Pastor Scott L. Harris
10/24/1992; January 31, 1999
Where Is Your Treasure?
What is success? That depends upon what you value in life. If you value fortune, success depends on the standard of living and number of dollars in the bank. If you value fame, success depends on how many people know who you are. If you value power, success is determined by the number of people you have under your control. Most people consider a success a combination of fortune, fame or power. The amount of each varies, but success is still described in terms of those things. Even introverts who do not care how many people know about them will often still define success in terms of being the best, or at least extremely good, in their personal interest, hobby or sport. The individual determines what is success by what he or she personally values.
What then is success to you? What do you personally value? If you want to know what you value, then ask yourself where you put your time, energy and money. The answer to those questions will tell you what you value in life. The question of what you value in life is an important question because the answer has eternal ramifications.
In Luke 12:16-21 Jesus tells a parable concerning how important it is that we seriously consider what is important in life. “And He told them a parable, saying, The land of a certain rich man was very productive. And he began reasoning to himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no place to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry.”‘ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?’ So is the man who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”
This fellow valued the things of this earth and forgot about the fact that he would soon be facing eternity. He prepared well for life on earth, but neglected to plan for that which was infinitely more important, life in eternity.
That is the theme of our text for this morning. What do you treasure? Who do you serve? Turn to Matthew 6:19-24. Jesus has already spent considerable time in this sermon describing the nature of true righteousness that come from the heart. The characteristics of such a person were given in the Beatitudes back in Matthew 5: Poor in spirit, mournful over sin, meek, hungering and thirsting after righteousness, merciful, pure in heart and peacemakers. People who, because of these characteristics, are not liked by the unrighteous. Those are the traits that should mark the person that professes to be a Christian.
Jesus contrasted the self righteous teaching and conduct of the Scribes and Pharisees with true righteousness in the rest of Matthew 5 and the first part of Matthew six. These false religious teachers perverted the Law of Moses and made it self serving. They cut out the spirit of the law and narrowed it to a point where they could work around it. They feigned devotion to God in their religious practices, but in reality they were more concerned about what men thought than what God thought. In the last several weeks we have seen Jesus expose their hypocrisy in giving to the poor, in prayer, and in fasting. In their religious practice towards others, toward God and even toward themselves, they wanted the honor of men rather than the honor of God. (See: Where Does Your Reward Come From?).
Our text this morning begins a new section of this Sermon. Jesus gives three prohibitions to those who are listening. Each command is in contrast to a practice of the Scribes and Pharisees, but they are now more in the background since Jesus has proven His point that they are not truly righteous. His three commands here are to help the people live in true righteousness. Jesus is compassionate toward men even in these commands. Jesus certainly could have just given the commands and expected them to be followed, but in concession to our frail human hearts, He also takes the time to explain them and their importance so that we might be better able to keep them.
The first command and its corollary and with their explanation are found in Matthew 6:19-34. We are going to look at just the initial command this morning in verses 19-24.
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in an steal. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. The lamp of the body is the eye; if therefore your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will hold to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”
Treasure on Earth
The command in this is simple. “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven.” The first aspect of the command is the negative of where not to lay up treasures – on earth. The second aspect of the command is the positive of where to lay of treasure – in heaven. The reason for this is simple. Anything you try to save for yourself on earth is subject to being eaten by some insect or other creature, corroding away, or being stolen. Those things stored in heaven are not subject to such theft or decay.
In ancient times, before clothes could be mass produced as they are today, clothes were a means by which a person could store wealth. Clothing was a symbol of wealth. For example in Zechariah 14:14 the description of Jerusalem’s wealth during the millennial reign to come is, “and the wealth of all the surrounding nations will be gathered, gold and silver and garments in great abundance.” It was also used in place of money. In 2 Kings 5:5 ten changes of clothing is mentioned along with ten talents of silver and 6,000 shekels of gold as the price Naaman brought with him to try to sway Elijah the prophet to heal him of his leprosy. (Elijah healed him without charge so that Naaman would know that the Lord is God). Later in the same chapter Elijah’s servant, Gehazi, turns out to be greedy and chases after Naaman to get some of the riches from him,and what did he want? Two talents of silver and two changes of clothes. (For his greed he got Naaman’s leprosy).
