“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. “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! “No one can serve two masters, for 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 God and money.” (Matthew 6:19–24 ESV)
What is Jesus Warning Against?
What Jesus is warning against is the motivation for money; the allegiance. Citizens of the kingdom of God have been freed from that old way of thinking and valuing, where everything is monetized. Everything is valued by what enhances my sense of self-worth. So it’s not what I have but why I have it and why I do with it what I do. That’s the key. What we do with it is merely the revealer of what motivates my life. Nobody is saved by what they do with their money. We are saved by faith in Christ and him alone.
Genuine salvation changes us on the heart level. God gives us a new heart with new motives and passions and a desire to advance God’s kingdom and agenda, not my own. “Your kingdom come, your will be done.” (Matthew 6:10) This is a prayerful desire of anyone with allegiance to King Jesus.
Jesus doesn’t say, do not lay up treasures on earth. He says, “do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth.” (Matthew 6:19 emphasis mine) Praise God for kingdom people that God enables to lay up treasures on earth. Practically, we should want every single one of us to succeed financially. We shouldn’t envy a brother or sister who does well or has a windfall of some kind. Let’s celebrate it.
The issue is laying this up “for ourselves.” There is the question of motivation. Two people could both earn a million dollars. One is pleasing to God and one isn’t. The one earns a million dollars and can’t wait to spend it on himself, to buy the indicators of wealth and status. The other person earns a million dollars and is excited to meet his family’s basic needs. He’s like the ant who saves up for winter. He uses practical wisdom for future needs. But the real joy is to think, how can I use this money for kingdom purposes? How can I use this to lay up treasure forever? The one increases his spending on himself and the other increases his giving for God. One serves King Money. One serves King Jesus.
How to Dethrone King Money
Money is one of the hardest areas to teach on because it’s easy to stay up in the clouds but then people don’t know how to apply it. Or on the other hand to get practical and have people accuse you of meddling. Why? People get funny when you talk about money.
So how do we honor God with our money as citizens of the kingdom of God? Let me emphasize that this starts in the heart. If you do the practical helps without the heart desiring to enthrone King Jesus, God’s not honored and it won’t last long. We need him way more than he needs us. Practically speaking, we have categories that we have to hold in tension like living, savings, and giving. So how do we do this?
Nothing dethrones King Money better than giving it to King Jesus’ priorities
This is why giving should be the first priority of the citizen’s budget. Not the last. Not the leftovers. Do that and King Money stays on the throne. Make it the first priority.
How much? This is the question everybody asks and nobody can answer for you. How much would you need to give to show that your loyalty is to Jesus? To be practical, it’s helpful to think of your budget in terms of giving, saving, and living. My friend Chad Moore has helped me here. So here are some training wheels for personal finances in the kingdom of God. 10-10-80.
Give God the first 10%
Save the second 10%
Live on the 80%
Why? Giving first honors God. Saving builds wisdom. Living on the rest builds contentment. These are merely starting points. God may call or enable you to give at a higher rate and I suspect the more mature Christians among us are likely doing that.
Here’s the real question, do you want to? People say, “If I made more money I would give more.” All the studies say that doesn’t happen. The more people make the less they give. So the question isn’t how much you make but how you steward what God gives you.
I was blessed to grow up in a family where I saw my dad giving every week to the church. We were required to tithe on our weekly allowance (a little law for kids is ok), but that set a lifelong habit and expectation. Parents, how is your example preparing your children to be faithful citizens in the kingdom of God? Do you want your children to have treasure in heaven? What an opportunity we have, don’t we? Teach your kids to invest where it really matters.
All of us should ask, where is my treasure? What would my checkbook indicate about who is King of my heart? Will I be rich in the one place that matters—eternity? “Where [my] treasure is, there [my] heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21)
One more thing. So many have written on this subject. This was one of the best things I read. Here’s a summary of what our finances are like when Jesus is my King.
“I do not cling to these things. They do not become the center of my life and existence. I do not live for them or dwell upon them constantly in my mind: they do not absorb my life. On the contrary, I hold them loosely…I am not governed by them: rather I do govern them; and as I do this I am steadily securing and safely laying up for myself, ‘treasures in heaven.’” (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones as quoted by R. Kent Hughes, The Sermon on the Mount: The Message of the Kingdom, p. 210).
Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
©2016 Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.
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