************ Sermon on Matthew 6:19-24 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on April 2, 2000
"Where is Your Treasure?"
I Do Not Store Up Earthly Treasures
A In our text for this evening Jesus wants us to picture a treasure chest filled with money, gold coins, and jewels. He says, "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth." What Jesus is really saying to us here is, "Do not make earthly things your treasure."
Treasures is a very large term. We need to realize it includes many things besides money. You see, we all have treasures in some shape or form. It may be money. It may be husband, wife, or children. It may be some gift or talent we have. It may be our house. It may be status, position, and prestige. It may be our reputation or name. It may be athletic ability. It may be the mind and intellect.
We also need to understand that our Lord does not condemn wealth, or earthly things. His concern is with our attitude towards them. It is not what a man has, but what he thinks of what he has, that matters to Jesus. There is nothing wrong in having wealth, even enormous wealth; what counts is a person's attitude towards that wealth. What Jesus condemns is those people – whether they be rich or poor – who chase first after earthly wealth, who make worldly things the goal of their life, who store up for themselves treasures on earth.
B Jesus says, "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth ..." What is a treasure? A treasure is something you value most, something you place the greatest importance on, something you hoard, something you will try to get whatever the cost. Today Jesus says to us, "Do not continue to make earthly things your treasure; do not make earthly things those things which you value most and place the greatest importance upon." Jesus is warning us against making things of this earth into gods and worshiping them.
At the time of Jesus, just like today, there were people who were treasuring, making far too important, the things of this earth. Their life was spent hoarding and storing up treasures on earth. For this reason Jesus warns in Luke 12:
(Lk 12:15) "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions."Far too many people are hung up on possessions – not just the rich but the poor too. Don't forget, a poor man can begrudge his crusts as much as a rich man can hoard his gold. Far too many people measure success and happiness in life in terms of things, possessions, money. "A man's life," says Jesus, "does not consist in the abundance of his possessions." There is more, far more, to life than money and possessions.
"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth," says Jesus. In the light of this command every person here has to take an honest look at themselves and ask, "Where or what is my treasure?"
II Store Up Treasures in Heaven
A We don't have to run ourselves ragged trying to amass fortunes. We don't have to involve ourselves in "get rich quick" schemes. We don't have to get ourselves hopelessly in debt. We do not have to pursue perishable treasures. For the Christian, for the Kingdom citizen, for he or she who has accepted Christ as Savior and Lord, there is another option. We find this option in the next command of the Lord: "But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven."
Our treasure, what we value most, what we place the greatest importance on, should not lay on this earth but should be in heaven. Once again Jesus wants us to imagine a treasure chest filled with money, gold, coins, and jewels.
In the same way that men try their utmost to get rich on earth so we should try our hardest to lay up treasures in heaven. In the same way as men hoard their gold and zealously guard their silver so should we pursue treasures in heaven. In the same way as men pursue the things of this earth – fame, family, house, honor, position, sports – so should we pursue treasures in heaven.
B How do we do this? How do we go about storing up for ourselves treasures in heaven? It starts with having the right view of life. We must never forget that we are but pilgrims. We are walking though this world and towards our everlasting hope. Once we keep that in mind, then it is easy to seek treasures in heaven rather than on earth. Let me tell you a story I know I've told you once before:
Topic: MaterialismThat's true for all of us – all Christians know that on this earth and in this body they are but pilgrims passing through on the way to eternal glory – that they arrive with nothing and leave with nothing.
Title: Traveling Light
Late last century, an American tourist paid a visit to a renowned Polish rabbi, Hofetz Chaim. He was astonished to see that the rabbi's home was only a simple room filled with books, plus a table and a cot.
The tourist asked, "Rabbi, where is your furniture?" Hofetz Chaim replied, "Where is yours?"
The puzzled American asked, "Mine? But I'm only a visitor here. I'm only passing through." The rabbi replied, "So am I."
We must always start with this great principle. When we view ourselves as pilgrims then everything falls into place. Then we see life, and what we have, and what we are living for from the proper perspective. Then it is easier to stop storing up for ourselves treasures on earth; then it is easier for us to start storing up for ourselves treasures in heaven.
