I recently read a most interesting article. It was about a pastor, who was robbed during his sermon on Sunday morning. A thief had come into the church. He was well aware that the pastor, a prosperity gospel preacher, wore jewelry and expensive clothing, worth as much as one million dollars. The thief simply came forward with a gun, and, using the offering plate, demanded the pastor put his ring, necklace and watch into the plate. With that, the thief was gone.
I chuckled to myself as I read the article. And a thought occurred to me. One of two things must have been true. Either this pastor was completely unaware of Matthew 6:19, or he chose to ignore it. Matthew 6:19 says,
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal.”
In a very real way, on that given Sunday and in that church, Matthew 6:19 was played out before the entire congregation.
But as I thought about the matter more fully, a different thought came to mind. Perhaps applying Matthew 6:19 to this bizarre Sunday morning robbery is far too easy. After all, not many of us are preachers. And those of us that are do not have a million dollars worth of jewelry that we could wear. If all we do with the words of Jesus is to heap scorn on others, we have learned precious little for our own lives.
Money is a difficult matter. Most people that I know do save up money for their retirement. Wiser people will actually save up money for a car, rather than have to take out a car loan on a depreciating asset. And so forth. Almost all of us lay up treasures on earth. If we didn’t, we would be living hand to mouth on all occasions. And, while there might be a small minority who think that Jesus meant that, the most of us do not.
The book of Proverbs has many examples of wise money management. Proverbs 21:20 says “Precious treasure and oil are in a wise man’s dwelling, but a foolish man devours it.” That is to say, the wise have something left over. Proverbs 13:11 says “Wealth gained hastily will dwindle, but whoever gathers little by little will increase it.” That is to say, carefully put away a portion of your income, and watch it grow over time. And Proverbs 21:5 says, “The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance.” Be careful, and be industrious, and watch as you have more than enough.
How then, can Jesus speak about storing up treasure on Earth? The answer has to do with what we plan to do with the abundance that is left over from our diligent labour, and careful investing. If all is meant to spend on ourselves, rather than to invest in eternal matters, we truly have become as that pastor who was robbed of his possessions on that Sunday morning. But if we think that the fruit of our labour is intended to advance the interests of the kingdom of God, we have understood Jesus rightly.
The question of what our money is for, is the significant question indeed. How about you? Are you storing up riches for yourself? Or are you storing up riches to advance the kingdom?
You can find more Biblical insight about money from Dr. John, in our booklet 10 Questions About Money Matters.