One of the things God told me to do at Redeemer was develop a Jesus-literate community. So, I preached through the four Gospels, chronologically. We went verse-by-verse, and dug deeply into the context so as to understand the meaning of the text. Because, as Ben Witherington says, a text without a context is just a pretext for what you want the text to say.
Studying and meditating through the four Gospels is beautiful and powerful and troubling. In them we meet the Real Jesus. We begin to see why he is simply the greatest leader that has ever walked this planet. We see why, as C.S. Lewis wrote, Jesus is far more than a great moral teacher. We see Jesus proclaiming the rule and reign of God (the "kingdom"), and demonstrating this with miracles, signs, and wonders.
One of the troubling things about Jesus is what he says about money. At this point I have met Christians who do not have ears to hear. A few go looking for a TV preacher or another church to validate their own love of money. At this point they leave Jesus.
What does Jesus think about money and possessions? If you are a follower of Jesus, then what he says about this is important to you.
You can read the four Gospels for yourself. There you will see that...
... Material things and possessions and wealth do not impress Jesus. Jesus viewed the rich and famous as spiritually bankrupt. It's near-impossible for the rich to come under the rule of God, taught Jesus. (Mark 10:23)
... To Jesus, riches are an obstacle to entering the kingdom of heaven.
... Jesus himself had no money. Even a fox had its hole, even a bird had its nest, but Jesus didn't even have a roof over his head. (Matthew 8:20)
... Jesus did not come to raise money for his ministry. Jesus didn't carry cash. He didn't even carry plastic. Jesus didn't say "Send me a hundred dollars and I'll see that you get a thousand in return." Jesus was always giving away to others. Ironically, Judas carried what little money the entourage of Jesus had. Since Judas had charge of the money, some thought Jesus was telling him to buy what was needed for the festival, or to give something to the poor. (John 13:29)
... Jesus did not come for the express purpose of multiplying your finances. To the contrary, Jesus said: Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. (Luke 12:32-34)
...Jesus came to tell us what true riches are.
... Jesus did not operate according to cultural honor-shame hierarchies. Jesus climbed down the ladder, took on the form of an "expendable," and descended into greatness. This is the upside-down kingdom of God. It permeates the Gospels. For example, in Mary's song of amazement: He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. (Luke 1:46-56)
... Jesus was not self-seeking. Jesus came, not
to be served, but to serve others. (Matthew 20:28)
... Jesus told us that Money is an alternative god that many people worship. It was Jesus who told us in Matthew 6:24 – “You can’t serve both God and Mammon.” (‘Mammon’ is the Aramaic word for riches or wealth.)
Riches, said Jesus, put a chokehold on the kingdom of God. (Luke 8:13-15) Riches even prevent the releasing of God's reign.
The apostle Paul followed in Jesus's footsteps when he advised Timothy:
For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
1 Timothy 6:10
If you really want to know about what Jesus thinks about money, then first read:
- Matthew, Mark, Luke, John.
- Jesus and Money, by Ben Witherington