The Treasure Principle
In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6:19-24) Jesus taught that our hearts always follow where we put God’s money. Last week we started with Matthew 6:19-21. Today, I want to review those verses, then dig into the next three verses in this passage.
These are the words of Jesus about treasures in Heaven. “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)
What we treasure the most CONTROLS us, whether we admit it or not.
Not only does what we treasure control us, but The wrong TREASURE can lead to our heart to the wrong PLACE. If possessions or money become too important to us, we must realign priorities and get rid of those things that have taken over a place in our lives they should have never been allowed to occupy.
Jesus calls all of us to choose eternal values over temporary earthy treasures. He continues…“The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” – Matthew 6:22-23 (NKJV)
Spiritual vision is our capacity to see clearly what God wants us to do and to see the world from His perspective. But our spiritual vision and insight can become clouded. Self-serving desires, personal interests, and selfish goals will block that vision. Jesus goes on to make this summary statement in verse 24. “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” – Matthew 6:24 (NKJV)
Notice Jesus doesn’t say that it is difficult to serve God and riches. He said, “it can’t be done. You cannot serve God and riches.” You can only have one master. We live in a materialistic society where so many are mastered by money and material possessions. People spend their lives gathering, collecting, and storing material wealthy, only to die and leave it all behind. Their desire for money, and the things it can buy, far outweighs their commitment to God.
People who live like this have very little interest in spiritual things. Their focus is on the here and now. They give very little thought to matters of eternal significance. The truth is, your energy, your thoughts, and your time will typically be spent on whatever you are storing up. That is why we must guard against the trap of materialism. We have heard that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. Those words originated with the Apostle Paul. “For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows.” – 1 Timothy 6:10 (NLT)
It is not that money is bad, money is good, and it is necessary. But the love of money, and the things it can buy, that’s what can destroy you. It is a matter of misplaced priorities. Where is your ultimate allegiance? Is serving God truly first, or are worldly riches and material things more important to you? I hope you can honestly say that God, not money, is your master.
One simple test to determine the truth is to honestly ask, which one occupies more of your thoughts, your time, and your efforts. Jesus was contrasting heavenly values with earthly values. He explained that our first loyalty should be to those things that do not fade, cannot be stolen or used up, and will never wear out or fade away.
The problem is not that we have POSSESSIONS. The problem is when our POSSESSIONS have us.
God alone deserves to be our Master. Either we store our treasures with Him, we focus our eyes on Him, we choose to serve Him and Him alone, or we choose not to serve Him at all. I will ask it again. Where is your ultimate allegiance today? Be honest.
Bertha Adams was seventy-one years old when she died alone in West Palm Beach, Florida on Easter Sunday 1976. The coroner’s report read, “Cause of Death…malnutrition.” After wasting away to fifty pounds she could no longer stay alive. When the state authorities made their preliminary investigation of her home, they described it as a “pigpen…the biggest mess you can imagine.” One seasoned inspector said he had never seen a dwelling in greater disarray.
Bertha had begged food at her neighbors’ doors and had gotten what clothes she had from the Salvation Army. From all appearances she was a penniless recluse—a pitiful and forgotten widow. But that was not the case! Amid the jumble of her filthy, disheveled belongings they found two keys to two safe-deposit boxes at two different local banks.
The discovery was unbelievable. The first box contained over 700 AT&T stock certificates, plus hundreds of other valuable notes, bonds, and solid financial securities, not to mention cash amounting to $200,000. The second box had no certificates, just cash—$600,000 to be exact.
Bertha Adams was a millionaire and then some! Yet she died of starvation. Her life was an extreme parable of the lethal danger of materialism, which can promise so much, but cannot meet our greatest need.
Our consumer society is constantly telling us that life at its best consists of having more money, more possessions, and more pleasure. As Christians, we know this is not true. But the tug is so strong that many of us struggle with the tension between what the Bible teaches and what the advertisers have to say. It is the battle between spiritual riches that God offers us in Christ and worldly treasures that cannot feed or satisfy the longing of our soul.
Sadly, when someone loses their balance, the results can be devastating. The title of this series is The Treasure Principle. According to author Randy Alcorn, The Treasure Principle simply states:
You CAN’T take treasures with you to Heaven, but you CAN send them on ahead.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus spoke plainly about two treasures. He spoke about treasures on Earth, and treasures in Heaven and the fact that our heart always follows our treasure. That is why this topic is so important. Jesus did not forbid owning property or possessions. Jesus was not against providing for the future or saving for a rainy day. And Jesus certainly was not forbidding the enjoyment of God’s good gifts. God wants us to enjoy all that He provides for us.
We simply need to be aware of the direction of our heart. Because…
According to Matthew 6:19-24, my HEART always follows my MONEY.
John Wesley once toured the vast estate of a very proud plantation owner. They rode their horses for hours and only saw a fraction of the man’s property. At the end of the day, they sat down to dinner. The plantation owner eagerly asked, “Well, Mr. Wesley, what do you think?” Wesley replied, “I think you’re going to have a hard time leaving all this behind.”
Most people can determine where their heart and treasure are simply by looking at their bank statements, their credit card statements, their monthly expenses. Suppose you buy stock in Ford Motor Company. What happens? You suddenly develop an interest in Ford. You check the financial pages. You see a magazine article about Ford and read every word. Your next car will probably be a Ford.
