would Jesus Say to his Market Shocked Children?
Market meltdown, worry, disaster, the words describing economic tragedy have been many this past week. For many of us who have had our RRSPs in Mutual Funds, or for the USA, our 401Ks, we have lost 35% of our retirement savings. Worried, even to the point of being frantic, people desperate for that one piece of advice that could save them $1000s were calling their financial advisors with their MBAs and Certified Accountants. Financial offices have been overwhelmed with calls. People are crying out: "What should we do? What should we do?"
As I heard of this frenzy, I asked myself what it would be like if Jesus answered the telephone to answer the question “What should I do? What should I do?” After all, Jesus has more than an MBA or Accountant Certification, he is omniscient, all knowing. He created the laws of math and finance from which we get the ideas of investment and even derivatives. And on top of that, all of these experts with all of their wisdom didn’t see it coming. Jesus knows that future. That immediately qualifies him for all kinds of market economics advice. When we ask “What should I do” how would he answer?
Turn with me to Matthew 6:19-34
19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
For worried and frantic people, Jesus gets to the heart of the issue, an issue of the heart. Going to the heart of the issue is the first "must" in the business of helping people. You see, if people have their treasures in the wrong place, then advising them to make adjustments in the wrong place only prolongs their agony. There are many advisors who will tell you for your earth bound treasures to go long, or maybe convert to a less risky investment, but a less risky investment in the wrong place is still in the wrong place.
So Jesus as our financial advisor chooses first of all to make sure our investments are in the right place. His advice is simple: Don’t collect your wealth in places where moths eat, rust corrupts and thieves steal.
In the time he spoke, one common investment people made was in clothing. We are not familiar with this when we get clothing made in developing country sweat shops and purchased for just a few dollars here. In the time of Jesus, a piece of clothing was an investment. It took a lot of work to weave the cloth, often with patterns woven right into the cloth, for rich people with gold threads woven right into the cloth. And the most valuable material was wool. This investment served a dual purpose. Not only did people get to wear their treasure, it also gave them social status as in Joseph’s many coloured coat. Yet the clothing was vulnerable to being eaten by moths and other insects. There were no mothballs. There were no safe places to store this clothing except on your body.
The same truth applied to rust. The literal word in Greek for rust is “eating.” We know that rust eats iron. But this passage could also apply to rats and mice who would eat grain like the rich farmer in scripture who thought he would build bigger barns to store his treasure and that very night his life was expected from him. In this world, treasures can be eaten.
And of course treasures can be stolen by thieves. Break in and steal is literally dig in and steal in this passage because people would often bury their treasures in a field away from their house, in a secret spot, hoping that the secret would not be discovered by others. This was their retirement nest egg. And we like so many of them have had our retirement nest eggs in what we thought was secure only to discover that there are thieves in the market eager to use and loose our money.
Jesus financial advice - don’t store your treasures were they can be eaten, decay or be stolen.
He then goes even further to the heart of the issue. He says:
22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!
Notice that Jesus says these words as financial advice, to people wondering, “What should I do?” They are hard to understand!
Well, part of the difficulty comes in translation. The idea is that light enters the body through the eye, therefore it is the lamp of the body. But then, Jesus words suddenly take a shift. He says “If your eyes are good” and for "good" he uses an unusual adjective. He uses the adjective ἁπλος,(pronounced haplos) which can be translated “healthy” or “generous.” This same adjective is translated generously in Romans 12:8 and in 2 Corinthians 9:11 You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.
And for the bad eye, the word he uses is πονηρὸς (pronouned ponaeros, from which we get the word pornography), which liverally means evil or wicked and in the context of giving, someone with an evil eye was stingy, self centered with their wealth. The Septuagint uses this very word πονηρὸς in Deuteronomy 15:8-11
8 Rather be openhanded and freely lend him whatever he needs. 9 Be careful not to harbor this wicked thought: “The seventh year, the year for canceling debts, is near,” so that you do not show ill will toward your needy brother and give him nothing. He may then appeal to the Lord against you, and you will be found guilty of sin. 10 Give generously to him and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. 11 There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land.
Once again, Jesus is acting as a financial advisor, telling us that the way we relate to our money is a barometer of our spiritual health. If we are people who are eager to hoard money to ourselves, it demonstrates the darkness that is within, we are spiritually blind, self deceived.. What we do with our money reflects a deep spiritual condition, and if we are stingy, not generous, we reflect that there is darkness within the depths of our heart.
“What should I do?”
Well, Jesus, who gives the best financial advice is not ready to tell you what to do quite yet. Rather, he wants to push the issue even deeper.
