There is a force that is all around us, that is necessary for our very existence, that affects everything we do, but that we don’t often think about and that we usually take for granted. That force is gravity. Now, before we go any further, let’s agree to leave physics to the experts. A very humble and basic understanding of gravity reveals that the gravity of an object is always proportional to the mass of the object. For example, the gravitational pull on earth depends on the earth’s mass. The bigger the object (like a planet or a star, like the sun) the greater the gravitational pull. The sun is 333,000 times the mass of earth, and therefore has more gravitational pull than the earth does. If the earth were to increase in mass (and stay the same size) then the gravitation pull would increase (as would how much we see when we step on a scale).
Make sense? The pull of gravity is directly proportional to the mass of an object. The more the mass, the more the gravity. And the harder it is to escape the pull.
Gravity isn’t the only force that acts like that in our lives. Money, wealth, and accumulation also impacts us that way: the more we have, the stronger the force is that makes us want to keep it. Just like the relationship between literal mass and the force of gravity, the more money, wealth, and stuff we amass, the more difficult it is for us to let it go. And unfortunately, research seems to back this up. Studies show that people who earn at least $200,000 give a smaller percentage away than do those who earn closer to $50,000 per year.1 The more money we have, the stronger the pull of our money on our lives.
In his book, How To Be Rich, Andy Stanley makes an excellent point when it comes to having money. He says that “simply possessing wealth doesn’t make you good at managing it.” In fact, it can make it harder to manage. The reason this is such an excellent point is because it doesn’t put a minimum amount on what it means to be wealthy. It doesn’t matter how much wealth you possess, you need to manage it well. If not, the gravitational pull of however much wealth you do have will get greater and greater, and will ultimately be a trap impossible to escape.
Think of the television show Hoarders. While many of these people clearly struggle with mental illness, it is a hyperbolic example of how having some can often lead to not being satisfied and constantly wanting more, to the point of horrible, detrimental, and sometimes life-threatening situations. It makes sense then that Jesus would warn listeners of the dangers of letting possessions, including money, take over our lives. Powerfully, Jesus gives us this advice in Matthew 6,
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21)
Jesus does not say NOT to “store up” treasure. The issue for Jesus is where we will store our treasure. And where we store up our treasure, will reveal where our heart is. In Hebrew, the word for “heart” means “oneself.” So, this statement is about where we find our whole selves. Jesus is saying that the location of our treasure is a matter of our entire identity. So, will we store our treasure and invest our possessions in things that are temporary, conditional, and will fade away? Or will we store it in things that are eternal and that will always be? Will we find our identity in those things that won’t last, or in the things that last forever?
Jesus then says, “No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth,” further emphasizing his point about our being. His statement presupposes that we will serve something, that we will find our identity in a relationship with something, and what that thing is, is our master. For the people Jesus was talking to, as for us today, it is all too easy to yield to a culture that says our identity is wrapped up in what we possess, instead of in who created us. It is too easy to orient our lives around what we have or don’t have; in other words, it is too easy to serve our wealth rather than have our wealth serve us and God.
The more money we have, the more the pull of that money, and the less we are able to manage our money. The less we manage our money, the more our money manages us, and the more our identity is found in our money. The more, then, we serve our money, and it becomes our master.
Discussion and Reflection Questions
How much time, energy, thought, and/or worry do you expend in dealing with money?
What do we personally receive from our wealth?
Are you content with your level of wealth?
Do you feel like your understanding and relationship with money is healthy?
Do you compare what you have to others?
Do you have a monetary goal in mind for where you are in life right now?
Do you think your relationship with money is more reflective of your beliefs as a Christian or the culture in which you live and work?
Do you think that Jesus was anti-money or anti-wealth?
When Jesus challenged the wealthy, do you think he was questioning the morality of being wealthy or the priorities of the wealthy?
Do you think that Jesus had any ulterior motives when he taught about money? Do you think folks in your culture have ulterior motives when teaching about money?
Is there anything wrong about being a “consumer?”
[For more information about Gravity, click here.]