************ Sermon on Matthew 6:19-20 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on February 9, 2003
"You Can't Take It With You"
[The content of this sermon is heavily dependent upon "The Treasure Principle" – a book by Randy Alcorn].
This past Summer it seems that Martha Stewart got caught improperly trading stock She is being investigated for "insider trading." She owned stock in ImClone and sold it one day before the FDA announced it wouldn't review the company's new cancer drug. The SEC thinks Martha was tipped off by the Chairman of ImClone before the sale. Martha says she was just chatting with a friend. Because Martha sold her stock when she did, she made $46,000 more than she would have made the very next day.
There is a saying that if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, then it is a duck. In the same way, if it looks like insider trading and sounds like insider trading and smells like insider trading, it is probably insider trading.
Tonight, I want to give you the ultimate insider trading tip. If you follow what I say, it will earn you untold wealth.
I Money and Spirituality
A Jesus made many references to money and possessions in His teachings. In fact, 15% of everything Christ said relates to this topic. He said more about money and possessions then He said about evangelism or about heaven and hell.
Why did Jesus put such an emphasis on money and possessions?
Because there is a fundamental connection between our spiritual lives and how we think about and handle money. We may try to divorce faith and finances, but the Lord doesn't.
B We see this connection laid out for us in numerous places. I think of Luke 3 where we read of John the Baptist preaching to great crowds of people on the banks of the Jordan River. The crowds, tax collectors, and soldiers heard his call to repentance and each group asked, "What shall we do?" I want you to take note of the Baptist's answers:
-John says the crowds should share clothing and food with the poor and hungry (vs 11).
-John says tax collectors should not collect any more taxes than they are required to (vs 13).
-John says soldiers should not extort money and should be content with their pay (vs 14).
Each answer relates to money and possessions. But neither the crowds nor the tax collectors nor the soldiers had asked John about that. Rather, they had all asked about fruits of repentance. Do you realize what this means? It means that our attitude towards money and possessions are such a big part of repentance that John the Baptist couldn't talk about repentance without talking about money and possessions. It means true repentance affects our attitude towards money and possessions.
I am reminded of what Martin Luther said. He said everyone needs two conversions: one of the heart and one of the pocketbook (or wallet).
C We see the same thing with Zacchaeus. Do you remember what Zacchaeus said after he was found and saved by the Lord? He said,
(Lk 19:8) "Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount."This is a tax collector saying this. He made a business out of cheating and overcharging and even stealing and became very wealthy as a consequence. Jesus hears what Zacchaeus says and responds with, "Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham" (Lk 19:9). The new and radical approach to money on the part of Zacchaeus proved that his heart had been transformed.
D Jesus spoke of a rich man who kept all his wealth for himself. He planned to tear down his barns and build bigger ones to store up for himself so he could retire early and take life easy and party all day long. But God said the man was a fool and called his life from him that very night. Jesus concludes by saying this is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God (Lk 12:16-21).
E Finally, we can also speak of the rich young man who pressed Jesus on what to do to gain eternal life. Jesus told him to sell his possessions and give to the poor and "Then come, follow me" (Mt 19:21). Jesus knew that money and possessions were this man's god. He knew the man couldn't and wouldn't serve God unless this idol god was dethroned. But the rich young man considered the price too great. In other words, he loved his earthly wealth more than he loved Jesus.
It is plain from these passages, and others like them, that the Lord sees a fundamental connection between our spiritual lives and how we think about and handle money. We may try to divorce faith and finances, but the Lord doesn't.
II Earthly Treasures Do Not Last
A In our text for this evening Jesus warns us against storing up treasures on earth: "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth."
I want you to notice why he warns us. He doesn't warn us against storing up treasures on earth because they are bad. We all know they aren't. They are part of the good gifts that God gives us in this life and on this earth. They are part of what Paul says we need to receive with thanksgiving (1 Tim 4:3). They help to make life comfortable and enjoyable and less stressful.
So why does Jesus warn us against storing up treasures on earth? Because they don't last! At the time of Jesus, earthly treasures were either destroyed by moth and rust or stolen by thieves. I love how Proverbs describes this:
(Prov 23:5) Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle.What an image. Next time you find yourself clinging to a prized possession – a car, a pickup, a dairy, a computer, a bike, a game, a toy, a house – imagine it sprouting wings and flying off. Sooner or later, says Jesus, it will disappear.
Now, I want you to notice that Jesus doesn't just say earthly wealth and possessions might be lost; He says it will be lost. Either it leaves us while we live, or we leave it when we die. No exceptions.
When you invest in treasure in this life and on this earth, you are investing in something that will become worthless – either when Christ returns or when you die, whichever comes first (and either event could happen at any time).
