Author: Rachel Kidd
As someone who likes the finer things in life, I often consider the implications of money. What does it mean to have money and acquire wealth as a Christian? It is a sticky morality question, one with so many burrs and thorns that it seems easier to just not touch it at all.
Money is a necessary evil in the modern world. We work hard for it, live off of it, it’s nearly impossible to imagine how the world would function without it. But, the question I ask is who do you serve? Are you a slave to your money or is it merely a tool for survival?
Jesus was not wealthy on earth and neither were His disciples. They were regular, peasant folks who worked physically demanding jobs. During Jesus’ ministry, they were nomadic, traveling often by foot from city to city across Israel. They were often dirty, hungry, and slept under the stars. Today, they might be van lifers that traverse the globe in beat-up vans, bathing in streams, and hiking trails. Their goal was not to acquire the most wealth, but to dwell in relationship with others and spread the gospel.
Verses on Money
Many of the verses on money in the gospels are found in Matthew, who was a former tax collector himself. Tax collectors at this time were notoriously corrupt, stealing from the poor and lining their own pockets. Once a hoarder of wealth, Matthew left it all behind to follow Jesus and embraced a life of pious poverty.
Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.
When talking to Jesus, a rich man asks how he can be good. Jesus tells him first to follow the commandments. The man agrees and says he keeps the commandments. Jesus then says he could sell his belongings and give the proceeds to the poor, so he can follow Him. The man then leaves discouraged, because he can’t bring himself to sell his many belongings.
He is so attached to his belongings, wealth, and status, that he chooses these over Jesus. He can’t see past his tangible, earthly things, that he turns down eternal glory in heaven. And that is what Jesus warns the disciples about, telling them that it is hard for the rich to enter in the kingdom of heaven. The poor on earth have little to lose and much to gain, striving for a reward they can’t have on earth. Yet, the wealthy are secure in their money and life on earth and find it difficult to give it up just for the promise of an intangible reward.
The disciples all gave up their livelihoods fishing to follow Jesus. While not insignificant, their wages were likely meager. But, Jesus promises that they will be rewarded in heaven for their faithfulness with twelve thrones, where the last will be first and the first will be last.
No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.
Much like the rich man could not part from his wealth in order to follow Jesus, this verse tells us that we cannot be followers of more than one master. We can’t love money so much that it clouds our faith. When you serve money, your life doesn’t have room for anything else.
Living for wealth obscures your vision, making it difficult to see where you may be hurting others, particularly the exploitation of people in industry. When the goal is simply to make as much money as possible without consideration for the human and environmental consequences, so much can be destroyed.
Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied.
Those that understand what it means to be hungry can better appreciate feeling full and satisfied. Those who understand poverty, housing insecurity, can better appreciate being safe and comfortable. God sees people that don’t have much and promises them more in heaven. He sees their pain on earth and promises an eternal solution, one that can be more fully understood and appreciated by those who have lacked.
The wealthy cannot truly appreciate the promise of heaven in this sense, because they are already safe and secure. While they may enjoy the richness of eternal life, they simply cannot be grateful in the same way the poor can. The ones who have struggled and suffered are going to be the most grateful recipients of this abounding grace.
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.
Of course, money makes the world go ‘round, as they say. But, I believe that Jesus uplifted the most vulnerable and poor of us, understanding their deeper appreciation for the promise of heaven. He asks us to live in such a way that we are looking towards eternity, seeking out rewards in heaven instead of how many houses we can own or purses can line our closets. These riches can easily be lost to time, thieves, or deterioration. Our heavenly rewards for faithfulness and compassion however, are eternal and everlasting.
As much as I enjoy nice things, I hope my focus is less on the material and more on my relationships with God and the people around me. I don’t believe that Jesus is calling us all to be nomads for Him, but rather to turn our focus outward and make sure we are serving Christ, not money first.