Preachers have a reputation for talking too much about money. I get as queasy as you do when prosperity preachers prey on the poor or celebrity pastors on Instagram flaunt a closet with enough pairs of Jordans to outfit a small college. But I’m not sure that, as a whole, preachers talk about money enough. Nearly half of Jesus’s parables deal with possessions. And he talks three times more about money than he talks about love. The cold, hard truth is that we need to hear more about cold, hard cash. If Christians are only hearing one money sermon a year, they probably deserve a refund.
Some preachers want to talk about money because their church needs money. I get it; some congregations run on a lean balance sheet. But that shouldn’t be our reason for talking about money. We should teach about it because the way we use money can often cause us pain or cause someone else pain. The bottom line can be pretty ugly.
Financial incompatibility is one of the leading causes of divorce. The stress is a lot to bear. The average American carries over $6,000 in credit card debt, while the average student debt load is equivalent to the first year salary of a public school teacher. We shouldn’t assume financial struggles are exclusive to the poor: 32% of Americans who make over $200,000 per year live paycheck to paycheck. This largesse has pretty ugly spiritual consequences. A life that exists for the sake of acquiring wealth and spending it on stuff is hardly a way to find peace and experience joy.
Many of Jesus’s teachings on money come in the form of warnings. He says, “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” (Mt. 6:24). In the parable of the sower he warns of the “deceitfulness of wealth” (Mk. 4:19). It’s so true. First someone owns the money; pretty soon the money owns them. Paul says, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains” (1 Tim. 6:10). Some have assumed the problem with wealth is a lack of generosity. Maybe. But the Bible suggests it goes deeper. Money doesn’t just tempt us to be greedy; it tempts us to be unfaithful (Prov. 30:7-9).
Acquisition and materialism can be crippling addictions, but a better understanding of true wealth can lead to a life of joy. We can be more aware of our spiritual riches (Phil. 4:19-20). Understanding what we sacrifice in this life for the kingdom helps us remember Jesus’s promise that those who leave houses and family, and make other sacrifices, should expect to receive a 100 fold return in the life to come (Mt. 19:29).
There is no one poorer than the person who thinks the next thing they buy is the thing that will make them happy. An unhealthy addiction is never satisfied. Our treasures and our heart hang out together. If our eyes are addicted to getting more treasures, our heart will always be longing for more, too. But if we put our trust in God’s kingdom, we invest in an inheritance that “never perishes, spoils, or fades” (1 Pet. 1:4). We put the kingdom first; God will add the rest (Mt. 6:33). That seems like a life that is worth talking about.