Earthly treasure is perishable. Frequently it fails to last even in this life; it certainly will not go with us into eternity. So what are we to use it for? The answer is that we are to use possessions to do good so that those good deeds will themselves produce treasures for us - not on earth, but in heaven, "where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal" (Matt. 6:20).

We have an excellent example of the danger of wealth in Christ’s story of the rich man and Lazarus. The rich man did not perish because he had possessions; not a word in the story condemns him for his wealth. Nevertheless, we cannot escape seeing that there was some connection between his wealth and his neglect of those matters of mind and heart that would have led to salvation.

Because the things we possess are given to us by God, it follows that we are accountable to him for how we use them. This is what the parable of the talents is about. God distributes his gifts unequally - one servant has five talents, another two, a third one - but each is nevertheless equally responsible for the proper use of what he has been given. The man who is judged by Christ is judged, not because he had one talent rather than two or five, but because he did not properly use that one talent he had. So will we be, if we fail to use God’s gifts properly.

Where should we go to get a proper perspective on riches? Negatively there is much to be said about things, but the place to begin is not with a negative but with a positive perspective: All things come from God. God is the Creator. Therefore, possessions are to be received from him with thanksgiving and are to be enjoyed fully as he intended them to be enjoyed. James wrote, "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows" (James 1:17).

I received a letter from a couple who were going to the mission field for the first time. It listed their financial requirements: so much for support, so much for medical expenses, so much for insurance, pension, the cost of operating an automobile, travel to and from the field, overhead for the home office and so on. I was not disturbed by the letter. I was actually quite sympathetic. I knew that the requests were reasonable. Still I could not help contrasting their letter with the Lord’s commands to his disciples when they set out on their first missionary journey.