Scripture: Matthew 6:19-24
(Preached at FBC Nitro, 2/26/2012)
This coming Thursday Jeannie and I will board a flight with five other people to begin our fourth mission trip to Ryazan, Russia. Combining our travel time going and returning, we spend about 24 hours in-flight. We learn a lot about airlines in that extended period of time. Some airlines have better service than others. In preparing for this message I came across a story about a man who did a great deal of business traveling. On one of his many flights, he commented to himself, “I cannot believe this flight crew! They are the most, attentive, responsive flight crew that I’ve ever seen!” So toward the end of the flight he stopped one of the crew members and said, “Excuse me, I don’t mean to bother you, but I fly a lot, and I have never seen a flight crew like this! You are the most engaged, enthusiastic, service-oriented flight crew that I’ve ever seen!” The female flight attendant smiled a bit, and bent down and whispered in his ear, “Thank you sir, but you really need to thank the woman seated back there in 12B.” She nodded toward the seat then continued, “You see sir, the woman in seat 12B is the head supervisor for all the flight attendants on our airline. And she is on this flight.”
What a difference it makes when we realize that the supervisor, the One to whom we are accountable, is on board with us. Psalm 24:1 says, “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein,” Anything that we may think we own actually belongs to God. So since it all belongs to Him, we are accountable to the kind of service that characterizes our lives. When we realize that He is with us, that He has expectations of us, it makes a huge difference as to how we conduct ourselves. Luke 12:48 also tells us, “…Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required,…” All of our life comes to us as a sacred trust. Our time and our finances in particular are two things for which we are responsible to God. This morning I want to talk about our responsibility to God in regards to our finances. A few folks may say, “Well, God will provide for ministry needs – there’s no cause for concern!” It is true that God will provide. It is also true that He uses obedient, self-denying disciples to do the providing. During the last half-century in America, increased wealth has coincided with decreased giving. Christian pollster George Barna writes, “Generally, the more money a person makes the less likely he is to tithe.” Indeed, giving levels were higher during the Great Depression of the 1930s, when incomes were low compared to today. As we read through the Gospels, we find that Jesus talks a lot about money. He is speaking about it in our passage for this morning. He says in Matthew 6:19-24, “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. “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, 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 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 the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”
Jesus implies there is a tension between God and money. In essence, what Jesus is saying here is that to be right for eternity, we’ve got to be right with God and right on the money. When we are right on the money, we have riches in heaven and a life full of the light of the Savior. If we are wrong on the money, then we have riches only in this life and a life that is dark in comparison. How we manage the money God has entrusted to us is that important. So this morning we want to learn from our Lord Jesus how to be right on the money.
First of all, to be right on the money we must have the right investment. In other words, we must have the right storehouse. Is your storehouse eternal in nature, or is it temporal? Are you investing in souls or in stuff? As Jesus spoke these words He was not ignorant of financial matters. He can run circles around the greatest minds on Wall Street today. In this passage Jesus is using investing terms. He says eternal investments are better than earthly investment for three reasons. The first is the risk. Eternal investments have zero risk. “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal,” If you store it up down here, if you invest in earthly things, one way or another you are going to lose it. It’s only a matter of time. Money invested in eternity is safe and secure – there is no corruption there, and there are no thieves there. There is no death there.
The second reason eternal investments are better is yield. Yield on earthly investments is pretty poor right now, and even in good economic times it is not all that great. Listen to what Jesus says in Luke 6:38, “Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” When we invest in eternity the reward begins now, but it continues when this life is over. We will be able to see in heaven the lives we have touched and changed as a result of our investments here. Earthly deposits don’t have that kind of yield.
The third reason eternal investments are better is well-being. Verse 21 says, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” If your heart is set on a new car or a bigger house or more clothing, your money will follow your heart. When your money goes towards the world, you become more worldly. When your money goes towards heaven, you become more heavenly. So one of the best ways to become more godly is to invest in the kingdom of God, because our heart follows our money. Jesus is very adamant here – he isn’t soft-peddling anything. Verse 19 could be literally translated, “Stop laying up for yourselves treasures on earth…” In the Greek it is a negative imperative – stop it! Stop laying up for yourselves treasures on earth – you are going the wrong direction. Cease and desist, make a clean break, enough is enough. Sometimes we even need to downgrade our lifestyles to get back into God’s will because we have been living beyond our means. Jesus is saying just stop the pursuit of more and more stuff. If you’re living in 1,800 square feet of home, you don’t need 2,500. If you’re living in 2,500, you don’t need 3,000. In fact, you may need to sell your big house and move into a smaller house so you can be more focused on kingdom living. Jesus says stop sending your money through this consumer economy time and time again, and start storing it in heaven. Find a different kind of investment strategy – the ministry of your local church, local, regional or international missions. Start investing in that direction, do what Jesus says and do it now. I just finished reading a book by John Piper entitled, “Don’t Waste Your Life.” I read it several years ago and just recently read it again. He basically says that when we live for the here and now, when we live to accumulate more and more stuff, we waste our lives. At one point in the book he describes Christians as being in a wartime mindset – we are involved in a life-and-death struggle for the hearts and minds of men and women and boys and girls. When we are at war, our priorities change. A common saying in World War II was, “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.” Let’s say that together, Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.
