistles are described as things that can strangle the word of God: ‘choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures and they do not mature.’
We should hold onto everything loosely. We break the power of materialism by generous and cheerful giving. As Paul says in 2 Cor 9:’ Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give.’ Giving is an act of will. Saying No to Mammon and Yes to God.
It can be in a variety of means.
Paul Maconochie was minister in charge at St Thomas Crookes in Sheffield. Something he and his family would do, was once a year, go through their clothes – what they had not worn for a year – would go in a big bag and be taken to the charity shop / homeless shelter. He says this simple act of giving away, was a great help to them to manage the temptations of mammon as gave to others in need.
Generous giving attacks Mammon and destroys greed. Sometimes like a weed it reappears and we need to kill it again by continuing to give generously. Bishop and Theologian NT Wright said generous giving celebrates, ‘the fact that Jesus is Lord and Mammon is not.’’
Look in the right direction. Whom shall you serve?
Shall we pray.
Lord Jesus, I fix my eyes on you, the author and perfector of my faith.
Today I choose whom I will serve ‐ I choose you Jesus. May you use the possessions, money, wealth in my life for your kingdom purposes,
and may I always seek to store up treasures in heaven. Help me to know you more clearly, love you more dearly and follow you more nearly, each and every day.