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Storing Treasure

Today I did something I don't normally do. I was reading a tech-related page, and clicked on one of those paid ads. The title was, "Man who predicted Trump victory makes next surprising prediction."

This led me to a long interview with a financial prognosticator, who (at least according to the interviewer) had successfully predicted Trump's election, the burst of the real estate bubble in 2007, and the burst of the dot-com bubble in 2000. He was now predicting the replacement of cash with virtual currency in America, and a general financial collapse of the country. It became clear, mainly from the big banner waiting below the interview, that my reaction was supposed to be to sign up for a subscription to a particular financial advice magazine, and to get some free things like a book on how to invest in gold.

Normally, the cynical part of me would kick in at this point and say that the scary things I was hearing were only designed to get me to give the sponsors my money (perhaps so they could buy more gold!). The thing is, I actually believed a lot of what the financial expert was saying. I don't know if we'll move to a virtual money system where everyone has a computer chip implanted in his or her hand, but I do believe that we could be headed for hard times financially in the U.S. and very possibly throughout the world, because of the incredibly stupid and reckless way the U.S. government has spent more money than it took in for decades. To be completely honest, that really scares me.

gold barsI'm not so worried about being tight for money. My wife and I have been through that before. What really scares me is the thought of there being no way to get food, or of there being a general societal breakdown. Thoughts start creeping into my mind about buying gold or jewels, just in case.

But there's one problem I run into when I start thinking like this. It is the words of Jesus Christ. Listen to what he says in the Sermon on the Mount:

Don't store up treasure for yourselves on earth, where moths and rust destroy things, and thieves break in and steal. But store up treasure for yourselves in heaven, where moths and rust don't destroy things, and where thieves don't break in and steal, for your heart will be wherever your treasure is. (Matthew 6:19-21 my translation)

Prior to these verses, Jesus had spoken of not doing "spiritual" activities (like praying, fasting, and giving) in order to get some kind of earthly reward. He made it clear that you had to choose whether you wanted a reward here and now, or one in heaven. If someone prayed in a showy way so people would be impressed with his spirituality, he would be giving up the heavenly reward for his act.

Even though Jesus is no longer talking about doing something for show in our verses, he is clearly still focused on the idea of a choice between a temporal and an eternal reward. He says, in an incredibly clear way, that we must make a choice between working to acquire treasure here or treasure in heaven. He makes the intensely practical point, that a treasure here is going to tend to slip through our fingers, while a treasure in heaven is absolutely secure.

But wait a minute. Can't we keep our wool clothes in a cedar closet to keep the moths away? Can't we buy stainless steel to prevent rust? Can't we get a state-of-the-art burglar alarm to guard our possessions from thieves?

If we think we can hold on to our "stuff" through our cleverness or technology, we are sadly mistaken. The threats Jesus mentioned are only meant as examples. The point, which is as true today as it was then, is that earthly wealth is not secure. Even if we manage to ward off the increasingly clever online thieves trying to get hold of our money, and invest in clever tax shelters to keep the government from taking too much, it is indisputable that we will all reach a time when we will not be able to hold onto our possessions.

You've probably seen those bumper stickers that proclaim, "He who dies with the most toys wins." All I have to say to that is, "What kind of victory are we talking about?" Someone may be incredibly rich when she dies, but the instant the last breath leaves her body, she will have none of it.

So what does this mean? Is it sinful to put money into a retirement account? Should we give all money away that isn't required for our immediate needs? I want to be very careful here. It is a great temptation to make the challenging words of Christ into something toothless that won't threaten our comfortable lives. I am going to say that I think the attitude so prevalent in the modern church, that of course it is okay and even good to save money and to plan for retirement, is too easy. If we have done what most Christian financial planners consider prudent and can read the verses in this post without feeling uncomfortable, I think we have become too insulated from the truth.

cloudsOn the other hand, as I pointed out in my , Paul specifically addresses what believers with more than they need should do, and he doesn't command them to give all their money away. As in that post, I'm going to settle on a conclusion that won't satisfy you if you like hard and fast rules. I think that especially if we are financially comfortable (and I'll say again that by Biblical or world-wide standards, almost all of us in the U.S. are comfortable), we must examine our hearts carefully. More important than whether we have a 401K or not is what our attitude is toward God and our money. Do we feel that we'll be okay in old age because of the cash we have stashed away, or because we know God will take care of us even if our safety net becomes worthless because of hyper-inflation?

Because of these verses, I just couldn't bring myself to click on the link to learn more about buying gold. I'm not saying no Christian can have gold, but I couldn't escape the feeling that if I bought a bunch of gold coins, I would be thinking that the gold would be what would keep me fed in a time of financial disaster. I was afraid that my focus would be on those coins and keeping them safe. I want to be a man who knows where his treasure is, and who knows that nothing can touch that treasure. I want my deepest thoughts and affections to be where that untouchable treasure lies.


*Photo Credits: Gold from

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