MESSAGE DELIVERED: JUNE 25, 2017
The verses we are going to look at this morning will discuss the difference between EARTHLY and HEAVENLY riches. And there may be a much deeper meaning implied than what first meets the eye. What Jesus is about to lay out for us is basically a way of looking at the whole of life!
One of the most SUBTLE problems a Christian has to deal with can be this relationship with the world. You have to live your life IN the world. And that world is going to do its best to RUIN your SPIRITUAL life. So while IN the world, you have to be constantly on guard against ATTACKS by or from the world.
The believer must somehow BALANCE his or her life between LOVE of the world and FEAR or ANXIETY concerning the world. And here Jesus is telling us how to OVERCOME the world, while simultaneously living in the MIDST of it. And He begins with the injunction to “not lay up for yourself treasures on earth…”.
The implication there is fairly obvious. ”For yourself” tells you that he is talking about letting RICHES become an END unto itself…to be totally involved with amassing wealth simply to HAVE wealth. Nowhere are we told it is WRONG to HAVE money. The Bible tells us over and over about how God has helped some individuals to HAVE great riches.
And it also tells us about those who have become almost SLAVES to their wealth. Maybe the best example of that would be the “rich young ruler” who came to Jesus asking “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life”? And Jesus answered, in Matthew 19:16…”keep the commandments”…and the young man said “COOL! I’ve done THAT all my life”!
So Jesus told him, “Okay, there is just one thing that you lack. Go and sell all that you have, and give the money to the poor, and then you’ll have treasures in Heaven…and come and follow me”. And the young man went away deeply saddened because he had great wealth.
And when you think that the young man was given the possibility of eternal life, and his earthly wealth meant more to him than Heaven, it is obvious that he didn’t so much have WEALTH, as his wealth had HIM!
And that is what Jesus is here warning us about. Treasures here on earth are no promise of permanent security. How many people saw all their savings WIPED OUT, when all those big banks and lending institutes FAILED several years ago?
Or all those people who trusted all their savings to a brilliant financier named Bernie Madoff? And now all those folks who once faced a secure financial future, are now forced to go back to work, in what was supposed to be their LIESURE years?
Jesus mentions MOTHS, RUST, and THIEVES. There are MANY ‘natural’ dangers that can threaten earthly riches…fires, floods, earthquakes…and THIEVES: there are people who will work harder to TAKE what you have, than they would if they just got a job and earned those things themselves. They get a greater SATISFACTION in TAKING what YOU have than they EVER would in working for WAGES. Call it a ‘criminal mindset’.
Verse 21 says “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”. I read that and I always get this picture about Donald Duck’s super-rich Uncle Scrooge! And you KNOW what I’m talking about, don’t sit there and pretend to be so SOPHISTICATED you don’t know who I’m talking about!
Because Uncle Scrooge REALLY loved his money. He had a great big VAULT full of his cash, and a DIVING board where he would SWIM LAPS through all his cash. THAT’S somebody who LOVED his wealth!
And THAT is the attitude Jesus is WARNING us against. In verse 24 He will make it CLEARER, by showing He is NOT so much talking about your WEALTH, as He is your LOYALTY! Your PHYSICAL wealth is WORLDLY, and your HEAVENLY wealth is ETERNAL! And YOU have to decide WHICH is more important to you.
To jump ahead a bit, in verse 24 He will say “You CANNOT serve two masters…you cannot serve GOD and MAMMON”. That word, “serve”, is literally “be slave of”. And He’s NOT saying that you can’t serve two EMPLOYERS: way too many people have held MORE than one JOB, without it being a problem. When I was young and stupid, and raising a family, I worked as many as THREE jobs at the same time, and I did that without ANY of them causing problems for the OTHERS.
What is MEANT there is you can’t serve “TWO OWNERS”…YOU CAN’T be OWNED by TWO masters. And again, the FOCUS is one of LOYALTY! “Mammon” is an Aramaic word that is translated as “Possessions”; and is used here to represent “materialism”.
