The Greatest Sermon in History Part 16
Storing Up Treasure in Heaven
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
May 30, 2004

 

Main Passage: Matthew 6:19-24 (NLT)

 

Play “If I Had a Million Dollars” by the Barenaked Ladies
(use video from http://www.furnation.com/fluffandsuch/vids/FS-Million_Dollars_CABLE.mov)

It’s nice to dream, isn’t it? Have you ever stopped to think about what you would do with a million dollars? What would you do?

PARTICIPATION

(Would you sponsor missionaries like Don Floyd, in the service this morning?)

There are all kinds of things you could do with a million dollars. You could buy lots of stuff, you could travel lots of places, you could do lots of things. When you think about the possibilities, you can’t help but think, “Wow, that would be fun.” And you can easily buy into society’s lie that money can solve all your problems and make you happy.

Truth is, it doesn’t even take a million dollars to make people think that way. Some years ago, the Saint Petersburg Times in Florida ran clues to a treasure of two hundred dollars that had been buried somewhere in the Tampa-Saint Petersburg area. On the day the final clue was to be printed, two thousand people showed up in front of the newspaper’s offices. During the next thirty minutes several unusual things happened.

  • A half dozen people were injured in automobile accidents.
  • A number of women passed out in the crowd.
  • Four people had to be rescued from waste deep mud.
  • The stakes of a building were torn up from the crowd in its frantic search for hidden treasure.
  • All around general chaos ensued.

 

In retrospect, the newspaper stunt was a huge success. Circulation increased by five-percent. But the contest also revealed the all-consuming desire for more that has permeated throughout our society. People today have an unquenchable thirst for more… more money, more time, more power, more stuff, more pleasure, more treasure. The whole attitude of today can be summed up in the words of Donald Trump…

“The point is that you can’t be too greedy.”
~ Donald Trump

““Money is better than poverty, if only for financial reasons.”
~ Woody Allen

But then, that thinking’s nothing new. It’s been around a long time. That’s why the Bible talks more about money than just about anything else. That’s why Jesus felt the need to address our quest for treasure in the Greatest Sermon in History, the Sermon on the Mount.

We’ve been working our way through these three chapters in Matthew and so far we’ve seen Jesus address such practical topics as lust, adultery, interpersonal conflicts, honesty, integrity, prayer, fasting… so it should come as no surprise that He would also talk about money. After all, what’s more practical than that? Pretty much all of us deal with money… trying to make ends meet, saving up for the future, paying off debts, paying for our needs and wants.

So this morning we’re going to talk about some of the problems with having a money mindset and then we’re going to take a look at how we can have a proper perspective on our treasure. Okay? Let’s go.

 

The Trouble with Treasures:

 

1. Financial success never satisfies.

The more you get, the more you want. Until you reach a point where you have everything you could ever ask for and you’re still not satisfied.

Ecclesiastes 5:10-11 (NLT)
Those who love money will never have enough. How absurd to think that wealth brings true happiness! The more you have, the more people come to help you spend it. So what is the advantage of wealth—except perhaps to watch it run through your fingers!

Gino Reda is one of the hosts of SportsCentre on TSN. He’s been there for some 16 years, and during that time he has watched many pro-athletes’ lives unfold. He says they, like most people, hunt for what will bring lasting fulfillment to their lives. Reda, who himself is a Christian, says…

“After becoming famous and signing multimillion dollar deals, athletes discover those things are great but empty.”
~ Gino Reda, http://www.christianweek.org/stories/vol16/no03/story4.html

We’ve all heard that before. So why don’t we believe it? Why do we still crave it so much? Even if you get everything you want, you won’t have what you’re looking for, because financial success never satisfies.

 

2. Earthly treasures are temporary.

This past Tuesday as Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Dan Boyle was on the ice playing in game one of the Stanley Cup finals, his house caught fire. At the very time he was playing one of the most important games of his career, his possessions were going up in smoke. He later commented;

“Sometimes being a player in the playoffs you think you're superhuman, but this makes you realize you're not.”
~ Dan Boyle

A few years ago, there was a newspaper report of a young man who was driving his Porsche to work when it caught fire. He stood there watching it burn and was quoted as saying, “That car meant everything to me.” He was heartbroken. Too bad he had never listened to what Jesus said…

Matthew 6:19-20 (NLT)
“Don't store up treasures here on earth, where they can be eaten by moths and get rusty, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where they will never become moth-eaten or rusty and where they will be safe from thieves.”

Everything you have is going to spoil, corrode, be stolen, rot away, and break down (usually right after the warranty runs out). There’s nothing in this life that is invincible. And you can’t take it with you. As Billy Graham said…

“There won’t be a U-Haul following your hearse.”
~ Billy Graham

 

3. Greed corrupts the entire person.

“The only two things you can truly depend upon are gravity and greed.”
~ Jack Palance

Matthew 6:21-23 (NLT)
“Wherever your treasure is, there your heart and thoughts will also be.
“Your eye is a lamp for your body. A pure eye lets sunshine into your soul. But an evil eye shuts out the light and plunges you into darkness. If the light you think you have is really darkness, how deep that darkness will be!”

