[This sermon is one of a series entitled "Sermon on the Mount, Concentrating on the Beatitudes," which is being preached on Sunday mornings by Pastor Tim Senter.]
Last week we discussed fasting. Once again, this was not an all-encompassing study. However, we covered the essential pieces that our Savior required we cover in His sermon. Of primary consideration is that fasting is a very personal act of devotion between you and God. It should be relaxed and be a part of a developing, confidential and deep relationship with God. In this way, it grows a more direct connection with God. Fasting can develop into a more profound faith in God. This develops only because of the thorough, continued and involved communication and awareness of Him in one’s life. Fasting is a wonderful and gracious way to show your love for God.
We find the Beatitudes active in fasting when the saint hungers and thirsts after righteousness. This individual desires not only the food of this Earth, but also the food for the soul that is God’s word and a living, growing and vibrant personal relationship with Him. We find the pure in heart in the one who fasts because they are involved in developing purity; they gain a more pure relationship with God through this intimate worship. We find the meek as they place themselves completely subordinate to God, even (and especially) in times of physical distress, whether severe or mild. This meek person submits their basic desires for sustenance into the care of God. This is the poor in spirit who knows their true position before an all-powerful God. They know His power to forgive weakness and provide for the body.
When we consider the overall context with respect to our next subject (treasures), we find it must be and is associated to that which was before. Although the subject is not directly connected, as in a continuing discussion of fasting; nevertheless it is conceptually connected, as in a way to show worship. Like prayer, loving our neighbor, being forthright in our speaking and all the subjects Jesus discusses back to the Beatitudes in Matthew 5, these are marks of the Kingdom saint who is devoted to God and seeks the things of God in their life.
We need to broaden our perspective a little. This is what Jesus will do here. We will contend that the treasures we lay up in Heaven are contained in the Beatitudes themselves as promises from those Spirit-directed and God-dedicated attributes. Therefore, treasures in Heaven include: inheriting the Kingdom of Heaven (Matt 5:3), being comforted (Mt 5:4: Lk 16:23b), inheriting the Earth ( Mt 5:5; Rev 21:1-4), being satisfied (Mt 5:6; Jn 4:14), receiving mercy (Mt 5:7; Prov 11:17), seeing God (Mt 5:8; Ps 24:3-4) and ultimately being named among the sons of God (Mt 5:9; Rom 8:14). The treasures we lay up then are not material. They are related to our future spiritual existence. They are treasures we will enjoy in Heaven.
We begin looking at treasures in Matthew 6:19. There are some interesting things about these verses. I like the way Custer has translated our verses in his commentary.
“19 Stop treasuring up for yourselves treasures on the earth, where moth and rust ruin, and where thieves dig through and steal. 20 but keep treasuring up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust ruins, and where thieves do not dig through and steal: 21 for where your treasure is, there your heart shall be also.”[i]
There are quite literally two opposing philosophies at work in the verses we will study today. First, we will illustrate the negative or worldly. Gaining worldly valuables is like digging a hole. We often do this. As we dig our hole, we stand in it. We can become oblivious to the sides getting higher and higher as we set ourselves to our work. As we dig, we find it more and more difficult to get the dirt out of the hole because we have to throw it harder and harder to get it out over the edge. This results from two forces, the piles are growing outside, and the hole is getting deeper. Many times the dirt just falls right back in. How does this compare to treasures on Earth? When we build earthly riches and work tirelessly on them, as they grow it becomes harder and harder to surpass the old treasures with newer and greater, more sensational things. Consider the extreme world of sports for example. From base-jumping to bungee jumping, to rock climbing, it becomes an obsession to get more daring to feed a higher thrill level or get a greater adrenalin rush. These are all earthly rewards. These increased risks of life are just like having to dig the hole deeper. When one realizes they can dig deeper and to do this, they need to dig right in the middle of their current hole. As they dig in the middle to get deeper, the edges get closer and closer to the person. The hole gets smaller and eventually you bury yourself, in essence, because you can neither climb out, nor move. This person who foolishly exercises their passions needs help.
The second is a more positive illustration. Instead of moving down in your progress, you move up. The second then is building a pile or tower. This too involves growing something of a mound in layers. Rather like many depictions of the tower of Babel. This involves building layers in an attempt, not to get to God but to enjoy with God. The heavenly treasures one builds therefore are stored with God on His heavenly plane. As we seek Him and His glory, we work to do so here on this Earth. As He chooses to reward us, we begin piling up treasures in Heaven. Our treasure pile, thinking purely on a material plane for reference, grows upward. This treasure pile must have a base. There has to be a solid beginning upon which many treasures can build. Equally, as one moves up from the levels, they should find treasure not in volume, but of greater value. The top of the pile should contain the treasures one most readily can access for repeated enjoyment. These are the most treasured, well…treasures. This means some treasures (being comforted, being satisfied, receiving mercy) can move at points in time in order to stay upon the top of the pile. In our negative example, we find no such thing. The dirt (or thrills) that one experiences at one level are ejected from the present place of digging. These experiences are no longer accessible. You have memories, but you will never relive the same thrill (worldly treasure). Every shovel full of dirt buries the next. One must keep digging for new experiences.
