Jesus had much to say about finances, and his words offer a profound challenge for Christians who will be receiving a stimulus check.
For the unemployed and underemployed, that first stimulus check must feel like a lifetime ago, and the next payment can’t come soon enough. We can expect $600-700 per person, though it could be months before everyone receives their remittance (apparently, some folks have not even received their first check yet).
The government can’t figure out a way to split the stimulus pot only among those who really need it (and give them more of the money they desperately need), so it’s up to everyday Americans (perhaps especially Christians?) to take some initiative.
Are you one of the lucky ones, like me? My livelihood has not been impacted by Covid – for which I thank God every day – so I’m not behind on any bills. There is food on my table every night. I don’t need a stimulus check.
That said, I can think of plenty of ways to spend $600-700 on myself!
But is that what Jesus calls us to do?
Jesus exhorts us to not hoard money (or the things money can buy). Such stockpiling indicates a heart that is not in the right place:
“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.” (Matthew 6:19-21)
In fact, Jesus would have us be unencumbered by wealth:
“If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” (Matthew 19:21)
Not everyone is ready for this teaching. The rich young man who heard these words “went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.”
But Jesus cautions us not to try to divide our loyalty between God and wealth. If we think we can manage to be faithful to both, we are mistaken. Luke observes that the Pharisees thought they could pull it off – in fact, the Pharisees considered Jesus’ exhortation ridiculous:
“No servant 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.” The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things, and they ridiculed him. (Luke 16:13-14)
Bottom line: Jesus wants us to put our money where our mouth is – he urges us to not just talk about serving God, but to do it by generously sharing what we have.
Yin and yang?
There are many poor in the world who cling to Jesus’ words, “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things [that you need] will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). Many have died, still waiting for God to come through.
Have you endured a season of unanswered prayer? Have you been through a time (maybe now?) when God did not seem to meet your deeply felt needs? The reason for such unanswered prayer may be right here in our human desire to store up treasure.
Jesus told us in no uncertain terms how to live if we want to inherit God’s blessing: feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and help the stranger (Matthew 25:31-45). When we disobey this mandate, when we dote on earthly treasure, we’re not the only losers! The hungry and naked and stranger lose too.
The fact is that millions of Americans (and billions of earthlings) are suffering want, and this points to our failure as Christians to prioritize the things of God. When we want to evangelize the poor – but not feed them – we are not following Jesus.
So here’s a challenge. If you don’t actually need your upcoming stimulus check (and you want to be a follower of Jesus), consider choosing a reliable charity, or a needy person or group to be blessed by it instead.
If enough of us are willing to share out of our abundance, we can put a dent in poverty.