There are three or more possible responses we can have when we come across Jesus' flat castigation of earthly investments in Matthew 6:19-34. The easiest of these is to refuse to invest at all. After all why invest when our returns are destroyed by moth and rust (factors we can't control) or are likely to be stolen by genius wall-street thieves? Why invest when we are unlikely to maximize on the returns?
Going hand-in-hand with this response is the refusal to engage life. We resign ourselves to despair and lose faith in the possibility of any good in the world. We only want to do as little as possible. We stay away from things that are likely to stretch us or to result in more than we need to survive from day to day. We decidedly live below our potential.
The second response is to consume everything we have here and now. We work hard. We are productive. But we consume all that we get on ourselves. We neither store up anything for future nor do we seek to share with anyone else what we have. In our current economic times, we will stay away from investing in stocks or shares. But we will also stay away from giving to churches, to causes and to charities. After all, what matters is our own comfort and when our accumulations are being threatened by an economic melt-down, why should we care about anyone else?
Jesus' call, however, is not one of resignation from life. It is not a call to stop investing. Neither is it a call to consume everything we have on ourselves here and now. His is a call to invest differently. He says, "Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal."
This principle of investing differently recognizes the need to safe-guard our future through investments. However, rather than see our future solely in earthly terms, we are called to a transcendental vision of reality as both earthly and heavenly. Investment priority should be directed toward the heavenly.
This principle does not locate our ultimate value and self-worth in what we have or don't have. It gets at the very core of who we are and why we are here. It beckons us to ask ourselves the three key life questions: Who am I? Why am I here? And where am I going? Our answers to these key questions will then determine for us how we channel our investments. We will see our earthly goods as facilitators of our eternal purpose.
This eternal perspective of reality preserves us from the crushing power of lose. Our self-value does not lie in what we do or have. It lies in Whose we are. We are children of the Most High God! When our goods and possessions diminish as they are doing with the economic down-turn, we do not lose sight of what is most important in life. We do not cease to be generous and to care for others. Rather, we adjust our lifestyle accordingly with the knowledge that we are immortal until our work on earth is done.
A closer look also affirms the appropriateness of doing everything we can within our God-given capacity to raise from the current economic mess. We should be creative and be productively engaged. Through God's help, we should seek to overcome both factors we can control and those we cannot control (See Joseph's example in Genesis 41:33-37).
The God of the good times is also the God of the hard times. He is the giver of wisdom that can sustain us in our current times. We should lift our eyes to Jesus and seek His forgiveness for our past mistakes when we failed to consult him regarding our investments. Trusting Him, we should ask God to show us the means by which we should live our lives now.
Those of us with resources should heed Jesus' extra-ordinary call to continued generosity. We should make it our life principle that with open hands we receive from God all He wants to give believing that He wants to give us a lot. And with open hands to give it away, believing that we cannot out-give Him. Our call is to reach out to each other and to stand by one another through this challenging times all the while remembering that Jesus Christ Himself stands by us.