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Matthew 6:19-24

What is a healthy view of wealth?

Tom Faletti

May 19, 2024

Matthew 6:19-24 Money and wealth


Verses 19-21


What does Jesus tell us not to do in verse 19?


What does Jesus tell us to do in verse 20?


Jesus offers a practical reason for these two arguments. Why does Jesus say the one kind of treasure is better than the other?


The problems Jesus identifies with trying to preserve the world’s treasures relate to the kinds of ways people might store up treasures in Jesus’s time:

  • Moths eat fine clothing, which is something that wealthy people might put their wealth into – recall the parable of Lazarus and Dives (Luke 16:19-31) where the rich man dressed in purple and fine linen.

  • The word for rust literally means “eating,” which could refer to rust corrupting metal but could also refer to vermin eating away at storehouses of grain.

  • Thieves could break into houses and steal gold, silver, or other treasures.


The contrast Jesus draws between the two kinds of treasures revolves in part around treasures that can be corrupted or taken away from us, and the secure and incorruptible treasures that will remain with us in heaven.  What “treasures” do we have now that would still have value in heaven?

Jesus describes these as treasures we “store up” now, so they are things that we at least partially experience now, before we go to heaven.  So be not talking just about “heavenly” treasures, but also things that we experience at least partially on earth but that have lasting value in heaven.  Here are some possible examples: The character we develop and demonstrate by showing patience, fortitude, or other virtues, which we will still have in heaven; the ways we experience Jesus as we respond to him by feeding the hungry, helping the poor, comforting those who are mourning or sick, educating others, etc.; the ways we live the teachings of Jesus by working to make peace or promote justice or to encourage others to live for God; etc.  “Who we are” goes to heaven, so our virtues, character, and godly ways of living that made us who we are will still be there in heaven.


What are some examples of earthly treasure that are corruptible or lacking in eternal value and will not be treasure in heaven?


What does “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be” mean to you?


How can we train ourselves to focus on the “treasures” that have heavenly value and not just earthly value?



Verses 22-23


This passage is not based on the modern science of the eye but on a more simple idea that light enters our body through your eyes.  A “healthy” or “sound” eye (Matthew 6:22, NRSV and NABRE, respectively), allows the light to come in fully and easily.


We might think about the effect of cataracts on human eyes.  A cataract clouds your eye so that not as much light gets in and what gets in is more blurry.  To use that as a metaphor for our approach to wealth,


In the context of the surrounding teachings, Jesus may be using the idea of the eye and light as a metaphor for the need for his disciples to have a clear view about wealth or riches.


What are some spiritual or metaphorical cataracts that might keep the light of Jesus’s teachings from shining clearly into your eyes?

Some of the things that might block the light are: Anxiety, fear, prejudice, pride, the desire to be thought well of by others, confirmation bias or other cognitive biases, self-centeredness, excusing our own actions in ways we would not excuse others.


What are the effects or results when those things keep the light from getting in?


What kind of eye do we need?  What would make for a “sound” or “healthy” eye?


How does the attitude expressed in the Lord’s Prayer – “Give us this day our daily bread” – which Jesus taught in the previous passage, offer guidance about how to let the light of God’s teaching about possessions shine clearly through healthy eyes in our lives?


In what ways do you need a new way of “seeing” wealth if you are going to take a Christ-like approach to money, wealth, and possessions?



Verse 24


What does Jesus say in this verse?


The last word of the verse is the Greek word mammon, which can mean money or wealth or possessions.  “Wealth” better captures the point, since there are various forms in which we might be focused on riches or possessions or assets rather than God.


What are some forms of “wealth” we might be tempted to become devoted to?


Regarding verses 19-20, St. Jerome said: “This must be understood not of money only, but of all our possessions.  The god of a glutton is his belly; of a lover his lust; and so every man serves that to which he is in bondage; and has his heart there where his treasure is” (quoted in Thomas Aquinas, Catena aurea: commentary on the four Gospels, collected out of the works of the Fathers, Oxford: Parker, 1874, p. 244;


What does Jesus say about the possibility of serving two masters at once?


Why do we sometimes think we can serve more than one master?


Why doesn’t it work to try to serve two masters at once?


Jesus does not reject all forms of wealth-holding.  It is worth noting that his ministry was funded in part from the resources of wealthy women – see Luke 8:2-3.


