In his epic novel “Les Miserables”, Victor Hugo writes about a rich, retired merchant who attended the church in the town — M. Geborand — who had accumulated an estate of 2,000,000 francs in the manufacture of cloth. M. Geborand had never given given alms to the poor, until the Bishop of Digne preached a sermon on eternity, and giving to the poor, and treasure in heaven. From the date of that of sermon forward, it was noticed that he gave regularly, every Sunday, ONE PENNY to the old beggar woman at the door of the cathedral. This beggar woman had 6 people in her family to share that penny with. When the bishop saw the rich merchant performing this “great act of charity, he turned and said to his sister: “See M. Geborand buying a penny worth of paradise.” (Les Miserables, p. 11)
You have to ask yourself, if out of his two million francs, he gave a penny of it a week away, how much did Monsieur Geborand really believe in Paradise?
And similarly we each need to ask ourselves today: what does the way that I spend MY money, tell about what I believe about heaven and eternity?
This is not unrelated to what Jesus has been talking about in the first part of Matthew 6, which was hypocrisy. Hypocrites do what they do hoping for the reward of being noticed by people here on this earth. So Jesus gets to the heart of the issue here, saying don’t make this world the place where you are looking for your reward. There is a better investment for you than that, by storing up your treasures in heaven.
I. Perishable Investments in the World
:19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal.”
This phrase “store up for yourselves” is a Bible word that comes from a word that means “treasure box.” Jesus is saying, Don’t try to save your treasures in a “treasure box” here on earth — and the reason He gives, is that the things of this world are so perishable, that “moth and rust destroy (them), and … thieves break in and steal” them. This world is NOT a good place to invest your treasures.
I was in the dentist’s office the other day, and the news was on, and everyone was listening to the flood reports from Houston. I couldn’t see him, but I could hear a man up at the receptionist’s desk telling her: “I lived in Houston for a short time several years back, and I could tell that is NOT where I wanted to live and invest my money in a home, etc. Too much could go wrong there — and there you see it.” That man saw the dangers of investing too much in a place where hurricanes and floods and disasters could take away everything you have.
But don’t you see: that is our whole world! There is NOWHERE IN THIS WHOLE WORLD where that is not true! It’s not just Houston, or New Orleans. Anywhere on earth you live, there can be hurricane, or tornado, or flood, or fire, or thieves, or stock market crash, or real estate bust — or none of those things happens, when you die, everything crashes, and you lose all of it!
So Jesus is saying, don’t try to save up your treasures in material possessions in this world, where it will all be lost.
Now let me add this: the lesson here is NOT “don’t ever save any money; just spend every penny you get.” Financial irresponsibility is NOT the lesson of the Bible. The Book of Proverbs has a LOT to say about responsible financial practices: giving, saving, wise investing — leaving an inheritance to children’s children. Paul uses this same Greek Bible word in II Corinthians 12:14 about how parents should save up to help their children. Jesus Himself and His disciples lived off of the financial generosity of those who had accumulated some wealth.
So the lesson is NOT “don’t ever save money”; or don’t ever get a home or a car. We can use some of these things to get through life, and to provide for our families. But the lesson is, don’t see these things for more than they are; don’t build your life around these things — because most people do. The focus of their life is about accumulating cars and homes and collections and investments — and they are going to lose it ALL.
In Luke 12:16 Jesus told the parable of a rich man whose land was so productive that he didn’t even have any place to store all his crops. So he said: “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 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?” Everything he’d saved up was lost!
There was a video released this week of a man and his son who had just been saved from the Houston flood by a helicopter. He told the reporter that everything was gone: his home, his car, his clothes — they literally got away only with what they had on their backs.
How many people in Houston and throughout southeast Texas today are looking at flooded homes and businesses and saying: “Everything I have lived for; everything I have worked for, is GONE!” — swept away in that flood. We should pray and give and help these people — you can find information on how to do that in the bulletin today.
But listen to me: what is happening in Texas this week should be a lesson for us all: This isn’t just “them.” WHAT IS HAPPENING TO THEIR “STUFF” IS EXACTLY WHAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN ONE DAY TO EVERYTHING WE HAVE! Everything we have is temporary, and it WILL be swept away, if not by a flood, then by something else, and eventually by your death. It is all temporary; Jesus says do not build your life around these things.
II. Eternal Investments in Heaven
(:20) “But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in and steal”
Jesus tells us here that there is a better investment for you than these temporary earthly things: invest your treasure in heaven, where it can never be taken away. A lot of people are always looking for a good investment, where they will get a good return, and especially where it will be safe. Jesus says, I have an investment for you: invest your money in heaven!
And He shows us that we can do that: In Matthew 19 Jesus tells the Rich Young Ruler: “If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, AND YOU WILL HAVE TREASURE IN HEAVEN …”.
So Jesus tells that young man that if he gives to the poor in Jesus’ name, that he will have a treasure in heaven. In other words, it is possible to exchange his earthly treasure — which he could lose any minute — for a heavenly treasure, which can never be taken away. THAT is a great investment! It’s just smart to trade something temporary, for something eternal.