24 “No one can serve two masters. 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 both God and Money.
The issue is one of masters, Lords, ones who have control over others. And the issue is this, you can’t have two Lords, you can’t have two masters telling you what to do. God and money are diametrically opposed, they are opposites when it comes to what you serve. You cannot walk in opposite directions simultainiously. To quote John McArthur : “The one commands us to walk by faith and the other demands we walk by sight. The one calls us to be humble and the other to be proud, the one to set our minds on things above and the other to set them on things below One calls us to love light, the other to love darkness. The one tells us to look toward things unseen and eternal and the other to look at things seen and temporal.” (Commentary on Matthew 6, p. 4:15). You cannot serve both God and Money. Only one will ever have authority in your life. To quote John Calvin: “Where riches hold the dominion of the heart, God has lost His authority” (A Harmony of the Evangelists Matthew, Mark, and Luke, vol. 1 [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1979], p. 337).
“So what must I do?”
Well, if you understand those basic principles, do not store up treasures on earth which by their very location are high risk, deal with your spiritual well being, serve only one master, then don’t worry. But notice that there is a sudden and instant change in the social economic status of his audience. Whereas in the verses we have just read, its all about treasures and money, now Jesus audience is concerned about the basic necessities of life. Now the audience is not dealing with issues of the theosuarus (the Greek word for treasure), the treasures treasured, now it has to do with clothing and food, the basic necessities of life. Against every prosperity gospel, Jesus does not promise us earthly riches, he promises us what we need to live before his face faithfully. And now, Jesus, our best financial advisor, on the grounds of what he has just said, gives us this advice.
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?
28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Three times Jesus says to us “Quit your worrying!” (vs 25, 31, 34) This is more than advice, it’s a command and the idea behind the original language is that we have to put to a stop what we are doing. Quit it. Quit our worrying now. And very quickly, he gives six reasons why not worrying is simple Christian obedience.
First its obedience to your one master. Choosing not to worry about our finances is an obedience he expects from us. If our treasures are in heaven, they are safe with him. The Christian has a living hope that will never perish, spoil or fade, kept in heaven for us. (1 Peter 1). And if that is our treasure, if that is our true riches, than what we have on earth pales in significance. We need not worry. We need not listen to an earthly tyrant that commands us to worry about our money.
Second - remember who you are. If God takes care of all the little things like the birds of the air and the flowers of the field, you who were created in the image of God, you who are his reputation in this world, how much more will he provide for you! This is the arguement from the least important to the most important. All of us know this is true. We might neglect taking care of cutting our grass but we certainly will not take care of the grass and neglect our own children.
Third. God is your Father, your heavenly sovereign Father, able to provide every need that you have. He who owns the kingdom with the intimate care of a Father, is giving you all that you need or ask. That’s what he does. He is God your provider - JWH Jira. As Paul says in Philippians 4:19, God shall supply all your needs according to His glorious riches in Chrst. Quit your fretting. Your life is far more than your body. And God will preserve your life.
Fourth - its not only the needs of clothing and food, it is also the days of our lives that he provides. 27 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? God is the one who numbers our days. I think sometimes that we live like we are the ones who are in total control over the number of our days. I have heard it way to often that people plan to live till they are 120 years old and they are going to do that by exercise and diet. Give your anxiety a rest. Don’t worry yourself to death. He has numbered our days. He who is the Alpha and Omega, he who has known us from before the creation of the world knows our coming and our going both now and forever more. (Psalm 122).
Fifth - Do not worry because you are a Holy People. In this world you are called to be different. The whole world may run after these things, literally earnestly seek these things, tell us that they are the most important things to do, but that does not mean that you have to. Live to the beat of a different drummer. Live lives by a different standard. Live your lives in such a way that when others see your generosity, they will glorify your God in heaven. We have the hope of heaven. We have the guarentee of eternal life. Our Father is pleased to give us the kingdom. “Some people seem to read this verse backward, as though spiritually dyslectic: Add all these things to your life, and if you have any leftover time or money, seek the kingdom of God and his righteousness” (RJ Morgan - Consider the Lilies)
Finally, entrust you future to the Lord, he is the one that has your future in his hands. Tomorrow is his concern. It does you no good to waste your energy trying by thought to control what can’t be controlled. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
So Jesus advice is secondly this. Don’s worry. Set your priorities strait - seek first the kingdom and its righteousness and all these things will be added to you. That is contentment - setting the priorities of our hearts strait.
(NIV) Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright (C) 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.