You CANNOT pledge your complete loyalty to HEAVENLY things, and at the same time, “EARTHLY things”. Trying to DIVIDE your LOYALTY that way would make you what JAMES called a “Double-minded man…unstable in EVERYTHING”!
So as long as you understand that your WEALTH is just something to allow you to meet your PHYSICAL needs, while ALSO using that wealth to help OTHERS meet SOME needs…then you are NOT a SLAVE to your wealth, and therefore NOT a SLAVE to ‘MAMMON’. There is NOTHING WRONG with HAVING money, as long as the MONEY doesn’t have YOU!
But we have to BACK UP here, because I skipped verses 22 and 23, which are kinda enigmatic…”The lamp of the body is the eye…”. The eyes were considered the WINDOWS by which LIGHT made its way into the body. So if the “eye is GOOD… (or ‘single’ in the King James Version) …then the body will be full of LIGHT…but if the eye is BAD, the body will be filled with DARKNESS…”. And ‘light and dark’ are used there in their BIBLICAL references…as in ‘goodness or evil’.
The metaphor being made here is “a life filled with light” is a life devoted to service to God. And the reference is to a life devoted to GENEROSITY. Romans 12:8 commends “he who gives, with liberality”. The believer whose generosity is NOT for ‘thanks’ or ‘recognition’, but who gives of his wealth to those who are needy…ONLY for the Glory of God! That is how we pile up ‘treasure in Heaven’.
The alternative is the ‘life filled with darkness’…a life of selfish materialism, that does NO GOOD for ANYONE…not the one with the NEED, and NOT the one who HIDES his wealth and REFUSES to SHARE it.
Beginning in verse 25, the remainder of the chapter will deal with personal ANXIETY. Essentially, to be ANXIOUS about something means to be “over-concerned about it”. Verses 19-24 were concerned with those who HAVE this world’s goods…and what the proper attitude they should have…and now, in the rest of the chapter, He will deal with those that DON’T have a lot of the world’s goods.
So verse 25 says “do not WORRY about your life…”. The King James Version says “Take no THOUGHT for your life…”. I think that better describes what the Lord is telling us here. The word translated “THOUGHT”, is one that can be translated “DISTRACTION”…”Don’t be DISTRACTED by worries about your life”.
In the 10th chapter of Luke is the touching story of Jesus and His disciples going to the home of some of His dearest friends, Lazarus, and his sisters Mary and Martha. And you’ll remember how Jesus sat in the house teaching, and Mary sat at His Feet listening, while her sister Martha ran around trying to SERVE all these unexpected guests.
The King James Version says that Martha was “CUMBERED”, an old English word that means she was “DISTRACTED” by her need to CARE for all these people, and MARY wasn’t HELPING her.
That’s when Jesus gently corrected Martha, saying “you’ll only have Me and My teachings for a LITTLE while. MARY has chosen RIGHTLY, to hear the teachings, and not to be so concerned about keeping the FLOORS swept.
There have been those, down through the ages, that have taken Jesus’ Word; “Take no thought…”, literally, and decided that they would give NO THOUGHT at ALL about the future, nor their IMMEDIATE needs. They believed “The Lord will provide”…and I guess if they CLUNG to that, they likely starved!
“Take no thought” does NOT mean not to concern yourself about the future…to make no PROVISIONS for your own support. Again, they were thinking about the 40 years of wilderness wanderings, where the Lord FED His people, every day, with them doing NOTHING but RECIEVING the manna when it came.
But THAT provision was for THAT particular TIME, and was never repeated. NOW, the Lord expects us to take an active part in securing our own food, clothing, and shelter.
The implication here is that to be anxiously concerned about such things, is the exact OPPOSITE of “FAITH”. Yes, you must have food, clothing and shelter…and the Lord expects us to labor to provide those things FOR ourselves and our families…but to DO that, without being overly ANXIOUS about those provisions.
