American financial markets have struggled this week. The government seizure of key mortgage and insurance businesses and the bankruptcy of another cause great fear and trembling within that industry. Pictures of business executives wringing their hands and shaking their heads have been commonplace. One picture that stands out to me was taken in front of the Lehman Brothers offices in Manhattan. There formerly high paid employees were seen leaving and taking all of their belongings out in a single box. How sad!
The disruptions in the American markets however, emphasize something Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount:
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is there will be your heart also.” (Matthew 6:19-20)
I find it interesting that words spoken by Jesus almost 2,000 years ago can have such powerful meaning today. It may be that this time is the most self-centered, greediest period in our history. Men have pursued wealth at the expense of their families, their friends and associates and even at the expense of their souls.
A well to do small businessman once told me that where business was concerned there were no friends. I quickly disagreed with him but on reflection he may be right. Have we reached a time in history when wealth has become so important to us that the very idea of losing some of it causes us to wretch?
Jesus tries to get men to look beyond the fiscal and see the soul. The everlasting portion of man has no need for dollars and cents and gains no benefit from a 401(k) or Roth IRA. Instead, the soul needs salvation which cannot be purchased with money (Acts 3:6; Acts 8:18-24).
In fact, wealth can be, although it need not be, a distraction to the greater need of salvation. A young man discovered this hard truth when he sought to follow Jesus. “Teacher! What good thing shall I do that I may obtain eternal life (Matthew 19:16-26). After being told by the Lord to obey the Law he declared his righteousness from birth. Then Jesus dropped the bomb on him. “…go and sell your possessions and give to the poor.” The Bible says the man went away in sorrow because he as rich. There was nothing about his wealth that would keep him from heaven per se. Instead, it was his love of wealth that prevented him from putting Jesus first.
Paul offers sage, inspired, advice to Timothy when he says of money, “for we brought nothing into this world and it is certain we cannot take anything out of it.” He continues, “those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires…” (1 Timothy 6:6-10). Certainly it remains a good lesson for us today.
Let us learn from these days of uncertainty that there is a foundation upon which we can stand. It is Jesus Christ. Financial markets rise and fall but faith in Christ secures forever. Trust in the Lord and who will never be defeated!