Thursday, April 28, 2011

Even Better Than Cash for Gold

Today we are picking up right were we left off in the Sermon on the Mount.
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.  Matthew 6:19-21 NKJV
Sometimes I wonder what those who teach wealth and prosperity believe "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth" actually means.  Perhaps they think this means to to lay them up selfishly focusing on "yourselves."  Unfortunately, any excess can be seen as laying up treasures for yourself.  The fallacy of the prosperity argument is that there is no such thing as selfless excess.  For example, if my wife and I receive a check for one hundred million dollars and with that money we decide that we would purchase a 20 bedroom mansion (for the two of us), six cars (for the two of us), and fill our house with all the latest gadgets, gizmos, and appliances.  Let us say that after all that, we keep a nest egg to sustain our lifestyle and in the end we give all the "excess" to charity.  Let us even go so far as to say that that excess is sixty million dollars.  Would that make us generous?  The answer, of course, is no.  We were selfish.  We purchased well beyond our needs for vanity and for the satisfaction of the flesh.  Maybe we fed millions with our donation, but many others will starve merely because we wanted a really big house.  Generosity is not measured in terms of how much you give, but in how much you hold back.  Anything held back for self that is above what you need is excess and any excess is defined as treasure.  Therefore, the excess we hold back becomes treasure we store up. 
 
Jesus then goes on to tell us why it is impractical to store up treasures on earth.  He says that it is "where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal."  The problem with treasure on earth is that you need to work to hold onto it.  It becomes a distraction.  That is because the more treasure you have, the more you live in fear of losing it.  You end up hiring experts and security to guard it.  You set up alarm systems to notify you if someone is trying to steal it.  If your treasure is premised on your job, you will forsake your family to revolve your life around not losing it.  The funny thing about having nothing to lose is that you never have to worry about losing it.  Furthermore, treasure is a fickle thing.  At several times in America, if your treasure was in the stock markets, it was all or mostly gone in a very short time.  Right now gold prices and very high.  There will come a time when those prices will come crashing back down to reality and so what just happened to your treasure?  It became smaller.  Treasure, through crime and just the nature of our economic systems, always runs the risk of eroding over time or crashing down in an instant.  And even if you manage to maintain your treasure through your entire life, that life will come to an end.  At that point, even if your treasure is intact, it will no longer be accessible to you.  Earthly treasure always comes with an expiration date. 
 
Now Jesus begins to give us a contrast.  He begins by saying "but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven."  I think we first need to discuss what that even means.  How do we lay ourselves us treasures in heaven?  What is treasure in heaven?  Those are two very good questions.  The Bible talks about crowns and rewards we receive in heaven, but does not speak much about them.  I believe that is because they are things that are so wonderful that we would not even be able to comprehend it. Think about it, if gold is road pavement in heaven then just how much more can actual treasure be?  I do not think we can even imagine how wonderful that treasure is, but the Bible says that we are to lay it up for ourselves.  So then what about the first question.  How do we lay it up?  There are several ways, one of them is being generous.  One sure way to lay up treasure in heaven is to not lay it up on earth but give any excess to the needy.  The Bible tells us that money given to the poor will be re-payed by God.  Considering that God is telling us to not lay up treasures on earth, I would have to believe that the repayment comes in the form of heavenly treasure.  The Bible also tells us that we will be rewarded based on our fruit and fruit is souls saved.  Therefore, another way to lay up treasures in heaven is to help others get there.  Finally, the Bible speaks if rewards for righteous living.  While our eternal destination is based solely on the complete work of Christ on the cross, we can be further rewarded by obedience to God.  The Parable of the Talents teaches us that lesson.  Therefore, we can lay up treasures by being obedient to God's word.
 
Jesus then continues His contrast "where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal."  What is profoundly superior about our treasure in Heaven is that it is eternally secure.  We do not need accountants, alarms, security guards, endless hours at work, or anything else to protect our heavenly treasures.  They are under the protection of God Himself in a realm where sin no longer exists.  There is absolutely nothing that can ever possibly happen to jeopardize our eternal treasures.  Furthermore, as added security, if the utterly impossible happened to happen and some of your heavenly treasures were lost, God can just create more.  In other words, it is doubly impossible to lose our eternal treasures.  Not only are they secure, but they are ours to enjoy for all of eternity.  There are no economic downturns in God's kingdom.  There are no crashing stock markets in heaven.  The Bank of Heaven will never become insolvent.  And, finally, there is is death to ever separate us from our eternal treasures.  I hope that you can see that eternal treasures are infinitely superior to earthly treasures. 
 
Jesus closes with the most important reason we need to focus on our eternal treasures.  He says "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."  How true is that statement is.  I would like to add to another common saying: "Home is where your heart is."  Brothers and sisters, earth is not our home.  Let me say that again: Earth is not our home.  This is just a place we are passing through on our way to eternity.  Earth is just some temporary housing while our real home is being prepared for us by our Lord who saved us.  Heaven is our home.  What we have here is barely a run down roadside motel compared to what is awaiting us in eternity.  Actually, what we have here is barely a third-hand torn up cardboard box compared to what is awaiting us. Why would we want our treasures here?  Why do we want so much the temporary while we forsake the eternal?  Set your treasures in heaven and there is where your heart will be and there is where your home will be.  Are you so desiring a well equipped cardboard box with temporary junk that you would forsake a mansion in heaven stocked with treasures unimaginable?  I pray not,  I pray we all set our treasures and our hearts in our true home.
 
And that is the message of today.  We can not put earthly treasures above heavenly ones because earthly treasures are not treasures at all.  What you think you own in the end owns you.  I say that because you become a slave to holding onto your treasures.  As you focus more and more on those treasures, they become your idol.  They become your god.  Furthermore, is it ever right for us to hold onto things that are unnecessary and only serve to satisfy our flesh while those same treasures can be used to help someone else survive or better yet help someone find Jesus?  Using our treasures for God's glory rather than self satisfaction not only allows us the honor of being a part of God's work but it also lays up for us treasures in Heaven.  I implore all of you, trade in your useless junk for the eternal riches in the Kingdom of Heaven, if only you have the faith. 
So Jesus answered and said, "Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel's, who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time--houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions--and in the age to come, eternal life."  Mark 10:29-30 NKJV

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