When we were at Walt Disney World a couple of years ago, with the room and board plan we got, we had so many credits for the restaurant and the store in our hotel. The day we were leaving, we had a number of credits for meals that we hadn’t used, and one of the staff told us, those will expire your last day and you will lose them. So what you can do is go down to the little store there in the foyer of the restaurant and spend those credits before you leave. So we went to the store, and got several boxes of crackers and cookies for the trip home, and it seems like we got some sunscreen, and a souvenir or two, and we spent all our credits. That was only smart, to trade something that was temporary and was about to expire, for something that would last at least a little longer.
What Jesus is showing us here in Matthew 6 is that THIS is how we as Christians should see our material possessions. We should realize that these things are not going to last, and we should seek to invest them in something that WILL last, before they perish and we lose them forever.
Jim Elliott the missionary famously said: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” That applies to a lot of things, and it certainly applies to a Christian’s earthly riches. These things are temporary; they are going to “expire” — so we need to trade them in before they expire, for something that will last for eternity — we need to invest them in the Kingdom of God.
So what does that look like, “investing in the Kingdom of God”? You can’t make out a check to “Kingdom of God” and send it up to the skies in a pneumatic tube like we do at the bank drive-thru! So how do we save something into the Kingdom of God? Scripture shows us several ways we can give to the Kingdom:
— We can give to our local church, to support our staff and our ministries here. I Timothy 5 says “elders (pastors) who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching.” (If you read all of I Timothy 5 you will see that “honor” in context means financial support; so we should give to support our staff and our local church.)
— Then III John tells us that when missionaries go out, they are to accept nothing from the Gentiles, but he says: “WE ought to support such men.” So we can invest in the Kingdom by giving to support missionaries who are advancing the work of the Kingdom of God.
— And Scripture commands us in a number of places to give to the poor. Sadly, the government has taken this prerogative away from us to some extent, but we can still give to help others in need in our church body, as we do from time to time, and other individual cases that God lays on our hearts — and when we give to groups like Burke United Christian Ministries. David Burleson said he was so thankful for the response our people a couple of weeks ago in giving over 1,000 pounds of food, and thousands of articles of clothing to help the poor. Every one who gave that day not ONLY gave to BUCM, or to help a poor person, they also stored up a treasure in heaven, which will never be taken away. And we can give to special causes like those who have lost so much in the hurricane in the Gulf. In all these ways and more, we can give to God’s Kingdom work, and store up investments in heaven which can never be taken away.
Now this is where Christians differ from those who live for this world. Most people just live for the things they can see around them. Their whole lives are based on what they can get, what they can drive, what they can live in, how much they can store up.
But the Christian says, no, by faith, I believe there is another world, with eternal treasures. And I am going to invest my wealth there. Now it takes FAITH to do that, because you can’t “see” the treasures you have stored up in heaven.
When you collect things, you see them in front of you every day. When you buy a house or car, you live in it, and drive it every day; it is tangible. Even with investments and savings accounts, you get monthly statements, or you can look on the internet and watch your account balance growing.
But you can’t physically “see” what you are storing up in heaven. It takes faith. Really, everything in the Christian life takes faith:
— You didn’t “see” Jesus born in Bethlehem, but you believe it.
— You didn’t “see” Jesus die on the cross, but you believe He did.
— You didn’t “see” Him come out of that tomb on the 3rd day, but you believe He did; that’s faith.
I Peter 1 says although you did not see Him … you receive as the outcome of your FAITH the salvation of your souls. Faith is what the Christian life is all about — believing in what we can’t “see.” If you are here today and you’re looking for “proof” that Jesus and heaven is real, you’re looking for the wrong thing. Salvation is by FAITH, the Bible tells us: believing in this Jesus, and this salvation, that we can’t “see.” (Now it is not a “blind faith”; there are good reasons to believe it; historical witnesses, etc., but in the end, you’ve got to take that step of faith.).
Everything in the Christian life is about faith:
— you can’t “see” the Holy Spirit come into your life, but you believe He is there
— you can’t “see” God smiling as you sing to Him, but you believe it pleases Him
— you can’t “see” your intercessory prayer doing any good, but you believe that it does.
The Christian life is all about faith.
And it’s the same way with our eternal investments in heaven. We can’t “see” what we have up there; we don’t get to drive around in it every day; we don’t get a monthly statement categorizing what we have stored up in heaven. But by FAITH we believe that it IS there; and that it is greater than anything we have here, and best of all, that NOTHING CAN EVER TAKE IT AWAY!
But you only have that by faith. The question is for you today: DO YOU HAVE THAT FAITH? This is one of the biggest differences between the genuine Christian person, and the lost person: the lost person lives, and saves, and spends, only for this world. That’s all he sees and knows. But the Christian person has faith in another world, and he lives and saves and spends for that, because he believes it is better, and can never be taken way. The question for YOU is: are you living like you have that kind of faith? Are you giving, and saving, and spending, like you believe in another, a better, and an unseen world? And if you don’t believe it enough to invest your time and your money in it, the question has to follow: do you really, really believe in it, at all?!
