I think it is safe to say that neither the Chairman of the Federal Reserve nor anyone on Wall Street is going to look to the teachings of Jesus to find the secret to personal calm during these days of financial storm. But for those of us who truly believe in Jesus and are committed to obeying his word it ought to be the first place we turn. A vital part of good stewardship is to care for what God has given us so that we might care for those who are dependent upon us. But we should not let the passing treasures of this world consume us with fear and anxiety. Unfortunately, we have in many areas blindly and unwittingly embraced values and ideas that are common in our culture but are antithetical to the teachings of Jesus – none more than money.
Jesus knew the subtle snare that money can be despite the amazing fact that He owned very few earthly possessions – “the foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.” For all practical purposes Jesus was homeless! I can’t say with absolute certainty but it appears that he never actually possessed any real money of His own. When He needed to pay His taxes He sent Peter to the sea with a line and hook to catch the coin ladened fish to get the bill paid. Yet He spoke abut money more than He did about heaven or hell.
Jesus recognizes that we need material things to live. The drive and desire to acquire a certain amount of material things (food, clothing, shelter, etc…) is not only proper but it is a vital part of caring for ourselves and those we love. To save and plan for the future is good (Proverbs 21:20). Actually His words are not condemnatory toward the possession of money but rather a strong warning against the power and influence it can have over us. To place your trust in it is to embrace a false security that will cause you to live in a state of fear and anxiety. To let it captivate your heart and mind is to turn you away from the true God. In all four gospels, it is the only rival god that Jesus mentions!
Whether you are one of those that just worries about money or one of those that worships it, the cure is the same – believing and obeying the teachings of Jesus. I call it Kingdom Economics!
Kingdom Economics doesn’t store up or value the wrong kind of treasure (Matthew 6:19-21). A treasure is what we value and protect. Jesus teaches us not to value (set your heart upon) the wrong kind of things (things that rust, fad away, or can be stolen), but to value those things that are eternal. When Jesus told the Rich Young Ruler to “sell everything” that he had and give it to the poor, he did so in order that this young man might have “treasure in heaven.” Jesus was not trying to strip this him of all pleasure and happiness He was trying to loosen his hold on the lesser in order to give him something greater – something infinitely more satisfying – treasure in heaven! It was not just good for the poor that he do this, it was good for him.
Kingdom Economics is living live with an open hand rather than a closed fist. It practices generous giving (Matthew 6:22-23). The passage speaks of a bad eye and a clear eye. This is a cultural idiom that we understand better when we change the illustration. The bad eye is a person with a “tight fist” or a closed hand – a stingy person. The clear eye is a person with an open hand – a generous person. Jesus is teaching us to practice generosity that results in systematic giving. God knows that we will potentially have an ongoing struggle with materialism and as such we will need an ongoing antidote. The antidote He has given is generosity. By prescribing generous systematic giving, God isn’t turning into the IRS but a physician. He knows that by telling us to give our money freely to others we will break the control that money has over us. And so while we are experiencing individual freedom through our generosity, the money we give will fund the things that God is passionate about: making disciples, changing lives and caring for those in need.
Kingdom economics trust in God rather than the things that He made (Matthew 6:24,32). The child of God can trust in the benevolence of his Heavenly Father who, “knows that you need all these things.” As we seek Him first and put Him first all “these things will be added unto you.” Real freedom from anxiety is found in simply trusting God for our needs. Yet there is the ever present temptation to trust in money. Why? There is because money has some very dangerous “god like” qualities. Money can outlive us, it has a wide circle of influence (everyone respects it), and it pretends to give us what only God can give – security, comfort and happiness. But money is only a false god. It gives false hope, false security and false happiness. To bow down and worship the god of money is to live in fear, despair, and emptiness.
Kingdom Economics embraces not poverty but simplicity (Matthew 6:25-32, Luke 12:15). The Kingdom solution is not to live in poverty. Nor is it stinginess or carelessness. Rather its solution is to embrace simplicity. Simplicity is an attitude of the heart that will ultimately result in an outward lifestyle. Simplicity is adopting the right narrative about wealth and earthly treasure. It is a conviction about how to live rather than a set of rules that I use in order to gauge my life and to judge others. Simplicity ask questions like: Do I really need this?; Will it bring me real joy or just momentary happiness?; How much of the money I would spend on this particular item can I free up to invest in heavenly treasure if I choose this other less expensive item?
Living in this world as a citizen of another requires great wisdom. Being submerged in a culture whose values are antithetical to the teachings of Jesus, mandates constant carefulness. Having need of the “coin of the realm” while storing up treasure of a different sort in another kingdom is challenging. Yet it is something Jesus asks us to do. I have not perfected all of this yet, but as I grow in Christ I am improving. I understand better what Paul meant when he admonished , “. . . buy, as if it were not yours to keep; use the things of the world, but do not be engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away” (I Cor. 7:30-32). The more I embrace Kingdom Economics the more I am liberated from the slavish fears of the financial storms of this present world!