Monday, March 14, 2011

Matthew, the Mount and Treasure

Matthew 6:19-21--Storing up treasure

This passage is certainly on the go-to list for a Christian perspective of money and material goods.  If the passage comes up in a Bible study or a casual Christian conversation, I'm sure the majority of those present will explain it in terms like "focus on kingdom values, not earthly" or "use your money for God things, not me things."  Well and good.

Yet, I am curious as to whether this understanding best fits the context in which Jesus says this.  As is well-known, Jesus speaks this Sermon on the Mount (whether he advertised it as such, we do not know) to those who joined themselves to his movement (the 12 disciples), as well as the people sitting around overhearing it.  So I wonder: How would they have understood his summons to abandon storing up "treasures on earth" (that is, money and nice possessions) and instead relocate them to heaven?  I wonder about this because although the text does not comment on the income levels of the people present, I'm going to assume it is not much because Jesus didn't seem to interact too often with the cultural elite. And we do hear the disciples say elsewhere that they have given up all they have to follow him, and they're the ones Jesus is primarily speaking to.  So what "treasure" do they have to store up?

So I wonder if taking into account the financial situation of the people present may lead us to a more suitable understanding of Jesus' teaching here.  I don't know what that will look like; it may be more like a facelift than total reconstructive surgery, who knows.

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