So, maybe I shouldn't hoard wealth for the last days?

The word "εθησαυρισατε" is a troubling word.  It means to accumulate, store up or hoard riches.  It shows up in James 5:3, as in "ethesaurisate en eschatais hemeraivs" or "You hoarded wealth for the last days."

James sees this as a problem.

Here're some possible explanations as to why:

1) You can't take it with you.
Wealth and the accumulation of your earthly life has a very limited and short-term value.  How often do you see a hearse dragging a U-Haul? 

2) You can't use it in the afterlife.
Maybe people thought they'd buy their way into heaven or a more comfortable afterlife.  "Hey, St. Peter!  I'll give you a beautiful, black BMW and a library of books if you hook me up with mansion near the river."

3) You can get distracted by it.
"All that is gold does not glitter" said Tolkien in reference to Aragorn.  Our focus on the things we can store and carry may distract us from less tangible, more important things.

4) You can get tangled up with it.
The money in my 403(b) isn't available.  Don't ask.  Not even if you're doing something amazing for God or important for someone in need.  These tangles on behalf of tomorrow keep us from being generous today and who knows if we'll feel like being generous tomorrow.

5) You might lose sight of your rank.
"Money can buy happiness" according to Daniel Tosh.  "Money buys jet-skis."  A large accumulation of money may make us happy, may make us feel comfortable, may make us feel secure, as if we are beyond life's fluctuations.  A treasure trove may make us feel that we deserve special attention, like the frequent customers who justify their persnickity coffee order on the grounds that they come in every day (yes, I worked "grounds" into the coffee example on purpose).  No amount of money can make you the Lord of the Sabbath.

Why do we hoard our money?  Why do I put money in a 403(b)?  What are we doing?

2 comments:

  1. This is really interesting. I watched a video on saving for retirement where the guy speaking said he doesn't save because it shows a lack of trust in God. I am still not sure what I think of the issue. I mean, I see how saving for your old age so that YOU can take care of yourself does show a kind of lack of trust in God to provide for you. BUT at the same time, I think about how we should be wise with the money God does give us. And it doesn't seem wise to NOT prepare for the future.

    I wonder if hoarding implies that it is the AMOUNT of money you are storing away. (I'm thinking of that show Hoarders where they document the lives of people who have hoarders disease.) For example, if a person saves every newspaper they ever touch - that would be identified as a major problem. But if you only kept a few recent newspapers, it's not as problematic.

    I don't know.

    I'd love to hear your thoughts about this Steve. Hope you have a safe trip!

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  2. Great questions, Steve, ones I wrestle with and am willing to change my mind about over time. Here are a few thoughts at this point in my life:

    The parable of the rich fool (Luke 12:13-21) suggests that the fool's main problem was not storing up wealth, but his motivation behind it - finding security and ease in an abundance of possessions. I think it's possible to store up wealth for legitimate purposes (e.g. large purchases, education, investing in community development through good businesses, even retirement) while being what Jesus calls "rich toward God." Possible, but dangerous. It's a risk I'm taking right now. In a few years I may realize that our family's souls are at risk, stop saving, and give away what's been accumulated. For now, I try to keep a kingdom perspective by viewing it all as the Lord's, whether for now or the future.

    A practical way I try to keep this perspective is to make sure that we're giving away more of our income than we're saving. If our income drops and something has to go to balance the budget, giving is the last to go (after spending and saving). Likewise, if our income increases, the first thing to increase should be giving.

    I'd love to talk more about this. What does being rich toward God and a faithful steward of worldly wealth look like for you?

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