A friend of mine had made millions in the oil business. He told me that the best thing that ever happened to him was when he literally lost it all. He discovered, he said, that when he made money the goal of his life, what he lived for, money held him in a very tight and demanding grip. There was never quite enough. You and I think a few million would be plenty, but my friend said he found real wealth when he was penniless. Here’s how Jesus said it:
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. … “No one can serve two masters. 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 both God and Money. (Matthew 6:19-21 & 24 )
This sounds preposterous; everyone knows that the goal of life is to be rich. That is, except those who have chased that goal and, too late, find themselves unable to let go. It’s not that money is bad. The problem is our tendency to want more and more money as a goal in itself. When money becomes our quest, it is an addictive substance. And, in our quest for more, we trample the attitudes Jesus calls, “storing up treasures in heaven.” He was talking about living by the counter-intuitive principles He taught in the Sermon on the Mount. These are based on the truth that sets a person free, that produces a life lived in harmony with God’s design.
So why does this seem so upside-down? Jesus said it’s an eyesight problem, a consequence of how we see life:
“The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness! (Matthew 6:22-23)
When my friend lost his fortune, Jesus opened his eyes and showed him what living was really all about.
You can check this out for yourself. Ask Jesus to open your eyes and show you how to be generous. That’s a dangerous prayer. Jesus will certainly respond, and put you in some challenging situations. Real generosity is a struggle because it feels self-destructive. It feels a lot like the first time you decided to try a diving board. You grab onto the safety rail and think, “If I do this I’m going to hurt myself or drown!” But it is impossible to hold that rail and dive. You have to choose. But when you let go and bounce off the end of the board, you discover a new and exhilarating freedom.
Jesus is waiting for us in the pool of abundant life. He says, “Stop holding on to money for dear life. Let go and take a flying leap into real life. Come on in, the water is fine!”