2006-09-03_Eternal Investments_Matthew 6.19-24
Matthew 6:19-24 | Shaun LePage | September 3, 2006
A. Beth and I moved twice last year. Many of you helped us, so you know we have too much stuff. In fact, I was thinking about that term, “moved.” What does that mean? It means we moved all of our stuff from Residence A to Residence B. We humans are always “moving” around here and there. We “move” every day. But when we say we’re “moving,” we really mean we’re moving our stuff. And there’s nothing like “moving” to make you realize how easy it is to accumulate too much stuff. And to make you start thinking about how well you’re investing your money. Thinking about how well I’m investing my money causes me to think about well I’m investing my life.
B. This morning, I want to ask you to step back and take a good look at what you value. In our culture, we are inundated by constant advertising telling us what we need. What we must have in order to have a full and abundant life. A typical supermarket in the United States in 1976 stocked 9,000 products; today it carries more than 30,000. (Our Daily Bread, May 26, 1994)
C. An anonymous writer once wrote, “The only reason a great many American families don’t own an elephant is that they have never been offered an elephant for a dollar down and easy weekly payments.” (Source Unknown)
D. But, I like what comedian Steven Wright once said, “You can’t have everything. Where would you put it?” Of course, the American answer to that question is “Storage units.” I’ve often wondered if any other country in the world has more options for the storage of stuff than the United States of America. I’m sure no one else even comes close.
E. The sad thing is, you and I—if we’re really honest with ourselves—often get caught up in it. We walk through the mall and see a high-definition plasma television with a 50” screen and we can’t look away. We begin to think of where that monstrosity would fit in our living room. We begin figuring in our heads how we might be able to pay for one. We see a car drive by—maybe a Lexus, maybe a bright yellow HumVee, maybe a lime green Volkswagon Beetle—and suddenly we have a dream car. Maybe you have a dream house or a dream vacation. The American Dream is to be independently wealthy—to have all the stuff we dream about.
F. But step back. Re-evaluate everything this morning. What do you really value? What is truly valuable? How are you investing yourself? Your money? Your time? Your self?
G. CPS: In the passage we will look at this morning, Jesus makes it clear that all of us are investing ourselves and our wealth in something. The real question is Will you invest in what is truly valuable?
H. Review: In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells us what is truly important and what is truly right.
1. In the first 20 verses of the Sermon on the Mount taught a new—a different understanding of righteousness. In the Beatitudes, He spoke of how different kingdom-minded disciples would be in their character (1-12). Then, He spoke about His disciples should have influence over the world around them because they should be so different (13-16). Next, He spoke of the authority of kingdom disciples (17-20). That authority was the perfect, errorless Word of God. He said true righteousness is derived from understanding Scripture correctly, and applying it completely.
2. Then, in vs.21-48 of chapter 5, Jesus began to explain a new and different practice of righteousness. He gave four examples of how the hypocritical religious leaders of His day were trying to get by with as little righteousness as possible. Instead, Jesus said, “You must be perfect, as your Heavenly Father is perfect.” In other words, our Father—God Himself—is the standard. He is the one we are to model. We are to strive for His kind of righteousness.
3. In the first 18 verses of chapter 6, Jesus addressed our religious life—our giving, our praying and our fasting. He told us to do these kinds of things “not to be noticed by men, but by your Father who is in heaven.” The very same actions. The very same religious activity could be done by two individuals and one could be a huge failure while the other could actually please God and be rewarded by Him. What was the difference? Their motivation. Their perspective. The religious failure is the one who practices religion with very short-sighted goals—the admiration of other people. The religious hero is the one who practices religion with heaven-sighted goals. With an eternal perspective.
4. In the next section, Jesus steps away from religious life and begins to address secular life. The common, ordinary subject of money.
II. Body—Matthew 6:19-24
A. 19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; 21 for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 22 The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, 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 that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! 24 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.”
B. I want to share with you Six Principles for Eternal Investing. The obvious conclusion of this passage is that Jesus is telling us to invest wisely.
1. Avoid low-profit investments. (v.19) “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.”
a) Notice the negative command here: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth…” Why not? Not because it’s wrong to “store up treasures” but because that particular type of investment results in low profit. Jesus tells us to avoid low-profit investments. This is a no-brainer in the investment world. Millions of dollars are spent every year analyzing the history of various investments. Only shysters or the confused convince people to invest in low-profit investments.
b) But why are “treasures on earth” guaranteed to be “low-profit investments”? Because of death. Everyone dies—the rich and the poor—and as King Solomon—the wealthiest man who ever lived—wrote in Ecclesiastes 5:15 (NIV): “Naked a man comes from his mother’s womb, and as he comes, so he departs. He takes nothing from his labor that he can carry in his hand.”
