August 25, 2019 A Bank Account with Dividends

A Bank Account with Dividends

Scripture reading: Matthew 6:19-24

For the observant person who reads the gospels of our Lord Jesus Christ, one of the most noticeable and significant things about our Lord’s ministry on earth was his vision of the age to come. He almost continually had, as his focal point, the next world, not this world. Of course, he taught much about life in this world, but he nearly always related it to how our actions here would affect us in the next world.

This is precisely where worldly people dramatically differ for the Lord Jesus. People of the world have this life as their focus. However, even followers of the Lord Jesus fail here. By and large, we know that how we live here will affect our place in the kingdom to come. Yet, I am afraid that most Christians remain this-world focused. In this respect, we are not following the example of our Lord.

Our Scripture reading this morning is in the greatest sermon ever preached – the Sermon on the Mount. It begins in chapter five. But consider the very first words of this sermon:

3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 1

His view is the kingdom to come! The very next sentence, our Lord says:

4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. 2

When will those who are sad now be comforted? When they inherit the earth! (vs. 5) Of course, many times – probably most times, we will receive comfort not long after a time of sorrow now because life is mostly a series of hills and valleys, not a walk through flatlands. Even though there will be comfort for most here and now, our Lord’s view was comfort in the next age.

11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. 3

In this part of the sermon our Lord brings in the truth of rewards. Did you know that rewards are a very frequent topic in the pages of the New Testament? The fact that our Lord and the apostles taught on it so frequently proves that the subject is important. I am of the persuasion that we should emphasize what the Scriptures emphasize and we should just touch on what the Scriptures only say in passing. Therefore, I have taught and will continue to teach on the subject of rewards and do so frequently, because our Lord did so frequently! Several years ago a couple that used to attend here complained that I preached on rewards too much. So, I dropped that topic for a while. But as I read the New Testament I see, over and over, how often the apostles taught on this subject! It comes up in nearly every book of the NT! It can only be that the Lord desires this at the forefront of our minds.

Throughout the rest of chapter five our Lord continues to teach on either the judgment that we all (his disciples) must face, the kingdom to come, or rewards. All three of those subjects have to do with the world to come!

So, chapter five pen-ultimately ends with this verse:

46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 4

Chapter six continues:

Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. 5

Chapter six is all about rewards! Maybe some Christians don’t like to hear about rewards, but our Lord certainly liked to teach about them!

When we come to verse 19, our Lord’s sermon is still about rewards.


19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal,6

Some have taken this in an absolute sense. That is, that we should not have any savings at all, but just trust in the Lord. I think that interpretation is problematic because it would violate other directives from the Lord, such as providing for our families (If we are the breadwinner, how will our spouses and children get along of we pass away, or even if we lose our job?) and living with wisdom (recognizing that as we age we will not be able to have a steady income based upon our labor). Rather, this verse should be understood in a relative way. That is, we should not trust in, nor devote our minds, our energy, and work, to savings for this life. We ought to put our minds, our hope, and our treasure into the age to come.

20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.7

Do you see that our Lord’s vision and heart were not on this age but the next age? There is a treasure that builds in heaven. A treasure is a store-house. It accumulates and the things that can diminish or destroy a treasure on earth will not and cannot diminish our store-house in heaven. Neither thieves, nor deflation, nor any thing outside of us can diminish our treasure.

Our Lord Jesus is again talking about rewards. I tell you, we must join our minds to the mind of Jesus. We must do this because our thoughts and our ideas are not always his. We must join our minds to the mind of Jesus! Our minds need renewing! We must re-orient our thoughts towards the age to come.

The treasure that we store in heaven is not limited to where we direct the money that we have. The treasure that we accumulate will include the good things that we do for others, especially those in the household of faith. It will include how we use our time. It will include helping those less fortunate than us. It will include evangelism, discipleship, and our own character that is transformed as we walk with the Lord. Although it will include all these things, the context here is money. As soon as the Lord speaks about our treasure he says:

24 “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. 8

After he says this, he says:

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?9

How do we get food and clothing? With money, of course.

At another time, Jesus was watching what was put into the treasury for the temple:

41 And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. 42 And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. 43 And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. 44 For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.” 10

This poor woman put in one penny. And Jesus says that she put in more than those who simply gave what they had left over. Jesus was watching what went into the offering. He is still observing what goes into the offering! He does not want what you don’t have. Neither does he want your surplus. What he desires is that you put into the treasury from your heart, as this poor woman did. Her heart was so much for the Lord that she gave everything she had and all she had was a penny.

Two boys grew up together in the same small town. They even went to the same country church. One went to a Bible college and became a missionary. The other studies agriculture and became a successful farmer. The one young man was about to go on a mission trip so he went back to his home town and told his church about the upcoming trip. His friend came up to him afterwards and said, “I’m so happy to see you. We both chose different courses. You became a missionary and I became a farmer. But I am so pleased that you are serving God! You know, if I had two cars I would give you one. In fact, if I had two houses I would give you one. Even if I had two million dollars I would give you one million dollars to you.” The missionary replied, “That’s wonderful! Tell me, if you had two pigs would you give me one?” The farmer answered, “That’s not fair. You know I have two pigs.”