Suppose you’re giving to help provide clean water in a third world country like so many are doing through Team World Vision. When you see a news story or an article on that subject, you pay much closer attention. If you’re sending money to plant churches or provide disaster relief, your heart follows your investment.
As surely as the compass needle follows north, your heart will follow your treasure. The good news is that I have the ability to LEAD my heart. If I want my heart somewhere, all I need to do is put my money there. Wherever you put your money, your heart will follow.
Do you wish you cared more about eternal things? Try reallocating some of your money from temporal to eternal things and watch what happens. I think you’ll be amazed…and I think you will be very happy. God is looking for disciples that are so filled with a vision for eternity that they wouldn’t dream of not investing everything from their time, talent, and treasure where they know it will matter most.
I find it interesting that Jesus repeatedly linked money to our SPIRITUAL CONDITION. We often attempt to compartmentalize and divide life into two broad categories: the spiritual, and the material. But Jesus never made that kind of distinction. In fact, He didn’t separate the two, He often connected them.
He taught that our attitude toward money and material things is a reflection of our spirituality. When He says, “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” it is not like he is saying “put your money where your mouth is!” He is basically saying, “You already put your money where your heart is.”
If you attended Sunday school as a child, the odds are great that you know the story of Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10). I mentioned his story in week one of this series. Jesus was entering the city of Jericho. A tax collector by the name of Zacchaeus lived there.
Zach was a chief tax collector, which means he was very rich. He had been hearing stories about Jesus and this was his opportunity to finally see him in person. But there was a problem. Do you remember the song? “Zacchaeus was a wee little man, and a wee little man was he.” Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus as He was passing through the city of Jericho. But because the crowd was so large, he knew he wouldn’t even be able to catch a glimpse of Jesus. So, what did he do? Back to the song…
“He climbed up in a Sycamore tree for the Lord he wanted to see.” Knowing that he would never be able to see over the crowd, this “wee little man” ran ahead of the crowd, and he climbed up into a tree so that he could see Jesus. And when Jesus came to the place where Zach had climbed the tree, He looked up and said…Zacchaeus, you come down! For I am going to your house today. When Jesus called Zacchaeus to come down out of the tree, the response was immediate. He must have been fairly high because he didn’t jump out of the tree.
“Zacchaeus quickly climbed down and took Jesus to his house in great excitement and joy.” – Luke 19:6 (NLT) The people gathered there didn’t like what they saw. They knew Zacchaeus. They knew what he did for a living. He was a Roman tax collector. And everybody knew that tax collectors were getting rich by gouging their fellow Jews.
The Jewish tax collectors not only collected the Roman taxes, but everything they collected above the amount that was owed to the Romans, they were allowed to keep. It was a very lucrative proposition. It is not difficult to understand why these tax collectors were hated by the Jewish people. And that is why these people were so displeased that Jesus was going to his house. They even said…
“He has gone to be the guest of a notorious sinner.” – Luke 19:7 (NLT) Even though Zacchaeus was a crooked tax collector, after meeting Jesus he knew things had to change. He obviously wanted his life to go in a different direction. So, he made this commitment. “I will give half my wealth to the poor, Lord, and if I have cheated people on their taxes, I will give them back four times as much!” – Luke 19:8 (NLT)
A transformation has obviously taken place. Zacchaeus had an encounter with Jesus and the initial evidence of the transformation that had taken place was in his attitude about money. Now, it is very important to notice what Jesus said to Zacchaeus next. Jesus did not say, “Zacchaeus, that’s great! What a wonderful gesture!” He didn’t say, “It’s about time” or “I have been waiting for you to do the right thing.” No. As soon as Zacchaeus said that he was willing to part with his money, look what Jesus said to him…Jesus responded, “Salvation has come to this home today.” – Luke 19:10a (NLT)
Isn’t it interesting, that The evidence of Zacchaeus’ TRANSFORMATION was his attitude toward money. Money and possessions have a way of spotlighting our spiritual condition. These things are an index to a person’s character.
They are a reflection of a person’s heart.
Contrast the story of Zacchaeus with the story of the rich young ruler (Luke 18:18-30). The rich young ruler who came to Jesus was a typical urban professional. He was doing very well financially. He was young, hard-working, decent, earnest, sincere person who desperately wanted peace in his life. He wanted to know what he must do to inherit eternal life. After a brief discussion about his morality, Jesus went straight to the heart of things with one simple statement. He basically said, here is the bottom line. “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me” – Luke 18:22 (NIV)
Do you remember the rich young ruler’s response? He could have said, “I will gladly sell all that I have and distribute it to the poor”? That would have been evidence of a transformation, wouldn’t it? But he did not say that. Instead, when he heard these things, the Bible tells us that he went away very sad, for he was extremely rich (Luke 18:23). He opted to walk away from Jesus and the gift of eternal life in order to hold on to his money.
In the case of Zacchaeus, his attitude toward money was the evidence of GOD’S GRACE in his life and of his transformation. In the case of the Rich Young Ruler, his attitude toward money was the evidence of MISPLACED PRIORITIES.
I want to close with a very important question. Who or what do you love more than anything or anyone else? Do you remember the words of Jesus as He responded to the question about which of the commandments was greatest? “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” – Mark 12:30 (NIV) Who or what do you love more than anything or anyone else? Maybe it would be easier to ask, Who or what OWNS YOU/ME?