Let me give you a little test. You tell me what’s wrong with this statement: “Money is the root of all evil.”

PARTICIPATION

The problem is that it’s a misquote of Scripture. Let’s look at the passage that comes from…

1 Timothy 6:9-10 (NLT)
But people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is at the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows.

It’s not money, it’s the love of money. It’s the insatiable and unrelenting passion for money that’s the problem.

TV asks the question, “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” When you think about it, that’s really a dumb question. Because really, who doesn’t? Perhaps a more potent questions would be, “What are you willing to do to become a millionaire?”

A little over a decade ago, James Patterson and Peter Kim asked that question. Actually, their question was, “What would you be willing to do for Ten Million Dollars?” They conducted a massive survey and compiled the results in the book: The Day America Told the Truth. Yes, it’s a book about the U.S. But I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to include Canada in these statistics.

In the survey, they asked the question: What would you be willing to do for Ten Million Dollars?

Abandon family... 25%
Abandon church... 25%
Become a prostitute for a week or more... 23%
Give up citizenship... 16%
Leave spouse... 16%
Withhold testimony and let a murderer go free... 10%
Kill a stranger... 7%
Change race... 6%
Have sex-change operation... 4%
Put children up for adoption... 3%

They conducted a follow-up survey, and asked the same question for $5 million, $4 million, and $3 million. It wasn’t until they asked about what people would be willing to do for $2 million that they saw any significant drop-off in the response. So I guess the conclusion is that we do have a price, and it’s $2 million. (The Day America Told the Truth page 66)

A lot of people will do a lot of things to gain ten million dollars. That’s all they think they need to make them happy. For them, acquiring more stuff is all there is to accomplish in life. That is the “light” of understanding that they have. But that light is really darkness. It blinds them to things that are truly important. And it consumes them until nothing else matters to them. So they end up investing everything the are, their very heart, into the accumulation of more and more treasure. They forget the truth of Jesus’ words when He said…

Luke 12:15 (NIV)
“Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

 

4. A lust for more leads you away from God.

Matthew 6:24 (NLT)
“No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”

Jesus didn’t say that he advised against serving both God and money. He didn’t say you shouldn’t serve both God and money. He said you cannot serve both God and money. Yet so many of us try to walk a fine line living to please God and living to please their desire for treasure.

The truth is, at some point they come into conflict. And you have to decide, will you live for God or will you live for stuff? Stuff’s not bad… I hope you have stuff. But God has to come first.

“You can’t simply take Christ as a fire escape from Hell and still worship at the altar of self.”
~ Denn Guptill

“Either we keep our conscience and reduce our affluence by giving generously and helping those in need, or we keep our affluence and smother our conscience. We have to choose between God and money.”
~ John Stott

So let’s say you’ve made that choice. Let’s say you’ve decided to put God first, as I know many of you have. How do you keep your possessions in a proper perspective?

Well, first let me make this clear. Money is not evil in and of itself. There are plenty of examples of people in the Bible and throughout history who had plenty and yet lived lives that were pleasing to God. Just as there are plenty of examples of people who lived on nothing and pleased God. Money is not evil. But a love for it… a preoccupation for it… an all-consuming lust for it… is evil. So how do we have a healthy, Godly perspective on money? Here are five suggestions.

 

Keeping Possessions in Perspective:

 

A. Be thankful for what you have.

Yeah, I know the grass is always greener. I look around and I see all these people with better toys than I have, and I want them. The saying is, “The one who dies with the most toys wins.” But the reality is; the one who dies with the most toys… still dies.

Hebrews 13:5 (NLT)
Stay away from the love of money; be satisfied with what you have.

“There are two ways to get enough: One is to accumulate more and more. The other is to desire less.”
~ G.K. Chesterton

Back before this year’s NHL playoffs began, Jarome Iginla was interviewed by Sports Spectrum magazine. For those of you who don’t know, Iginla is the superstar player on the Calgary Flames and has now led his team to the NHL finals. This is what he said. “We’ve been out of the playoffs for seven years and believe me, every year has gotten tougher.” But he went on to say, “Every day I realize how blessed I’ve been in my life.” And he went on to explain that he accepted Jesus Christ as his Saviour while playing Junior hockey for the Kamloops Blazers.
(http://www.livinglightnews.org/newsbriefs_0304.htm)

There’s still more for Jarome to accomplish in his career. He’s never won a Stanley Cup, and I hope he does. Maybe by the time we meet here next Sunday he’ll have achieved that. But while he still has career goals and ambitions, he has learned to be thankful for what he already has.

You may never sign a multimillion dollar contract. You may never appear on the cover of Forbes magazine. You may never have your own infomercial. That’s okay. You don’t have to.