Many of us are like that farmer. We intend on giving more…one day. When we get more. But God doesn’t want what you don’t have. He wants what you already have. Neither does he want you to simply give what is left over. He desires that you give like the poor widow. She put God first. That is why the Lord commended her.

This treasure in heaven that Jesus is teaching about is like a bank account. Unlike earthly bank accounts, no recession or economic turmoil will diminish it. Unlike earthly bank accounts, which only pay tiny interest, the heavenly bank account has an interest rate that is, literally, out of this world! Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor the mind of man imagined what rewards await those who are faithful even with a little!

What we give now – yes, in money – will result in reward. This is our Lord’s teaching. We must join our minds with the mind of our Lord Jesus! If all you put in is a ten dollar bill, and it is not just your surplus, then there is a reward waiting for you. If you plan on giving 11% of your income to the Lord’s work and let’s say that 11% comes to $150, but you give $170; I tell you, you are going to receive back in the next age a greater treasure than what you would ever get here. 

Do you know that the good things that are done in the name of the Lord through the church or through other ministries will come to your account? For example, our church assists three missions. This church supports a church in the Philippines that is actively…very actively…sharing the gospel.  Almost every week, because of their outreach efforts, lost souls are making professions of faith and are being baptized. Then they are taught. I tell you, you will be blessed at the Judgment because you participated in giving. We support Campus Ministry USA which sends out evangelists to our college campuses here in the U.S. Young college students are making professions of faith through that ministry. I tell you, there is some reward in that for those who give. Our church also supports a missionary in a communist country. The good that he does there comes to our partial credit all the way down to the individuals who gave.

It is a fact. Every dollar that you give is observed by the Lord and he will not forget what you have given.

 But there is more. I hesitate to say much about this because many television preachers either misrepresent or, minimally, overemphasize the blessings that attend to giving here and now. So, I will only mention it briefly.

When the Lord returns to the earth we will be able to cash in our retirement account, our bank account. But, in the meantime, there are dividends! You know what dividends are, right? A dividend is the distribution of reward from a portion of a company's earnings and is paid to its shareholders. With respect to banks, you only get dividends if you are a shareholder. Only having a bank account does not entitle you to dividends. But, we are shareholders in the heavenly bank! So, we get dividends! Dividends are distributed here and now.

What this means is that, although we have to wait for our share of the treasure in the next age, we receive the benefits of our giving even now.

38 Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” 11

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught that our rewards will not come until the age of the kingdom. But here, he affirms that God blesses in the here and now when we give.

One preacher shared on how the Lord continually provided for he and his family,  and he attributes God’s bounty to their own faithfulness in giving:

In 1985 we left the church we were pasturing in the southern part of our country, South Africa, because we thought we were coming to America. We gave away everything that we owned – even all the furniture. Then God said, “No, it isn’t time yet.,” and he moved us onto the staff of a very large church. Because of our change of circumstances we moved into an apartment and had nothing – not one bit of furniture.

We were planning to sleep on the floor the first night we moved into the apartment. Then I heard a knock on the door. It was a minister friend of mine. He saud, “look, we have these double bunks and they’ll be good for the kids. They have just been sitting in our garage. They are like new, but we can’t use them. Would you like them?” I said, “The kids would like them.” We were the kids who slept very comfortably that first night.

The way in which God furnished that apartment was just supernatural. We saw an advertisement in the newspaper for a double bed. We phoned the people and they came to the house. While we were talking, the power of God hit the husband and he started weeping and crying. He said, “I can’t sell this bed to you. I’m giving it to you. You have to take it.” And, this is how everything came in. God is true to his word.12

Then, he goes on to share how the same thing happened when they came to the U.S. They had nothing: no car, no washer and dryer, but the Lord just provided! What this preacher described is the Lord’s blessing “put into his lap.” (Luke 6:38)

When you give with a joyful heart and beyond your surplus, the dividends start coming. They are of a good measure! They will be dividends that “run over!” But, don’t miss what our Lord said. The measure comes to us according to how we measured out to others – how we gave!

Our thinking is too short-sighted. We too often are just looking ahead to the rest of this week or the rest of the month. Wiser investors look to the long-term. What will I have when five years from now? What will I have when I retire? But, the wisest of all are those who join their minds to the mind of Jesus. They look ahead to the next age. They store up treasure in heaven. 

When we do this we can not only expect a great reward, but we will see dividends in the present. This is what Jesus taught on giving. Let us join our minds to his.

 

1 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 5:3). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
2 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 5:4). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
3 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 5:11–12). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
4 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 5:46). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
5 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 6:1). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
6 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 6:19). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
7 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 6:20). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
8 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 6:24). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
9 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 6:25). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
10 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mk 12:41–44). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
11 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Lk 6:38). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
12 Rodney M. Howard-Browne, Thoughts On Stewardship (Louisville, Ky.: R.H.B.E.A. Publications, 1993-), 9.