Where Is Your Treasure - The COMMAND? Matthew 6:19-21 - January 18, 2015
A temptation we face as believers is the temptation of being like the world in seeking treasures on this earth. So often, we look at the things of this earth and say to ourselves, “If only I had that, then I would be all set.” We seek to find security and satisfaction in temporary things instead of what we already have in our relationship with God the Father through Jesus Christ.
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on 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 and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
1. Do Not Lay Up Treasures on Earth
I was wondering how many of us have collection. Sometimes you’d be surprised at what people collect. Stamps. Coins. Baseball cards. Record albums. Do you remember when the quarters came out from the various states. I wonder how many of us collected them, thinking they might one day be worth something. Some people have very valuable coin collections. My grandmother collected small vases, cups, saucers and most any kind of glass or crystal pieces. She had a lot of beautiful cups and saucers that were passed on to my sisters, and I’m sure treasured by them. Remember Beanie Babies? Jan had quite a collection, and made the mistake of thinking they might go up in value if she hung on to them. She missed the boat on that one!
I think we all have collections of photographs or home movies that are very important to us. These are valuable because they are irreplaceable. Pictures of loved ones who have passed away, and pictures of days gone by. We all value pictures of our kids when they were small. We have friends who own a campground up north, and every year they have a booth right net to our booth at the RV and Camping Show at DeVos, which is being held this week actually. We exchanged greetings and caught up a little bit as we were setting up our booths on Thursday. I noticed a woman from another campground came up and gave Paul and his wife a big hug and shared her condolences. I thought that maybe one of them had gotten bad news from a doctor, or maybe a loved on had died. Later they told me that on the morning of New Years Eve their house, which also houses their campground offices, had burned down - totally destroyed. The worst loss was two cats they couldn’t save - one had run back into the fire. But close behind that was their pictures and personal items that had little monetary worth, but they called these items “irreplaceable.” You’ve probably known people who suffered such loss. Your heart goes out to them.
Jesus warned his followers about collecting treasures on earth because treasures on earth can break, get stolen, wear out, or be destroyed. A water leak in your basement could ruin a valuable collection, or many of your possessions. Any number of things could make your treasure worthless. The market could drop, your collectors car could rust out, thieves could break in an steal your valuables.
The problem with putting all our efforts into laying up treasures on earth is that you could easily lose everything you had worked so hard to attain. It is not too difficult to think of examples of men and women who have laid up for themselves treasures upon the earth, thus showing where their heart truly was. Several come to mind:
Example 1 – The story of Achan (Joshua 6:17-18, 7:1-26). In verse 18, God instructs the children of Israel to attack Jericho, to abstain from the accursed things, and to bring all the silver, gold, and vessels of bronze and iron to be consecrated to the Lord into the treasury of the Lord. (Later they will be allowed to keep all the “booty” - but the firstfruits go to the Lord.) Now as they attack Jericho, one of the men disobeys the command of the Lord and keeps for himself a beautiful Babylonian garment, 200 shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold weighing 50 pounds. In sucha short time he became a wealthy man! Because of this man’s sin, Israel is defeated at the battle of Ai, and this man is put to death because his heart coveted after these riches instead of honoring the Lord and doing as He had asked.
Example 2 – The Rich Young Ruler (Matthew 19:16-22). In this story, a rich young ruler comes to ask Jesus a question. The question he asks is how he might have eternal life. Jesus answers the man by telling him that he needs to obey the commandments, and the rich young ruler responds, “Which ones?” Jesus responds, “‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not bear false witness,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” The young ruler responds that he has kept all these things and asks, “What do I still lack?”
This is where Jesus drops the bomb on the rich young ruler -- and all of us, really. He says, “Go, sell what you have and give to the poor” and “follow Me.” Where was this young man’s heart? You can tell by his reaction. His heart is controlled by his wealth and riches. This young ruler is wealthy and supposedly has a lot going for him, but he is not willing to let those things go in order to follow Jesus. He is willing to love his neighbor and do the commands that pertain to his fellow man, but when it comes down to loving the Father and having no other gods before Him, he is not willing to let go of the wealth he obtained here on earth in order to gain eternal life.
We have seen a couple of examples of people who laid up their treasures on the earth, and the end result for both of these situations was death. Their hearts were set upon the things of this earth, and they were willing to disobey God for the sake of temporal riches that do not last. The things we gather here on earth are only temporal; they do not last for eternity.
