What did Jesus teach about money and what does this have to do with community and worship? Jesus taught a lot about money, and each time he made the same point: don’t store it up, but share it with others. This would save their community from destruction, but the people in that day wouldn’t hear. This was the most pressing point that they refused.
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.” (Matt 6:19-20)
“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 despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.” (Matt 6:24)
“If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matt 6:30-34)
“Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (Mark 10:21)
“Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.” (Luke 6:30) “Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” (Luke 12:15)
“And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”‘ “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?” “This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:1921)
“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Luke 12:34)
Jesus is not just speaking about having the right attitude towards money, but he is speaking literally about what we do with our money. His statements strike at the heart of covetousness. They strike at the heart of materialism and individualism, verses community and love for others. They strike at the very heart of the values of Christ’s kingdom. Men’s kingdoms and ways produce a world where a small percentage are rich and the vast majority are poor and many of the poor are brethren in Christ. Christ’s kingdom is the opposite of this. Some things are clear:
• We can spend less on ourselves. This may be a steep learning curve for us, but it is immoral not to start on the journey. How we spend money, and justice for others, are as much moral issues as other moral issues Christians normally consider sin.
• We can become more educated about global imbalances and why they happen and are perpetuated. They do involve us because we benefit from them although they contribute to the suffering of many. Trade imbalances, foreign debt, wrongly priced resources, corruption, and lack of investment in the right areas are key issues here. The economy won’t automatically fix imbalances.
• We can appeal to change these imbalances as though our own sons and daughters were suffering from them in other nations. • We can learn to share with others more in community so our individual living costs reduce.
• We can become a less consumerist society and care more for our environment. This is not worshipping the creation, but caring for it responsibly. This is not bad for the economy, but will adjust our economy into a more balanced family orientated and community friendly one. As we know, many of the social sicknesses we have developed since the industrial revolution. Economic growth is not the lifeindicator of a proper world.
• Most of our economic problems come from “boom and bust”, which are led by greed and fear in turn. It’s a sick system and many suffer through the cycle, while others manipulate it and get richer. Christians can be a light in this area. We don’t boom with greed and we don’t stop sharing our wealth with others in bust times in fear. This Christian light would lead to a more stable economy.
The Jubilee and Sabbath are good pointers to a fair economy. In the Jubilee, debts were forgiven and property restored to those who lost it through misfortune or even recklessness. The Sabbath was a day off every week, and rest to farmland every seven years, showing care for the environment, but also that healthy societies cannot be built on a foundation of consumerism, but 35 rather upon healthy relationships. Powerful corporate interests will oppose this better culture, but these powers too must be challenged by the church, especially starting with how we live our own lives, following what Jesus taught. This is where we can be a light. This is one area where many Christians live the same as the world. We may not have sexual sin, for example, but may still live for our ambitions. The world looks on and says, “Why become a Christian? There is very little difference in our life styles and motivations.” And often this is indeed the truth. But they couldn’t have said this about Jesus.
Jesus taught, “Do not lay up treasures on earth.” This is the one thing most of us do, despite Jesus’ clear statements on this part of our lives. Which of us, Jesus or us, is deceived here about what life is all about? He said that our life does not consist of the abundance of things we possess. It may also be a good idea not to think of our houses as “real estate”. This just about says it all and shows which system we are most a part of. It is Jesus and the life he offers that is real. It is other people who are real and lasting, not what we possess: “For riches shall take wings and fly away.” (Prov 23:5)
“Give us this day our daily bread…” (Matt 6:11) This portion from the Lord’s Prayer is as much about honouring God as it is about his provision for us. Who supplies our needs? Is it our storehouse we have laid up, or is it God? Which one is our God? We can’t serve both. When we prosper we may forget about this prayer, or simply mouth it ritually, and develop more of a relationship with our assets than with God. This is death. Jesus is teaching us the way to life with him, with other people and in community. Together we worship God and make him our source as we serve alongside each other. This is the real “good life.”