The Jackpot

By Michael Smith

A Reading from the Gospel of Matthew 6:19-24

19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. So if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, 23 but if your eye is unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If, then, the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

24 “No one can serve two masters, for a slave will either hate the one and love the other or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”

Meditation

I confess to buying an occasional lottery ticket. I will purchase only one at a time, but you must have a ticket in order to win, right? When I do, I remind the Lord that I tithe and that we could do much good together if I win. So far it has not worked.

In today’s gospel lesson, we are reminded by Jesus that we “cannot serve God and wealth.” You could say that money itself is morally neutral. A dollar bill sitting on a table is just a piece of paper. It doesn’t hurt anybody or bless anybody. It is what we do with it, and our attitudes toward it, that make the difference. Jesus tells us that wealth is spiritually risky, and that it requires a lot, if you have it, to avoid the pitfalls of missing out on God’s Kingdom (Matt. 19:24). But generous people of great wealth have also made possible many opportunities for the furtherance of God’s reign.

All of us who live in the economically developed Global North are wealthy when compared to the rest of the planet. How much money do we need to give away in order not to be the camel trying to get through the needle’s eye? Or, even simply not to feel guilty about being privileged and having many things? In doing so we store up for ourselves treasures in heaven. Now that’s a jackpot!

Michael G. Smith served as bishop of North Dakota for fifteen years and is currently the Assistant Bishop of Dallas. He works with the Navajoland Iona Collaborative and is a Benedictine Oblate and an enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation.

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