Treasure

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Matthew 6:19–21 (NLT) Teaching about Money and Possessions

19 “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.”

Money is one of those topics that we are loath to talk about in church.  Yet Jesus had more to say about money and possessions than almost any other topic.  Why is that?

I heard Larry Burkett, a financial consultant and author of many books on financial wellness, say on his radio program Money Matters that he could tell where your heart was based on looking at your checkbook.  Your checkbook tells you what is really important to you.  Apart from the money that you spend on housing, food and clothing, the necessities of life, how do you spend your discretionary income?  Do you tithe to your church?  Or do you just give what you have in your pocket when you show up?  Do you only give a token offering in church?

Jesus tells the story of a widow, who came to the offering plate at the Temple in Jerusalem.  As Jesus watched the wealthy give out of their abundance, out of their wealth, a poor widow approached the collection box and dropped in 2 small coins.  The 2 lepta were the smallest of coins, like 2 cents.  But Jesus praised her saying, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has given more than all the rest of them.  For they have given a tiny part of their surplus, but she poor as she is, has given everything she has.”  (Luke 21:1-4)

When I was a child, my mother would give my sisters and I some small coins to give in the offering plate.  I think it was a dime or maybe a quarter – some small coin that we could be sure to have something to give in the offering at Sunday School.  Now you have to understand that we were very poor growing up.  But we made sure to put that in the offering plate.  It was an important lesson.  Giving something, even if it was only a small coin helped us to get into the habit of giving.

When I grew older and had my own income from the part-time work after school, I made sure to start tithing from my income – givng a tenth of whatever I had.  The less I made the easier it was to give that tenth.  The more money I made, and the more bills I had in my life, tithing became harder.  After all I had a family to support!  Yet I have never regretted it, even when it was difficult.

It’s not about the amount that we give.  It’s about the attitude of our heart.  The Bible says elsewhere, “God loves a cheerful giver.”  Paul wrote to the church in Corinth encouraging them to give to needy Christians in Jerusalem, “Remember this – a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop.  But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop.  You must decide in your heart how much to give.  And dob’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure.  “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.”

The concept of storing up treasures in heaven was a common image for the 1st Century Jews.  The teachers of the Law spoke about obedience to the Law as virtually equivalent to accumulating treasures with God.  Jesus had something different in mind.  In the context of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus may have been thinking about demonstrating love to others through acts of charity.

John Wesley preached on this passage (Sermon 28:  Upon Our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount:  Discourse 8) said, “But how do the Christians observe what they profess to receive as a command of the most high God?  Not at all!  not in any degree; no more than if no such command had ever been given to man.  Even the good Christians, as they are accounted by others as well as themselves, pay no manner of regard thereto.”  Not much has changed since Wesley’s day.

Wesley said that we are not forbidden to provide for ourselves and our families to pay our bills, and to provide the necessities of life:  food, clothing, and shelter.  Nor are we forbidden to save money for the future, to pay for insurance, etc.

But what about storing up wealth?  There are some people who have received the gift of a fortune, either through their own cleverness in business or by inheritance.  Wesley said, that the laying up of these treasures on earth is absolutely forbidden for the Christian.  So the wealthy person must use their earthly treasure to gain treasure in heaven through good works – works of charity.

Wesley famously said, “Earn all you can.  Save all you can.  Give all you can.”  Wesley himself earned a fortune in his life through the sale of his books.  Yet he gave the bulk of it away living only on the small amount that he needed for his annual salary.  He said that if he died with more than 5 pounds in his pocket (about $10) than he would be a failure.  And in fact, he died with less than 5 pounds to his name having given it all away.

How about you?  Where is your treasure stored?

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