Have you ever heard someone say, “Put your money where your mouth is”? It’s one thing to talk a big game, but when we invest in our claims – putting something of value at risk – we show that we have confidence in them. When we have a stake in the results, lip service gives way to evidence, and big boasts are replaced by the demonstration of personal faith. (Whether or not the object of our faith can live up to our expectations is another matter.)
In the same way, it’s easy enough to talk about following Jesus. We might be able to quote Scripture and know the words to songs of faith, but there comes a point where we must decide whether our faith is just something that we claim, or something that actually changes our life. Are we willing to stake our earthly wealth, our reputation, or even our physical well-being for our faith in Jesus? Do we trust that actually letting Him direct our paths is worth everything that we have? It’s one thing to sing songs about that, but quite another to step out into the unknown, led only by the illumination of God’s Word (see Psalm 119:105) and the Holy Spirit.
Along the same lines, I wonder if sometimes we tend to mentally switch around Jesus’ statements in the following verses from the Sermon on the Mount:
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 your heart will be also.
Matthew 6:20-21 NASB
It seems natural to us that if we care about something (that is, where our heart is focused), then we will invest our resources in that thing. This might be a cause that we care about, or an organization. It could even be a person that we support.
Here, maybe Jesus meant that we could look where our treasure is, and realize that this is where our heart is focused. I wonder, though, if maybe our attention follows our treasure.
In the early church, the community of believers let go of their “treasure”, in order to help others. Their sense of generosity outweighed their selfishness (at least for most of them – the book of Acts records one couple who were an exception to this). The believers talked about in the following verses were passionate about the well-being of others, and their treasure followed.
And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need.
Acts 2:44-45 NASB
When taking money from the sale of personal belonging, and sharing it with others, do you suppose that those who were giving started to take a more pronounced interest in the recipients? Do you think maybe someone providing for a physical need – like food or shelter – started to talk with the person who needed help? Were they challenged to pause and get to know a poorer brother or sister, to learn how a fellow person got into that situation? Did they invest in the recipient’s spiritual growth along with meeting physical needs?
In the same way, investing our material possessions in the Kingdom of God (whether directly, or through groups like a local church congregation) gives us the opportunity to let our heart follow our money, and interact with the people who make up that Kingdom.
By sharing with others in Jesus’ name, our heart may very well follow. Rather than being selfishly focused on ourselves, we become interested in the well-being of those we are helping to support.
As a result, I encourage followers of Jesus (including myself) to not just give money to the church. (For ministers who start to panic at this point, note that I said not “just” give money. Contributing to the finances of those who are promoting the message of Jesus Christ is an important privilege. It’s just not where our generosity should stop.) Instead of only sharing wealth, get involved in the ministries that an organization is supporting. Talk with those who are administering the gifts that are given, to learn more about how allocation decisions are made and what impact they are having on souls, whether locally or around the world.
Offer to help invest what is given, in order to maximize the blessing to others. Serve in ministries that your offering is funding. Give of your time, along with your money. Show love to people through your presence, and not just through your property. Combine different forms of generosity, both for the benefit of others, and to develop your own maturity. Meet some new people, while you’re at it, and maybe even make some new friends.
May it be said of you and me, that where our treasure is, there our heart is also!