March 21, 2021 Who Will Enter the Kingdom Part 11 Treasures

Who Enters the Kingdom?

Part Eleven

March 21, 2021

Read Matthew 6:19-24.

 

These words, of course, are part of our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount.

 

At the risk of sounding repetitive, it is important to keep four things in mind as we read or study this sermon.

 

First, we saw that this sermon is for his disciples. It is not for the general crowd, although they will follow the disciples up the mountain and they will hear what he has to say. Because it is for his disciples, it is for us. Because we are also the Lord’s disciples. This first point is particularly germane to our passage this morning.

 

Second, we saw that the theme of the sermon is entering the kingdom. Our Lord’s great message is how we need to live and think in order to enter the kingdom.

 

Third, we learned that the “kingdom of heaven” is not heaven. Rather, it is the earthly kingdom that the Lord will establish when he returns to the earth.

 

Fourth, we learned that not all genuine Christians will enter the kingdom that is coming. Only those who live by God’s will as revealed in this sermon, will enter. (Those followers of the Lord who fail to live by Christ’s words will be excluded from the kingdom and must wait until the New Heavens and the New Earth to be united with the Lord.)

 

Another thing that we have been seeing is that the kind of living that the Lord is demanding is rather high. It is so high and, some would say, difficult that many have tried to find ways to ignore or discount what our Lord has taught. “That can’t be what he meant!” is often heard. Or, “Nobody can live that way!” Or, “If that is the way I must live, then I’m giving up!”

 

The most common excuse for not having to follow our Lord’s directives in this sermon is that some will say that this sermon is for the lost and not for those who belong to Christ. But it is too obvious that this sermon is for his own disciples. In the very first verse of chapter five we read:

 

Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. [1]

 

Then, he tells them that they are the light of the world and the salt of the earth. Unbelievers are neither light nor salt. They are darkness and a corrupting influence.

 

One young man that I was speaking to recently did not like the words of the Lord as applied to us, so he said that Jesus was talking to his disciples back then but the words are not meant for us today! Of course they are for us. It doesn’t matter that they are hard words. They are for us!

 

Many of us have the same problem that the OT saints had before us. That is, we are so accustomed to “living at ease in Zion” that we do not want to change the way we live. The Lord spoke these words so that we would not remain as we are, but that we would lay down our lives and truly follow him.

 

19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal,[2]

 

The first question that many have regarding this passage is whether this should be taken in an absolute way. That is, are we forbidden to lay up (save) treasures (anything of monetary value: gold, silver, art, stocks, money, etc.) on earth – while we are here living our lives? A plain reading of this verse would indicate that the answer is yes. Many have taken it this way. As with all our Lord’s teachings, we should keep in mind that the Lord is after our heart. He seeks to call our attention to the condition of our heart. The human heart is deceitful above all things (Jer. 17:9); therefore, we must always keep in mind that our own hearts are worse than we think they are. We are apt to be covetous when we think we are not (Luke 12:13-14). For some, if their hearts are powerfully drawn to possessions, it may be a right course of action to take this teaching in an absolute way and find themselves free from the love of possessions. For most, however, it is not necessary to never save and it is likely unwise to never save. If we consider the totality of teaching on this subject this becomes more evident.

 

As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. 18 They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, 19 thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life. [3]

 

Paul did not instruct Timothy that the rich should cease being rich (which, if they gave everything away would be the case). Their riches, he says, came from God so that they could enjoy them. Rather than give everything away, they are to be generous with their money and to do good works.

 

But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. [4]

 

If someone were to give everything away and have no savings of any kind then it becomes exceedingly difficult to provide for our family. All it would take would be the loss of our jobs and we would then immediately be unable to provide for our family.

 

34 Let Pharaoh proceed to appoint overseers over the land and take one-fifth of the produce of the land of Egypt during the seven plentiful years. 35 And let them gather all the food of these good years that are coming and store up grain under the authority of Pharaoh for food in the cities, and let them keep it. 36 That food shall be a reserve for the land against the seven years of famine that are to occur in the land of Egypt, so that the land may not perish through the famine.” [5]

 

These are Joseph’s words to Pharaoh to prepare the Egyptians for the famine that was coming. It was wise and by God’s direction to store up food in order to save lives. We do not know if there will be a famine nor do we know if or when hard times may come. Thus, it is wise to have a store for such occasions.

 

11 Wealth gained hastily will dwindle,

but whoever gathers little by little will increase it. [6]

 

The verse above is an admonition to save!

 

When we consider all of Scripture, it seems evident that it is wise to save. So, what Is our Lord teaching in Matthew 6:19? He is teaching us to guard our hearts against covetousness. In verse 21 he says:

 

21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. [7]

 

It is so easy for our hearts to be drawn away to things, especially money.

 

Our Lord continues:

 

20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.[8]

 

All our possessions here on earth may be destroyed or stolen, including our savings. In my former vocation I investigated a scam artist who had swindled many people out of their life savings, including a physician who should have known better. His scheme was that he started his own bank that he was able to establish in Nauru, the smallest country in the world, located in the South Pacific. He then advertised an enticing rate of return…something like a 20% annual rate of return. To forego apprehension, he claimed that all deposits were 100% insured by an International Insurance Group and provided documentation to the same. But, guess what? He started the insurance company, too! The insurance group he created in Grenada, a small island nation in the Caribbean. It was all fake! But it looked legitimate. He took in millions of dollars and spent some of it by providing the 20% or higher rate of return to the initial depositors so that he could have them speak at his seminars as proof that his bank was legit. It was nothing more than a giant Ponzi scheme. But the later depositors just lost their money because he spent it all on himself, his girlfriend, and his co-conspirators. There are a hundred different scams like this and even careful people can be taken in.

