It pays to be careful what you do with your money. After all, the way that you spend your money will set the direction of your heart.
We often think that the things we do with our money demonstrate what’s going on in our hearts, and this can often be true. But the relationship between your heart and your wallet isn’t a one-way street. Just as your heart can influence the way you spend money, your financial choices can change the state of your heart. And that’s a power worth taking note of.
Heaven vs. earth
Our basis for this study comes from the Bible, in a famous teaching that Jesus gave on money. Let’s read Matthew 6:19-21 and then examine what it says about the relationship between our money and our hearts:
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy,and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven,where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Most Christians have read this passage before, and have probably heard a sermon or two preached around the main concepts here. At its most basic level, what Jesus is saying is pretty simple: As we go through this life, we can spend our time working to accumulate things that are valuable here on earth, or we can spend our time working to achieve things that are valuable in heaven. Earthly treasures can quickly fade, and they have no value in the afterlife — we can’t take our possessions with us when we die — and so Jesus encourage us to seek things that have eternal value.
With that concept in mind, let’s take a closer look at the final sentence of this passage. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” We very often interpret that sentence to mean that the way we spend our money is evidence of the condition of our heart. And while this is often the case, I don’t think that’s precisely what Jesus is saying here. Looking carefully at the sentence construction, we see verbs in two difference tenses: “Where your treasure is” (present tense), “there your heart will be” (future tense). Where our treasure is now, our hearts will follow in the future. In other words, the things that we do with our money shape the direction of our hearts.
The state of your heart
With this understanding, the passage makes more sense. Jesus isn’t really concerned with treasure here; He’s concerned with the state of our hearts. If money only followed the heart, then He wouldn’t need to warn His disciples about the dangers of storing up wealth on earth. After all, if their hearts were in the right place, their money would naturally follow. But Jesus gives this teaching because He understands that our treasures lead our hearts. He wants our hearts pointed toward heaven and not toward earth, so He instructs us to store up heavenly treasures in order that our hearts may follow in the right direction.
What does this mean for you? It means that the choices you make about your time and money aren’t simply mundane decisions. Each time you chose to pursue one kind of treasure or another, you gently nudge your heart in the direction of the priority you’ve chosen. Every time you spend a dollar, you focus your heart a bit on the thing that you’re purchasing with that money. If you use your resources to the advancement of God’s kingdom, you’ll find that your heart becomes more attached to His work. But the more of your treasure that you direct toward your own desires, the more those desires will grow to consume your heart.
This teaching has powerful implications for those of us who want to live in the center of God’s heart. If you want to see your own passion stirred up toward His kingdom, you need to be sowing financially into His kingdom. If you want to grow a heart for missions, you need to be financially supporting missionaries. If you want to become more compassionate toward the poor, you need to begin giving to the poor.
We very often get this principle backwards. We think that one day, when I have a heart for the kingdom, I will give to the kingdom. But our hearts don’t lead our finances. We don’t become great givers because we are generous; we become generous because we chose to be great givers.
In the same way, we can’t expect that one day we will support God’s eternal purposes once we have grown spiritually. Instead, if we are to grow spiritually, we must invest in His kingdom first.
Photo by Cia Gould. Used under Creative Commons License.