Think of Abraham. Why was he willing to leave home and family and country? Why was he willing to sacrifice his only son Isaac? Why was he willing to leave his treasures on earth? Because he knew he was a pilgrim. Think of Moses. Why was he willing to leave the splendor of the Egyptian palace to become a miserable shepherd for forty years? Why was he willing to leave his treasures on earth? Because he knew he was a pilgrim.
C What is this heavenly treasure that Jesus commands us to store up? Included in this treasure is prayer, Bible study, and faithful attendance at both our weekly worship services.
Christian education for our children in the home, the church, and the Christian school stores up treasures in heaven – very little is more precious than educating our children in the Lord's ways?!
Faithful and generous giving to the Church and kingdom stores up treasure in heaven. I know many of you do that. May I encourage you all to lay up treasures in heaven by faithful and generous giving?
Topic: GivingThis man, we would have to say, stored up treasures in heaven rather than on earth.
Subtopic: To God
Baylor University is a fine institution in Beaumont, Texas. The Christian who gave the money for building that school later lost all his property. Men of the world asked him, "Don't you wish you had the money back that you put into that school?" He replied, "Not at all. It is all that I have saved. If I had kept that money, I would have lost it too. I am thankful that I gave that building when I did."
Title: Conditional Giving
In the 1920s a church in the last town I served had a building program. Members had quite a fight over whether the building was to square with the road or at an angle. The fight was long and bitter. The squares won so the building was put up square with the road.
About 30 years later, during the 50s, a member died and left over $20,000 to the church – a sizable amount of money in those days. However, the will stipulate the money was to be used to lift up the building and put in a new foundation – at an angle to the road.
Since the church was not willing to do that, the money has just been sitting there of no use to the church or the kingdom.
Do you think this man stored up treasure in heaven with this kind of gift? No. When someone gives to the Lord and then think they can control how it is spent or what is done with it they are NOT storing up treasure in heaven. Our giving to the Lord is to be done joyfully, freely, and without strings and conditions.
In Matthew 19 Jesus connects treasures in heaven with help for the poor. One day a rich young ruler came to Jesus and asked, "Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?" (Mt 19:16). Jesus answered,
(Mt 19:21) "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven ..."We store up treasures in heaven when we help the poor. How I thank God that through our deacons and the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee we as a church are front and center in helping the poor.
We store up treasures in heaven when we commit ourselves to working with our children and youth in Church School, Cadets, GEMS, Early Teen Ministry, Young Peoples, and nursery.
A wealthy businessman on his deathbed was filled with deep remorse. When his pastor called, he opened his heart and shared the burden he was carrying. He said that 10 years earlier he had been given the opportunity to teach a Sunday school class of 9-year-old boys. Thinking he didn't have the time, he declined the offer. Now, however, deeply conscious that his life would soon be over, he confessed to the pastor that his most painful regret was that he had missed such a golden opportunity to serve the Lord by investing his life in the lives of those 9-year-olds. He estimated that at least 100 boys would have passed through that class. "My investments in stocks and bonds will stay behind when I leave," he declared. "What a fool I have been."
Many other things also store up treasures in heaven: self-sacrifice, compassion, love, truth, honesty, and gratitude are just some of the things I can mention.
I ask you, congregation, where is your treasure? Is it on earth or is it in heaven? What kind of treasures do you store? What kind of treasures do you chase after and want? What fills your treasure chest? Is it filled with a car, house, VCR, European vacation, large bank account, toys, color TV, fame, position, glory, sports, family? Or, is it filled with prayer, Bible Study, attendance at two worship services every Sunday, Christian education, faithful and generous giving, support for the poor, self-sacrifice, love, and so on?
III The Why
A Why does Christ give us these two commands? Why does He insist that we not pursue treasures on earth? Why does He want us to store up treasures in heaven?
To His command about treasures on earth Jesus adds these words of explanation: "where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal." Earthly treasures, says Jesus, do not last forever. They are perishable.
