I am a Christian pastor who wishes to bring glory to God in all that I do, and to help people through my writing to know Him better.
Introduction: Heavenly Versus Earthly Wealth
I love this illustration given by pastor Chuck Swindoll. He tells the story in a newsletter that he wrote. It goes like this:
Unless you subscribe to The Atlanta Journal Constitution, you probably missed the story that was in the May 17, 1987 edition.
A rock hound named Rob Cutshaw owns a little roadside shop outside Andrews, North Carolina. Like many in the trade, he hunts for rocks, then sells them to collectors or jewelry makers. He knows enough about rocks to decide which to pick up and sell, but he's no expert. He leaves the appraising of his rocks to other people. As much as he enjoys the work, it doesn't always pay the bills. He occasionally moonlights, cutting wood to help put bread on the table.
While on a dig twenty years ago, Rob found a rock he described as "purdy and big." He tried unsuccessfully to sell the specimen, and according to the Constitution, kept the rock under his bed or in his closet. He guessed the blue chunk could bring as much as $500 dollars, but he would have taken less if something urgent came up like paying his power bill. That's how close Rob came to hawking for a few hundred dollars what turned out to be the largest, most valuable sapphire ever found. The blue rock that Rob had abandoned to the darkness of a closet two decades ago -- now known as "The Star of David" sapphire -- weighs nearly a pound, and could easily sell for $2.75 million.
Unfortunately, most Christians are like Rob Cutshaw. They don't really realize that they have a treasure that far exceeds anything else that they have on this earth. And. worse yet, they are willing to give up what they have for the temporary fool's gold that this life offers.
Today we are continuing our study of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount. And in verses 6:19-24 Jesus is warning his disciple's about the seduction of the accumulation of earthly wealth at the expense of what truly matters in life. He calls that which matters 'treasures in heaven.'
Not that he is against savings. Saving money for future expenses, for giving to others and for contributing to the cause of Christ is a good thing. A healthy savings account isn't the point of his warning. But when all is said and done, heavenly wealth is forever. Earthly wealth is fleeting. And doing things for God's Kingdom will bring you eternal rewards. Doing them for mere earthly gain will cause you to suffer loss in the end. There is an old saying that tells us that you'll never see a hearse towing a U-haul. You cannot take money or possessions with you when you die. They all stay behind. The British missionary C.T. Studd said it best:
"Only one life, twill soon be past. Only what's done for Christ will last."
Let's break down these verses of our Lord and see what He tells us about this often touchy subject of earthly wealth and its accumulation.
I. Earthly Wealth Will be Destroyed (19-21)
The first thing that Jesus' teaches is that earthly wealth will ultimately be destroyed. Nothing on this earth is eternal except the people that we meet and talk with every day. In verses 19-22 Jesus tells his disciples:
"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
Once again, it's not a money issue as much as a heart issue. Is money your god or is your master the Triune Lord of the Universe?
Jesus is contrasting the foolishness of living for money only to have it end up moth-eaten, rusted or stolen. What, or who, are you living for? Those who live for the gains of earth solely will never think about God or eternity much. And they will never be satisfied with whatever they have. Their heart is on earth. Those who think about what God wants won't be obsessed with money at all costs like many on this earth. Their true treasure is in heaven. And God will satisfy their souls.
Money and wealth are just tools to be used and not idols to be served. Money makes a great servant to the one who owns it but it is an awfully poor master.
I am always intrigued by the stories of the super wealthy and how their lives ultimately end up. For instance I found this story from an unknown source which tells us:
In 1928 a group of the world's most successful financiers met at the Edgewater Beach Hotel in Chicago. The following were present: The president of the largest utility company, The greatest wheat speculator, The president of the New York Stock Exchange, A member of the President's Cabinet, The greatest "bear" in Wall Street, The president of the Bank of International Settlements, The head of the world's greatest monopoly. Collectively, these tycoons controlled more wealth than there was in the U.S. Treasury, and for years newspapers and magazines had been printing their success stories and urging the youth of the nation to follow their examples. Twenty-five years later, this is what had happened to these men:
The president of the largest independent steel company, Charles Schwab, lived on borrowed money the last five years of his life and died broke.
The greatest wheat speculator, Arthur Cutten, died abroad, insolvent.
The president of the New York Stock Exchange, Richard Whitney, served a term in Sing Sing Prison.
The member of the President's Cabinet, Albert Fall, was pardoned from prison so he could die at home.
The greatest "bear" in Wall Street, Jesse Livermore, committed suicide.
The president of the Bank of International Settlements, Leon Fraser, committed suicide.
The head of the world's greatest monopoly, Ivar Drueger, committed suicide.
All of these men had learned how to make money, but not one of them had learned how to live."
It would seem from this story that a focus merely on earthly wealth will not only lead to destruction and loss in the next life, it can also lead to destruction and loss in this life as well.
