I’m not an investment expert, but I understand some of the basics. I know that when I’m deciding about where and how much I’m going to invest, I need to look at risk and reward. I know that if I invest money and there’s a 90% chance I’ll lose it all, that’s a high-risk investment.
I also know that if I invest, say, $1,000 this month, and that money will only be worth $100 at the end of the year, that’s a terrible investment.
Jesus’ point is similar, and really quite simple:
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 (Matthew 6:19-21).
If you invest your money and accumulate material things, Jesus says, what’s your reward? What’s your payoff? Well, you’ll be worried about them—what will happen to them, how long they’ll last, if someone might steal them, if you’ll have enough. In other words, invest your money down here and the reward is bad, really bad. But if you invest them in things that last—in spiritual, eternal things—the reward is unbelievable.
Money’s one of those touchy subjects we try to avoid in polite conversation, but Jesus is pretty direct here. Where’s your money going? Do you have a big retirement account? Are you building wealth by investing in real estate, or maybe stocks, bonds, and mutual funds? Are you using it to buy more and more stuff?
Jesus never taught that it’s wrong to prepare for the future, but I wonder what he might say about the way we accumulate things? He once commended a widow who gave away everything she had, and then he condemned a man who seemed to be investing wisely (cf. Mark 12:41-44; Luke 12:16-21). In other words, he reversed the investment advice we normally give.
Is it possible that we’ve let our money-crazed culture convince us that the accumulation of things is wise, maybe even godly? It’s worth considering, at least.
Jesus tells us to use our money to do good. “Laying up treasures in heaven” isn’t just giving to the church (though that’s good too); it’s using the money God gives us to help others. It’s giving money and food and clothing to the poor. It’s sending money to missionaries so they can share the good news about Jesus. It’s supporting relief efforts in war-damaged parts of the world, or areas that have been devastated by storms, tsunamis, or earthquakes. It’s helping the orphans and widows.
I saw a quote this week that convicted me—it relates to what Jesus is talking about: “No one is getting into heaven without a letter of reference from the poor” (James A. Forbes).
That’s pretty close to what Jesus said: No one’s getting into heaven without a proper perspective on the relationship between money, happiness, and eternity.
When we invest in things God is interested in, our hearts won’t be tied up in this world . . . and when this short life is over, we’ll follow our investments to where God lives.