(i) Dustin Hoffman, the Academy award-winning actor, once revealed his plans for the epitaph on his tombstone. He says it will simply read, “I knew this was going to happen.” (Houston Chronicle, Jan. 4, 1998, p. 2A)
(ii) After numerous visits to his office, a doctor asked a hypochondriac patient why he was always so concerned about his health. The patient curtly replied, “Because, death runs in my family!” (Houston Chronicle, Nov. 1, 1995, p. 13D).
c) Death runs in my family, too. It runs in your family. In fact, the death rate among humans is 100%. Any wealth we “store up” here is only short-term profit. Either moths are going to eat it. Or rust is going to ruin it. Or thieves are going to steal it. Or, we’re going to die and someone else—probably a lawyer—is going to get it.
d) Now, let me qualify what Jesus is saying here. This is not a ban on owning possessions or private property. He is not telling us that it’s wrong to have a life insurance policy or a savings account or a financial portfolio. In the Book of Proverbs, chapter 6, the ant is praised for storing up food—for gathering up what she needs before winter. In fact, Paul chastises those who don’t provide for their families. In 1 Timothy 5:8, he said, “If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” (NIV)
e) The problem is when we don’t see ourselves as temporary residents of this planet. When we own and save and invest only or primarily in the stuff of earth.
f) Muhammad Ali was arguably the most famous athlete of his generation. He was on top—the heavyweight champion of the world. He had more fame and wealth than almost any other athlete you can name. But the party ended. Ali now has Parkinson’s disease, and finds it difficult to speak and control his own body. A few years ago, he said, “I had the world, and it wasn’t nothin’.” (Today in the Word, October, 1990, p. 11)
g) The world—according to Muhammad Ali and Jesus—is nothin’! It’s a bad investment.
2. Choose high-profit investments. (v.20) “But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal…”
a) Here’s the positive command. Jesus instructs us to “store up” a different kind of treasure. “Store up” literally means “treasure up.” There is nothing wrong with “storing up” treasure. Jesus encourages it! But—He says—make sure it’s the right treasure. You see, there’s a contrast in these two verses between two different kinds of treasure: Treasure on earth vs. treasures in heaven. One is valuable, one is not. It’s that simple.
b) We’re not talking about earning treasure in heaven so you can get into heaven. This treasure is for the already heaven-bound. Listen to what theologian John Stott wrote about this: “Jesus was certainly not teaching a doctrine of merit or a ‘treasury of merits’ (as the medieval Roman Catholic Church called it), as if we could accumulate by good deeds done on earth a kind of credit account in heaven on wich we and others might draw, for such a grotesque notion contradicts the gospel of grace which Jesus and his apostles consistently taught.”
c) We are talking about a wealth that can’t be seen. You may be thinking, “That kind of investing requires too much faith.” But think with me: Investing for the future always requires faith. When you and I invest any amount of money, we are denying ourselves the immediate gratification we could gain from that small amount of money so that we can hopefully have more—a better amount of money—in the future. But, that profit is unseen as well. That’s faith! Not faith in God, but faith in the stock market or in the economy or E.F. Hutton. Listen to 1 Timothy 6:17-19. That’s the kind of faith investing Jesus had in mind.
d) George W. Truett, a well-known pastor, was invited to dinner in the home of a very wealthy man in Texas. After the meal, the host led him to a place where they could get a good view of the surrounding area. Pointing to the oil wells punctuating the landscape, he boasted, “Twenty-five years ago I had nothing. Now, as far as you can see, it’s all mine.” Looking in the opposite direction at his sprawling fields of grain, he said, “That’s all mine.” Turning east toward huge herds of cattle, he bragged, “They’re all mine.” Then pointing to the west and a beautiful forest, he exclaimed, “That too is all mine.” He paused, expecting Dr. Truett to compliment him on his great success. Truett, however, placing one hand on the man’s shoulder and pointing heavenward with the other, simply said, “How much do you have in that direction?” The man hung his head and confessed, “I never thought of that.” (Our Daily Bread, October 24, 1992.)
3. Monitor the LVI (Leading Values Indicator). (v.21) “…for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
a) Jesus really gets to the heart of the issue here. The heart is the best indicator of what you treasure. The heart in Scripture represents the command center. What is really driving you as a person? What’s important to you? What gets your blood pumping? That’s where your treasure is. That will tell you what you value. He wasn’t saying that if you put your treasure in heaven, your heart will follow and your emotions will catch up someday. He was saying that where you put your treasure reveals where your heart is.
b) Turn to Colossians 3:1-5. Do you see it? Your life is hidden—it’s completely wrapped up in—Christ! Greed is idolatry because it shows that your real treasure—the treasure your heart truly desires—is something or someone other than Christ. But the mind set on the things above understands what is truly valuable.
c) So the point is: Is your heart right with God? If it is, you won’t have trouble investing in heavenly things. You won’t have trouble giving your money to the cause of Christ. You won’t have trouble giving your time and talent to serve others. You will give your energy cheerfully if your focus is on heaven, instead of earth.
d) Here’s the bottom line: How you handle your treasure reveals your spiritual condition. There’s just no getting around this—Biblically speaking. If you want to evaluate where you are—spiritually—then evaluate your finances. Evaluate your spending habits.
e) Please don’t think I’m trying to get you to put more money in the offering basket. Please don’t dismiss what I’m saying because you think I’m greedy. If you’re not giving as you should to this church, that’s between you and God. It’s not my business. Jesus is the one who said the “heart” was the LVI—the leading values indicator.
