We’ve all heard sayings like this one: “Money can’t buy happiness.” Maybe you have also heard some of the sayings that put a twist on the matter—sayings such as “Money can’t buy happiness, but it sure gives you a better bargaining position.” The truth is, there are a lot of important things in life that money can’t buy.
Jesus had a lot to say about money and faith. One of His most memorable sayings is found in the Sermon on the Mount. He declared, “You cannot serve both God and money” (Matt. 6:24). Surprisingly, Jesus often received the most pushback against His teachings on money from the religious crowd—the leaders of the temple.
In Mark 11:15-19; 12:41-44, the Gospel writer highlighted two episodes that occurred in the Jerusalem temple courtyards during Jesus’ final week before His crucifixion. Both episodes involved the tension between people’s attitudes toward money and toward God. In the first episode, Jesus entered the temple courtyards and saw people buying and selling goods in the very place that was designed for prayer and worship of God. In an act of righteous indignation, Jesus overturned the merchants’ tables and drove out of the courtyard all who was there to make money. In the second episode, Jesus and His disciples were resting in the temple area near where the worshipers’ offerings were being collected. He watched as a poor widow deposited a couple of small coins. Turning to His disciples, Jesus commented that the widow had given a greater offering than the wealthy worshipers because her gift represented all that she had to live on.
From these two episodes, we learn at least three things that money can’t buy.
Money can’t buy genuine worship (Mark 11:15-17). The commerce being conducted in the courtyards likely was connected to the offerings and sacrifices required in temple worship. In other words, worshipers who had come from distant places did not have to bring sacrificial animals with them but could purchase them on site. Moreover, since the offerings had to be paid in temple currency, some worshipers needed to exchange their money into that currency before making their offerings. Why was Jesus so indignant about these kinds of services being offered by the temple officials? He was angered because He knew that the officials cared more about the money than about helping people genuinely worship God. Even today, putting a large monetary gift in the offering plate is not the essence of genuine worship. The question is whether you offer your heart to the Lord in repentance and faith. Do you give yourself to God in praise and devotion? Money can’t buy that!
Money can’t buy a right relationship with God (Mark 11:18-19). With their mouths, the temple officials often recited the Shema—a confession of faith from Deuteronomy 6:4-6 that says in part, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” Yet when the Lord’s Messiah showed up at the temple and ejected the moneychangers, these same religious officials started looking for a way to kill Jesus. Their wicked plot revealed something deeply tragic about temple officials: they not only didn’t love the Lord, they didn’t even know Him. The guardians of the Lord’s house did not have a right relationship with the God they claimed to serve. Money can’t buy a right relationship!
Money can’t buy God’s approval (Mark 12:41-44). The episode of the poor widow’s offering reminds us that God isn’t watching to see the monetary size of our offerings. Rather, He’s watching to see the size of our faith, the amount of our lives that we have devoted to Him. Remember Job? Job was one of the wealthiest men in the east. When Job gave daily offerings in worship, he gave enough to cover for not only him and his wife but also for all of his grown children (Job 1:5). Yet, when the Lord spoke approvingly of Job, He didn’t mention Job’s wealth or the size of his offerings. Rather, God said that Job was “a man of perfect integrity, who fears God and turns away from evil.” Money can’t buy God’s approval of us either. We can’t buy our way into heaven. Jesus said it best when He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).
Money truly can’t buy the most important things in life. But the good news is that God offers these things to you as gifts—gifts of His grace that are received through faith in Jesus Christ (Eph. 2:8-9).
David Briscoe is a content editor at Lifeway for Explore the Bible resources.