The Messiah’s ministry sent shockwaves throughout Jerusalem. Jesus challenged the presumptions that people had about religion, God, morality, and relationships. One of the most unsettling subjects he regularly addressed with first-century listeners: their possessions and finances. It was a difficult topic for them—and one we still struggle with today.
If our trust and security is not found in God alone, we are vulnerable to wealth’s deceits.
Buckle up! Here are five unnerving things Jesus said about money:
1. Give to the one who asks of you.
“Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.”—Matthew 5:42
Why it is unsettling: Like many of Jesus’ comments, there is no nuance here. In order to break down the justifications people might use to excuse their own selfishness, Jesus makes a seemingly hyperbolic statement. After all, how could we give to everyone who asks of us?
Now when faced with a need or a request for financial aid, the followers of Jesus are confronted with a very clear and strong expectation, making the needs of others much more difficult to ignore.
2. Don’t make a show of your giving.
“Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.”—Matthew 6:2
Why it is unsettling: It seems like giving in secret would be easy, but it is not. We are all corrupted with a desire to have others think well of us. Giving our resources to those in need without fanfare is really two sacrifices: the financial sacrifice and the sacrifice of the subsequent praise.
Jesus promises us a reward but gives us the choice to collect immediately from our peers or from Him in the future. It takes genuine faith to choose the latter.
3. Store up treasures in heaven.
“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.”—Matthew 6:19–21
Why it is unsettling: This is simply a foreign way to think about our resources. Treasure laid up for us on earth represents security and safety. The idea of using our finances to facilitate God’s work and store up treasure in heaven is evocative and inspiring, but it still requires a leap of faith.
It is a profound implication that the way we use our riches has an effect on our heart. If we store up money because we are worried about our security, it is only going to inflame that anxiety. As we work up the faith to give more freely, we ultimately become more spiritually minded.
4. Worrying about money can strangle your spirituality.
“And he told them many things in parables, saying: ‘A sower went out to sow. . . . Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them.’”—Matthew 13:3, 7
“Hear then the parable of the sower: As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.”—Matthew 13:18, 22
Why it is unsettling: Throughout Christ’s ministry, he warned his disciples about wealth. In fact, he told them that it is easier for a camel to get through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God (Matthew 19:24). This is not because prosperity is intrinsically bad; it is because of its deceitful nature.
In the parable of the soils, Jesus lists three ways the gospel is imperiled by people:
- Those who have the word snatched from them by the enemy before it can take root.
- Those whose faith lack the stamina to endure difficulties.
- Those whose faith is choked out by the deceitfulness of wealth and worldly cares.
It is incredibly sobering to realize that the dangers associated with finances and property make up one of the three biggest obstacles to our faith.
5. Wealth’s security can blind us to our real needs.
“For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.”—Revelation 3:17
Why it is unsettling: Wealth has the potential to blind us to our genuine needs. When we have access to capital, many of life’s frustrations and concerns can be mitigated. This is not bad—unless it diminishes the awareness of our true condition.
Jesus spoke these words to the church at Laodicea. It is significant to recognize that the deceitfulness of wealth does not apply only to individuals—it has corporate implications as well. Wealth made the Laodicean church completely oblivious to its glaring deficiencies. This should give us all serious pause.
Money is not neutral.
There is no question that money can bring value to God’s kingdom. Wealth can be an incredible asset in the hands of the faithful. But we also need to be cognizant of the dangers. If our trust and security is not found in God alone, we are vulnerable to wealth’s deceits.
God cares about our finances and about how we use our money.