Volume 16, No. 11 (December 2021)
“The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls,
who, on finding one pearl of great value,
went and sold all that he had and bought it.”
—Jesus Christ (Matthew 13:45)
The stock market rises and plunges, as do our personal resources. House values soar, but so do house prices. Inflation takes off; so does the cost of living. Our hopes and dreams ebb and flow unless we cling to “sure and steadfast anchor of the soul” (Hebrews 6:26) and build our house upon the rock (Matthew 7:24-27).
As we head into the new year, we need to be reminded that “the LORD sees not as man sees” (1 Samuel 16:7). Consider prayerfully these Scriptures (many of them quotations of Jesus) that point us to the way that God sees such matters. “All other ground is shifting sand…”
Matt. 6:19-21 “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.”
Matt. 6:24 “No one can serve two masters, for 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 God and money.”
Matt. 6:25-33 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”
Matt. 13:44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”
Mark 10:17-22 And as He was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before Him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” And he said to Him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
Mark 14:3-7 And while He was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as He was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over His head. There were some who said to themselves indignantly, “Why was the ointment wasted like that? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they scolded her. But Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to Me. For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have Me.”
Luke 1:50-53 “And His mercy is for those who fear Him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with His arm;
He has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
He has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich He has sent away empty.”
Luke 21:3-4 And He said, “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”
Acts 20:35 “In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
2Cor. 8:9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you by His poverty might become rich.
Phil. 2:5-6 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped.
Phil. 3:7-8 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.
Phil. 4:11-13 I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
Phil 4:19 And my God will supply every need of yours according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
1Tim. 6:10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.
Hebrews 10:34-36 For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.
Heb. 11:24 By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.
Many a one thinks that he has God and everything in abundance when he has money and, possessions; he trusts in them and boasts of them with such firmness and assurance as to care for no one. Lo, such a man also has a god, Mammon by name, i.e., money and possessions, on which he sets all his heart, and which is also the most common idol on earth.Martin Luther, “The Large Catechism,” in The Book of Concord, 3.5ff., https://bookofconcord.org/large-catechism/
Most men seem to live for themselves, without much or any regard for thy glory, or for the good of others;Arthur Bennett
They earnestly desire and eagerly pursue the riches, honor, and pleasures of this life, as if they supposed that wealth, greatness, merriment, could make their immortal souls happy;
But, alas, what false delusive dreams are these!
And how miserable ere long will those be that sleep in them, for all out happiness consists in loving thee and being holy as thou art holy.
Worship is our response to what we value most. . . . Do you know where and what you worship? It’s easy: You simply follow the trail of your time, your affection, your energy, your money, and your allegiance. At the end of that trail you’ll find a throne, and whatever, or whoever, is on that throne is what’s of highest value to you. On that throne is what you worship. Sure, not too many of us walk around saying; “I worship my stuff. I worship my job. I worship this pleasure. I worship her. I worship my body. I worship me!” But the trail never lies. We may say we value this thing or that thing more than any other, but the volume of our actions speaks louder than our words.Louie Giglio, The Air I Breath: Worship as a Way of Life, 12-13
The essence of worship . . . is the inner act of the heart treasuring God as infinitely valuable. That’s the essence of worship. The outer forms of worship are the acts that one does which show or reflect how much the heart treasures God. Therefore . . . all of life, biblically, is supposed to be worship. Because the Bible says, “whether you eat or whether you drink, or whatever you do”—all of life—do it such that the value you put on the glory of God is plain. . . . [In whatever you do,] magnify the worth of God in the way you do it.John Piper, “Magnifying God with Money” https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/magnifying-god-with-money
In his sermon titled “What Is the Recession For?” pastor John Piper suggests that when the economy plummets, God has His own purposes. Some of them might be:
1. To expose hidden sin and so bring us to repentance and cleansing.
2. To wake us up to the constant and desperate condition of the developing world, where there is always and only recession of the worst kind.
3. To relocate the roots of our joy in His grace rather than in our goods, in His mercy rather than in our money, in His worth rather than in our wealth.
4. To advance His saving mission in the world—the spread of the gospel and the growth of His church—precisely at a time when human resources are least able to support it.
5. To bring His church to care for its hurting members and to grow in the gift of love.
In essence, then, the first and last of the Ten Commandments demand the same thing. Paul made this connection explicit in Colossians 3:5: “Covetousness [the tenth commandment] . . . is idolatry [the first commandment].” The first commandment (“You shall have no other gods before me”) demands, “You shall always have me as supreme in your affections. You shall delight in me more than any suitor who comes along. Nothing shall appeal to you more than I do. Embrace me as your supreme treasure and be content in me.” The tenth commandment (“You shall not covet”) demands, “Don’t desire anything besides me in such a way that the desire would undermine your satisfaction in me. Let all your other desires for my gifts be expressions of your desire for more of me.” Saint Augustine’s way of saying this was to pray, “He loves thee too little who loves anything together with Thee, which he loves not for thy sake.” (Augustine, Confessions, bk. 10, chap. 29)John Piper, Providence, 114-115)