As we have that kind of attitude towards earthly possessions, we can begin truly investing in the kingdom of God and seeing more souls won for Christ. One temptation is to make this whole matter of giving into one of morality. While there is a moral aspect to it, what Jesus is saying here isn’t about morality, it’s about wisdom. In other words, according to Jesus, if you’re living to accumulate treasure on earth its not so much that you’re wicked, its that you’re stupid. Jesus is saying that with that kind of lifestyle you lose it all, you gain nothing, and you’ll be miserable throughout the entire process. It’s stupid – don’t waste your life and your money – invest them in eternity and in the kingdom of God. Missionary Jim Elliott once said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” He was right on the money. To be right on the money, we must have the right investment.
Then, to be right on the money, we must have the right outlook. Verses 22-23 of our passage say, “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, 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 in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!” Our outlook on life is critical – we have to keep focused on Jesus with a heart of gratitude, and not on the world with a heart of envy. We can celebrate what God has given us, or we can lament what He hasn’t given us and the things we crave. As most of you know I am a runner. I’m not good at it, but I like doing it. Most of the time I run outdoors, but occasionally the weather is really nasty and there is ice on roads and sidewalks. At those times if I am going to run, I go to a gym and run on a treadmill. I don’t like treadmills. The reason I don’t like them is that I have to be more focused than when I am running outdoors. A few times my mind has wandered and have nearly gotten thrown off the dang thing. I haven’t fallen yet, but I’ve come close. Even if you don’t fall, stumbling on one of those things is a major source of embarrassment because there always seems to be someone who saw what you did. When your mind wanders from where it should be, trouble and pain is sure to follow. Listen to what Paul says in 1 Timothy 6:10, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.” The right outlook is realizing that we are going to evaluated for the care of the money God has placed within our hands. Now financial planners would tell us that we need to think long-term with our finances. Don’t think about what your dollar can buy today – think about what it could yield 20, 30 or even 50 years from now. Put it to work today and don’t touch it. Don’t dig into your long-term savings, and don’t keep moving it around. Find a good fund and leave it there. Don’t try to time the market, or you’ll end up losing. Then if we are really fortunate, we may get a return of 15 or 20 percent and be able to play golf and travel when we’re too old to enjoy either one. Then we die and leave the rest to our kids so they can fight over it and not speak to one another for the rest of their lives. The financial planners don’t have us thinking long term enough. Just don’t focus on 50 years from now – focus on an eternity from now. When we focus on eternity, when that is our outlook, we start looking and acting like people whose hearts are set on Jesus. Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” To be right on the money, we must have the right outlook.
Then, to be right on the money, we must have the right Master. Jesus says in 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 the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” The Greek here refers to the Arabic term “mammon,” which means all our material possessions. In common language it means our stuff. Of course, getting stuff and maintaining stuff costs money. There is nothing whatsoever wrong with money – the evil is being mastered by money, it is serving money instead of God. The Bible has a lot to say about followers of Christ pursuing a simple lifestyle. Listen to Proverbs 30:8, “Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, “Who is the Lord?” or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God.” Paul says in 1 Timothy 6:6-8, “But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.” Our goal is always to do everything we can to make sure we are pleasing our Master. In all our decisions, especially in our financial decisions, the question we should ask is not, “What is wrong with it?” but “What is right with it? How will this purchase or this use of my money glorify God and advance the kingdom of Jesus?” As I said earlier, this Thursday Jeannie and I will be leaving for Russia on Thursday. One of the decisions we have to make is how much spending money to take with us. Most of the spending money is exchanged into rubles, then used to purchase items while in Russia. We will likely take just $200 or so with us – enough to cover the cost of our meals in the airports, and to buy a few small boxes of Russian tea. We have more money we could take and exchange, but we don’t want to do so. Why? We know our time there will be short – only 8 days. So why invest a huge amount of money in a place we will only spend such a short time then be gone? Our life is here. In the same way, the life of a Jesus follower isn’t wrapped up in the things of this world, it is wrapped up in Jesus himself. We have been created not for the purpose of worshiping stuff forever, but worshiping God forever.
This morning, do you have the right investment plan, the right outlook, the right Master? Will you commit your entire life, all that is within your care, to Jesus? Will you surrender everything at His feet? Will you live to give, to invest in eternity? Are you right on the money?