Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. - Matthew 6:19-21
Having heard the command of Jesus to pursue what is most valuable, namely that which is eternal, many have turned away in disregard and disbelief. Jesus did not stutter when he said the words, but these disregarding disbelievers stumble when they try to reason away the clear meaning of His words. Jesus even goes on to make the point explicit when he said, “What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul?” Sadly, many, even some who are professing believers, claim to believe the truth of this verse, yet they scrape and scrounge and slave to acquire the largest pile of stuff they can in their short life on earth. Rather than heeding the words of Jesus or even the admonition of Paul to “set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth,” these self-deceived slaves of gain become eternally near-sighted. With their spiritual eyes darkened or at least dimmed, their business model only includes 5, 10, and 20 year projections, and they do not plan for 1,000 years from now.
In addressing these eternally near-sighted American Dream success stories, James tells them to howl and weep, because in their shrewd investment here on the earth, they have become some of the most unwise investors in things that are eternal. Long after their investments and precious metals and expensive clothes have passed away, the things of eternal value will still sparkle and gleam with a heavenly luster. But it will not be as simple as just losing these goods. Instead, James says that these large piles of goods accrued here in this life will stand and testify against those who spent all of their life disbelieving and rationalizing away the value system of which Christ so clearly taught.
In the judgment, the heaps that these rich so tirelessly slaved to amass will serve as “Exhibit A” in the case condemning their disobedience to God. James says that it will testify how that they scrimped every last penny out of their workers, underpaying on business deals, and cutting corners in quality, all so that they could have a larger pile. He says that they lived lavishly and turned every extra dime into extravagance so that they could live the life of comfort. He says that they neglected the saints of God, not caring for their needs or for their very lives. Like citizens of Babel, they sought to make a tower of their goods that would reach to the heavens so that they could live on this earth like gods, but now, judgment day has come, and the pile of their goods stands as a testament to their disobedience.
The first thing we must see is what Paul says clearly in 1 Timothy 6:10, “The love of money is the root of all evil…” He does not say that money is evil. It is the infatuation with currency and power that is evil. It is the desire to take the place of God that is evil. It is the craving to have so much that you don’t need God that is evil. It is committing family-sacrifice for the sake of always putting in extra hours at work that is evil. It is amassing wealth to the neglecting of the saints that is evil. It is holding a bank account as more sacred than your brother’s welfare that is evil. May we not repent of money, rather, may we repent when the love and worship of that money takes root in our heart and be willing to give it all away when we realize it has become our master. Money is cheap, may we find something far more valuable to live for, namely Jesus.
Reflect: Read Matthew 19:16-26. What can we learn from this story?