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Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
September 7, 2014
Where is Your Treasure?
What is success? That depends upon what you value in life. If you value fortune, success depends on your standard of living and the wealth in your portfolio. If you value fame, success depends on how many people know who you are, or at least that a particular group knows about you. Even introverts often want to be known among those who share their particular personal interest, hobby or sport. If you value power, success is determined by having other people under your control. That may be directly related to the number of people or just certain people who will bend to your will. If you value pleasure, then success depends on your state of happiness. Most people consider success some combination of fortune, fame, power and pleasure. The particular mix will vary, but success is still usually described in those terms. The individual determines 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 spend your time, energy and money. The answer to those questions will tell you what you value in life. The question of success is important because the answer will also have 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? Whom 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 comes from the heart. The characteristics of such a person were given in the Beatitudes back in chapter 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 chapter 5 and the first part of chapter 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 toward others, toward God and even toward themselves, they wanted the honor of men rather than the honor of God.
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 are given 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 and often failing human nature, He also took the time to explain them and their importance so that we might be better able to keep them.
The first command and its corollary along 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 and 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.” (Matthew 6:19-24)
Treasure on Earth – Matthew 6:19
The command given is plain. “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 up 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 also 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 – iron and copper. They would be “eaten away” by corrosion as the metals oxidized into worthless rust. If you stored your wealth in grain, you would end up with granary full of 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? These cannot be eaten up by any animal or insect 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 still true today of any earthly thing you can mention. There is nothing you can store your treasure in that is not subject to what Jesus says here. Investments in stocks, bonds and commodities are only as stable as the markets and those are always fluctuating. Many of you have invested in homes, which is a wise use of funds since you have to live somewhere, but a home is still not a great place to put your treasure. Things in them break, termites eat them, and the weather rots them. If that is not enough, the market can turn down and you can find yourself owing more on it than it is worth. Worse than that, even land is subject to being confiscated through taxation. 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 pleasure is always fleeting and that fame and power also quickly fade even for those that achieve it. 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 on the 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 – Matthew 6:20
Jesus’ negative command is to not lay up for yourself treasures on earth, for ultimately, it is a waste of your time, energy and finances to pursue worldly treasures of fame, fortune, power and pleasure. All these things are subject to being eaten, corroded or stolen so it would not be wise to make them the focus of your life.
In stark contrast to this is Jesus’ positive command to “store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal.” The reasoning here is very plain and simple. Treasures in heaven are secure. They will remain. They are a wise and prudent investment. Even more important, God wants the focus of your life to be on Him. That is why, as we shall see next week, He already promises to meet all your worldly needs if you will seek after Him and His righteousness first.
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 is 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.
The story of the rich young ruler is told in the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke. The man came to Jesus wanting to know what good thing shall I do that I may obtain eternal life? Jesus, knowing the man’s heart, told him to keep the commandments and instructed him “if you wish to be complete, go 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 chose his earthly riches and went away full of sorrow.
Jesus said a similar thing to his disciples in Luke 12:33-34 “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. (If that were true the rich would have an advantage over the poor in being spiritual, but Jesus said it was hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven – Matt. 19:23). Jesus is teaching that treasure in heaven is accumulated by keeping godly priorities of 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 or rewards in heaven in several places. Those passages help us to have a better understanding about what Jesus is talking about here. Lets look briefly at a few of those passages.
James 1:12 states, “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 added, “He who does not love Me does not keep My words.” The crown of life is a treasure in heaven that is acquired by loving the Lord which is demonstrated by obedience to Him.
1 Corinthians 9:24-25 states, “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 imperishable wreath is a treasure in heaven which is acquired through self disciplined Christian living.
In 1 Thessalonians Paul writes to people who had responded when he had preached Christ to them. He states in 2:19, “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.” The crown of exultation is a treasure in heaven that is acquired by those that share the gospel of Jesus Christ and see those people receive it and follow Christ.
Paul tells Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:7-8, “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. The crown of righteousness is a treasure in heaven that 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. Such a person joyfully longs for Jesus to return, but a person living in unrighteousness desires to see the Lord come in the same way that a child who has just broken several items in the house through his misbehavior desires to see his parents. It is without joy.
Jesus’ command here is for you to avoid getting caught up in the quest to accumulate for yourself 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 per year 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 per year 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 30,000 & 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? – Matthew 6:21
The question underlying Jesus’ commandments concerning where you lay up treasure for yourself is, where is your heart? Jesus states in verse 21, 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, and such instead of spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ. If you value fame, you will spend your time and energy doing whatever it is that you think will bring you acclaim from people. Gaining honor from God would be an afterthought at best. 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. This is doubly tragic when someone pursues a church leadership position for this reason. The idea of actually being a servant to others in the kingdom of God is repulsive to such people.
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 financial 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 or 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
Matthew 6:22-23 is a warning about the deceitfulness of a man’s heart. It is not uncommon for people to think that they are pursuing treasures in heaven and doing what they believe are great things for God, when the sad reality is that they are self deceived. The truth is that they are doing very little. Their treasure is on earth even if they have found a religious context for it. The scribes and Pharisees are supreme examples of this.
Jesus said, “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 you have a clear eye you will see everything properly. If your eye is bad, then there is no means for light to enter the body and so it will be 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 that darkness is great.
