From the Archives: Dietrich Bonhoeffer
This 20th-century German scholar urged Christians to follow Christ whatever the cost. Returning to his native Germany from Union Seminary in New York, Bonhoeffer (1906–1945) dared to oppose Adolf Hitler. He was arrested, imprisoned, and executed for his association with a plot to murder Hitler. This section a commentary on Matthew 6:19–24, comes from his most famous work, The Cost of Discipleship.
Jesus does not forbid the possession of property in itself. He was man, he ate and drank like his disciples, and thereby sanctified the good things of life. These necessities, which are consumed in use and which meet the legitimate requirements of the body, are to be used by the disciples with thankfulness. Earthly goods are given to be used, not to be collected. In the wilderness God gave Israel the manna every day, and they had no need to worry about food and drink. Indeed, if they kept any of the manna over until the next day, it went bad. In the same way, the disciple must receive his portion from God every day. If he stores it up as a permanent possession, he spoils not only the gift, but himself as well, for he sets his heart on accumulated wealth, and makes it a barrier between himself and God. Where our treasure is, there is our trust, our security, our consolation and our God. Hoarding is idolatry.
But where are we to draw the line between legitimate use and unlawful accumulation? Let us reverse the word of Jesus and our question is answered: “Where thy heart is, there shall thy treasure be also.” Our treasure may of course be small and inconspicuous, but its size is immaterial; it all depends on the heart, on ourselves. And if we ask how we are to know where our hearts are, the answer is just as simple—everything which ...