Treasures in Heaven Matthew 6:19-34

The Coronavirus crisis has had devastating effects on the economies of every nation on the planet. In Britain businesses large and small are failing and familiar names are disappearing from the High Street. Unemployment is rising at an unprecedented rate and the situation is going to get much worse before it gets better. Very many people are struggling on insufficient income and very many have used up whatever savings they may have had. In many ways the current crisis is even more serious than the credit crunch and the downturn we saw in 2008 because the cause is completely beyond human control. Some words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount are especially appropriate for this season.
Matthew 6 19 ‘Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Here Jesus is teaching us about the importance of getting our priorities right. The first and most important thing is that
We must live out in our own lives the teaching of Jesus.
Martin Luther astutely observed, “There are three conversions necessary: the conversion of the heart, mind and the purse.” Of these three, it is often the case that our generation finds the conversion of the purse the most difficult.
19 ‘Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.
There’s a true story that comes from the sinking of the Titanic. A frightened woman found her place in a lifeboat that was about to be lowered into the raging North Atlantic. She suddenly thought of something she needed, so she asked permission to return to her stateroom before they cast off. She was granted three minutes or they would have to leave without her.
She ran across the deck that was already slanted at a dangerous angle. She raced through the gambling room with all the money that had rolled to one side, ankle deep. She came to her stateroom and quickly pushed aside her diamond rings and expensive bracelets and necklaces as she reached to the shelf above her bed and grabbed three small oranges. She quickly found her way back to the lifeboat and got in.
Now that seems incredible because thirty minutes earlier she would not have chosen a crate of oranges over even the smallest diamond. But death had boarded the Titanic. One blast of its awful breath had transformed all values. Instantaneously, priceless things had become worthless. Worthless things had become priceless. And in that moment she preferred three small oranges to a crate of diamonds.
What are OUR priorities in life? What is really important to us?
20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
In these troubled times, our world desperately needs to hear this truth that spiritual things are more important than material things! The story is told about some Christians who were traveling in the Middle East. They heard about a wise, devout, beloved, old believer, so they went out of their way to visit him. When they finally found him, they discovered that he was living in a simple hut. All he had inside was a rough cot, a chair, a table, and a battered stove for heating and cooking. The visitors were shocked to see how few possessions the man had, and one of them blurted out, “Well, where is your furniture?” The aged saint replied by gently asking, “Where is yours?” The visitor, sputtering a little, responded, “Why, at home, of course. I don’t carry it with me, I’m traveling.” “So am I,” the godly Christian replied. “So am I.”
21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
When the billionaire Paul Getty died people asked, “How much did he leave?” The answer of course, was “Everything!” Where are your treasures? When this earthly life ends will you be going TO your treasures? Or leaving them behind?
As the country began to emerge from the credit crunch of 2008 the Archbishop of Canterbury’s New Year Message was inspiring. “Our hearts will be in a very bad way if they are focused only on the state of our finances. They’ll be healthy if they’re capable of turning outwards – looking at the real treasure that is our fellow human beings.”
Where are our treasures? We have seen already in the Sermon on the Mount that our thoughts and our attitudes are as important as our actions. Hatred is as much a sin as murder. Lust is as bad as adultery. And when it comes to money and possessions, everything starts with our attitudes.
22 ‘The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!
To have “good” eyes is to be single minded – to be focussed on God and to be generous. To have bad eyes is to be ungenerous or selfish or greedy. We need to have our eyes fixed on God, not on money and possessions;
24 ‘No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.
The false god of Money is a good servant but a poor master. Someday people will realise that the bars that shut many people out of the kingdom of heaven are made of silver and gold. The Bible tells us that greed is a form of idol worship. The word in the saying is actually not money but the false god Mammon. You cannot serve God and Mammon. Mammon can be thought of as the false God of Money, but actually the concept is broader and includes all wealth and all kinds of earthly possessions.
We must be prepared to demonstrate that our trust is in God, not in the false gods of this age, the false gods of Money, Entertainment and Shopping. The story is told of an occasion where St. Thomas Aquinas was walking with a prelate through one of the grand cathedrals of his day. Referring to a coffer filled with precious coins, the prelate remarked, “Behold, Master Thomas, the church can no longer say, as St. Peter did, ‘Silver and gold have I none!’” St. Thomas was apparently quick with his reply. “Alas, neither can we say what follows, ‘In the name of Jesus Christ, rise up and walk.’”