Equally, our Heavenly treasures are exposed but not corruptible. The treasures are accessible for the purpose of remembrance and rejoicing as well as enjoyment in their continued experience. We receive anew our treasures of mercy, presence in the Kingdom of Heaven, comfort and so on. These valuables, take on a different view or connotation at times, they take on different forms and happen in our lives at different times, but they are the promised treasures we accumulate.
We could continue with this illustration, but I believe you understand the picture I am attempting to paint. There are good treasures and bad treasures. God wants us to build upon these good treasures. In order to build upon them, we should equally be able to relive them.
When we seek God and search for Him in all things, we will find Him. As we find Him more and more, we see those things that are important to Him as our needs in life. As we collect the things of God in our life, we store things of purity, grace and love that can be located with Him in Heaven. Unfortunately, when we think of treasures, we think gold, silver or credibility; we think of the things in our world.
The question is, “What will you choose to do?” We should find that placing our affections on the things above should be our paramount concern (Col 3:12). We also find commands concerning our love of the things in the world (1 Jn 2:15 –sermon post here). The question is, Do you love the world? Are you digging a hole therefore, getting more and more enamored with the things in the hole? Alternatively, are you building a tower and working on building up treasures that are only found in and applicable to your heavenly abode? One leads to darkness, death and decay. The other leads to incorruptible light and life everlasting. We will look at the worldly corruptible treasure, the heavenly incorruptible treasure and your heart’s desire for treasure.
I. Corruptible Treasure (Verse 19)
Think about the hole we were talking about earlier. As you bury one treasure under the dirt you take from your hole, it becomes tarnished. It immediately gets dirty with the very next shovel full of dirt. Equally, if it rains, snows, if the sun beats upon it or the wind blows, there is other damage that corrupts those treasures.
The phrase “lay not up for yourselves” is a command. We are, as Christians, directed to not gather up useless worldly treasures – for ourselves. This does not mean we cannot gather things. It also does not mean we cannot have material possessions. Equally, it does not mean we cannot have great material wealth. It means we do not gather these things for ourselves, but for the glory and use of God. Any valuables we collect here should have a direct impact on a valuable we lay up in Heaven. We should look upon the things we have here as corruptible treasure, but their use here can produce heavenly treasure. The worldly treasures, the material aspects of life, are given to us and we are to be good stewards of those possessions. This is both for their care, and for their use to glorify God.
I find it equally interesting the kinds of material possessions Jesus mentions here. Commentators relate these two things (garments and metal –gold/silver/metals) as common treasures of the day. Fine linens (to be destroyed by moth) and fine metals (to be destroyed by rust) were the great treasures of Jesus’ day. Equally, when one has things of value there is the danger that they may be stolen. Thieves can make off with your great treasures in one quick evening.
Many would not consider linens, fine cloths or precious weaves anything other than fabric for clothing. However, we remember the passion of Imelda Marcos who had over 3,000 pairs of shoes. When we look at this passage, we see both men’s and women’s interests and possessions identified. Men are not normally focused upon clothing. Ladies are not normally focused upon tools. Therefore, when we look at this passage we see both “rust” and “moth” mentioned. Men, when you go into a store, the big home improvement kind, and see these row upon row of saws and compressors and tools of all sorts, do you immediately think, “Boy, I could glorify God if I only had those”? I doubt it. You normally think to yourself, “Man if I had that tool, I could do this project, and that project, and build this or that thing.” If you are like me, you could list off five different projects you could do with one new tool.
The test we should use to determine if any of these things, any purchases, any material possessions–any four wheelers, snowmobiles, new dresses, shoes or any other purchase is, “Can I better glorify God with this item?” Now, I know what you are thinking, “How can a rifle or a dress or bullets or shoes or blouses or snowmobiles or jewelry glorify God? It seems that you are saying I can never buy anything for pure pleasure that is not ministry related? I can only buy church clothes? I can only hunt to minister? I can only shop for ministry purposes?” In many different ways that is true. We only need to look at 1 Corinthians 10:31:
“Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.”
There is nothing here that says, “Oh…except that one hobby you like. You can do that all for your own desire.” However, we have to consider how you minister.
