It's almost alarming how much Jesus talks about money. He discussed the topic of money more often than He spoke of faith and prayer combined. Jesus typically taught in parables—and 11 of His 40 parables were about money or used money as a way to teach us spiritual truths.
For instance, the parables of the hidden treasure and the pearl compare the kingdom of heaven to riches. And the parable of the talents tells the story of a master who entrusts his servants with money to make a point about being productive. In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, He draws attention to a great eternal reversal where those who are most comfortable on earth find themselves bringing up the rear.
So why does Jesus seem to care so much about our finances?
The truth money tells
One of the troubling characteristics of fallen humanity is our tendency to compartmentalize what we believe from what we do. Christ addresses this divorce between what we profess and what we do when He says, "These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me" (Matthew 15:8).
Throughout the Gospels, Jesus uses money as a tool to reveal our true priorities. If you think about it, our bank statement tells the truth about what's really important to us. Jesus hammers this home in the Sermon on the Mount when He tells us:
"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Matthew 6:19–21).
His point is that if we truly believe life is eternal, we won't invest all of our time and finances into possessions and entertainments that will simply perish. Instead, we will pour our energy and resources into behaviors and actions that will resonate throughout eternity.
To Jesus, money almost operates as a rival god who challenges our allegiance (Matthew 6:24). The truth is that the god money invites us to worship is really ourselves as we indulge in our own comfort and pleasure.
Money and salvation
Two Gospel stories that reveal the complicated relationship between faith and finances. In Luke 19, we meet Zacchaeus, a tax collector who has made himself wealthy by cheating his fellow Jews.
After a brief interaction with Jesus, Zacchaeus makes the following commitment, "Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount" (Luke 19:8b). Jesus' immediate response is, "Today salvation has come to this house ..." (Luke 19:9a).
Compare this reaction to the response to a young man who comes to Jesus for advice. He falls at Jesus' feet asking what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus' responds that he should keep the commandments of the law. And the man assures the Lord that he has.
Jesus tells him, "One thing you lack. Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me" (Mark 10:21). We're told that he went away sad because he had great wealth.
Zacchaeus' response to Jesus immediately impacts his pocketbook. He promises to give half what he owns to the poor, and out of the remaining half vows to pay back quadruple what he's defrauded others. But the rich young man who comes to Jesus to find eternal life discovers that money has become a boundary between himself and God.
So why does Jesus care about my money?
At the heart of Christianity lies the premise that God created everything and it ultimately belongs to Him. Human beings exist as stewards (or managers) of God's resources—this includes our money. Stewardship isn't just an aspect of the Christian life; it is the whole of the Christian life.
For many of us, the struggle to align ourselves with God's will is played out in the realm of our finances. It's where the real battle happens for so many. As Martin Luther said, "There are three conversions necessary: the conversion of the heart, the conversion of the mind, and the conversion of the purse."
Jesus talks about money because when we truly understand our roles as stewards, money is a tool we can invest into growing His kingdom.