The heart, which is the seat of the will, 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. That results in what is bad being called good and what is good being called bad. No condition can be farther from God. Again, the scribes and Pharisees were the supreme examples of this.
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 give a little bit of money and think God is pleased with their sacrifice. They devote 10 minutes a day to their devotions and believe they are very spiritually minded. They volunteer to help one evening in some ministry and think they are a model of Christianity. Sadly, they are a model, but not a good one for the truth is that what they actually still treasure are the things of this earth, not the kingdom of God. Their actual concern is the pursuit of their own pleasure, position, prestige and portfolio.
A little poem puts it well.
Thirty thousand for my brand new car
Eighty thousand for a piece of sod
Two hundred thousand to start a house
and twenty 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?”
Twenty dollars I gave to God
but for an answer I still search:
With things so bad in this old world,
What could be holding back my church?
Who Do You Serve? – Matthew 6:24
Jesus sums up the whole matter in verse 24, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hold to one and despise the other. You cannot 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, and a slave cannot serve two masters because a slave’s total allegiance belongs to his owner.
Mammon simply refers to material wealth, and in the matter of God verses mammon, only one can be your master. 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 sit down this afternoon and consider it carefully. Pull out your financial statements – your checkbook, credit card receipts, bills and such 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 already knows? List out how you spend your time. What will you say to the Lord when He asks you to give an account of your time?
Where are you laying up treasure? Where is your heart? Is it on the things of earth or on the things of heaven? Is your eye clear so that you receive spiritual truths and blessings or is it bad and truth is being shut out by self deception? Are you a slave of God or of mammon?
If you cannot say with confidence that you serve God and your treasure is in heaven, then you need to repent and change your investment plan. Turn to Jesus Christ to receive His forgiveness and follow Him, otherwise, one day you will find all your treasures destroyed or stolen, and you will be separated from them while standing before God in judgment, and you will have no excuse.
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help. Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) Count the references to treasure in the sermon. 2) Talk with your parents about what is important to you and why it is important.
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others. How would you define success? How will you know when you are successful? What is the point of the parable in Luke 12:16-21? What are the characteristics of righteousness? Why is it foolish to treasure material wealth? What were common commodities in the ancient world that were used to store wealth? How could those things be eaten up? Which of those things were subject to rust? How could the value of things that could not be eaten or rust still be lost? Can you think of any earthly thing that cannot lose its value from either being eaten, rusting, or being stolen? Can treasures in heaven be purchased? Why or why not? How are treasures in heaven accumulated? List some of the “crowns” available to believers and how they are gained? Which crowns / treasures in heaven are you seeking to gain? What is the danger of material wealth to the believer? What does your use of your finances and your time reveal about your heart? Explain Jesus’ analogy of the eye to His teaching about the location of your treasure? Why can’t you serve two masters? How will you know whether your master is God or mammon?
Sermon Notes: Where is Your Treasure?
People usually define ____________________in terms of fortune, fame, power and pleasure
You will define success by what you __________________in life
True righteousness is of the __________and its characteristics are described in the Beatitudes (Matt. 5:3-16)
Jesus’ instructions were in ________to the self-righteous teaching and practices of the scribes and Pharisees
Jesus gives three _______________________in Matthew 6:19-7:6
Treasure on Earth – Matthew 6:19
Clothing can be _____________by insects (wool, linen)
Grain could be stored as a form of ________________, but grain can be eaten by insects and animals
Iron and copper, and even bronze, will ____________/ corrode over time
Other forms of wealth that cannot be eaten and do not corrode can be _______________
If you treasure the things of this world, you will be ___________when they are devalued, destroyed or stolen
Treasures in Heaven – Matthew 6:20
Treasures in heaven are ________________and will remain, so they are a wise and prudent investment
Matthew 19:16-24 – The Rich Young Ruler – chose his earthly wealth and left full of ______________
Luke 12:32-34 – treasure in heaven cannot be purchased, it is gained by living __________________
1 Corinthians 9:24-25 – The imperishable _____________ for those with self-disciplined Christian living
1 Thessalonians 2:19 – The crown of ________________for those that proclaim the gospel
2 Timothy 4:7-8 – The crown of _________________for those that love Christ’s appearing
_____getting caught up in the pursuit of the things of this world; live your life in trust and obedience to God
Where Is Your Heart? – Matthew 6:21
Your heart will be set on what you ____________
Expose your heart / what you treasure by examining how you ____________your money and your time
What Is Your Eye Like? – Matthew 6:22-23
A warning about the ________________of a man’s heart – the scribes and Pharisees were supreme examples
A good eye receives light and sees, but a bad eye does not, leaving the body full of darkness – ___________
A good heart receives truth and pursues righteousness, and evil heart _________truth and is left in darkness
An _________heart that claims the darkness (lies) it has is light (truth) is left in even greater darkness (evil)
People easily deceive themselves that their small _________are sacrificial and great works of righteousness
Who Do You Serve? – Matthew 6:24
Master = slave ____________ – You can have only one master
Mammon = ______________ wealth
Who __________you? Your possessions or God? Who / what do you serve? God or mammon?
If you are not serving God and storing up _________in heaven, then repent and change your investment plan
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