Nowadays, money concerns are on everyone’s minds. The troubled world economy has people everywhere wringing their hands, anxious about just what is going to happen. Many have lost their jobs and many more feel their jobs are in jeopardy. People feel as though they have little “treasure.” But in Matthew’s gospel, Jesus challenged believers about where they store their “treasure”; indeed, the gospel challenges believers to define just what it is they treasure (Mt. 6:19-24).
People cannot serve both God and money (Mt. 6:24).
A rich man was dying and he was worried about his vast fortune. He called to his bedside his doctor, pastor, and lawyer. He gave them each a large amount of money and told them to slip the money in his casket when he died. Despite their protests, he insisted so they took the money. At the rich man’s funeral, the three met privately to discuss what had happened. The doctor sheepishly said, “Fellas, I have to confess, I have spent half of the money to fund a new children’s wing at the local hospital.” The pastor said, “Well, since confession is good for the soul, I must confess, too. I have used some of the money to fund a new children’s program at the church.” The lawyer was aghast. “I am ashamed of you two. I want you to know I have put in the casket a check for the entire amount!”
Matthew’s gospel also has a story about a rich man trying to negotiate with Jesus what it meant to be a disciple (Mt. 19:16-30). When the rich man approached Jesus with his question, he wanted to know what good things he could do to inherit eternal life. Jesus’ reply changed the focus from good things or good deeds to God and obeying God. If you love God you will keep God’s commandments, which include loving your neighbor. In that culture, loving one’s neighbor meant doing acts of charity toward the poor. Even though he has done this, he realized he is still not where he should be spiritually. Thus, in his case, his spiritual impediment is wealth and all the power, prestige, and privilege wealth provides. To become a true disciple all impediments to faithfulness, whatever those might be, must be discarded.
No one who wishes to be a disciple of Jesus can negotiate the terms of discipleship no matter what the challenge to faithfulness might be.
The disciples are amazed. They did not view his wealth as an impediment; they viewed his wealth as a sign of God’s blessing. Thus, their whole worldview has been turned upside down. Here is a man who has followed God’s commandments and has given to the poor yet is still challenged by Jesus to do more. Who can be saved? The answer to that question is found in Matthew 6:33, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all things will be given as well.” When Peter proclaimed the commitment the disciples have made to Jesus (Mt. 19:27), Jesus reminded them of the many blessings they will receive. It is hard for the rich to part with their wealth, but it is also hard for those with other kinds of impediments to faithfulness to part with theirs, too. If we seek God and God’s kingdom and righteousness above all earthly possessions or ambitions, we will discover what is truly valuable: treasure in Heaven (Mt. 6:18-20). However, we also enjoy the true treasures of earth: fellowship with brothers and sisters in the Lord as well as the promise of eternal life.
As we analyze our spiritual priorities, it is always a good thing to ask ourselves again: just what do we treasure above all things? May all of us answer: God and God’s kingdom and righteousness. Amen.