The best clothing was made of wool, but the problem with that, as the Lord points out, is that certain moths will destroy wool. They lay their eggs on it and the larvae (worms) chew holes in the material. When you wear a garment often you will destroy the eggs and larvae by both the friction that occurs in wearing it and in the washing process. But when a wool garment is stored, as I am sure most people here have experienced, the garment can be ruined before you realize there is a problem. Placing a high value on clothing and storing it would only lead to some well fed moths.
Another form of wealth was food. In the parable I read at the beginning of the sermon, this fellow stored his grain as the means of his wealth. The word “rust” here literally means “an eating” and that is what would happen to stored food products. Insects, rodents and fungus would “eat up” the food.
The same was true of the metals in use then which were iron and copper. The would be “eaten away” as they corroded. The metals would oxidize into worthless rust. If you stored your wealth in grain you would end up with a hoard of granary insects and fat rats. If you stored your wealth in the metal objects of the day, you would end up with rusty junk.
But what about jewelry stones and precious metals such as gold and silver that resist rusting. They will not be eaten up by any insects and they resist corrosion very well. Yet they are not safe either. There is still the age old problem of other people wanting those items without paying you for them. They break in and steal them. “Break in” here is literally, “dig through” and refers to thieves digging through the mud and clay walls of the homes. Even most of the limestone in the area that was used in building construction was soft and could be easily dug through.
The same is true of any earthly thing you can mention today. There is nothing you can store your treasure in that is not subject to what Jesus says here. Fortunes rise and fall quickly. I remember quite a few years ago when gold and silver were hot investment items. A fellow named Hunt tried to corner the market in silver. He was doing a good job of it until the price of silver dropped and with it his fortune. Many of you have invested in homes. A wise use of funds since you have to live somewhere, but not a great place to put your treasure. Termites eat them, the weather rots them and the government taxes them. If that is not enough, the market can turn down and can find yourself owing more on it than it is worth.
Jesus’ command here is simple and well reasoned. Do not place too much value in the things of this world. If you treasure them as the most important things in your life. If your time, energy and finances go into acquiring them, then one day you will find yourself very disappointed when they are devalued, destroyed, or stolen. And lest you think the principle only applies to material things, remember that fame and power also quickly fade. Add to this that all these things will remain here when you die. You will face God alone without them.
But what Jesus says here is nothing new. The Old Testament is full of warnings and admonishments concerning this.
Proverbs 23:4,5 “Do not weary yourself to gain wealth, Cease from your consideration of it. When you set your eyes on it, it is gone. For wealth certainly makes itself wings, Like an eagle that flies toward the heavens.”
Ecclesiastes 5:10 He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves abundance with its income. This too is vanity.
Proverbs 11:28 He who trust in his riches will fall, But the righteous will flourish like a the green leaf.” Proverbs 11:4 Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, But righteousness delivers from death.
The religious leaders should have known these things, but they were lovers of money (Luke 16:4), prestige (Mark 12:38,40), and power (Matthew 23:2). Their treasure was on earth rather than heaven. The result would be a rude awakening one day they would stand before God and give account of their lives. They would then know the full folly of storing up for themselves treasures on earth.
Treasures in Heaven
Jesus says not to lay up for ourselves treasures on earth. We need not spend our time, energy and finances in trying to acquire fame, fortune and power. Next week we will see that God’s promise to us is that He will supply all our needs if we seek after Him first. Our focus is not to be on earth, but on laying up for ourselves treasures in heaven.
Again we find the reasoning very simple. Treasures on earth are subject to being eaten, corroding or being stolen. Treasures in heaven are secure. They will remain. They are a wise and prudent investment.