III. Your Investments Reveal Your Heart
And finally, that really gets to the heart of this: your attitude and actions about money and possessions are very revealing about what’s in your heart. Jesus added in :21-24:
“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if 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 then 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 be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”
The focus of these verses is that your use of money and material possessions is determined by your spiritual commitment:
— Your treasure is going to be found where your heart is.
— Just like your eye guides your whole body, so your spiritual commitment is going to lead your use of money and everything else in your life.
— And you’ve got to choose which master you are going to follow: either worldly possessions, or the Lord.
All of these verses are about what our use of finances reveals about our heart. And the heart IS what is behind our attitudes towards material things, and how we spend our money. Some people get so “turned off” when churches talk about money — and quite honestly, in some cases it is deserved; there have been abuses. But the truth is, our use of our money and our resources really is a SPIRITUAL, heart issue:
— IS Jesus really the Lord of everything we have?
— DO we really believe there is an eternal world we can invest in?
— Do we really believe that people are lost, and that our gifts make an eternal difference in reaching them?
It’s a spiritual issue. It shows our heart commitment.
In Genesis 28, Jacob had left home to go back and look for a wife in his homeland in Paddan-aram. On the way he had the encounter with God that we call “Jacob’s ladder.” And he made a commitment to the Lord there: he said in :21, “then YAHWEH will be my God … and of all that You give me, I will surely give a tenth to You.”
See, Jacob made a spiritual commitment of his life to Yahweh as his God — and one of the ways he showed that heart commitment was giving of the 1/10 to God. But it wasn’t just about money; it was about his heart. Just like Jesus said here, his treasure just showed where his heart was.
And it always does. What we do with our money reveals our hearts, just like Jesus said.
Some of you know that a couple of weeks ago, Cheryl & I went to Indianapolis, Indiana for the birth of our FIFTH grand daughter, Josie Grace. While we were there, we were in WalMart and i saw some little Indianapolis Colts cheerleader outfits and I thought, I just HAVE to get those for the girls. And we did. They were a bit more than I wanted to pay — and Cheryl didn’t SAY anything, but I could almost feel her out of the corner of my eye asking, “Where is this going to come from?” — because for all of our married life we have tried to be good with our money, and we learned the old Larry Burkett system of keeping track of our money, and saving in different columns for upcoming house payments, or insurance, or whatever. So we know the money we have in the bank isn’t just there to spend; so much of it saved each week for the house payment, so much for insurance, so much for the upcoming electric bill, etc. And so for all of our married life when we are going to buy something I have asked “Ok, now what column is this going to come out of?” So as I said, Cheryl didn’t say anything, but I figured she had to wonder: “So where is THIS coming out of?!” But the truth was, I didn’t care. I was just going to get those girls those cheerleading outfits, and we could take it out of savings, or whatever — BECAUSE THAT IS WHERE MY HEART WAS!
And what we need to understand is that our giving ALWAYS shows where our heart is. We show where our heart is by where we send our money:
— You may say, Oh, I feel so badly for the people in Texas and Louisiana in these floods; my heart is just with them in this tragedy. Well, quite honestly, that is pretty easy to SAY. You are going to show how much your heart is really with them, by how you GIVE to help them! You will put your treasure where your heart is.
— And that’s why tithing is such a big deal in the church. It’s not just about the church budget; it reflects what is in your heart towards the Lord.
If that’s so that your money reflects your heart, then what does YOUR checkbook about where your heart is? What does the way you spend your money say about whether Jesus is really the Lord of your life? What does your giving say about what you really believe about missions and evangelism? What does the kind of treasure you are investing there, say about how much you really believe in heaven?
When Cheryl & I were serving in our first church, I visited in the home of a little senior adult lady from our congregation, and she told me a story about one of her relatives, from back in the “old” days — I guess back in the 1920’s & 1930’s. She said this little old lady lived by herself, and one day her house caught fire. She knew she needed to grab whatever she could and save it, but she didn’t know what. She was so panicked, that she went and got the only thing she could think of: she went to the icebox, and grabbed the big block of ice from it, and with all her strength, lugged that big block of ice outside and saved it — and it took her so long to do it, that it was the only thing she got out. And of course the tragedy was, as she sat and watched her house and everything in it burn, that block of ice — the only thing that she saved — melted away, and she had nothing.
And don’t you see, that tragic event in that poor lady’s life, is exactly how it is going to be for a lot of US, if we don’t heed Jesus’ words here? All the “stuff” of this world is just like that big block of ice; one day it’s all just going to melt — every bit of it. Don’t waste your life on stuff that is one day just all going to “melt.” Don’t leave this life and go to heaven empty-handed. Invest your life; invest your money; invest your time — in saving up treasures in heaven that can never be taken away.