Do not accumulate for yourselves wealth on the earth where moth and and rot can eat it, and where thieves tunnel in and steal. Rather accumulate for yourselves wealth in heaven, where moth and rot cannot eat, nor thieves tunnel in and steal. For where your wealth is, there will your heart be also.

Wealth: Jesus uses the word “treasures” meaning commonly desired riches, so my translation uses the equivalent term in modern English.

Tunnel: the Greek verb has a primary sense of digging through something.

Ah dear, Jesus’ relentless understanding of human motivation is wonderfully displayed here. We all (well, most of us) want at least some wealth on the earth, for our ease, for our pleasure, most of all for our future needs. We think this is sensible and harmless. Jesus perceives that it will necessarily determine our actions, since our hearts, that is, our fundamental decisions, will protect our wealth. I can confess that this is so for me.

So Jesus, like some divine thief, wants to break in and steal our security! Yes, I recognise that most of humanity then and now have no such security, yet manage to live. And in many places the Christian community takes on responsibility for age-care and medical provision. But is our way of private provision as bad as Jesus judges? In fact he doesn’t condemn it, merely points out its disadvantages: it is vulnerable to natural wastage and criminal appropriation; to bank collapse and fraud, we might say. And in addition it enslaves our heart.

The notion of “wealth in heaven” already existed in Judaism, which saw money given to the poor, as ‘wealth in heaven’ not least in the sense that you would gain witnesses in heaven to your good character. Jesus, in this instance as in others, saw the the coming of heaven to earth in the shared familial life of the believing community. Real wealth is human sharing, real riches are relations of peace, kindness and justice.

Now that money set aside for my residential care……

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