What did Jesus mean by “treasures in heaven?” I have seen many preachers use this verse to launch into why you should give to the church. While that could be part of it, it certainly not what Jesus had in mind. The reference is to use your time, energy and finances to pursue after those things that are of eternal value. Those things that will have value in heaven, not on earth.
The story of the rich young ruler is told in Matthew, Mark & Luke. Jesus, knowing the man’s heart, instructed him “if you wish to be complete, to and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Jesus put him to the test to expose what the man valued most. Would it be his earthly treasure or gaining heavenly treasure? Would he trust his riches or Christ? The man choose his earthly riches and went away sorrowful.
Jesus says a similar thing to his disciples in Luke 12:32. “Sell your possessions and give to charity; make yourselves purses which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near, nor moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. Please understand the point Jesus makes in both Luke and here in Matthew. He is not saying that treasure in heaven is gained by giving away treasure on earth (otherwise the rich would have an advantage over the poor in being spiritual). Jesus is teaching that treasure in heaven is accumulated by keeping godly priorities of by living righteously and being obedient to Christ and following Him. Giving to the poor is simply a righteous thing to do as we have already seen in Matthew 6:2-4.
The New Testament talks about treasure in heaven or rewards in several places, and from those passages we get a clearer understanding about what Jesus is talking about here. In a quick overview lets looks briefly at a few of those passages.
In James 1:12 we read, “Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to those that love Him.” One treasure in heaven is the crown of life that comes to those that love the Lord. That love is demonstrated by a person’s obedience to Christ especially in their perseverance when under trial. In John 14:21 Jesus said, He who has My commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me.” In verse 24 He adds, “He who does not love Me does not keep My words.” This treasure in heaven- the crown of life- is acquired by loving the Lord which is demonstrated by obedience to Him.
In 1 Corinthians 9:24,25 we read, “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize. Run in such a way that you may win. And everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.” We are to practice self control and bring our bodies under subjection (vs 27) that we may run the Christian life in righteousness. This treasure in heaven- an imperishable wreath- is acquired through self disciplined Christian living.
In 2 Thessalonians we find Paul writing to people who had responded when he had preached Christ to them. In 2 Thessalonians 2:19 Paul states, “For who is our hope or joy or crown of exultation? Is it not even you, in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming? For you are our glory and joy.” This treasure in heaven- the crown of exultation- is acquired by those that share the gospel of Jesus Christ and see those people receive it and follow Christ.
In 2 Timothy 4:7,8 Paul tells Timothy, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith, in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing. This treasure in heaven- the crown of righteousness- is given to all those that love Christ’s appearing. But remember, that those who love his appearing are those who like Paul fight the good fight, finish the course and keep the faith. A person living in unrighteousness does not want to see the Lord come in the same way that a child who has just broken several items in the house through his misbehavior does not rejoice to see his parents.
Jesus’ command to us is to not get caught up in trying to accumulate for ourselves the things of this earth. Do not place high value on the things the world has to offer. Instead, use your time, energy and finances to further the kingdom of God. Live your life in trust and obedience to Christ and help others do the same.
Such was the life of John Wesley, founder of the Methodist movement that was a major part of the revivals in England and America in the mid 1700’s. His striving to live for the Lord was demonstrated in all areas of his life, including finances. When he was earning 30 lbs/yr he lived on 28 and gave the remaining 2 to the Lord. The next year his salary was doubled. He continued to live on 28 lbs/yr and gave the other 32 to the Lord. As time went on God entrusted him with larger and larger amounts. It is estimated that Wesley gave away between 30 & 40,000 lbs during his life. He is reported to have said, “When I have any money, I give it away as quickly as possible, lest it find a way into my heart.”
Where Is Your Heart?
That is the very question underlying Jesus commandments concerning where we lay up treasure for ourselves. Where is your heart? In Matthew 6:21 Jesus says, for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” If your heart is set on the things of this earth, then you will be busy about the business of laying up treasures here. If you value fortune, your finances will go into things like large financial portfolios, large houses, fancy cars, fine clothing & jewelry, exotic vacations, etc. and not into spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ. If you value fame you will spend your time & energy into doing whatever it is that you think will bring you acclaim from people, rather than honor from God. If you value power, you will strive to climb your way up to the top so that you will have control of those below you rather than being a servant to others in the kingdom of God.
