Lay Up Treasure in Heaven
Topic: Default Passage: Matthew 6:19–6:24
This week we are diving back into our series on Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.
As you have seen, if you have been following along with us through Jesus’ sermon on the mount, the Pharisees, whom Jesus is both speaking to and about, have a wrong view of God. And because they have a wrong view of God, they have a wrong view of man. And because they have a wrong view of both God and man they, very logically, have a wrong view of money.
Jesus talks more about money than any other topic. One scholar said that 15% of Jesus’ teachings deal with money or possessions. It says something that Jesus taught on money more than even heaven and hell. And I think the reason is because our use of money says something very clearly about our heart. Sometimes our wrong use of money can show us our wrong view of God and man.
Teaching on giving feels weird to me. I am obviously a benefactor of the giving at this church. I don’t like to teach on something that clearly benefits me. I also don’t want to be that pastor who has a series on giving the last quarter of every year and any other time we are behind on our budget. But I also never want to ignore something in the Bible and I certainly don’t want to ignore something that is clearly so important to Jesus.
At my former church, we so didn’t want to feed the perception that God and churches mainly want your money that we almost never taught on giving and I really think we hindered the growth of the people in that church. If how we use our money is important that Jesus, then it needs to be important to us as well.
I have lived in college towns since I graduated college and been around college students, but I saw something at Ole Miss that I’ve just never seen in other places.
Parents investing insane money in decorating a dorm room. I’m talking
$10,000-$20,000 and more just in decorating. Maybe other places do this now. Maybe Ole Miss just has a lot of Texas money. But parents would bring decorators in and buy lots of very nice fixtures, curtains and paint. Put down nice wood floors in the room. The nicest rugs and beds and beddings and cushions. Brand new flat screens, surround sound, gaming systems. Maybe this was your college experience. Skyler Flowers wanted to be sure I told you I am not talking about his dorm room. He had a bed and a bunch of Papa John’s boxes and that was it.
Now, some of this they could take with them, but much of it will only be used for that one year in a place they cannot stay for more than one year. I remember one dorm that was actually scheduled to be demolished the next year!
This looks, to the average person, at best, like a poor stewarding of their resources and certainly not the best thing for the child. And, at worst, like a bandaid on a deep longing for value and worth. We are all tempted to believe the lie that the more money we can spend on ourselves or maybe our children, the happier we will be.
I read an article in Psychology Today this week that said there is one way that money can bring happiness: by giving it away. There is no identifiable link between having money and possessions and happiness. But, there is a strongly identifiable link between giving money away and happiness. This, of course is supported all over the Bible, not least of which is the book of Proverbs and our passage today. And as a general rule, when modern science and the Bible both say the same thing, we would be crazy not to listen.
So, why is that? Why are giving people happier? What does our money tell us about our heart? In this text, Jesus tells us three things: how we are supposed to handle our finances, why we don’t handle our finances the way we should and, finally, how we can. Let’s dive in.
- How we are supposed to handle our finances verses 19-20
Look at verses 19 and 20: 19 "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. - Matthew 6:19-20
We are to lay up treasures in heaven and not earth. What does that mean? People have proposed from this text that money is a bad thing and that wealth is immoral. People have used this text to support various forms of socialism. Frankly, people have used this verse to feel better about their own laziness induced poverty. I don’t think that is what Jesus is saying.
We are called to provide for our families. It is a good thing if we can leave something for our children and it is wise to want to save to support yourself in your later years. The Bible does not say that money is bad. It isn’t the root of all evils. The Bible says that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evils. And Jesus is saying that how we handle our money shows what we love.
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. The language Jesus is using illicites an image of coins piled high or grain that has been stockpiled.
Certainly, in that day, moths were a real danger to wool clothes. They would come in and lay their eggs in wool and destroy very expensive clothing. There is some debate about this word ‘rust.’ It could be rust that breaks down metals or it could refer to rats who eat grain. Either way, we can see what Jesus is doing here. He’s clearly communicating that none of our material possessions will last. They will all rot or rust or be eaten in some way.
