Priority (Matthew 6:19-24)

Often we discuss what are the biggest hindrances to authentic Christianity in our society. Answers range from secularism to alternative religions. In his Sermon on the Mount, what did Jesus say would be a hindrance to authentic discipleship? In the verses we are going to consider, he mentions a focus on accumulating possessions as being a hindrance. 

Our version mentions money as the problem, but since people in the first century did not live with much money, the word means more than cash. Rather, Jesus refers to things. At first glance, we may wonder why he decided to speak about this issue at that time. I suppose the answer is obvious. We live in a world where it is impossible to escape from things. It looks as if materialism in a first century form was regarded by him as dangerous for his disciples, and no doubt its twenty-first century form is also dangerous. 

It is important to observe that Jesus does not say that it is wrong to have possessions, but he does say that it is possible to have wrong ideas about them. After all, there are many rich believers in the Bible whose lives are commended. Abraham, Job, Joseph of Arimathea and Philemon are such examples. So it is not the actual possession of things that are the problem.

The point I am making is obvious. Some used their possessions wisely and became a blessing to people they helped. Some kept it for themselves and lost out. And that is what Jesus says here when he says that his disciples should not lay up treasures for themselves on earth. 

Obviously, for some people, the accumulation of possessions becomes the priority of their lives. Sadly, they are never satisfied with what they have. Even more sad is the fact that they are going to lose them all. We know that is the case. Moreover, even when they have earthly riches, they worry about what is going to happen to them and to their possessions. Having a lot does not always mean having a lot of comfort or a lot of pleasure. It can mean a lot of stress.

Jesus does not want his disciples to have no spiritual treasure when they die. Yet they will only have such treasure if they engage in certain activities throughout their lives. He takes the example of people who strive for earthly riches and says to his disciples that they should show as much interest in accumulating heavenly treasure.

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