To help make that clear, the Lord gave us the example of the BIRDS of the AIR…they don’t plow or plant or harvest, and yet the Heavenly Father feeds them. But even so, God doesn’t THROW the SEEDS into the NEST. He expects the birds to get out and SEARCH for them. But when they DO search, they WILL FIND, because that is how God has ordained the world.
But for US to think that we don’t HAVE to work for the things we need, is completely contrary to God’s wishes. Go all the way back to the beginning, when God forced Adam and Eve OUT of the Garden of Eden, where everything WAS provided for them…and NOW, He said “By the sweat of your brow you shall earn your bread”.
Unfortunately, many people in this country have taken exactly THAT track, and have decided that they DON’T have to work for the things they need, that they will all be provided…and we have established a WELFARE SYSTEM that ALLOWS that sort of lifestyle. And there are a lot of people who have MISUSED that welfare system.
I’ve told you before about one certain house in Northern New York, where I was a “Meals On Wheels” driver. There were FIVE generations all living IN that one house, and every ONE of them, was receiving WELFARE benefits…even the ones that were BIG and STRONG and HEALTHY. I’ve had them tell me that ‘welfare’ was a CAREER CHOICE…that it even paid better than some JOBS did, so they justified their choice.
In verse 27, He condemned the idea of WORRYING about what you need. He said “Which of you, by worrying, can add ONE CUBIT to His stature”? Now, a ‘cubit’ was a LINEAR measurement, it was the distance from the bent elbow to the tip of the fingers…about 18 inches.
And the thinking is “can a grown man worry himself taller…CONSIDERABLY taller”? So most commentators have taken this to mean “Can you add ANYTHING to your LIFE-SPAN? Will you actually live LONGER, because you DO worry about these things?”
In verses 28-30, Jesus follows the example of the BIRDS, and the need for us to go out and FIND our food. (I.E.: work for it) Now, He makes a similar example concerning “the lilies of the field”…this concerned our need for CLOTHING, and Jesus says that even SOLOMON, in all HIS finery, wasn’t as LOVELY as the LILIES. So first you have to see the reference that Jesus KNEW what and how Solomon dressed, because He had SEEN him! But anyway…He says “Oh ye of little Faith”.
That same rebuke will occur just a couple pages from where we are now, in the 8th chapter of Matthew, and verse 26. The disciples were in a boat, and Jesus was asleep in the stern, and a storm blew up and the sailors were fearful for their lives…and the disciples WOKE Jesus saying, “SAVE us! We’re about to DIE”! And Jesus had remarked on how LITTLE FAITH they had, before simply SPEAKING, and the storm ceased.
The One Who can control even the WAVES of the SEA, loves you, and KNOWS that you NEED food and clothing…and He will GIVE you what YOU NEED, in order to SUPPLY those needs. The entire teaching here, is given in the words…in verse 33…”SEEK ye FIRST the Kingdom of God and His Righteousness, and all these things will be added to you”. IF you are willing to put the LORD in the FIRST PLACE in your life, the place He MERITS, then HE will make sure that when you need a new pair of shoes, the means of obtaining those new shoes WILL be provided.
But for you LADIES who think you need a HUNDRED pair of new shoes…well, I’ll just let YOU work that out with the Lord. Maybe you can convince Him that you REALLY REALLY NEED all those shoes. Maybe!
And again in verse 34, He uses that same phrase “Take no thought…” as in “Don’t be OVERLY ANXIOUS for these things”. ALL believers are called to live a life of FAITH, trusting that the Lord, Who KNOWS that you NEED food and clothing, will SUPPLY those things, as you, in faith believing, and working at whatever task The Lord has given you…the things we NEED in our lives, WILL be provided, when needed.
He closes this section of teaching with the beautiful statement, here quoted from the King James Version…”take no thought for the MORROW, for the morrow will take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof”.