A few months ago, I told you about finding an old Nokia flip phone in my kids toy bin. Just this week I found my first Razor phone in a kids toy bin. Do you remember that phone? I remember so well getting that phone. It was the first truly flat phone. It could fit in your pocket. It had a sleek flat screen that made it feel light years ahead of every other phone. It was as much of a fashion statement as it was a phone and people were paying big money for them. Well, someone gifted me a Razor and I was way more excited about it than I probably should have been.
That thing that had such value to me back in 2005 is literally worthless now. And that is exactly what will happen to our material possessions at some point. Most of our material treasures will one day be in someone else’s garage sale. And even if we have some truly rare possession that will only appreciate with time, it can always be stolen from us. Business deals can always go bad, partners can lie and at some point we all die and someone takes our stuff.
Now, there is this tendency in the American church to feel like we are good because our money doesn’t feel very stockpiled. Most of us don’t have piles of expensive coins or a Scrooge McDuck like money vault somewhere. But, it would be irresponsible of me to not point out that this passage is intended for all of humanity across space and time. This passage has much to say to the tribe in Togo and the village in Afghanistan. And because of that, it should say even more to us.
If you make more than $32,400 a year, you are in the top 1% of the world’s wealth. I was talking this week with the head of the chemical engineering department at the University of Mississippi and he said that if the rest of the world consumed resources the way the US does, it would require 8 planet earths to sustain us. So, not only are most people in this room in the top 1% of the world’s wealth, it isn’t physically possible for the rest of the world to catch up. I’m not trying to be harsh especially if you feel a financial pinch, but we can’t believe the lie that this passage isn’t speaking to us.
So, when we hear don’t lay up treasures on earth, we think, about not buying a new car or that new toy or eating a nice meal at home instead of a even nicer meal at a restaurant. I know enough Christians around the world striving to apply this passage in their lives to say that the rest of the world looks at most of our attempts to not lay up treasures on earth and they laugh.
Every generation has what we call blind spots. Things the culture as a whole does not see. Or things we choose not to see. My great-great grandparents either didn’t or chose not to see the horrors of slavery. My grandparents were culpably naive to the overt racism of their day. And most every pastor I know would say that our great blind spot today is our collective wealth in light of the suffering world wide.
Again, I’m not saying money is bad! I’m deeply thankful for where and when I have been born. If my family lived outside of the US or in the US in the 1950’s four of the six of us would not be alive today. I’m not vilifying money, calling us to see the opportunities we have to do such good. And this good is what Jesus calls laying up treasures in heaven.
Whatever it is that we sacrifice for is where our treasure is. Dollars aren’t the issue here. They aren’t bad. Selfishness is the currency of this world and love is the currency of heaven. Dollars simply work to show us which currency we use.
But, the question still remains, what is treasure in heaven? There is this idea out there that treasure in heaven is like some heavenly retirement plan. “Oh, you only got Jesus? I’m so sorry! I got Jesus plus all this treasure I layed up here.” Remember, Jesus in this sermon has been talking about two very different kingdoms with two very different economies, values and ethics. To sacrifice and invest in this earthly kingdom is to lay up treasure in this world. To sacrifice and invest in the kingdom of God is to lay up treasure in heaven. And laying up treasure in heaven will give you security and satisfaction.
Love your children and grandchildren well and you are laying up treasure in heaven.
Love your neighbor (which, by the way, requires that we actually knowing our neighbor) and you are laying up treasure in heaven. Tell people about Jesus Christ and you are laying up treasure in heaven. Support kingdom ethical issues like the pro-life movement, homelessness and discrimination and you are laying up treasure in heaven.
Treasures in heaven are the things you will still care about on your deathbed. I had the opportunity to be with a man as he died this month. It made me think about the things I value most. When that day comes for me, I won’t care about the car I drove or the books I wrote. I’ll care about the times I laid in bed with my kids and read them books. I’ll care about the times I went out of my way to help someone when it didn’t benefit me at all.