Men, do we go out to the rifle range thinking that while I enjoy some of God’s creation and do something I enjoy, if God wants to use me He will bring me a divine appointment…? Maybe you have a continuing and long lasting witness to the people at the gun club. Ladies, buying a conservative but very nice outfit can minister to other ladies. They can see that they can be dressed well, attractively and yet conservatively. Folks, there is so much to be said about being involved in the community and the things in the community. This is not necessarily looking at everything as a direct way to attract people to you. Nevertheless, you look at ways to be a blessing to and for God. The test is, do you seek these opportunities? Are you expecting them?
Equally, we have needs. You may need the tool that you purchase or plan to purchase. If I work at Red Cliff Bible Camp and I do a lot of running around the property and the national forest in the summer, I may need a four-wheeler. In the wintertime, I may need a snowmobile. These are needs, and not extravagances. The issue is, what do I invest in to honor God outside of my needs.
We have looked at material treasures– but honestly, there are other treasures too. Have you considered your credibility, your character, or your integrity? That is a rather intangible treasure, but it is a treasure just the same. Some people pride themselves in their integrity. Granted, it is important to be honest as a Christian. However, when we store up these kudos for our own satisfaction and testimony, and not for our testimony for God, we have run into a problem. I have met men who, when their character is questioned in any way, they simply cannot tolerate the implication. This is much the example of the individual who prays in public on the corner, or the one who fasts and makes faces. These individuals want to be recognized as pious, and it is a personal issue, not a testimony for God. We should have this testimony of purity, integrity, credibility and character for God as we hunger and thirst for righteousness.
Are you laying up treasures for your own personal satisfaction on Earth and with the people of the world? Do you collect things that provide you with no real witnessing opportunities, but you alone personally enjoy? Every purchase you make, every time you take something into your life that is for pure enjoyment, you should ask yourself whether or not you can better glorify God in having this. Who is your personal testimony for, Christ or you? Is it for others to see you, or do you drive to have them see Christ in you?
Just as there are corruptible treasures that are only temporary, there are incorruptible treasures that will never diminish in value. We know that all the things of this world are falling away, deteriorating and will eventually be destroyed. There are treasures that are beyond corruption that cannot be destroyed.
II. Incorruptible Treasure (Verse 20)
I must admit, there are few things I have that I could call treasures. If there were one thing, I guess it is a rifle I have. I know, that sounds bad. The men right now are probably laughing and thinking, “After what you just said, now the truth comes out!” Honestly, it is an old and unique rifle. I have seen it at gun shows with a handsome price on it. My mother gave the rifle to me. It is a family heirloom. Do I need it? No, I do not. Though I used it to hunt in other places, out here it would not work. Not only that, it is also old. I use it as a conversation piece. Talking to gun dealers about it, I often get to talk about the gospel with them.
Do you ladies shop for clothes in order to have opportunities to witness to people? Have you ever thought that you might just go to the mall to try to strike up a conversation with a sales person while just looking around? Now, if they are busy it is not entirely fair to take their employer’s time. However, if the Lord opens a door for discussion, jump through.
Men, do you help complete your wives in this way? When you go out with them, do you help them witness? I will tell you, sitting on a bench with other men is one thing. Nevertheless, when you walk into a store with your wife, those ladies pay attention because they see a man who cares. Ladies – do you go out with your husband shopping to look for opportunities to share the gospel? The same thing applies to you. When you go into a tool store or sporting goods store, many times you have an open door to different people too.
Do not misunderstand. I do not purposefully engineer every thing I do around giving the gospel. However, I am not interested in buying things that I do not need unless it will further the gospel.
What about your credibility, your integrity or your character? They are a testimony for the living God. These intangible testimonies are just a part of the heavenly valuables you build in His Kingdom to enjoy. Laying up your treasures in Heaven becomes an issue of pure intangibles. As a believer, what you should do is focus upon the things of God – the things unseen. The hope we have in Christ and His heavenly home waiting for us. Every soul you lead to Christ is a glowing masterpiece in Heaven. Every service you give to the children of Christ, is another brilliantly shining and cherished valuable in Heaven. Providing a simple sip of water to a brother or sister in Christ can place on your treasure tower a new piece of fine and precious fortune. The kind-hearted love for believers which provides for encouragement at various times increases your heavenly treasure trove. Everything you do for God lands in or influences the precious wealth of your tower in Heaven. When you sow the seed of the gospel and it germinates, you lay the foundation for another glowing treasure tower in Heaven. In turn, your worship in this manner grows the pile of riches in Heaven. When you touch the life of an unbeliever with the gospel which softens their heart for Christ, you stoke the fires that eventually forge another fine ornament to adorn your tower of treasure in Heaven. Looking back at credibility, integrity and character, every time these are impugned for the sake of God, your treasure grows in Heaven. Every time you are persecuted, and your testimony and faith continue unwavering, your treasure in Heaven grows.