1 Timothy 6:7-8 (NLT)
We didn't bring anything with us when we came into the world, and we certainly cannot carry anything with us when we die. So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content.

 

B. Honour God with your giving.

1 Corinthians 16:2 (NLT)
On every Lord's Day, each of you should put aside some amount of money in relation to what you have earned and save it for this offering.

Malachi 3:10 (NLT)
“Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,” says the LORD Almighty, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won't have enough room to take it in! Try it! Let me prove it to you!”

As far as I know, that is the only place in the Bible where God invites you to test Him. He says, “Try it! Let me prove it to you! Be faithful in giving to my kingdom and I will bless you for it.”

Giving your tithes and offerings to God through the church isn’t something churches invented in order to make money. It’s something that God instructed us to do in His Word and is an issue of obedience and worship. And really it’s a privilege God has given to us to invest our resources into the ministry of His Kingdom. Your giving makes it possible for Sunrise to exist and make a difference in Charlottetown. Your giving makes it possible for people like the Floyds to take the good news about Jesus to people around the world.

Now, we don’t talk a lot about giving here for a couple of reasons. First, the church has a reputation in society for always being after your money. In 1 Timothy 6, Paul wrote about people who were abusing religion in order to get rich. But that’s not what we’re all about. Secondly, I’m not convinced that any impassioned plea of mine is going to open your wallets, anyway. If you believe in what we’re doing, you’ll give. If you don’t, you won’t.

But the flip side is this: If we never addressed giving, then we’d be neglecting a big chuck of Scripture. Because giving is a way that we worship God. It’s a way that we keep our greed in check. It’s a way for us to be involved in the progress of God’s kingdom on earth. Besides, if you are truly living for God, then He owns it all anyway. He asks for some of it back… as a rule, 10%... and entrusts the rest to us to manage.

 

C. Be a generous giver.

This is part of not storing up treasures on earth. It doesn’t last anyway, so why not spread it around while it’s there to give? Plus, this keeps your possessions from overpowering you and taking control of your life. If you’re willing to give it away generously and happily, then it’s not all-consuming.

Psalm 37:21 (NLT)
The wicked borrow and never repay, but the godly are generous givers.

John Wesley had an interesting take on how we manage our finances. This is what he said:

“Gain all you can. Save all you can. Give all you can.”
~ John Wesley

In other words, make giving part of the equation. Find some balance there. Money is for giving. Be careful not to be taken by some scam artist out to take your money, but at the same time be generous when a real need arises. J. Paul Getty, one of the first people to acquire over $1 Billion (U.S.), said…

“Money is like manure. You have to spread it around or it smells.”
~ J. Paul Getty

 

D. Remember, only eternal investments truly matter.

Every once in a while you’ll hear about someone being arrested and convicted of insider trading. That is, they’ve used confidential information to buy and sell stocks at an unfair advantage. Right now, Martha Stewart is the name that comes to mind. But Jesus gave us some inside information on how we should make our investments, except his advice isn’t illegal. At least, not yet. Let’s go back to what He said in verses 19 and 20…

Matthew 6:19-20 (NLT)
“Don't store up treasures here on earth, where they can be eaten by moths and get rusty, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where they will never become moth-eaten or rusty and where they will be safe from thieves.”

Invest your time, invest your energy, invest your money, invest yourself in what really matters and what lasts. Invest in God’s kingdom.

Colossians 3:2 (NLT)
Let heaven fill your thoughts. Do not think only about things down here on earth.

 

E. Trust God to provide for your needs.

It’s good that we’re looking at this passage on the week the Floyds are here. Because people like them are prime examples of people who trust God to provide for their needs. There’s not much financial incentive to become a missionary. You certainly don’t get rich that way. And yet they go because they know God will care for them through His Church and in other miraculous and unexpected ways. You and I can learn a lot from their example.

Looking at the next section in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says…

Matthew 6:25, 32-33 (NLT)
“So I tell you, don't worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food, drink, and clothes…
Your heavenly Father already knows all your needs, and he will give you all you need from day to day if you live for him and make the Kingdom of God your primary concern.”

 

That’s what we’ll be talking about next week, so let me leave it at that for now.

 

On Your Own…

Four Tests for Determining What You Treasure:
(from Mastering Your Money by Brian Bill)

1. The Durability Test. How long will my things last? Are they temporary or will they last forever in Heaven?

2. The Heart Test. Where am I investing my time and money? What excites me the most: Earth or Heaven? Which place makes my heart beat faster?

3. The Mind Test. Where do I focus my goals? Am I committed to materialism or spirituality? Do I operate according to God’s priorities, or my own?

4. The Master Test. Is Jesus my master or is something, or someone, else? Will I serve money on Earth and allow it to be my god, or will I serve God in Heaven with my treasures, which are really His in the first place?



 

 

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