"The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. - Matthew 13:44. This makes absolutely no sense unless the kingdom of heaven is of much more value than anything we own on this earth. The currency of the kingdom of heaven is love. And love changes the way we use our money.
And, at this point, as it pertains to finances, people usually want to know how much they need to be giving. What percentage or amount of money should we be giving away? Many would say 10%, but I think an even better way to answer this question is simply this: Is your lifestyle changed by what you give? If you weren’t giving, would you live in a bigger house and have nicer cars? If the answer is yes, be encouraged. You are likely laying up treasure in heaven. If the answer is no, you might be laying up treasures on earth.
There are some really profound and sobering examples in the Bible of God’s response to those who value selfishness more than love. Achan, as we will see when we go through the book of Joshua after Easter, stole silver and gold from the enemy that God explicitly commanded him not to. And God had him stoned and burned.
Ananias and Sapphira, in Acts lied about what they were giving to the church and God struck them dead. And in each case, it wasn’t the gold or the silver that was the problem, it was the fact that selfishness ruled the day to the point that these people were lying to God about what they did with their money. And I would think that each of us here today can relate in some way with that kind of selfishness.
So, why is it that we don’t lay up treasures where they are supposed to be laid up?
- Why we don’t verses 22-23
We don’t store up treasures in heaven because we set our eyes on the earthly kingdom and not the kingdom of God. . Look at verses 22 and 23: 22 "The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, 23 but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! - Matthew 6:22-23
This can sound confusing at first, but it’s actually pretty simple. Jesus is saying that the eye is the place light comes into the body. The eyes allows for the illumination that guides our every step. The eye doesn’t create the light, but it is the place by which the light is utilized. It can be a noon summer day in Florida, but if your eye isn’t working, you will not see the light and you will not know where to go.
Jesus is obviously spiritualizing this. He’s asking us what our eye is on. If our eye is on God and His glory then our whole body and heart is illuminated and that allows us to want to lay up treasure in heaven. If our eye is on ourselves and our glory then our body and heart will be dark and we will spend our treasure on ourselves.
If our eyes are not working, then we are blind to spiritual things. And I think in the realm of greed, which is what we are talking about here, it is really apt that Jesus relates it to blindness. We all know when we are committing certain sin. You know when you lie, you know when you steal, you know when you are cheating on your spouse. But a bad eye blinds us to the fact that we are even greedy at all.
There is always someone who has more and makes us feel like we’re not in any way rich. I heard Tim Keller say once that in all his years of ministry people came and confessed a lot of different sins to him. But in all his years, no one ever came to him and confessed greed. And he was in New York City! The reason we don’t lay up treasure in heaven is because we are blind to God’s glory and our own greed.
And when we are blinded to God’s glory and our greed we make very poor decisions. We choose bad jobs. We don’t choose a job based on our skill sets or enjoyment or how much time it will take from our family. We choose a job based on how much money we will make.
Blindness causes us to choose bad spouses. You would be wise not to amen that. I have seen many a young person though marry someone they would not have married if not for the fact that they had money or the promise of making money. They didn’t marry the person for love or consider spiritual qualifications in marriage, they married for security.
I read a story this week about a professor named Addison Leitch. He was the second husband of Elisabeth Elliot who many of you know. She is probably my wife’s favorite person to read and listen to. She was married to three men, two of whom died before she did. Her first husband was a missionary killed by a tribe in the Amazon he was trying to reach.
So, Leitch, her second husband was professor and a couple of young women at his school became Christians and wanted to become missionaries. Their parents were most disturbed and said, “Now dear, you’ve had a religious experience. How wonderful, but you need some security. Before you go off to have your missionary experience, which is fine, first you should have a master’s degree. Then you need a job or two so your career is off the ground before you leave and you have some money in the bank for security.”
So, these students came to Dr. Leitch and asked what they should do. He responded, “Oh, here’s what I would say to your parents. Tell them we’re on a little ball of rock spinning through space called earth, and who knows if we’re going to run into something? Even if we don’t, someday under each one of us is going to open a trapdoor, and everybody is going to fall off. At the end of your life, a trap door opens up underneath you, and you fall off this little ball of rock. Underneath you will be the everlasting arms or nothing at all, and you think a master’s degree is going to give you some security?”