Jesus encouraged his followers to store up treasures in heaven instead where they won’t break, get stolen, wear out, or be destroyed. What are some ways you can store up treasures in heaven?
Perhaps you’re wondering, “Is Jesus saying we should have no possessions or earthly wealth?” because that is what it sounds like, here and in other passages.
1 Timothy 6:17-19 "Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 18 Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 19 In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life."
What Jesus focused on in the “Sermon on the Mount” is the heart, and especially the human heart in relation to God. The biggest point was that we should “seek FIRST the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and then (my loose paraphrase) everything else will fall into place.” Our money, and our possessions, everything we own should be viewed in light of the Kingdom: how can we use it to advance the work of the Kingdom. And that leads us to the second part of the passage we have selected...
2. (Do) Lay Up Treasures in Heaven
There are countless ways a believer can “lay up treasures in heaven.” Before we look at a few, I want to address a matter of much confusion. Many read this passage and think of “heaven” itself being the reward. In others words, they think of storing up a treasure that they will get when they get to heaven. But the point is that the treasure we are laying up is being reserved for us in heaven by Jesus Christ. In other words, He is the one who sees and knows our works, and he will reward us when he returns to earth to establish his kingdom.
Matthew 25:31-40 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory.32All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.33He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.
When you do something for a friend they remember it. And Jesus will not forget those acts of kindness, acts of love, acts of sacrifice, acts of giving, acts of sharing, acts of forgiveness -- any act prompted by the love of God that we have done for others! That is how we return the love of Christ for us, and it is the proof of our friendship with Him.
And all of those various acts of friendship will be remembered in the Kingdom. We will be rewarded. And we need to take that into account. The treasures we have in this life will all fade. “We brought nothing into this world and we can take nothing out.” But we can lay up a treasure by our actions - which is awesome because we don’t need great monetary wealth to lay up an eternal treasure!
John G. Wendel and his sisters were some of the most miserly people of all time. Although they had received a huge inheritance from their parents, they spent very little of it and did all they could to keep their wealth for themselves. John was able to influence five of his six sisters never to marry, and they lived in the same house in New York City for 50 years. When the last sister died in 1931, her estate was valued at more than $100 million. Her only dress was one that she had made herself, and she had worn it for 25 years. The Wendels had such a compulsion to hold on to their possessions that they lived like paupers. Even worse, they were like the kind of person Jesus referred to “who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God”.
There are limitless kinds of things you can do to lay up treasures in heaven - anything you do out of friendship with Christ and love for God. Coming to worship, teaching a class, sitting in a class, adding to the class, supporting the Pastor and leaders of the church in their efforts to build the church. Too often we look at things from the perspective of what can I get out of it - and what we do in effect is let others down, brothers and sisters in Christ who are making an effort to carry out God’s will. The church really runs on all cylinders when we each person looks out for the good of others - “what are you trying to do for Christ and how can I help?” I can’t tell you how rewarding our first week of the Mid-Week Connection was. I shared with the Elders, and I shared with the Wednesday Bible Study group a list of 7 spiritual purposes of this program, and ALL seven were checked off this week.
It began with running the idea through my wife, who would have a major role in it. She was encouraging, even though she knew that when I suggested a weekly fellowship dinner that entire responsibility would actually fall upon her. With her support I ran the idea through a couple more people, just as an idea. They also were encouraging, and assured me of their support. Knowing the idea was being confirmed, and not only confirmed, but gaining commitment, I then took it to the Board where the members approved it and agreed to underwrite the cost. The idea took on flesh as teachers and materials were lined up and we began promoting it. But it still came down to the show-down: would people support it? We knew if they would give it a try it would fulfill it's spiritual purposes. And many did show up, and even invite visitors. My point here is that the vision God gave me could only be brought to life with a tremendous amount of support, beginning with simple encouragement, then commitment, then action. And that's how God's gifts work - they have to be GIVEN through one member of the Body and RECEIVED by others to benefit the Body as a whole. Such investments into the work of God WILL be rewarded!
The COMMAND is to NOT be primarily focused on laying up earthly treasures. Invest your life in others. Invest in the work of Christ - His Body! Invest in the Kingdom of God!
Matthew 6:33 "Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you!"