That implies not JUST your physical needs being met…but contains the truth that your life WILL contain PROBLEMS, other than just providing enough food and clothing. Your life of Faith does NOT protect you from having TROUBLES. In fact, the TROUBLES frequently come about in order to INCREASE our Faith, to help us grow STRONGER.
And God knows ABOUT those troubles too, and will help you THROUGH them, when the time comes. All WE have to do, is “TRUST and OBEY”! And when the winds howl, and the lightning crashes…when the pantry is empty except for a bag of BEANS, and the MICE have gotten into that…that’s when your FAITH must come to the fore, and lead you to The Lord, who can, and will, calm the storm, or get IN the boat WITH you, and help you ride it out.
One of the LEAST productive activities we can ENGAGE in, is to WORRY about things we have NO CONTROL over. And yet we waste so much TIME and EFFORT, doing that very thing.
At the turn of the century, when everyone was all in a panic over that “Y2K” problem, the “Washington Post” published a list of EIGHTY other things that Americans were worried about.
The TOP THREE worries, 17 years ago, were that (1) Education would get worse (2) Crime would increase, and (3) that the AIDS epidemic would spread.
And would you like to know what worried Americans the LEAST? What number 80 on that list was? 7% of the people that responded to this questionnaire said they were concerned that there was “TOO MUCH RELIGION IN PUBLIC LIFE”!
Well, partly they were right…education got worse, especially here in Arizona where legislators continue to refuse to adequately fund education. And yes, crime continues to increase, especially drug-related crime.
But the AIDS problem has pretty much stagnated since now HIV can be effectively treated.
But how about that ‘bottom of the barrel’ worry…that there would be too much religion in public life? I have been trying for years to convince the church they need to be witnessing, since we get closer EVERY DAY to that Day when Christ will appear in the clouds and call the Church Home.
When that happens, the ability of the Church to impact a lost and dying public, will be GONE! And all those people that YOU could have shared your Faith with, but didn’t…will have to go into a period of 7 years of the most HORRIBLE events the world has ever seen.
So, is it FAIR for me to try to SCARE you, or SHAME you, into witnessing? Well, if THAT’S what it TAKES, that’s WHAT I will do, until the Church finally begins to BE the church that Jesus DIED to establish.
So let’s go into a time of invitation, and let me ask FIRST, if it’s possible that there is someone here today that has never GIVEN their heart TO The Lord in the FIRST place? If somehow you have never come to the place where you UNDERSTOOD that you ARE a SINNER, just like all the REST of us and now know that you NEED to be, “a sinner Saved by Grace”. It is such an EASY thing…easy for US anyway…it cost JESUS, UNTOLD suffering, pain and agony, to SECURE that Promise for you. But for YOU, all you have to do, is ACCEPT His Sacrifice, as payment for YOUR sins…and become a part of the family of God. So will you please DO THAT, today?
But for the rest of us…we concern ourselves with so MANY things…like earning a living, and building a home, and keeping our loved ones safe. But how much attention do we pay to the Words of Jesus, the very LAST Words He shared with us, before He left this world for a while…
“Go ye into all the world and make disciples!” That means we are meant to SHARE our faith with those we come in contact with.
What IS it that is KEEPING you, from DOING that? My prayer for EACH of us…and I’m including myself in this…my prayer is that we will ALL allow the Holy Spirit within us, to STRENGTH us, and URGE us, and ENCOURAGE us, to DO what Jesus ASKED us TO do…and simply SHARE His Love with others.
I’ll invite you to stand, and make a commitment this morning…make a commitment between YOU and The Lord who loves you SO MUCH that HE BORE all of YOUR sins on HIS CROSS…that as HE puts people in your path, YOU will share your Faith with them.
That’s such an EASY thing…my prayer is that we will finally START DOING it…before the Day comes when we CAN’T anymore. Please make that commitment today!