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August 16, 2011 / Daniel

Jesus’ Attitude toward Money in the Gospel of Matthew

Today I’ve been wrestling with Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:19-21.  Jesus tells his disciples,

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

To appreciate the difficulty of this statement, we need to understand Jesus’ words in light of the rest of Matthew’s gospel.  Throughout Matthew,  Jesus repeatedly warns his disciples about the love of money.   Money often becomes idol–Mammon.

  • In the Parable of the Sower, some of the seed is choked out by the “cares of this world” and “deceitfulness of riches” (Matt 13:22).
  • When Jesus asks the rich young ruler to give up his riches and follow him, the rich young ruler “went away grieving, because he had many possessions” (Matt 19:22).   Then Jesus tells the disciples that “it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom” (Matt 19:23).  The expression “treasure in heaven” also occurs in this story (Matt 19:21).
  •  Jesus condemns the Pharisees because their hearts were full of “greed and self-indulgence” (Matt 23:25-26).
  • Judas betrays Jesus for thirty pieces of silver (Matt 27:3-10).
  • The soldiers guarding Jesus’ tomb lied for money.  They said that the disciples took the body (Matt 28:12-13).

These passages show that money can be an obstacle to our faith.   Some like Judas have walked away from the faith because of money.   Others like the rich young ruler have refused to follow Christ because of money.

Money is a neutral thing.  It represents resources.  It’s a part of God’s good creation. However, it is easy for us to start to worship the creation rather than the Creator (Romans 1:25).   This is idolatry.  Paul says that “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils” (1 Tim 6:10).

In the Parable of the Talents, the wicked servant is condemned because he hordes his money when he knows that his master is returning.  He fails to bring a return on an investment (Matt 23:14-30).   We can either spend our resources on ourselves or we can invest our resources into God’s kingdom.  You can only have one master.  Will you invest your treasure into Jesus and his kingdom?

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