“No one can serve two masters, for a slave will either hate the one and love the other or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth”. -Matthew 6: 24
March 5, 2023
“Measure Your Life in Love”
How Do You Measure Wealth?
Matthew 6: 19-21, 24
Rev. Dr. Heather W. McColl
Matthew 6: 19-21, 24
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal, but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes 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, for a slave will either hate the one and love the other or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.
How Do You Measure Wealth? Matthew 6:19-24
The irony of the timing of this sermon is not lost on me. This week, when we are talking about wealth, I realized that I spent most of my week fielding phone calls from people in our community, seeking assistance. From electric bills to water bills, the common thread was the same…with the cost of everything going up, paychecks are not covering as much now as they used to a few years ago.
And not only that, many in our community have suffered devastating losses because of Friday’s storms. Some will be able to recover because they have resources readily available. Others will not simply because now there is another obstacle placed in their way preventing them from getting ahead or at the very least, getting their feet underneath them again.
No, the irony of the timing of this sermon is not lost on me. As people of faith, as a culture, as a society, we find ourselves in a time where the division between the haves and the have nots continues to grow at an unprecedented rate. No longer do we refer to the top 10 percent. Now we say all the wealth is concentrated in the top 1 percent. The United States has the most people in the top 1 percent in the world while at the same time within the very same in the United States, people struggle to cover the cost of medicine, food, and gas let alone the cost of utilities.
This reality has created a dichotomy of wealth in our country. And it is not just out there, somewhere happening in the abstract. This dichotomy of wealth can be seen, and is experienced every single day by people within our very own communities. Because in our communities, living on the same street, there are some who are building up, creating generational wealth while there are others who are building up, creating generational debt.
Now I think it is only fair to admit that I am approaching this conversation about wealth from a privileged position. I know that when I say there is no food in the house, I am still looking at a pantry, fridge or freezer full of food. I also know that all the times when I find myself wondering where all our money goes, I still know that my family is able to purchase not just what we need but what we want. I also know that I have safety nets which will catch us if something does happen. I have resources readily available if I need them unlike many people within our community.
And I may be stepping on toes here, but my guess is that most of us sitting in these pews can say the same thing. So why are we asking the question “How do we measure wealth?” We already know the answer to this question just by looking at our bank accounts, our 401ks, and our stock holdings. These numbers which tally up our portfolios tell us that we have wealth. These numbers which make up our “financial worth” have allowed us to have a pretty darn comfortable life. And I’m here to tell you that it is because of those numbers, why we need to talk about wealth in church.
Because here’s the thing…let me be clear…Money is not and has never been the problem. That line, “money is the root of all evil” is one of the most misquoted lines from the Bible of all time. Really, the line says, “the love of money is the root of all evil”. Don’t believe me. Look it up. 1 Timothy 6: 10. I’ll pause for a moment while we all check the pew bibles in front of us.
In the Bible, Jesus never had a problem with either rich people or money. Yes, I know that there is that line about how it is easier for a camel to make it through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to get into heaven. And yes, I know Jesus talked to the young rich man and told him to sell all his possessions and follow him to which the young man responded by crying. And then Jesus said to the disciples See, I told you so! I know all that is in the Bible but I’m going to tell you again. Money and rich people are not what gets Jesus all fired up.
What Jesus had a problem with was when we as the people of God allowed our love of money to distort our vision so much so that we begin to lose sight of the Kingdom of God being realized here on earth. Think about it. When we only think of getting ahead, when we only think of my wants, when we only think about me, me, me, we begin to distort the Word of God. We begin to lose our focus on the wider picture, the picture which reminds us that we are part of the whole Body of Christ here on earth, which calls us to see that all are created in the image of God. When our love of money distorts our vision of what guides our decision as people of faith, that’s when we tend to fail to treat everyone as Beloved Children of God. And soon everything and everyone becomes a thing, becomes something for us to use and abuse, something for us to discard when we are through with it.
This way of thinking, this way of turning everything and everyone into commodities goes against the very character and nature of our God. It goes against our calling as people of faith to bring about healing and wholeness for all of God’s creation. It goes against everything Jesus taught us and showed us during his ministry here on Earth.
You see, once we allow ourselves to be ruled by the almighty dollar, nothing else matters. Soon we don’t care who we hurt, who we crush, who we betray, who we use, just as long as we get ahead. That’s not the way of the Scriptures. That’s not the way of the Kingdom of God. And it is certainly not the way we are called to live as the people of God here on earth in our local and global communities.
As people of faith, we know that our God is a God of abundance. There is more than enough to go around. There is more than enough to share. There is more than enough without anyone going without. As people of faith, we are called to a different narrative, a narrative which is not based in the zero sum game which this world perpetuates. We are called to tell a different narrative, a narrative of equity and community. Because as people of faith, we know that we serve a God which calls us to value each other as Beloved Children of God, to see each other as created in the image of God, as people, not just some statistics or charity cases we pay attention to to make ourselves feel better in the moment.
Or let me say it this way…a pastor shared an experience of a mission trip where he and his youth group had a chance to go to a homeless shelter to serve some meals to the residents there. And while doing this, the group had a chance to talk with some of the men. Someone in the group asked what to do when a person on the street approached them for money. And the pastor was shocked by the resident’s answer. The gentleman said, Well you should do what you feel like doing. And if you give money, be fully aware that it may be used for food but just as well it may be used for something else. And then the gentleman said, “Follow your gut. You make that decision. Say yes or say no but treat me like a person. We spend our whole day not being seen. Don’t act like we aren’t there!”
As people of faith, we cannot serve two masters. We cannot serve wealth and still hope, still work to bring about the Kingdom of God here on Earth just as it is in heaven. It is just not possible. What is possible is to know that where our treasure is, there our heart will be. What is possible is for those of us who have a pretty darn comfortable life to start looking at the world, not from our viewpoint but from God’s, to open our hearts, to open our minds. Because when we do, we realize that we don’t like what we see. There is so much injustice. There is so much oppression. There is so much greed ruling our world.
As people of faith what is possible is we can begin to measure our wealth in love and realize that “a system which produces beggars, which produces great divisions between the haves and the have nots, a system which fails to care for its own needs restructuring.” May it be so.
See also: Theology Tuesday for Sunday, March 5, 2023 – How Do You Measure Wealth? Matthew 6:19-24.