Most of Us Disagree With Jesus

Writing now from the Sea of Galilee only a short distance from where Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount, I am reminded how earthy the gospel is. Just as Jesus walked the real turf of Nazareth, he healed really sick people and raised really dead ones. He addressed people of real faith and people of real(?) hypocrisy. To explain his teaching, he drew upon fish and fowl, trees and grass, stones and storms, bread and wine. He spoke to the rich and the poor, the healthy and the sick, the powerful and the weak, the young and the old, and the short and the tall.

Pointed and profound, his message drew upon the practices of everyday life to proclaim the stuff of eternal life. Surrounded that day by hearers on the Galilean hillside, Jesus preached on earth the stuff of heaven. The true Blessing from God unveiled the true blessings of God, the Lawgiver and Law-keeper explained the Law of God, and the Light of the world shone into the human heart—illuminating our sin and our need for divine salvation, and warming us in the embers of his redemptive grace.

Those that find the stuff of theology airy, stuffy, boring or irrelevant surely have turned a deaf ear to the master Teacher, Jesus of Nazareth. And the problem lies neither with the message nor the Messenger. The problem, as G. K. Chesterton famously put it, is I. Against all such resistance, with unparalleled authority (see Matt. 7:28–29), Jesus delivered a gritty and gripping message for the ages.

Let’s get more specific, calling out a point where most of us smugly disagree with Jesus.  And I don’t mean just those outside the church! From pastors to parishioners, we find ourselves less than eager to talk about a subject Jesus demands we address candidly. We dodge his call, but his message and our avoidance techniques open a window into our souls.

The subject? Our pocketbooks. Jesus unashamedly talks about our money. And in His message about Mammon, he alerts us to the war that wages within our hearts! The Maker of all things sternly yet compassionately warns us about temptations in our hearts concerning the things he had made. We cannot maintain a cavalier attitude toward excusing our idolatrous infatuation with financial security; we must attend Jesus’ words.

[19] “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal,
[20] but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.
[21] For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.            
[22] “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light,
[23] but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!        
[24] “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.    (Matthew 6:19-24)

First, Jesus situates what we do with money with what we do with God. That is, our treatment of the “almighty” dollar exposes what we think about the Almighty. Decisions with our wealth post a tell-all Instagram of our hearts’ commitments. Financial choices disrobe our ultimate love.

Second, love of money and love of God are adversaries. One cannot love God and love money at the same time. The heart has no room for shared ultimate affections; it cannot sustain spiritual polygamy. True love is absolutely exclusive: our knee will bow only to God or the materialist goddess. Never both. No man can embrace more than one lord.

 Third, saving money is not a simple as saving money. To be sure, wise stewardship entails financial planning and investing. Storehouses themselves are not inherently evil. But the problem is not just with saving, but instead with how we treat finances as saving. Trusting in storehouses is not just bad financial advice—it is gross idolatry. What does Jesus say? Dependence is worship and trust in stuff is idol worship.

As the ancients sacrificed their children to the idols of Molech, so when we lay our hopes and dreams in the perceived securities of money, we sacrifice our own hearts and those of our children on the altars of Mammon. “The love of money is the root of all kinds of evils” (1 Tim. 6:10a). And whether or not I am trusting in my portfolio is revealed, at least in part, by how I allocate my finances. How much do I give? How much do I save? Answers to these questions exceed the accuracy of any lie detector.

Fourth, and this is the sweet positive counsel that Jesus proclaims, pouring assets in the stuff of God’s kingdom delivers permanent safekeeping. Why? Because sacrificial investment in the kingdom of Christ Jesus turns us toward the God of heaven and earth. He secures kingdom investments absolutely. We will not be disappointed. Spending our real resources—our time, energy, and money—into kingdom-advancing endeavors affords future certainty. The Almighty himself backs investments in the work of his kingdom.

Why then do we insist that stockpiling our resources to ensure future comfort and retirement are acceptable when Jesus calls such self-protecting devotion nothing less than idolatry? While many of get steamed about styles of music in worship and non-air-conditioned sanctuaries, gospel concerns move below these spiritual facades to faith’s very footings—what we do with what we have. The stuff in our pockets speaks truth about the stuff in our hearts.

Why do we attempt to segment our lives between the spiritual and the material, thinking that God is concerned with the former and not the latter? What we do with our resources, says Jesus, is the ultimate spiritual decision! Segmenting our lives between this world and the next defies the reality of the gospel which the incarnate Jesus himself is.

The solution to our sin of materialism is truly simple, at least conceptually. A repentant financial overhaul may well be in order—not a rearrangement of our comfortable furniture on the Titanic of our financial self-centeredness; rather, the total recalibration of our finances, the reapportioning of them according to Jesus’ priorities.

Instead of building our own kingdom, we should heap our stuff into the work of Christ’s kingdom. Real resources for real kingdom work—that is stuff of gospel living! Give to your local church faithfully and sacrificially! Give to those ministries that advance the gospel of Jesus Christ and his church! Give, give, and then give some more.

And contrary to the common notion that talking about money is a private matter, Jesus turns to us and talks openly about our money. Jesus tells us what to do with our cash. He tells us that what we do with our wallets reveals what we have done with him! Surely our squeamishness about Jesus’ teaching on money is less about protecting personal privacy than it is about justifying our spiritual poverty.

Discipleship demands open discussion about our finances. Discipleship demands that we talk about our money, be challenged about our giving, and turn our bank ledgers into kingdom records. Our bank statements should (do!) tell the story of our faith. They must reflect the glory and excellency of divine grace.

So, pastors and people of God, let’s talk. Let’s act on Jesus’ words. Let’s invest in Jesus’ kingdom. Disciples of Christ Jesus must let money do the talking! It speaks already.

David Garner