Is Money Your Master?

“How can you tell if you are mastered by your money?”    

We are a camping family. So periodically we pack down the car with our tent and sleeping bags and head out into the middle of nowhere to enjoy God’s creation. No screens and no wifi, instead there is hiking and a lot of dirt and sweat and sore muscles. At the end of each day, after the kids have exhausted themselves and are tucked in for the night, we enjoy a few meditative moments watching the campfire flames flicker in the dark.

Fire is a great servant, but a terrible master. Within the campfire ring it offers warmth against the night’s chill, heat for cooking our dinner, and captivating beauty. But if it escapes our confines, fire can destroy the forest, our homes and businesses, and even our lives. Money is similar. Just as we carefully attend to a campfire to control it for our own purposes, we need to wisely consider our financial choices lest they rule over us.

In the sermon on the mount, Jesus explains that there are imperishable treasures in his economy. They stand in contrast with the treasures that we often seek in this world, ones which can be stolen or destroyed. Jesus tells us that “No one can serve two masters, for he will either hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money” (Matt 6:19-24).

But, how can you tell if you are mastered by your money? And what exactly are these imperishable treasures that Jesus describes?

Like any good financial consultation, we begin with a review of our bank account. The list of charges and deposits weaves a narrative, but the story often requires a bit of interpretation. For example, let’s say your statement for the month includes excessive charges for coffee. Does your account tell the tale of a caffeine addict, too lazy to brew at home? Or is it the story of a strategic mentor who regularly meets with younger believers to encourage them in their faith? Our spending and saving habits can offer a clue to which master we serve, but truly getting to the heart of our financial choices requires some humble digging.

Just as we assess and prod at a campfire to guide its growth, there is value to considering and then realigning our finances to invest in heavenly treasure. This can be uniquely challenging for those of us who have committed to love Los Angeles, where the temptations to amass earthly goods or to live in fear of financial ruin seem as constant as traffic on the 405. The Angeleno’s questions are usually much bigger than lattes and avocado toast. How aggressively do I tackle my college debt? Is it poor stewardship to rent forever? Will I ever be able to afford having kids? How do I support the work of the church when I feel like I can barely support myself?

While Scripture doesn't give explicit answers to every scenario or hand down a budget from on High, it does offer a framework in which we can dig deeper together, to the heart of our spending, so that we might confidently follow Jesus as Master toward the treasure of most value.