Money, Possessions and Following Jesus
In this blog post I would like to talk about the way that we should view finances as followers of Jesus Christ. Jesus said; “Sell your possessions and give to charity; make yourselves money belts which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near nor moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Luke 12:33-34)
Does the Lord’s statement about possessions seem extreme? Does Jesus really mean to sell your possessions and give to charity? Why would he say such a thing? Don’t we need things in order to live?
It seems that Jesus was in the habit of saying these kinds of extreme things about money and possessions. He told the rich young ruler virtually the same thing when he asked the Lord, “Good teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 18:18) At the end of a discussion about keeping the commandments the Lord said to the rich young ruler, "One thing you still lack; sell all that you possess and distribute it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me." (Luke 18:22)
A steward is a person who has been put in charge of something owned by someone else. The steward does not have personal ownership in what he has been put in charge of, but while taking care of it, he receives benefit from the thing in his charge. In the creation account the Lord God put man (Adam) into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it. The Lord God gave the man instructions (commandments) on what he could do and could not do while caring for the garden. The garden of Eden did not belong to the man, the garden of Eden belongs to the Lord God, but he made the man steward of the garden to take care of it for him. The Lord God knew that the man would need food in order to sustain life. Therefore, the Lord God gave the man the benefits of enjoying the fruit of the garden, so long as he remained a faithful steward following his commandments. (Genesis 2:15-17)
The main theme running throughout the Gospel According to Luke is the coming of the kingdom of God. From chapter 4 through to his betrayal and arrest in chapter 22 Jesus is preaching about the kingdom of God, announcing its coming. Then he inaugurates the kingdom of God with his own death, burial, and resurrection. All things are being made new (re-creation) and the relationship between God and man (owner and steward) is being restored (redeemed).
Thinking of things like money, houses, cars, and careers as our own processions is a result of the fall. The proof that you do not own anything at all is that when you die all that you think that you owned remains in this world (the world that the Lord God alone created). The Lord God knows that we need food, clothing, and shelter in order to live. Therefore, he benevolently gives us these things from his own procession, because he loves us. The Lord God often gives us more than we need, so that we can be like our Father who is in heaven, who gives to the poor, and also ungrateful and evil men. (cf. Luke 6:35-36) So why does the Lord tell us to sell our processions, and give to charity, when he knows that we have need of food, shelter, and clothing?
Firstly, if we are honest with ourselves, most of us have abundantly more than we need. Therefore, we are able to share with others who have need of these things. In the Lord’s parable (Luke 12:35-48) about being in readiness at all times he spoke about a slave that his master had put in charge of the other slaves. While the master was away the one whom the master made steward began to beat the other slaves and mistreat them. When the master returns, and sees what the steward had been up to, the master hacks the steward into pieces, assigning the steward to the place of an unbeliever (hell). The Lord then says, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more.” (Luke 12:48)
Secondly, if we are concerned with the accumulation of processions, then we are unable to fully follow and serve the Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Luke 12:34) Anything that we think that we are accumulating for ourselves is temporal, it is fleeting, and you will leave it all behind when you die. But service to the Lord is eternal, because the Lord Jesus Christ and the kingdom of God is eternal. So I ask you, whom do you serve, because “No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth." (Luke 16:13)
The Lockman Foundation. The Holy Bible, Updated New American Standard Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1995.