What is your treasure? What is it that you hold most precious? What are you giving your life to? For some, it might be kids, career, money, health or clothes. Whatever it might be, Jesus declares that the things we treasure show the location of our hearts.
Every person on earth is making some kind of investment; you and I - each of us - is working towards amassing treasure of one kind or another. We see it all around us - and perhaps even in our own lives.
We’ve witnessed a remarkable growth in consumerism in recent history - the race to have the biggest house; the fanciest car; the latest gadgets; the hottest designer fashions; eating at the best restaurants; going on the most exotic vacations every year; and everything else that goes with the lifestyle.
The thing is, though, that we don’t even realize that we’re caught up as slaves; worshipping wealth; bowing down to Mammon. As we consume all these things, we find that they are consuming us. Wealth is a harsh master.
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 (Matthew 6:24).
And yet, that’s exactly what so many of us do. Even those of us in the church, supposedly Christian, yet giving our devotion to wealth. We think that we can serve both God and wealth; we might even make sure that we put our envelope on the plate to satisfy God for another week; but Jesus says plainly that we cannot obey the orders of two masters.
It’s the stuff of a comedy sketch. I can imagine Carol Burnett (maybe I’m showing my age) as an employee in a store where two managers keep giving her orders. One says to go on cash register, the other says to go and stock the shelves. They keep appearing from different parts of the shop, wondering why she hasn’t done what they’ve said yet. She simply can’t do both; she can’t obey two masters.
But that’s precisely what we try to do! We try to find the middle way, keeping up with both, but it simply can’t work. We’ll end up serving one or the other, either God or wealth.
But which is the better master? Which is the one we should serve?
Here’s what Jesus says:
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal (vs. 19).
Imagine working hard to store up treasure, only for it to rust away; or be stolen away - what a wasted effort!
Designer fashions become food for moths; classic cars turn into rust buckets; money and goods are easy pickings for burglars. This earthly treasure ultimately lets you down. It will break your heart. And, it won’t last; as someone wisely said, there are no pockets in a shroud. You can’t take it with you.
Instead, Jesus tells us:
But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal (vs. 20).
Only our investment in the bank of heaven is a sound investment. So how do we invest in this way? How can we store up treasure in heaven?
The same phrase is found in the incident when the rich young ruler comes to Jesus and declares that he has kept all the commandments. Jesus says to him:
If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven (19:21).
It seems that to store up treasure in heaven means we use the ‘treasure’ we have here and now in heavenly ways.
It’s an open-handed generosity, seeking to help others and make an impact in their lives, rather than a tight-fisted selfishness, holding on to what you have for your own benefit.
It’s about changing your priorities and concerns; moving from following and serving wealth to instead serving God. And that will show itself in the values we live by - whether we worry about material things, or if we will trust our heavenly Father.
That’s why verse 25 begins with a ‘therefore.’
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life... (vs. 25).
You see, if you’re serving wealth and only ever investing in earthly treasure, then you’ll be given to worry about these material things - what to eat, drink and wear. Yet Jesus says that life is about more than just food; the body is more important than just being a clothes horse:
Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they (vs. 26)?
Jesus is saying that God cares more about us than he does about the birds of the air, and because he cares, he will provide us with what we need. Did you ever see a bird sowing seed and growing its own food? Did you ever see a bird worrying about the price of things in WinCo?
Of course, this doesn’t mean that birds don’t need to work for their keep. “The early bird gets the worm,” etc., but they are dependent on God’s daily provision for their needs. So, if God provides for the birds every day, then how much more will God care for us, and provide for our needs?
Jesus then goes on to talk about worrying about clothes.
And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith (vss. 28-30)?
Who would you say is the most fashionable person in the world? The example Jesus uses was King Solomon. Solomon had been king of Israel about 1000 years before and had lived in luxury. Yet, Jesus says that the lilies of the field are better dressed than Solomon, who must have spent thousands on his clothes.
A couple years ago, in the Spring, we drove out to the Carrizo Plains to witness the super bloom. I mean, I’ve never seen anything like it! The ground was covered with billions of flowers. Hillsides shone in yellows and blues. Flowers are beautiful. They don’t have to do anything about it, they just have to be. So, if God makes sure the flowers are well dressed, then how much more will he look after us?
Jesus tells us not to worry about all these things. What happens when you worry about something? If you’re anything like me, then you’ll think about something repeatedly. You’ll try to solve the problem and look at it lots of different ways. Your mind will be like a washing machine, turning it around and around. You might not even be able to sleep if you keep thinking about your worries.
When we worry, we make our problems bigger. Worry is like a rocking chair - it gives you something to do, but it gets you nowhere. But rather than just saying don’t worry, Jesus calls us to something - Jesus calls us to trust in God.
Jesus says that it’s a matter of getting our priorities right. Here’s what he says.
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 (vss. 31-33).
CS Lewis once said, “Aim at Heaven and you will get Earth 'thrown in': aim at Earth and you will get neither.” But, I wonder if we believe this – I wonder if I believe this. If I gave more away and kept less for myself, would God really take care of me? That’s what Jesus said, but I’ve never really tested it. I could say to you, as Jesus said to the rich young ruler, “Sell your possessions and give to the poor,” but I’m not doing that. Should I be? I don’t know . . .
I’m sorry that this message doesn’t have a neat ending – a “Seven Steps to Win Over Worry” or “Three Steps to Financial Freedom” but these are words of Jesus that challenge us – that shake us out of our easy complacency and cause us to take stock. And maybe that’s the point.
What if I were to trust God more? What if I were to risk all for the kingdom of God? What if I were to prioritize treasure in heaven over treasure on earth? What if I were to release my grip on all my stuff only to find that by doing so, I had released its stranglehold on me?