The inhabitants of this earth, throughout recorded history, have placed the accumulation of material goods as one of the ultimate goals of life. We have convinced ourselves that the acquisition of resources, properties, belongings, and money are the endgame of the pursuit of happiness. I cannot speak for every culture, but I think I’m on safe ground when I maintain that this is true of the majority of people on the planet. It is undeniably true in the West. And having lived in both China and India, the two most populous nations, I can attest to the fact that it is true there, as well.

But how does God view money and possessions? Is His valuation different from ours? What we see in the Old Testament is a mixed picture. Sometimes riches are viewed as good and desirable, sometimes they are not. That study would take too much time to investigate here, so I’ll leave that to your discretion. However, we see a marked contrast in the New Testament. As in so many things, when we compare our view of the world with that of our magnificent Creator and Savior, His perception ends up being 180 degrees in opposition to ours.

In Jesus’ parable of the Sower, we see that riches have a deleterious effect on the production of spiritual fruit: “As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful” (Matthew 13:22).1

Riches are deceitful. This should give us pause. Are we rich? Are we therefore deceived? No. Couldn’t be.

Could it?

Jesus reinforces the danger of riches when the young ruler left His presence in sorrow: “And Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God’” (Matthew 19:23–24).

Whew. It’s a good thing this doesn’t apply to me.

And in the Beatitudes: “But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation” (Luke 6:24).

In Mary’s Magnificat: “…he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty” (Luke 1:53).

Paul’s warning to Timothy: “But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction” (1 Timothy 6:8–9).

In Jesus’ warning to the church in Laodicea: “For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked” (Revelation 3:17).

I have listed seven warnings from the New Testament here. It probably won’t surprise you that there are more than twice as many positive references to the word riches in connection with spiritual riches, particularly the riches of God’s glory and grace.

What are true treasures from God’s point of view?

And although I wrote earlier in this post that the view of riches in the Old Testament offers a mixed picture, God’s requirement for Israel to take a Sabbath year of rest or Sabbatical year rocked me when I thought about it recently. Read this: “The LORD spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai, saying, ‘Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When you come into the land that I give you, the land shall keep a Sabbath to the LORD. For six years you shall sow your field, and for six years you shall prune your vineyard and gather in its fruits, but in the seventh year there shall be a Sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a Sabbath to the LORD. You shall not sow your field or prune your vineyard. You shall not reap what grows of itself in your harvest, or gather the grapes of your undressed vine. It shall be a year of solemn rest for the land. The Sabbath of the land shall provide food for you, for yourself and for your male and female slaves and for your hired worker and the sojourner who lives with you, and for your cattle and for the wild animals that are in your land: all its yield shall be for food’” (Leviticus 25:1–7).

Think about the implications of this for a Jewish person. Think about its implications for you. Can you imagine? It’s hard enough for us to take a day off from labor, much less a year. What would happen to our wealth? No productive income for twelve months. Really. How concerned is the Lord about our earthly treasure?

Now, of course, Christians are not bound at all to Mosaic Law. We are not made righteous by keeping it. And it’s helpful that Jesus, more than once, went to the heart of the matter concerning Old Testament law—adultery, murder, as examples, and, yes, the Sabbath day. So, in no way am I advocating obeying this Levitical law. However, let’s look at God’s heart concerning this command. What other conclusion can we draw than that He was more interested in His people trusting in Him than in their wealth?

I am compelled to agree with my friend, Dan Smith, who stated that God disdains money. It was in a conversation with him, I think, that two more examples of His disparagement of wealth came up. One was this: “When they came to Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma tax went up to Peter and said, ‘Does your teacher not pay the tax?’ He said, ‘Yes.’ And when he came into the house, Jesus spoke to him first, saying, ‘What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tax? From their sons or from others?’ And when he said, ‘From others,’ Jesus said to him, ‘Then the sons are free. However, not to give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook and take the first fish that comes up, and when you open its mouth you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for me and for yourself’” (Matthew 17:24–27).

We laughed about how, according to our standards, Jesus must not have been a very good money manager. He didn’t even have a shekel saved up to pay the temple tax?

And here was the kicker, to reveal Jesus’ disdain for money. This verbal exchange occurred after Mary had anointed Jesus with expensive ointment. “But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, ‘Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?’ He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it” (John 12:4–6).

Jesus left the care of the purse to someone He knew was a thief.

Is that good financial stewardship?

I offer no three-step answers or easy cures—only a presentation of the truth about our turning-the-world-upside-down God. I trust you will be forced to your knees as I have.

             1All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Bible.