Have you noticed the inscription that is found on every piece of American currency? “In God we trust,” first appeared on U.S. coins in 1864 and has appeared on paper currency since 1957. I point this out because it seems to me that a single letter was left out of the motto—that is the letter “L.” Wouldn’t it be more accurate if American currency said, “In gold we trust?” We live in a society that is obsessed with managing hedge funds, building robust stock portfolios and investing in a secure 401-K. However, all those accumulated riches can be gone in a day.
An illustration of this happened to a Chinese man earlier this year. According to the British news source, The Telegraph, Mr. Zhao, a resident of Shanghai, asked his wife to store their life’s savings inside a coat pocket tucked away in the back of their closet. Mr. Zhao, was shocked one evening when he went to make a deposit one evening and found that rodents had broken into his closet and munched their way through a stash of money he had been hoarding. Their life’s savings, which was around $1,250 U.S. dollars, was turned into confetti by the mice. One bank said they would honor Mr. Zhao’s money if he was somehow able to reassemble the shredded bank notes.1
Another article reported that a woman lost $65,000 of her life’s savings because termites invaded a wooden chest and chewed their way through her cash.2
If that wasn’t painful enough, a contestant on Wheel of Fortune named Paul was about to win a shot at the million dollar grand prize when he bumbled his answer and lost out big time. The contestant simply had to solve a puzzle that was missing just one letter when his brain and tongue failed on him. As you might imagine the YouTube video of this costly stutter went viral on the internet as the epic fail of the year.3
Need I remind you that the stock market isn't a safe place either? Remember what happened on September 29, 2008? The stock market plummeted 777 points in a single day and the market lost approximately $1.2 trillion of its value. Economists referred to that year as the "Financial Armageddon" when skidding stocks coupled with the bursting of the housing bubble.
According to Jesus materialism isn’t just sinful, it’s plain stupid. The reason is because everything in this world is passing away. Investing in the things of this earth is like buying a first class ticket for a place on the Titanic, or giving your life savings to Bernie Madeoff, or converting your cash over to Monopoly money. Proverbs 18:11 says, “A rich man’s wealth is his strong city, and like a high wall in his imagination.” In other words, trusting in riches to bring security or satisfaction is like thinking you can get a cool drink water from a desert mirage.
Moreover, Jesus added that storing up stuff on earth will only lead to loss, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal” (Matt. 6:19). Jesus pointed out that all earthly treasure is susceptible to one of three things—ruin, rust and robbery.
Instead, you and I should be investing in eternity. Even though we cannot take anything with us beyond the grave, we can send it ahead when use the money God has entrusted to us for Kingdom purposes. According to the Bible, there are only two things that will outlast death--the souls of men and women (Mark 8:36) and the Word of God (Mark 13:31). Therefore, we would be wise to put as much of our income as we can into those endeavors.
Perhaps, Randy Alcorn offers the most sensible analogy: "Imagine you are at the end of the Civil War. You're living in the South but you are a Northerner. You plan to move home as soon as the war is over. While in the South you've accumulated lots of Confederate currency. Now suppose you know for a fact that the North is going to win the war and the end is imminent. What will you do with your confederate money? If you're smart there's only one answer. You should immediately cash in your Confederate currency for U.S. currency--the only money that will have value once the war is over. Keep only enough Confederate currency to meet your short term needs. As a Christian, you have inside knowledge of an eventual worldwide upheaval caused by Christ's return. This is the ultimate insider trading tip: Earth's currency will become worthless when Christ returns--or when you die, which ever comes first."4
1. Tom Phillips, "Chinese Mice Devour Man's Life Savings," The Telegraph, 12 March 2013, <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/china/9926426/Chinese-mice-devour-mans-life-savings.html> accessed 22 October 2013.
2. Lee Morgan, "Termites Eat through $65,000 Worth of Chinese Woman's Savings," New York Daily News, 14 June 2013, <http://www.nydailynews.com/news/world/termites-eat-chinese-woman-savings-65-000-article-1.1372721#ixzz2iU5si6EW> accessed 22 October 2013.
4. Randy Alcorn, The Treasure Principle (Colorado Springs, CO: Multnomah, 2001), 14-15.