Allen Raynor Weblog: “Laying Up Treasure in Heaven” (Pt. 1)
(Jan. 10, 2019)
Human beings are naturally thing/possession oriented. People are strongly inclined to be seeking, pricing, considering, shopping for, acquiring, enjoying, storing, organizing, insuring, admiring, envying, and protecting material possessions. There is enormous pressure to build our lives on, and around, “things.” Everyone else is doing it, so why not us? John Stott writes “Worldly ambition has a strong fascination for us. The spell of materialism is very hard to break.” (John Stott; Christian Counter-Culture; 154)
The subject of money/possessions often comes up in Scripture. Why, we might ask? Was Jesus obsessed with money and things? Was Jesus a closet accountant? Roland Leavell offers explanation when he writes “Jesus knew that no man is any stronger spiritually than his attitude toward money and what money can buy. Jesus understood the vital relationship between gold and godliness. He was aware of the plague of materialism, the very antithesis of spirituality. Jesus did not discourage the making of money; he deplored the fact that some men give money the place that God should occupy in the affections.” (Roland Leavell; Studies in Matthew: The King and the Kingdom; 47)
We live in “the land of plenty” so it is kind of hard for us to discern whether or not we have a problem, or obsession, with money and possessions. Someone has suggested a simple thought to help us look more honestly at ourselves and our attitudes about these things. R. Kent Hughes writes “If anything in this world is everything to you, it is an earthly treasure.” (R. Kent Hughes; The Sermon on the Mount: The Message of the Kingdom; 211) Where do our priorities lie? What are our priorities? Jesus taught His followers to re-think where they laid up their treasures what they considered to be their priority.
In Matthew 6:19-21 Jesus says “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.” First of all, in verse 19 He states that this earth is a poor investment. James, in his epistle, warns the rich (those with plenty) as he says “Come now, you rich, weep and howl, for your miseries that are coming upon you! Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver are corroded, and their corrosion will be a witness against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have heaped up treasure in the last days.” (James 5:1-3) We need to clarify just who are the rich. We all are! Everyone is rich compared to someone else who has far less. What James is saying is that there is enormous danger in investing in corroding riches and wealth. Paul wrote to Timothy “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men to destruction and perdition.” (1 Tim. 6:9)
Many people have worked, saved, and collected all types of things; all these sorts of things have been destroyed by fire, tornados, hurricanes, floods, and have been stolen. Jesus warns them that, in this world anything made of fabric sewn together can be dismantled, eaten up by insects, and destroyed. He warns that anything made of metal can, and will, corrode and rust, and ultimately be no good at all. I have been to salvage yards, on several occasions, and I always see cars, sometimes stacked upon one another. Some are smashed up, some not. But, all are junk and are worth nothing except for possibly some parts or pieces. But, not that long before, these were someone’s new car that pulled into the driveway and made them the envy of their neighbors. With pride they drove it places. Now look at it. Jesus further warns that just in case insects cannot destroy it and rust and corrosion do not destroy it, then thieves will steal it.
Everywhere we look, it seems, we get further encouragement to be more “worldly” minded rather than to focus on God and those things that are truly important. The world sees just about everything in opposite terms than do Christians. It is tragic that the supreme effort of our lives seems to be about making preparation for the here and now instead of for the hereafter. Basically the next few years instead of eternity! It really makes no sense at all except to very earth-centered worldly people. We certainly should want to live, but we also need to keep in mind that there is a big difference between living today and living for today. There is a story that is told that St. Philip of Neri (Italian Priest in the 1500s), known by all as a great teacher. He would question his students who came to study law under him. He would ask each student “Why did you come?” they would respond “to study law.” He would ask “What will you do when you have studied the law?” They would respond “I will set up an office and practice.” He would ask “What then?” They would respond “I will get married and have a family.” He would ask “What then? They would respond “I will enjoy my home and my work.” He would ask “What then?” They would respond “I will grow older.” He would ask “What then?” They would respond “I will retire.” He would ask “What then?” They would respond “I will eventually die.” Philip of Neri, the great teacher that he was, forced the student to recognize the need for doing more than merely preparing for this life. Our destiny is not to be found in this world, but in the next. (Taken from Charles Allen; The Sermon on the Mount; 120). If we only think a little harder and a little further out, we will see that much of what we do is nothing more than pursuing and attaining things that will only be in our grasp for a moment. We must train ourselves to think eternally.
Dr. Allen Raynor, Pastor