When it fails

And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings. —Luke 16:9

When it fails. Not if it fails. It will fail. The question is not if, but when. The question is not how you can avoid it, but how you can be ready for it. We tend to forget this. We think we can insulate ourselves from penury by building up a savings account, a retirement account, or perhaps some investments. But pelf does not eliminate penury, and we become more destitute even as we become more pecunious. James speaks to the lot of the destitute rich:

Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you.  Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days. —James 5:1-3 (ESV)

That last sentence from James is reminiscent of the words of Christ Himself:

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. —Matthew 6:19-21 (ESV)

This is a well-known and oft-quoted passage, but it is often taken to say that which it does not. Too often, this passage is used to preach that if you lay up treasure in heaven, then it is perfectly ok to also lay up treasure on earth as well, as long as your treasure isn’t solely on earth. However, that’s not what Christ said. I’m afraid He couldn’t have been more clear: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth.” Writing to Timothy, Paul makes it quite clear what the limits of our ambitions for the ephemeral things of this world ought to be:

But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be contentBut 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. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. —1 Timothy 6:6-10 (ESV)

He goes on to explain how one can lay up true and lasting treasure:

They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life. —1 Timothy 6:18-19 (ESV)

And that brings us back around, full circle, to the words of Christ in Luke 16:

One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own? No servant can serve two masters, for either he will 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. —Luke 16:10-13 (ESV)

Do you hate money? Do you despise it? Or is money the master you love, and God the master you hate?

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