The darkness in our eyes blinds us from our greed and make us think that money will give us the security we need. That’s when money becomes our master. The issue isn’t money, it’s our hearts. We have to be able to see if money is our master...if money has power over us.
And this power money exerts over us can take many forms. It lures some people in like sirens. Some people are enamoured with money. They see a nice house and a nice car and country club membership and they think, man, if only I could have that. If I can’t have it, I at least want to get close to it. That’s money exercising its power. But the opposite is true too. Years ago, I had a student who really didn’t come from money and I remember him saying, “I hate money. I hate people who have big houses and nice cars and fancy vacations.” And in that moment, that was money displaying its power over him. Instead of luring him in, he saw it as some evil thing.
And we see this playing out in our politics on both sides. There are some Democrats wanting to redistribute wealth because money has power over them and there are some Republicans wanting to maintain wealth because money has power over them. Jesus is saying that our problem on both sides of the isle is blindness.
So, what are some signs that money might have power over you? Here are few tests. Do you look down on people who have less than you? Do the poor make you angry. Does your giving actually change your lifestyle? And if you do give, do you do it out of joy or guilt? I knew a man once who said it just pained him to write that check to his church every month. Even in his giving, money was showing its power over him.
So, how is it that we can break this blindness? How can want to lay up treasure in heaven and not on earth?
III. How we can verses 21,24
We have to choose our master. 24 "No one can serve two masters, for 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 God and money. - Matthew 6:24
We will have a master. Our master will either be money or Jesus. We can lie to ourselves and say that we serve Jesus while deep down we know we are trying to serve both. But, that life will take a psychological toll on you that will eventually force your hand. You’re going to see that you love one and hate the other. Whoever it is that you actually render sacrifice to is your true master. John Calvin said, “Where riches hold the dominion of the heart, God has lost His authority.”
And I think there is one realization that Spirit filled Christians make that breaks this battle. We realize that money is not a God that will love us back. As one pastor put it, The Bible says every treasure but Jesus will insist that you die to purchase it, but Jesus Himself is the one treasure who died to purchase you. Anything else you make your supreme value will say, “Die for me,” but if you make Jesus Christ your supreme value, He’s the One who said, “I’ve died for you.” We were His treasure and He died to so that He could be ours. Only if Jesus is your treasure will you ever be able to choose the right master and truly be free to lay up treasure in heaven.
Are you going to serve the master who will never love you back and who will succumb to moths and rust? Or will you serve the Master who loves you and will keep you for eternity?
Unlike any other world view, Jesus isn’t commanding our money, He’s calling our heart. That’s why He says, 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. - Matthew 6:21
I have heard some well meaning Christians say, “Just start giving and your heart will follow.” And maybe God in His grace has done this with some people, but I don’t think that this is what Jesus is saying. He’s saying that the way we use our treasure will reveal our heart. When Moses was raising money for the tabernacle who is it that gave? And they came, everyone whose heart stirred him, and everyone whose spirit moved him, and brought the LORD's contribution to be used for the tent of meeting, and for all its service, and for the holy garments. - Exodus 35:21
Where our heart is, our treasure will follow.
When Turner was a toddler, he was playing on the ground and I got down low to play with him and he immediately took a toy next to him and held on tight. It was clear that he wanted the toy in an unhealthy way. I asked him to give me that toy. He didn’t and I asked again. Then with tears in his eyes, he gave it to me. I hugged him and gave him the toy right back. I didn’t care about his toy, I cared about his heart.
That is why Jesus talks so much about money. He cares about our hearts and how we handle our money and possessions says something about our hearts.
So many have mischaracterized Christianity as simply wanting your money. I will be the first to say that some horrible Christian pastors and priest have wanted nothing more than your money. But Christ wants your heart. He wants to show all of us ways that we are still serving two masters and call us let go of the master who will never love us and turn the master who will always love us.