Yesterday at church we explored what Jesus had to say about storing up treasure in heaven. We really didn't have the time to explore every angle and every thought. On reflection there are some things I wish I'd talked about and a few I wish I hadn't!
Part of the problem with such a passage is how do avoid the extremes of either over spiritualising it, or indeed under spiritualising it. In other words, how do you avoid separating what Jesus had to say about money from our real world experience of wealth and poverty, and turning it into just three or four spiritual lessons?
Well you certainly can't avoid his main point that you can't serve money, or wealth, and God. And secondly, that your heart will follow your treasure, what you value most. Now the first is surely not saying that wealth is incompatible with Christianity, but it does serve as a warning about being enslaved to wealth. The rich young ruler faced this problem and couldn't deal with it.
Perhaps the 21st century issue is more about our economic model than pure wealth, although I'm sure wealth remains an issue. Is it too simplistic an observation to suggest that the current economic crisis was fuelled by wealth driven ideals and that having broken down it will be the poor and lower paid members of society that will pay the price to fix it. Governments borrow money to bail out the banks and then cut benefits and public services to pay for it. The wealthy remain relatively untouched by the crisis but the disadvantaged and marginalised becoming more disadvantaged and more marginalised.
But back to the economic model. What does Jesus have to say about that? Well, in the passage in Matthew 6 I think he has something to say. I think he would say, "Don't be a slave to the economic model that says you will always need more." Now I don't think that he is calling us to sell up and move into communes where we grow our own vegetables and live like a new Amish community of some sorts. But we all know that our current model is simply unsustainable. If we export that model to the developing world we know we face disaster. But what are we to do? We are driven by the need to consume more and more in order to sustain the economy that is built upon providing stuff for us to consume.
I don't think it is wise to generalise about what we all should do, but it would do us no harm to sit down and think about how we can shift our priorities away from storing up treasure on earth and what a new economic model would like in that context. Maybe then we would find the liberation Jesus offers us to serve him wholeheartedly without worrying about what it might cost us.