Accumulation (Matthew 6:19)

Photo by Ameya Sawant on Unsplash

In our day, much has been made of the 1%. Every society looks on with   longing and no small amount of distrust at those who annually take more in than 99% of the rest of the nation. That distrust is driven largely by jealousy. The 1% take exotic vacations the rest can only dream of. They own large homes, wonderful properties and luxurious cars the rest of society wants but cannot afford. But the 1% has its own problem; The 0.1%. The 0.1% are those who fly to and fro in private helicopters, who control enormous companies and who have wildly out of proportion influence in political decisions. The 1% look at the 0.1% the same way the 99% look at the 1%. We might conclude that such is only just desserts. Yet, if we speak globally instead of nationally, most westerners are already in the top 1% income bracket, because half the world lives on less than 3$/day. So, the problem is not where you are on the wealth scale, but how you think about money that gives you peace about it or not, and it is how you use your money that causes the rest of society to trust you with it or not. 

Jesus has been teaching about hypocrisy. He has taught us about the hypocrisy of giving to impress others, of praying to impress others, of fasting to impress others. “Hypocrisy deceives others, yet it deceives the person guilty of it most of all. From the deception of others Jesus now turns to the deception of self; and the example he uses is the seeking of perishable treasures instead of the imperishable.” To this point Jesus says, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.”  

The issue at hand is not so much that you have stored up a sum of money. The wise save for future needs. The wisest man who ever lived encouraged us to be likewise diligent, saying, “Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest.” Gathering in the harvest so you won’t starve when no harvest is to be had is expected, necessary and wise, so do not think that Jesus is speaking against common sense. Rather, He is speaking against treasuring treasure for treasure’s sake

Treasure is meant to be used for blessing, not for hoarding. When it is used to bless it is helpful. But when it is hoarded it is not helpful, for it no longer is traded for goods and services you need or even goods and services you want. It therefore does nothing for you or for those you love. It does not even provide employment for others. Especially not when it is hoarded beyond all need, and most especially not when it is hoarded to the great grief of others who have much need and have no means at all. 

Besides which, even the most common of folks can recognize that earthly treasure does not last. Over time corrosion and natural forces degrade property, and the stored coin and jewels they cannot degrade the thief can steal. Being fixated on treasure can therefore never produce enjoyment of life. In fact it only ensures paranoia. The questions become not what to do with it, but, “What if you loose some of it?” and “What if you loose all of it?” We find that what was once sought for enjoyment becomes the very thing that throttles our enjoyment. Yet that too is not a newly found fact. people throughout time have found that amassing wealth on earth did nothing for their happiness, peace or true enjoyment of life. It only give more options on how to use your time. As the pagan philosopher Plutarch wisely said, “The right use of wealth is a fairer trait than excellence in arms; but not to need wealth is loftier than to use it.”

The modern reader of Scripture knows this. We are not blessed so we can accumulate to our own hurt. But what we know that Plutarch never realized is that we are blessed that we might be a blessing! Amen.

It is our duty to make the best use of every part of our possession that is possible in our circumstances. If there was any way within our reach in which our money might have produced more good and more honor to God when we spent it in something innocent, but less beneficial to his service, we have come short of our duty. We have sinned.

Robert Dabney

APPLICATION: Intentionality

How are you honouring God with some of your wealth? How are you honouring God with the rest of it?

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