St. Jerome suggested that there is a difference between being a slave or a master of one’s money: “Let the covetous man who is called by the Christian name, hear this, that he cannot serve both Christ and riches.  Yet He said not, he who has riches, but, he who is the servant of riches.  For he who is the slave of money, guards his money as a slave; but he who has thrown off the yoke of his slavery, dispenses them as a master” (quoted in Thomas Aquinas, Catena aurea: commentary on the four Gospels, collected out of the works of the Fathers, Oxford: Parker, 1874, p. 248;  Jerome’s insight is that a person may have wealth yet be the master rather than the slave of it by how they regard it and what they do with it.


In our time, it is considered irresponsible as well as imprudent to go through one’s whole work life and approach retirement without having saved up some wealth, because our social system does not provide a way for us to live in dignity in our old age if we do not have assets saved up to spend down in retirement.


How can a person have riches and yet not become a servant of riches?


How do we find balance in our handling of wealth?  What are the practical attitudes and actions that would help us not become slaves or servants of the wealth or assets we have?


In 1 Cor. 7:29-31, Paul talks about having possessions and dealings with the world but living as though you do not have them.  It might be possible to apply that idea here.  There are several dimensions that could be considered.  First is our focus: How much attention do we give to our wealth?


What is one practical thing you could do to reduce your focus on money, wealth, or possessions?


Second is our spending: How much do we spend on ourselves?  Just because we have wealth (if we do) does not mean we have to spend it on ourselves.  Instead, we could be on the lookout for ways to use it for the kingdom of God.


If you don’t currently tithe (give 10% of your income to the work of God – i.e., church, service agencies, groups working for justice, etc.), could you increase your giving to the level of a full tithe?  If you already tithe and you don’t need to spend all the money you earn, could you increase your charitable giving?  Regardless of your level of tithing, how could you become more open to opportunities to help others who need help?


What is one thing you could do differently that would shift your amount of spending somewhat from yourself to others?



Take a step back and consider this:


Many Christian denominations have found value in the concept of “stewardship” – the idea that what we have is not ours, to be used for our own benefit, but a gift or loan from God to be used for his service.


This might lead to a shift in our attitude toward our paycheck:  Instead if thinking of it as “what I have earned,” we could think of it as “what God has given to me.”  If we can get there, we can consider a further mind-shift, from “what God has given to me” (which is still me-centered), to “what God allowed me to receive in trust for his purposes.”  What we hold in trust, we hold for another’s benefit.  If we can view all we have as being entrusted to us by God for his benefit and the benefit of his children (i.e., for the common good), it can help us avoid becoming a slave to our money, wealth, or possessions.  Then we can see the things we do with our wealth as acts of service to God, as we acknowledge him as our master, rather than ourselves or our wealth.


John Wesley, founder of the Methodist movement in the Church of England, understood this view of stewardship.  In a sermon on money in 1760, he said: First: “Gain all you can” through your labor and effort without hurting yourself or anyone else.  Second, “save all you can” and don’t waste any of what you have gained on unnecessary expenses.  Third, “give all you can.”  In deciding how to give, Wesley said you should think about it this way: God “placed you here not as a proprietor [owner], but a steward: As such he entrusted you, for a season, with goods of various kinds.”  As a faithful steward of what the Lord has “for the present lodged in your hands,” you should first meet your own genuine needs and the needs of those dependent on you, and then “give all you can; nay, in a sound sense, all you have,” giving for the purpose of doing good to all people, and particularly to help the poor.  Every expenditure we consider, he suggested, could be evaluated by whether the spending would be the action of a steward or the action of someone who thought he or she was the owner of what they possess.  When we act like a steward rather than like an owner, then we are recognizing that all we have has been entrusted to us by God. (John Wesley, “The Use of Money,” Sermon 50,


How would you approach wealth, money, or possessions differently if you routinely thought of them as things entrusted to you by God rather than as things you have earned or received on your own account?


What is one step you might take in response to today’s insights?



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Copyright © 2024, Tom Faletti (Faith Explored, This material may be reproduced in whole or in part without alteration, for nonprofit use, provided such reproductions are not sold and include this copyright notice or a similar acknowledgement that includes a reference to Faith Explored and See for more materials like this.

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