Jesus spoke about money and about possessions more than any other subject in his teachings. Much more, actually. We're still in the book of Matthew, still in Jesus' great Sermon on the Mount, but we're about to kick it up a notch with several teachings about our finances and our possessions:
“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. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (6:19-21)
A few months ago I was traveling with cash. I had sold a guitar—$3,000—but I was hundreds of miles from any branch of my local credit union in which to deposit the money. When you’re carrying $3,000 in cash in your pocket, everything everything is weird.
You check your 6, you cautiously scope out your Uber driver, you’re careful to get back to the hotel before sunset, and the hair on your neck stands on end as you pass a stranger—even if it’s a sweet little old lady—on the street. That ol’ woman’s probably got a gun in her purse.
Your attention is arrested by wad of cash in your pocket. You feel exposed. Everyone knows I’m hiding something, you think. You are the caretaker of that little fortune and you take your job so very seriously.
It’s like when you were in middle school and there was that one shiny, brand-new basketball in the gym that just bounced so perfectly. Not like those old, worn, flabby balls that make your hands smell weird. Yeah that was a sentence I just typed.
Back then, you would take extreme precautions to make sure that your favorite basketball didn’t get swiped on the rebound. For those 45 minutes of P.E., that basketball arrested your attention. You were its protector, its keeper. And when gym class was over you hid that ball in the darkest reaches of the equipment room in hopes that it would remain undiscovered until the next day. That was the best ball and you were its worthy steward.
That’s how we treat our possessions. We all do it—we take such great pains to preserve and protect the things we love. Your mint condition first pressing of “Dark Side of the Moon” that you so carefully extract from its cover and so delicately place under the needle. Your holographic Charizard, your Nolan Ryan rookie card, your pre-war Martin dreadnought, your grandfather’s stop watch, your mother’s family Bible.
We’ve made entire industries out of protecting and preserving our things. We pay for expensive cases and safes. We pay monthly fees for a box at the bank and a unit at the storage facility. We buy insurance; we “up” our insurance as our collections grow. All the while, our thoughts are on our things.
Jesus says, “Show me a man with some great treasure, and I’ll show you where his attention and affections lie.” I wonder if this is why half of all marriages fail? Are we so wrapped up in the stuff of life—the houses, the cars, the corner offices, the white picket fences—that we forget to invest attention and affection in things that truly matter?
Jesus says earthly treasures rust, fade, and wear. They can get eaten up in the attic by rats or stolen by desperate thieves. Why put your heart into things you can’t take with you when you pass away? Why set yourself up for disappointment by the loss of those things in this life? Why not place your hope and trust and attention and affection in things that won’t wear out?
Why not invest in the affirmation of a personal faith, peace in a happy home, the enjoyment of rest and freedom from anxiety, a deep and abiding joy, a sense of self that isn’t unseated by circumstances, reconciliation with old enemies and reunion with old friends, stimulating conversation, or a greater faithfulness to family and kindness in community?
Don’t those things sound better than spending your days as the custodian of some borrowed estate?