Jesus taught his followers to put spiritual values ahead of everything else. In the Sermon on the Mount, he advised his listeners: “Never be anxious and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or, ‘What are we to drink?’ or, ‘What are we to put on?’ Keep on . . . seeking first the kingdom and his righteousness, and all these [necessary material] things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:31, 33) Soon after Jesus’ death, newly baptized Christians followed that advice. Many were Jews or Jewish proselytes who had traveled to Jerusalem for the celebration of the festival of Pentecost in 33 C.E. While there, something unexpected occurred. They heard and embraced the good news about Jesus Christ. Eager to learn more about their newfound faith, they remained in Jerusalem. They ran low on provisions, but material comforts were of secondary importance. They had found the Messiah! Their Christian brothers shared what material things they had so that all could continue “devoting themselves to the teaching of the apostles and . . . to prayers.”—Acts 2:42.
In time, some Christians lost sight of the need for regular fellowship at meetings. (Hebrews 10:23-25) Perhaps they became materialistic, neglecting spiritual matters while trying to ensure financial security for themselves and their families. After urging his brothers not to forsake the meetings, the apostle Paul wrote: “Let your manner of life be free of the love of money, while you are content with the present things. For he has said: ‘I will by no means leave you nor by any means forsake you.’”—Hebrews 13:5.
Paul’s advice turned out to be very timely. About five years after Paul wrote his letter to the Hebrews, the Roman army of Cestius Gallus surrounded Jerusalem. Faithful Christians remembered Jesus’ warning: “When you catch sight of [this] . . . , let the man on the housetop not come down, nor go inside to take anything out of his house; and let the man in the field not return to the things behind to pick up his outer garment.” (Mark 13:14-16) They knew that their survival depended, not upon the stability of their employment or the value of their material possessions, but upon their obedience to Jesus’ instructions. Those who had responded to Paul’s counsel and put spiritual interests first doubtless found it easier to leave behind home, job, clothes, and treasured personal effects and flee to the mountains than did any who had not broken free of the love of money.