Think of it this way (here is an illustration from Randy Alcorn):
Imagine that you are alive at the end of the Civil War. You are living in the South and have accumulated a lot of Confederate money. 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?As a Christian, you have inside knowledge that someday all the treasure of this world will be worthless. So, to accumulate vast earthly treasures is the same as stockpiling Confederate money. It is foolish and silly. There is nothing wrong with Confederate money, as long as you understand its limits. There is nothing wrong with earthly treasures, as long as you understand they are not permanent.
If you are smart, there is only one answer. You immediately cash in your Confederate money for something that will have value once the war is over – gold, or U.S. currency, or jewels, or property. You keep only enough Confederate money to meet your short-term needs.
As a Christian, you are being told to switch investment strategies: you are being told to get out of worldly treasure. Earthly treasure is about to take a nose dive far worse than the Dow after 9/11. Earthly treasure is about to take a permanent dive into the basement.
B Jesus warn us against storing up treasures on earth because they don't last. Not only that, but you can't take it with you when you die. One thing you will never ever see is a hearse pulling a U-Haul. You can't take it with you. I like how the psalmist puts this:
(Ps 49:16-17) Do not be overawed when a man grows rich, when the splendor of his house increases; (17) for he will take nothing with him when he dies, his splendor will not descend with him.Or, as Job puts it,
(Job 1:21) Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.
John D. Rockefeller was one of the wealthiest men who ever lived. After he died someone asked his accountant, "How much money did John D. leave?" The answer was classic and should be engraved in stone: "He left ... all of it."
You can't store it up for yourself. And, you can't take it with you. From an eternal or spiritual point-of-view, earthly treasure is a poor investment. This is the first part of the ultimate insider trading tip.
III Heavenly Treasures are Forever
A Now comes the second part of the ultimate insider trading tip. Jesus not only tells us what to get out of, but He also tells us what to get into. He not only tells us where not to put our treasures, but He also tells us where to put our treasures. Instead of investing in earthly treasure, He tells us to get into heavenly treasure: "store up for yourselves treasures in heaven."
If you stopped reading too soon, you would think that Christ was against us storing up treasures for ourselves. No. He is all for it! In fact, He commands it. He wants us to store up treasures. It is just that He wants us to stop storing them in the wrong place and start storing them in the right place.
B Jesus is talking about deferred gratification. You give up something now to gain even more in the future. Jesus promises that those who sacrifice on earth will receive "a hundred times as much" in heaven (Mt 19:29). That is a 10,000% return – remember how we thought a 30% gain in the stock market was impressive?
"Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven." Like Zacchaeus or the rich young ruler, give to the poor. Like the early believers, help out your brothers and sisters in the faith. Support the work and mission of the church. Invest in Kingdom causes like Christian schools and colleges and seminaries. Support agencies like Bethany or Sierra Salem Homes or Tulare Kings Right to Life. Visit the lonely and the widow. Befriend the stranger. "Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven."
C "Do not store up treasures on earth." Why not? Because earthly treasure is on the way down (remember, it is going to hit the basement when Christ returns or when you die). "But store up treasures in heaven." Why? Because heavenly treasure is on the way up. Heavenly treasure will last. There moth and rust do not destroy and thieves do not break in and steal. Invest in heavenly treasure because heavenly treasure has lasting value.
D When it comes to earthly treasures, you can't take it with you. But when it comes to heavenly treasure, you can send it on ahead. Anything we try to hang on to here will be lost. But anything we put into God's hands will be ours for eternity. That is a guarantee. Right now, the FDIC insures money that we put into the bank – and that is for treasure that doesn't last and that we cannot take with us. But the Father's insurance is far greater and far longer.
If we give instead of keep, if we invest in the eternal instead of in the temporal, we store up treasures in heaven. Whatever treasures we store up on earth will be left behind when we leave. Whatever treasures we store up in heaven will be waiting for us when we arrive. Our good works and our kingdom deeds and our charitable giving are being banked by God for our future life. If we have built well upon the foundation of Christ, if we have built with gold, silver, and costly stones – then they will be waiting for us. But, if we have built upon the foundation of Christ with wood, hay, or straw – then there will be no future treasure waiting for us (cf 1 Corinthians 3:10-15).
Financial planners tells us to think not just 3 months or 3 years ahead but 30 years ahead. Christ tells us to think ahead even further to eternity – 300 years and 30,000 years and 30 million years.
(Mt 6:19-20) "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. (20) But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.
Suppose I offer you $10,000 today to spend however you want. Not a bad deal. But suppose I give you a choice – you can either have $10,000 today or you can have $10 million five years from now. Only a fool would take the $10,000 today. Yet, that's what we do whenever we grab onto earthly treasure that lasts for only a moment.
You can't take it with you, but if you invest in the heavenly kingdom you can send it on ahead. That's what Jesus says to us today.
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
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