Following Jesus will mean putting our trust in God to provide us with the material things we need in life instead of spending our time and energy chasing after them.
31 So do not worry, saying, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?” or “What shall we wear?” 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
As individual believers, and as churches, we should examine ourselves. Where are our treasures? Are we putting our trust in God or in the false god of Money? But as well as living out the teachings of Jesus in our own lives, we have a second obligation.
We must take care of the poor and needy
It doesn’t matter the reasons why people are poor. It doesn’t matter if it is their fault or somebody else’s fault or nobody’s fault at all. God causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous equally. God cares for everybody and we must care for everybody.
There are many people in need because of the current economic crisis – even in North Springfield! We must be prepared to help them. Those who have lost their jobs. Those who have used up all their savings. Those who find that their pensions are not enough to cope. Those who are struggling in isolation. As the body of Christ, WE must take care of those in need.
James 2 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?
If you know of anybody in the church who is need. Please let me know. The church can help. If you know of neighbours who are struggling, the church can help. We have the Fellowship Fund – we can use it to help those in need. Our friends Richard and Heather Cameron were missionaries in Nepal. Richard was headteacher of the school at Pokara, working with my university friend Jerrry Clewett who used to be our BMS link missionary. I once asked Richard what proportion of the budget of the church in Pokara was set aside for what we would call the Communion Fund. He replied, “Something over 100%”. The church there used their regular offerings to pay its bills. But then when people were in need for simple things like food or medical bills they would have special offerings specifically to help those poor people. They would help anybody in the village, not just members of the church. And over a year the special offerings to help the poor always added up to more than the regular offerings to cover all the running expenses of the church. Many churches
We must make sure that our treasures are in heaven and we must help the poor and needy. In this way our lives should be,
A witness to the world about the importance of treasures in heaven
We need to show the world that our lives are not controlled by the greed which grips so many other people. It was the 1987 film “Wall Street” in which Michael Douglas’s character Gordon Gekko gave the slogan on which so much of the world economy has been built:
“Greed is good. Greed is right. Greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms — greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge — has marked the upward surge of mankind. Greed is good.”
That is the attitude which says “Enough is never enough”. That greed has made worse so many of the problems the world is grappling with now.
FreePort Designer Village, now relabeled just Braintree Village, once used this advertising slogan. “Ours is a shallow meaningless consumer society where we are defined by our possessions. Enjoy!”
People nowadays seem to be “born to shop”. When there are no Covid restrictions, shopping is now officially Britain’s number one most popular recreational activity and what more people are missing in lockdown more than anything else. People spend their time in shopping Malls or garden centres or DIY superstores not to buy anything but just for entertainment. In today’s shopping mall culture, our neighbours are much more likely to be worshipping in the Temples of Lakeside and Bluewater than in churches. It really is as if people derive their identity and their worth from their wealth and possessions and that shopping is essential to existance, “I shop, therefore I am, Tesco ergo sum.”
There is this popular phrase “Retail therapy”. The idea that we NEED to shop, that shopping is GOOD and HEALTHY for us, the idea that when we are sad or depressed, the best thing we can do is go out and spend, spend, spend! Very many people are seeking comfort again in this Coronovirus lockdown by shopping online. The Bible tells us that idea is mistaken. Seek first instead the Kingdom of God and the righteous living it demands.
Bernard Levin (who is not a Christian) once wrote in the Times, “Countries like ours are full of people who have all the material comforts they desire, and yet lead lives of desperation, understanding nothing but the fact that there is a hole inside them and that however much food and drink they put into it, however many motor cars and television sets they stuff it with…it aches.” In other words, happiness will not arrive in a M&S carrier bag, in a BMW or in a pair of Reebok trainers. We cannot fill the hole in our souls by putting a hole in our purses and wallets.”
That is the spiritual message the church should be proclaiming in these troubled times when more than ever people are reconsidering their priorities. People are realising that greed is NOT good – that the most important things in life are things like family and health which money can’t buy! There is so much more to life than Money and Entertainment and Shopping. Now is the time for the church to be more bold than ever to proclaim that message!
20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

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