…for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. (Matthew 5:29b)
Just before the presidential election of 2008, the financial markets on Wall Street were stunned when Merrill Lynch one of the oldest brokerage businesses in New York agreed to sell the firm because they were in near financial collapse. Another respected firm, Lehmann Brothers, was forced to liquidate because of bad investments. What followed could most nearly be equated to an economic earthquake as major brokerage houses, insurance companies, banks, and corporations were on the verge of destruction.
As we all know, this led to a massive monetary bailout by the Federal government. These institutions in which people put their money, their livelihoods, their hopes and dreams were failing. Most believed their futures were safe and sound and all they need do was sit back and watch the dollars roll in. The hard cold reality is now upon us. None of these institutions is safe and some are predicting the Federal government itself cannot long withstand the deficits and financial pressures that it has incurred.
As I think about how this will affect many Americans, I am reminded of the truthfulness of Jesus’ statement in the Sermon on the Mount. He said, “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal” (Matthew 6:19-20). Jesus pits time against eternity. What is most profitable? Astute investors are always looking for a good return, and yet most people are so short sighted that they miss the best investment of all.
Many Christians are working hard to ensure retirement. They put all of their time and energy into brokerage accounts, savings accounts, real estate, or whatever in hopes they will accumulate enough to make their future secure. The Bible definitely teaches the wisdom of financial preparation, but at the same time it teaches that more and more of our wealth should be going into eternal treasures. God gives the ability to work and earn so that His work can be blessed. As we make more and more money, how much have we increased our giving to God?
Profitability in Matthew 5:29, however, is not primarily about money. This is encouragement to consider every part of our lives. Anything that distracts from holiness and righteousness is not profitable. Sin is a bad investment with only negative returns. Negative returns come from any departure from Christ’s sound investment advice. This means in your personal life, your family, your work—if you choose against Christ in any area, you have made an unprofitable, unwise investment.
How is your future adding up? Jesus had little concern for bank accounts because He declared that He must always be about the business of His Father. Believe me, if you want to invest in any kind of business, make it the Father’s business. His business will never fail and always yields the best returns!
Pastor V. Mark Smith