One way of displaying wealth at the time of Jesus was by means of fine and beautiful clothing. Unfortunately, the Middle East was plagued with moths and the larvae of these pesky insects loved to eat and thus destroy clothing. Moths were especially destructive and feared because they were hard to spot – keeping a close watch for moths was no guarantee that clothing would be safe from their holes.
Rust can also part a man from his wealth. The Greek word for "rust" literally means "to consume" or "to devour." Earthly treasures can be easily consumed or devoured by fire, flood, mildew, corrosion.
Thieves can also separate a man from his wealth. The thief will break in and remove a man's treasure. It is a well-known fact of human life that wealth attracts thieves.
Jesus is telling us here that no earthly treasures are safe and secure.
Subtopic: Fleeting and Uncertain
Title: Cisco Systems. Inc.
It continually amazes me how quickly fortunes can be gained and lost. As recently as three years ago General Electric was the world's largest company in terms of total capitalization or net worth. Two years ago Bill Gates and Microsoft took over the number one spot. This past week (March 27, 2000) Microsoft was shoved out of the number one spot by Cisco Systems, Inc.
We are not to store up for ourselves treasures on earth because those treasures are fleeting and perishable.
B Why does Jesus insist want us to store up treasures in heaven?
To His command about treasures in heaven Jesus adds these words of explanation: "where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal." Heavenly treasures, says Jesus, last forever. They are imperishable.
Can you imagine this – treasures that lasts forever and that are ours forever? Treasures in heaven are treasures that are forever safe; nothing can remove them from us. What joy belongs to those who have this imperishable, everlasting treasure. This treasure is the Christian's victory wreath or crown when he or she enters into eternal glory.
C Why does Christ give us these two commands? Why does He insist that we not pursue treasures on earth? Why does He want us to store up treasures in heaven?
Jesus offers another answer in verse 21: "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." A man's heart is the center, the core, the essence, of his being. A man's heart worships what is his treasure. So if a man's treasures are on earth, his heart will worship that treasure. But if a man's treasures are in heaven, he will worship God. In other words, you can't be a true believer if your treasures are on earth. Or, to put it another way, salvation is only for those whose treasures are in heaven.
D Why does Christ give us these two commands? Why does He insist that we not pursue treasures on earth? Why does He want us to store up treasures in heaven?
Jesus offers a final answer in verse 24. You have to make a choice between storing up treasures in heaven or treasures on earth.
(Mt 6:24) "No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money."Jesus tells us no one can have it both ways. No one can serve both God and Money.
Topic: GivingIt is always the Lord's calf that dies, isn't it?! When money becomes tight, the first area we cut back on is the Lord's work. It is always the first thing to go. Perhaps I should not say "always", for that would be unfair; but with so many it is the first thing to go, and the things we really like are the last to go. As Jesus puts it, "You cannot serve both God and Money."
Subtopic: To God
Title: The Lord's Calf is Dead
The story is told of a farmer who one day reported to his wife and family that their best cow had given birth to twin calves, one red and one white. And he said, "You know, we must dedicate one of them to the Lord. We will bring them up together, and when the time comes we will sell one and keep the money for ourselves, and we will sell the other and give the money to the Lord's work."
His wife asked him which one he was going to dedicate to the Lord. "Don't worry about it now," he replied. "We will decide when the time comes."
A few months later the man entered the house looking miserable and unhappy. When his wife asked him what was wrong, he answered, "I have bad news. The Lord's calf is dead."
"How can that be?" she said, "when you had not decided what was the Lord's calf?" "Oh no," he said, "I decided long ago the Lord's calf is the white one. It is the white one that has died. So the Lord's calf is dead."
Christ's basic concern is that we should live as citizens of His Kingdom. He tells us today that Kingdom citizens chase after treasures in heaven and not on earth.
This Kingdom living is not at all easy to follow. It is hard not to treasure things of this earth. It is far too easy to treasure a new car, high salary, large bank account, beautiful furniture, and nice home. In fact, on our own it is impossible for us to obey the commands of Jesus here. It is only by God's grace and power working in us that we can seek to store up treasures in heaven. It is God's grace to us in Christ that enables us to store up treasures in heaven instead of treasures on earth.
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