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Jesus' teaching about money, possessions and heaven
This week I have been thinking about the whole idea of money and possessions. This has been sparked by a number of conversations I have had with people outside the church. I have been reflecting on how for most of our lives we work and we toil to buy a home and if we are lucky we pay it off. We spend loads of money furnishing it and maintaining it. Then we buy and sell cars and maintain them. We work so hard to earn money and we seem to be caught up in this work hard, get paid, spend, work hard, get paid, spend cycle. It made me start to wonder if Jesus said anything about money and possessions.
In Matthew 6:19-34 there is a section titled, “Teaching about money and possessions”. This is part of Jesus’ sermon on the mount. In it Jesus shares about a different kind of life to the ordinary life that most of the world lives by. He talks about a life where were don’t have money and possessions as our sole focus. He tells us to focus on something else that has a more lasting and He gives us four key things that talk about our money and our possessions. He approaches these things from an eternal and Kingdom perspective.
Let’s have a look at the text. Before I read it I want to let you know I am going to read the text, then share some points, then read the text again. I want to bookend the points with the Bible text. As I read I want you to look out for the three times it says, “do not”.
Matthew 6:19-34 NLT
“Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. 21 Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be. 22 “Your eye is a lamp that provides light for your body. When your eye is good, your whole body is filled with light. 23 But when your eye is bad, your whole body is filled with darkness. And if the light you think you have is actually darkness, how deep that darkness is! 24 “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. 25 “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life–whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to Him than they are? 27 Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? 28 “And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, 29 yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. 30 And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, He will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith? 31 “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ 32 These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. 33 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and He will give you everything you need. 34 “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.
Reflections from this passage
In this passage we see three things that Jesus teaches us about life, money and the Kingdom. As I said they are different to how most of the world lives. It is counter cultural – it is the Kingdom way of thinking about our money and possessions.
1. Do not store up your treasures on earth
Verses 19-21 talk about earthly treasures versus heavenly treasures.
Matthew 6:19-20 says, “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal.
It could also be translated “stop storing up treasures”. The Bible doesn’t say that wealth or money are evil, but the love of wealth is a great evil according to 1 Timothy 6:10. James tells us that if “heirs of the kingdom” hoard riches in the last days will testify against them (James 5:2-3). Now it is not saying it is not wise to have savings or plan for retirement, that is wise. It is saying not to hoard money, wealth or possessions with no consideration for God’s Kingdom. Jesus is concerned about selfishness; his disciples must not layup treasures for themselves.
Earthly treasures can be spoiled over time. The “treasures on earth” can be a number of things. Clothing that could be attacked by moths and damaged. In ancient times fashions changed little, and garments could be passed on to family members when one died. “Rust” refers not only to the corrosion of metals as we think of it today, but to the destruction effected by rats, mildew, and the like. Less corruptible treasures could also be stolen. Anyone who has ever had their house broken into knows what it is like to have things stolen.
By contrast, treasures in heaven are forever exempt from decay and theft. They refer to whatever is of good and eternal significance that comes out of what is done on earth. Doing righteous deeds, suffering for Christ’s sake, forgiving one another–all these have the promise of “reward”. Other deeds of kindness also store up treasures in heaven (Matthew 10:42; 25:40), including willingness to share (1Timothy 6:13-19).
As Christians, we need to build “eternal superannuation” by supporting God’s work with our finances. We need to be generous and support God’s work in this world. The Bible says we need to set our hearts and minds on things above in Colossians 3:1-2. When our hearts and minds are set on the things above our whole lives take on an eternal perspective. This includes how we see our earthly money and possessions. We then realise that we are not owners of money and possessions, but stewards of what God has loaned to us we see what we have as heavenly treasure.
2. Do not let money and possessions be your Master
Verse 24 says, “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money”.
As Christians, we need to let God be our sole master, we can’t focus on building wealth and possessions to the detriment of our relationship with God. God must always come first in our hearts and in the way we live.
As I have mentioned in previous sermons, when I got saved I understood that when I asked Jesus into my life, I was not only asking Him to be my Saviour to save me from my sin, but also my Lord and King to rule my life. The tract I read explained that I needed a Saviour. It was also strong that I needed to be under submission to the King of Kings. I was under new ownership and needed to live accordingly.
Several weeks ago, we saw in Luke 12:16-20 we read of a man who built up wealth only for himself. In this parable Jesus tells us that life is more than material goods; far more important is our relationship with God. What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world, but loses his own soul?
One commentary I was reading this week put it this way. “More basic than the choice between two treasures…is the choice between two masters: God or Money. Both are portrayed, not as employers, but as slave-owners. Slavery involves ownership by one person and requires full-time service; a person cannot serve two slave-owners. Either God is served with a single-eyed devotion, or he is not served at all” (Expositor’s Bible Commentary note on Matthew 6:24).
If we accumulate wealth only to enrich ourselves and have money and possessions as our master, with no concern for God or helping others, we are off the path that God wants for us. We need to see our money and possessions from the right perspective and let God be our only Master.
3. Do not worry about daily needs
Verses 25-32 looks at our daily needs of life like food and clothing.
Verse 25 says, “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing?
These things can cause us great worry if we allow them to. However, the text tells us that God supplies our needs like He supplies the needs of the animals and birds. It says that we are of far more value to Him that they are (v26). We can trust Him to supply our daily needs because He loves and cares for us deeply.
Jesus instructs his disciples not to worry about the physical necessities to keep us alive. Far too often people I know entire existence focuses on such things. If we truly believe we are made and loved by God, that we are born into this world at the right time according to God’s plan, and that God has work for us to do in this life, then worrying about provision does not make sense. God has got it all sorted out.
Philippians 4:19 echoes this thought when it says, “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus”.
God promises us to provide for our daily needs out of His glorious riches in Christ Jesus. We need to follow Jesus and trust God to supply our daily needs. As today’s reading reminds us the pagans or unbelievers are worried with these things when they ask ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’
In verse 33 it says, “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need”.
Over the years I have met people who are “Seek first the Kingdom of God” people. They live their lives differently. They have different attitudes towards their possessions. They see money as a tool to provide for the needs of their families, but also to bless others and see the Kingdom of God advance. They sponsor children, they support missionaries, they give generously, they pay for Bibles for people who can’t afford them, they open their own homes to bless others. Some of them have walked away from high paying careers to serve God in the mission field or in the training of others overseas.
These types of people have always inspired me to live the Kingdom way. They inspire me to trust God with my life and my future.
So seek first the Kingdom of God and trust God to supply your daily needs.
Bible Reading again from The Message version
19-21 “Don’t hoard treasure down here where it gets eaten by moths
and corroded by rust or—worse!—stolen by burglars. Stockpile treasure in
heaven, where it’s safe from moth and rust and burglars. It’s obvious,
isn’t it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most
want to be, and end up being.
So as we finish today let us remember these three things from Jesus...
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