I pray you realize that none of these things can be stolen. Everything we have looked at– even our precious credibility and integrity– can sealed away in Heaven, never to be tarnished. Conversely, everything we have considered (credibility and integrity included) can be stolen or tarnished beyond repair in the world. On Earth, we see how things can be taken from us though. My daughter in law recently told me about a situation she knew of with a youth pastor. The man did nothing wrong. He had no guilt. However, one young teen said something once that implicated him. All charges and allegations turned out to be false. The young teen lied. Regardless, after the court battles were over, he was not permitted to minister in the state any more. We receive blessings, one of our treasures in Heaven when we endure slander (Matt 5:11). As we are persecuted, we receive treasure in the Kingdom of Heaven (Matt 5:10). Your testimony must be key throughout any strife or dissension. You must maintain a godly outlook and focus. It is not easy. However, this Christlike testimony results in a treasure in Heaven for you.
The true heart will be revealed in the actual treasures that are born from a life’s testimony. Where your emphasis is, there too lies your heart.
III. Your Hearts Treasure (Verse 21)
Many people can slide past most of the previous conversation. Most of what they see and hear every day rolls off like water off the back of a duck. People want to say they are serving God and they do this mostly by rationalizing the needs in their lives with either hobbies or other extraneous things. However, every one of us struggles with truly serving Him in His way and His time.
It has been so well stated that all we need to do to find where one’s heart really lies is one look at the checkbook. What you find written there depicts the heart. This does not mean the mundane, required things like the light bill, gas bill or groceries. It means the use of charge cards for frivolous desires—“eye candy” such as knickknacks, entertainment and other things. We must take up the things in our lives focusing on the Lord. On the other hand, we can take up riches of the world and surround ourselves with that wealth, prestige and avarice.
We can spend more time with our treasures than we do with the real important things in our lives. You spend the most time on the things you love most. Our wealth or the maintenance of those things we consider important is where we place our focus. If there is a special, antique car that you have, you may spend great amounts of time on it to keep it in shape. Some people make kit cars and spend hours and great amounts of money on the vehicle to get it just right. Other people just spend time in their hobbies. This is idolatry. All of these activities pull time away from worshipping and serving God. All of these things take time away from the family. All of these things take time away from fruitful endeavors that involve witnessing, discipling and growing or feeding others in the Lord. Where is your treasure? Where do you invest your time? If you write down the time you spend each day of each week on things you choose to spend time on, that is where your heart is. In those endeavors are your treasured valuables. This does not mean work time. This is purely recreation time or time spent earning money purely to get those things you consider recreational.
Do you volunteer your time doing things in the community, helping people, supporting others and encouraging others? Alternatively, to you spend your time engrossed in your hobbies or devoted to the things you like most that have nothing to do with God, His people, His service, His ministry, or His kingdom. If you spend time on worldly things as opposed to heavenly things, you have treasure that you prefer more than the furtherance of God’s kingdom. Each one of us can go out and witness to someone once a week. Each one of us encounters someone once a week. The treasures you lay up in Heaven are heavenly and nothing on this Earth is heavenly. That means, heavenly treasures preserved in the Kingdom of God and specifically for God’s Kingdom saints. Those are the only things that will be in Heaven that are here on Earth. Spending your time doing any worldly things is a waste of time for you in Heaven.
Can you have a hobby? Yes as long as that hobby’s focus is on glorifying God. Getting involved with the lost world is a very worthwhile endeavor. Is your heart there too? You must also ask yourself this question – where does your heart lie?
Do you love the things of the world? Is most of your time spent in the world, for the world, with the things of the world, purely to feed your desire to enjoy those things in the world? Then you cannot love God and the things of God because the love of the Father is not in you (1 Jn 2:15 –sermon post here). Equally, you can do nothing for God or lay any treasures up in Heaven because nothing you treasure on Earth is bound for Heaven.
You must put into perspective that the things of value in Heaven are not visible here on Earth. Look at the things which you prize most. Do you prize being a member of the Kingdom of Heaven? Do you seek the comfort of God more than the comfort of earthly possessions? Are you concerned with your inheritance as a believer? Are you seeking the satisfaction of righteousness in your soul? Do you look for mercy from God, as you practice mercy? Do you seek a pure heart that can actually see God? Are you seeking this pure heart so that others can see God in you? Are you seeking to be a peacemaker such that you can be identified as a son of God? What do you treasure?
[i] Stewart Custer, The Gospel of the King: A Commentary on Matthew (Greenville: BJU Press, 2005), 98-99.