Wednesday 16 February 2022

Bible Book:
Matthew

'For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.' (v. 21)

Matthew 6:19-21 Wednesday 16 February 2022

Psalm 77

Background

I think this is the shortest Bible text I’ve written about for 'A Word in Time', so my first reaction is to encourage you to read the whole Sermon on the Mount (Matthew chapters 5, 6 and 7) to put these verses in context.

They are very straightforward to understand and quite the opposite to follow. The Church has often been divided about who they apply to – whether they apply to the apostles, early disciples, those who enter a religious life or to all Christians. Mahatma Gandhi, was particularly drawn to the Sermon on the Mount (see here) but was very critical of Christian teaching and practice, saying "...much of what passes as Christianity is a negation of the Sermon on the Mount." He could see the difference between the comfortable life of Christians in the West and the essential teaching of the Sermon on the Mount.

The wealthier Christians (and the Church) become, the less likely we are to take a straightforward view of this passage. Even to the extent of Today's New International Version Study Bible saying: “The dangers of riches are often mentioned in the New Testament, but nowhere are riches condemned in, and of themselves. What Jesus condemns here is greed and the hoarding of money.” 

To me this feels like playing with words. The Swiss theologian Ulrich Luz said: “To be wealthy and yet not to feel beholden to ones’s wealth was, for Matthew, evidently unthinkable."

Yet we are all able to 'play games'. We kid ourselves that we are not wealthy because we can always compare ourselves to someone who has more. This is especially true when we feel threatened by rapidly increasing food prices and with UK energy prices rocketing. It is hard to read this passage without being aware of the poverty that many in our society live in and which makes us want to safeguard our own resources. Around us foodbanks are the largest growth sector and 31% of UK children live in poverty. That makes taking this text directly very frightening. However, it comes in a wider context. The context of being a community of disciples, living by the transformative practices of the Sermon on the Mount, which include non-violence, justice, peace, poverty, prayer, and good relationships. As a whole it allows us to put out trust in heavenly treasure as together we live out the teaching of Jesus. So, yes, I believe Matthew 6:19-21 to be a straightforward and self-evident truth but one that has to be lived as part of a larger picture.

 

To Ponder:

  • What do you feel are your greatest treasures? Where are they? What keeps them safe?
  • Do you have communities that support you in living out the teaching of Jesus? What practices help and what hinders?
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