4. Sound projections lead to positive results. (v.22) “The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light.”
a) This is an illustration to help us understand what Jesus is talking about. Obviously, the eye is what we see with. If the eye is “clear” (i.e., sound, working properly), then our whole body benefits. Now, I’ve known blind people who function very well without eyes, but the fact is, the whole body benefits when the eyes see properly. The whole person can move faster with fewer bruised shins.
b) But Jesus is talking about spiritual matters, not physical eyesight. It’s about eternal perspective. When you “see” what Jesus is saying here. When you “see” what is really important. When you “see” that “treasures in heaven” are far more valuable than “treasures on earth” then you are seeing clearly and therefore you can invest with positive results. You can “store up for yourselves treasures in heaven”. Look at v.23 now.
5. Distorted projections lead to negative results. (v.23) “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!”
a) If—on the other hand—your physical eyesight is bad, nothing else in your body will detect light. Your whole body is in darkness.
b) If your spiritual vision is bad—in other words, if your heart values the wrong things because you don’t have eternal perspective—everything else is in darkness. Your entire value system is in darkness. You will think the stuff of earth is more valuable than it really is. You will not “see” how important it is to invest in the heaven-treasure.
c) “How great is the darkness,” Jesus said. And He said this with sadness. It’s far worse to be spiritually blind than to be physically blind. You can be physically blind and yet be full of spiritual light if your heart has an eternal perspective and you’re investing in heaven. Again, those investments are far more valuable. But if you’re spiritually blind and investing everything you’ve got in earth-stuff, in earth values, then some day you’re going to wake up and realize you’ve been deceived. You’ve wasted your time, your talent, your treasure. You had a distorted projection—bad information that said “earth investments are best” and you trusted that bad projection—and you will find that your investments yielded very negative results.
6. Diversification is not an option. (v.24) “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.”
a) I know it’s wise to diversify when you’re investing your money. But, when it comes to eternal investing, you cannot put your eggs in more than one basket. You must choose: God or something else? Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters.” He said, “You cannot serve God and wealth.”
b) You may disagree. Many Christians do. They think they can serve God part of the time, then serve wealth with the rest of their time. They’ve got God scheduled for Sunday morning and they may even give Him a few other appointments throughout the week, but they refuse to acknowledge that He is the Master and we are His slaves. That He owns us. He owns every day. Every hour. Every minute. Every dollar. Every dime. Every thing. Jesus isn’t really Lord of their time, their talent and their treasure. He’s not Lord at work. He’s not Lord of the portfolio. He’s not Lord of the checkbook. Jesus is saying that kind of person “hates” God. “Despises” God. That’s strong language. It’s not mine. Why is that kind of relationship with God “hatred”? Because a person who treats God that way wants a lesser god. They want a god they can order around. They want a god they quarantine from some areas of their life. They want a manageable god. They “hate” the God who is Lord over every area of their lives. They “hate” the idea of letting Jesus Christ be Lord over their finances. Their time. Their abilities. Their gifts. Their talents. Their future. Their children. Their marriage.
c) Like it or not, Jesus is very clear on this: Either you are a servant of God, or you are a servant of wealth. Either you love God and are devoted to Him or you hate Him and despise Him. Either you love wealth and are devoted to getting it or keeping it or you hate it and despise it as something that can ruin you. No middle ground. “No one can serve two masters.” “You cannot serve God and wealth.” Diversification—when it comes to Masters, when it comes to gods—is not an option.
C. Three questions to ask yourself:
1. What are my treasures? In other words, figure out what you have to invest. Time? Energy? Money? Talent? Home? Gifts? Experience? Think about it: What do I have to invest?
2. What will I store up? How will I invest these assets—these treasures? Three thoughts here:
a) Are you ready to invest in heavenly treasure or do you really want earth stuff? You must begin with this question. This is the question of faith! Is there really such a thing as “treasure in heaven,” and am I really prepared to say that it is far greater than any “treasure on earth”?
b) How are you currently using your assets? Are you investing them in “treasures on earth” or “treasures in heaven”?
c) Ask yourself, “How can I do better?” How can I invest more in heavenly treasure?
3. Who will I serve? You must choose your master. There are many other “masters”—power, pleasure, possessions. Can you speak with the confidence of Joshua when he said, “If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve…but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15)
A. CPS: Will you invest in what is truly valuable?
B. Martin Luther once said, “I have held many things in my hands and I have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God’s hands, that I still possess.”