 

Besides thieves, people may lose their savings through bank failures or hyper-inflation. The way Congress has been spending our money (like drunken sailors) and the large number of jobs that have been lost just in the past two months does not bode well for our country’s economic future. There are a hundred ways that we can lose our savings, our treasure!

 

So, the Bible does encourage us to save wisely. But our treasure can be lost. More dangerous than the possibility of loss, though, is the stealing of our heart to our treasures! This is what the Lord warns about.

 

Do you know what? This warning from our Lord is more applicable now than when he first gave it! Why? Because most of his disciples were relatively poor. Only Matthew would have been considered well off among the twelve. Today, at least in America, most people are wealthy compared to the average worker in the world. But, our wealth does not motivate us to give to the Lord.

 

Do you know what the average amount given by Evangelicals to their church is? We know what we should be giving, correct? Under the old covenant God’s people were to give 10% of their income back to the Lord. There is no prescription under the new covenant. But our blessings are greater and our mission is greater than it was under the old covenant. Thus, God’s children should be giving more than 10% in the present age. Yet, the average amount given is 1.97%! About 2%! I tell you, this is one reason why the church is hard pressed to carry out its mission. God’s people are prioritizing their own treasures over the treasure unto the Lord!

 

Two percent is the average. Some give far more: 15 or 20 percent. Many do give about 10 percent. But there are also many who give 5 percent and some give nothing at all.

 

When Jesus said, “Lay up treasures in heaven,” he wasn’t referring to giving to the church. We can lay up treasures in heaven by giving to the poor. By helping those who need help. We can lay up treasure by donating our time to serve others. We can lay up treasure by using our own resources to spread the gospel. I know several single men who spend money on tracts, getting banners made, and they go out to public events passing out tracts and proclaiming the gospel.

 

However, giving to the church is one way to lay up treasure in heaven because, if a church is faithful, then they are doing these very things.

 

Again, we see the Lord holding forth rewards (treasures that we will have in the next age) as an incentive for godliness. This theme is so common in our Lord’s teaching! Take it! Embrace it. Allow it to move you!

 

Then, in verse 21 as we read, the Lord tells us that where our treasure is will also be where our heart is. This means that, if we have a large store here and few works in the kingdom, our hearts will be devolved on earthly things and not heavenly things. If that occurs we will be disappointed when we die.

 

There is something else about this truth that is encouraging. It also means that, if our hearts are not as devoted as they ought to be, we can do something about it. We ought not to lament, “I’m just not as dedicated or motivated as so-and-so.” Or, “I wish I were as interested in the things of God as my wife (or my husband). She (or he) is always involved in the work of the Lord and I just can’t seem to get into it.” People who talk like this can at least be commended for recognizing their lack. (Sometimes recognition is half the battle. We all tend towards self-denial.) But, we can do something about it! Jesus said that where our treasure is there will our heart be. Therefore, we can choose to give more to the kingdom of God, storing up treasure. We can increase our giving to the church. We can increase our giving to evangelistic ministries. We can give more to those less fortunate than we are. When we do this our hearts will begin to change. And, our increase should not be just once. If we only increase it once, then our hearts will only change once (excepting sovereign works of grace by God upon us). We ought to increase our giving more than once per year.

22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, 23 but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! [9]

 

When Jesus speaks of the eye here, he uses it as a metaphor for our desires, because most desires come through our sense of vision. The badness of our eye represents our bad desires. In context, these are not just any bad desires (although the principle would still apply to any bad desires). It is the desire for money to which our Lord refers. If we live our lives in such a way that we primarily seek after money and our own reception of it, then we are full of darkness. Let us check our hearts! Am I primarily seeking to gather monetary security or am I primarily seeking to see the kingdom of God grow here and now? Be honest when you ask yourself this question.

 

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. [10]

 

Our Lord takes this teaching to a higher level. He impresses upon his hearers, and us, that if our hearts our divided then they will not stay divided. Rather, they will eventually be inclined toward one or the other – either God or money. This is how dangerous covetousness is. It masquerades in respectability (everyone respects people with good jobs, desirable houses, and new cars) but it draws our hearts away from God slowly and subtly. The way to avoid this dark path is to give oneself wholly to one Master – God! And, the way we do that in this era is by living for the Lord Jesus Christ and His kingdom. He is first. We seek the kingdom first. We seek to grow his kingdom first, above our own accumulations.

 

Who will enter the kingdom? It is those who lay up treasures there, not so much here. It is those whose hearts are not divided, but whose hearts are for the kingdom of God first. It is those for whom money is secondary. If we are faithful in our giving then the door to the kingdom will be opened for us!

 

 

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 5:1). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 6:19). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (1 Ti 6:17–19). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[4] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (1 Ti 5:8). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[5] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ge 41:34–36). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[6] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Pr 13:11). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[7] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 6:21). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[8] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 6:20). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[9] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 6:22–23). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[10] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 6:24). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.