A simple way to know what your heart values is to examine your financial receipts and calendar. What do you spend your money on? Where do you spend your time? If you let me examine your checkbook, credit card statements and bills along with your schedule of activities, I will easily be able to tell you what your heart values. The location of your treasure reveals your heart. Where are you laying up for yourselves treasure? Is it on earth where it will be destroyed by decay or be stolen? Or is your treasure in heaven where it will pay eternal dividends? Where is your treasure? Where is your heart?
What Is Your Eye Like?
Matthew 6:22 & 23 deal with the deceitfulness of a man’s heart. Often people think they are doing some great thing for God, when in fact they are not really doing anything.
Jesus says, The lamp of the body is the eye; if therefore your eye is clear (single), your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. Our eyes are our only means to detect light and therefore our only source of vision. If we have a clear eye we will see everything properly. If the eye is bad, then there is no means for light to enter the body and it is full of darkness. Jesus goes on to say, “If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness.” If the only source of light is dark, then the that darkness is great.
The heart is the eye to the soul. It is through the heart that God’s truth, love, peace and every other spiritual blessing comes. It is also out of the heart that the condition of the soul is revealed. If the heart is in tune with God then spiritual truths will be seen and spiritual blessings will be received. But if the heart is evil, then nothing spiritual can be perceived or received. If the heart claims to have light and see spiritual things but in fact the heart is far from God, then the darkness is even greater. What is bad is called good and good called bad. No condition can be farther from God.
Let me be frank here, too often people deceive themselves into thinking that they are doing some great work for God by some little token thing they do. They feel they are doing great things for God by the little bit of money they give, or by the little bit of time they devote to God. The fact of the matter is that their goal is not the kingdom of God but their own kingdom. Their concern is not God, but their own fame, fortune and power.
A little poem puts it well. (The figures are updated for the times)
20 thousand for my brand new car,
60 thousand for a piece of sod
100 thousand I paid to begin a house,
10 dollars I gave to God
A Tidy sum to entertain my friends
in pointless chatter.
And when the world goes crazy mad, I ask,
“Lord, what’s the matter?”
10 dollars I gave to God. Yet there is one big question,
For the answer I still search:
With things so bad in this old world,
What’s holding back my church?
Who Do You Serve?
Jesus sums the whole matter up in Matthew 6:24, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hold to one and despise the other. You can not serve God and mammon.” Master here does not refer to your boss at work because your allegiance to him is limited. You can work for two employers and many of you do. Master here means slave owner. A slave can not serve two masters because slave’s total allegiance belongs to his owner. And in this matter of God vs. mammon (riches, material wealth) being our master, only one will win. John Calvin said, “Where riches hold dominion of the heart, God has lost His authority.” That is the question before you. Who is your master? Who do you serve? You will be a slave to one or the other. Do your possessions own you and you serve them, or does God own you and you serve Him with all you are and all you have?
If you have not given serious thought to this question recently, then you need to sit down this afternoon and consider it carefully. Pull out your financial statements – your checkbook, credit card receipts, bills, etc., and see where you spend your money. How would you feel if the Lord Jesus Christ were examining it with you? Don’t you know that He does know what you do with your finances? Plot out what you do with your time. What will you say to Him when He asks you to give an account of your time?
Where are you laying up treasure? Is it here on earth or in heaven? Where is your heart? Is it on the things of earth or on the things of heaven? Is your eye clear and receiving spiritual truths and blessings or is it bad and God’s truths are shut out? Are you self deceived? Who do you serve: God or mammon? If you can not say with confidence that you serve God and your treasure is in heaven, then your only hope is to repent and change your investment plan. If you do not turn to Jesus Christ to receive His forgiveness and follow Him, then one day you will find all your treasures destroyed or stolen, and you will be separated from them while standing before God and you will have no excuse.
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