This morning, I’m hovering over a few verses from Jesus’ sermon on the mount, and it seems to me there might well be a fine line between good stewardship and guileful slavery.
“Don’t store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves don’t break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. . . . No one can serve two masters, since either he will hate one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” ~ Jesus
(Matthew 6:19-21, 24 CSB)
As a rich person in a rich land (in relation to most people on this planet), when I encounter these verses each year I often pause, consider, and try to calibrate. What is my treasure handling indicating about my heart condition? And, it seems to me, it’s not necessarily a quick check. Not necessarily an easy answer. Because I’m thinking the evidence of faithful stewardship may not be a lot different than the evidence of fettered slavery.
If I think about it for a minute, I’m most often inclined to think about these verses in terms of how I spend my money. But isn’t storing up treasure about not spending? Maybe I should be thinking more about why I save my money. Less about why I open my wallet and more about why I don’t.
If the reasons I’m “careful with my money” tend towards ensuring my secure future rather than investing in a coming kingdom, then perhaps I’m not serving God as much as I like to think I am. If my frugalness is really driven by wanting to make sure that I’m always able to “give me this day my daily bread”, then maybe mammon is really my Jehovah-Jireh (the LORD my Provider).
If the reason I keep the $5 in my pocket rather than bless the guy on the street, or keep the $50 in my wallet rather than give it to the church, or keep the $500 in my bank account rather than enjoy God’s good provision with my family, or keep the $5,000 in the market rather than sacrificially support some ministry — if the reason I do any of that is more because of watching out for me than wanting to live for the kingdom, then my thriftiness might just be a form of bondage.
Not saying we shouldn’t be careful with the funds we’ve been entrusted with. Not saying we don’t plan for the future. Not saying we don’t save to be able to experience the wonder and joy of the world God has provided through the means God has provided. But I am saying I think Jesus is saying that why we save may be an indicator of who or what we’re really serving.
Worth chewing on, I think.
Instruct those who are rich in the present age not to be arrogant or to set their hope on the uncertainty of wealth, but on God, who richly provides us with all things to enjoy. Instruct them to do what is good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and willing to share, storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of what is truly life.
(1Timothy 6:17-19 CSB)
Treasure management. This too, by His grace. This too, for His glory.