II. Your Focus Changes Your Perspective (22-23)
The next section of this passage may seem a little confusing until we put it in the context of earthly versus heavenly wealth. He is saying that your focus determines and changes your perspective in life, whether earthly wealth, or heavenly treasures. In verses 22-23 Jesus tell us that:
"The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!"
Jesus is comparing our eyes to an ancient oil lamp. In ancient times a lamp would provide just enough light to see where one is going. Like that lamp, our eye shows us where to go and sets the direction for where we need to be headed. Before we go somewhere we look for what we want and the direction we need to travel in order to get there. Then we take off and get it.
If we are setting our sights on possessions and money, that is what we will head toward. If we set our sights on God and obedience to Him we will go in a different direction. It is up to us to focus on what we want to see in life.
This is what Reverend Matthew C. McCraw of the First Baptist Church of Bartow, Florida had to say about it in a sermon that he wrote. He tells us:
"Generally speaking, if we set our attention on bad things, bad things will come our way. If we set our attention on worldly things, worldly things will come our way. If we set our attention on the things of God, the things of God will come our way.
Jesus is so concerned with where we set our attention and direction that He says it will affect our entire lives.
He says that if our eye is healthy (if we focus on good things) we will be full of light, but if our eye is bad (if we focus on bad things) we will be full of deep darkness."
The question that one should always ask is:
"Why am I accumulating this money?" Is it merely for my own comfort, fame or fortune. Or is it so that I might better bring glory to the one who gave it to me?"
Your focus truly changes your perspective and ultimately your destiny. If you are a Christian and truly know Jesus Christ, focusing solely on earthly wealth won't change your salvation. But it will change your rewards in heaven. And it will become a source of shame at the judgment seat of Christ.
III. You Cannot Be Double-Focused (24)
The final section of this passage that we are studying today tells us that you simply cannot be focused on the earthly and the heavenly at the same time. You cannot be double-focused. This is how Jesus puts it:
"No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other, You cannot serve God and wealth." (24).
It is interesting that many of the Pharisees of Jesus' day taught that devotion to money and devotion to God were perfectly compatible. They also believed that earthly wealth signified divine blessings. To them, rich people were God's favorites. Jesus condemned that notion. He didn't condemn wealth itself. He rather condemned a love of money and other wealth and a devotion to it.
We try so hard, don't we, to keep one foot on this earth and one in heaven? We may say that we love God and want to serve Him. But we sometimes try to seek what this world has to offer apart from Him. It will never work. Our focus on God will take us away from a sick obsession with the things of this world. And our focus on earthly things will take us away from fellowship with God.
Ultimately, this double-mindedness will destroy us if we continue to pursue it.
It's like driving a car going forward, while focusing on what is behind us. Eventually we will crash by paying too much attention to the rearview mirror and not enough to what we see through the windshield ahead. You cannot go forward safely if you are focused on what you've left behind.
An unknown author tells us this:
"The body of David Livingstone was buried in England where he was born, but his heart was buried in the Africa he loved. At the foot of a tall tree in a small African village the natives dug a hole and placed in it the heart of this man who they loved and respected. If your heart were to be buried in the place you loved most during life, where would it be? In your pocketbook? In an appropriate space down at the office? Where is your heart?"
That is Jesus point in all of this. A Christian's heart should belong to the God who loved and saved him. And He won't be completely happy with all the treasures of this world without the Lord. And it will lead that Christian away from all of the blessings that the Savior has to offer the one whose eye is focused on Him alone!
C.S. Lewis once wrote in his book entitled I Talk Back to the Devil that:
"Money often comes between men and God. Someone has said that you can take two small ten-cent pieces, just two dimes, and shut out the view of a panoramic landscape. Go to the mountains and just hold two coins closely in front of your eyes--the mountains are still there, but you cannot see them at all because there is a dime shutting off the vision in each eye."
It doesn't take large quantities of money to come between us and God; just a little, placed in the wrong position, will effectively obscure our view. The truth is that most of us will never be what the world considers extremely rich and powerful. But that doesn't mean that we will never have a problem with making money our god and worshipping it while forgetting the one true Lord of the universe.
Let us never fall into the trap that most people in this world run headlong into, of thinking that the more money and power we have, the happier we will be. True happiness and satisfaction do not come from the things and the possessions of this world and they never will.
Blaise Pascal has told us that:
"There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God the Creator, made known through Jesus Christ."
The question that we should all be asking ourselves is:
"What am I filling that hole in my soul and my life with?"
Anything, or anyone less than the Lord is unacceptable and will not fill that void. May we all vow never to attempt to fill it with that which will never satisfy us, be it money or anything else in this life apart from the One true God.
When it comes right down to it, He is the one who matters most in this life and the one to come. Let us never settle for anything less than Him.
© 2021 Jeff Shirley