JESUS AND MONEY
Be careful not to practise your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven (Matt. 6:1).
Jesus had more to say about money and possessions than about anything else. Unlike church people today who get hot under the collar when the preacher speaks about money, Jesus understood how big a role money plays in the lives of people, including those who claim to follow Him. In fact, it is true to say that money controls our lives. The way we use our money is a mirror of our hearts. The way of the world can be summed up in two words – selfishness and greed.
Jesus had a lot to say to the Pharisees because they used every opportunity, including their so-called tzedakah – their righteous deeds or generosity – to get attention from the public. They did not give out of love for or duty to God but love of themselves. They wanted people to praise them for their “holiness”.
It is one thing to do one’s duty to God and another to do it in a way that draws attention to us. Jesus spoke often of money and possessions because it played as important a part in the lives of His disciples as it does in everyone’s life today. Money drives the world. Even the most humanitarian professions such as medicine and law are money-driven in our modern world. There are few by comparison who will use their profession to serve, without remuneration, those who need it.
What did Jesus have to say about our attitude towards our money and possessions? To understand the background to His teaching, we must go back to the Torah.
When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the LORD you God for the good land He has given you. Be careful that you do not forget the LORD your God, failing to observe His commands, His laws and His decrees that I am giving you this day. Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied . . . then your heart will become proud and you will forget the LORD your God who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
. . . You may say to yourself, ‘My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.’ But remember the LORD your God, for it is He who has given you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms His covenant, which He swore to you forefathers, as it is today. (Deut. 8:10-12a; 14; 17-18)
God, not their skills or abilities, was the source of their wealth as a sign of His covenant; therefore, they were accountable to Him for what they did with it. Giving to those in need was to be their response of gratitude to God for His mercy and goodness to them, not out of any feeling of benevolence towards those who had less than they had. This wrong attitude would put them in the limelight rather than God.
Everything we do must be based on what God has done for us. The Israelites were to remember that it was the LORD their God who delivered them from slavery in Egypt. They were to receive His gifts with gratitude, not with pride for what they had, and to be continually grateful for His goodness.
How tragic that there is a world of people with talents and skills which they flaunt as their own, and play to the world instead of acknowledging God as the source and using what they have for His glory. And His own people are not innocent of this either.
Jesus had no problem with wealth per se, but He did have a problem with those who used it to get honour and accolades from the admiring crowd. Once again, He connected this life to the life to come. It is the disciple’s responsibility to garner wealth for the life to come by using what he has to meet the needs of others in this life. It’s about attitude and motive. Giving to the poor is not about getting attention for being generous. It’s about expressing gratitude to God by showing mercy to those in need.
Giving from a grateful heart has eternal benefits. There is a spiritual dimension to the way we use our money. “Laying up treasure in heaven” is not a literal deposit in a heavenly bank account. It is a way of expressing what we have already learned of God’s ways. When we do the right thing by taking care of the needs of others, whether it be the need for comfort, mercy, or reconciliation, or to meet material or physical needs, God reciprocates by meeting our needs.
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? . . . For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matt. 6:25; 32-33)
How many of God’s people do I meet or hear about who are in financial difficulties, who claim to be disciples of Jesus but who do not understand or follow His simple prescription for financial security? They pray for relief instead of obeying Jesus’s word, as though God were some benevolent grandfather who dishes out money every time they run out through their unwise spending.
Jesus gave us God’s way in a few simple words:
Give and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. (Luke 6:38)
Worry is not being responsible. Worry is a slap in God’s face and evidence of both ignorance of God’s Word and ways, and unbelief in His promises. God is a loving Father who would never permit His children to starve. However, in order for us to benefit from His faithfulness and generosity, He asks us to be generous by taking care of the needs of others. It is both an act of faith and of obedience when we do the right thing by giving, even out of our own need. God always responds to us as a Father who cares for His children.
When we “deposit” our “treasure” in heaven, instead of hoarding it for ourselves, it can never depreciate in value or deteriorate in condition. It is there for us in a time of need because God reciprocates with generosity to those who reflect Him by being generous.
Scripture is taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
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