Scriptural accounts suggest Jesus neither possessed wealth nor earned wages during his three-year ministry. When teaching the crowd to “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s,” he had to borrow a coin from a stranger’s hand to illustrate his point. To pay the temple tax in Capernaum, Jesus took a coin out of the mouth of a fish. Despite his poverty, Jesus possessed extraordinary insight about money. Second to the Kingdom of God, it was his most prevalent topic of conversation. One out of every six verses in the Gospels and sixteen of the thirty-eight parables discuss the issue.

Jesus taught a person’s regard for money ultimately determines their priorities. The Bible stringently warns, “The love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs” (1 Timothy 6:10). Possessing money is not evil in itself, but it is a grave mistake to esteem it higher than God. “No servant 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,” Jesus warned (Luke 16:13).

Jesus taught blessed are those who pursue first the things of God. Even in poverty and want, they are filled:

  • Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
  • Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied.
  • But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.
  • Woe to you who are full now, for you shall be hungry (Luke 6:20-21; 24-25).

Jesus possessed little, if anything, of monetary value. He did not have a job or a permanent home: “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head” (Matthew 8:20). He and his disciples lived on the contributions and hospitality of well-wishers. On one occasion, Jesus charged the disciples, “Do not take along any gold or silver or copper in your belts; take no bag for the journey, or extra tunic, or sandals or a staff; for the worker is worth his keep” (Matthew 10:9-10). This command called for full reliance on God for the disciples’ most basic provision. Anything worth more than the very clothes on their backs, they gave to the poor.Judas proved to be the only disciple whose craving for money superseded his regard for God. For a single bag of silver coins, he led the chief priests to Jesus’ whereabouts, betraying him into their hands. Upon holding his newfound riches, a sense of despair overwhelmed Judas, so much so “he changed his mind and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders, saying, ‘I have sinned by betraying innocent blood’” (Matthew 27:3). It was too late. The chief priests would not take back the money, and Judas, unable to find joy in his monetary reward, hanged himself.

Jesus does not demand from everyone a life of poverty, but right priorities. A rich man approached Jesus, eager to learn the path to eternal life. The man had so far done everything correctly. He obeyed God’s commandments and treated others with love and respect. “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me,” Jesus now commanded (Matthew 19:21). At this, the young man went away distressed as he owned many, great possessions.

Does Jesus expect too much? The rich man derived security from God and his money. When Jesus asked him to place his security only in God, his desire for riches proved too powerful. Jesus demonstrated how difficult it truly is for a rich person to enter God’s kingdom. Wealth can be dangerous. The relentless pursuit of it tends to result in a weakened relationship with God.

In a world driven by want and greed, it is important to realize money is not everything. One can buy a watch, but not time; sex, but not love; food, but not an appetite; a house, but not a home; and medicine, but not wellbeing. When God is given first place, all else is amply provided.

Jesus challenges his followers to aspire to abundant life beyond worldly rewards, commanding,

“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.” (Matthew 6:19-20).

What does this mean? Is it wrong to open bank accounts, set aside savings, indulge in stocks and shares, or possess gold or diamonds? “Tithēmi” is the word for “store up” in the original Greek language, meaning to “lay aside passively.” It is setting something aside without a purpose or goal for its honorable use. In Jesus’ parable of the talents, a master gives five talents to one servant, two to another, and one to the last. The first with five talents trades them and procures five more. The one with two talents does likewise and receives two more. The last takes his single talent, digs a hole in the ground, and hides it within. This is “Tithēmi”: storing passively without any good or fruitful purpose. The master rewards the first two “good and faithful” servants but calls the last “wicked and slothful” for his faithless act, declaring, “You ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest” (Matthew 25:14-27).

Jesus, the ultimate finance controller, permits the earning and investment of money when managed faithfully and in service to God. From those who have been blessed with wealth, Jesus expects fairness and compassion towards those who have none: “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked” (Luke 12:48).

It is unwise to think lightly of money. The attention given to finances can be the most determining factor of a life well lived or wasted. Laying up treasures in heaven means investing less in perishable things, and more in the service of God and others. This is the source of true satisfaction, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21).

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