READ : Matthew 6:19-24
Whatever you treasure most in your heart is really your god, and wherever you put your heart is really your home. So where is your heart?
In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is teaching about the good life, that is, the righteous way of living that both pleases God and produces genuine happiness for us. This is what he says about the goal of the good life:
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
“No one can serve two masters. 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 both God and Money.
Matthew 6:19-21, 24, niv
One day a man came to Jesus with a very important question. “Teacher,” he asked, “What is the most important commandment in the whole law?” “That’s easy,” Jesus replied, “The most important thing is to love God. ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’” According to Jesus, that is the “great” commandment. There may be ten commandments in the law, but this is number one. It’s the most important thing you can do.
But it isn’t easy. Loving God is one thing, but loving him with our whole heart and soul and mind is something else. We’re supposed to love God entirely and completely, with everything that we are and all that we have. The trouble, though, is that our hearts are often divided. Many things claim our affections.
One of the most serious forms of mental illness is the disease known as schizophrenia, in which the human personality is split and the emotions are pulled in different directions, swinging from one extreme to another. That’s a terrible affliction to have. But everyone – each and every person on earth – suffers from a sort of spiritual schizophrenia by which our affections are divided and our desires set at war against each other.
I wish I could say that I love God with all my heart and all my soul all the time, but I don’t. Like you, I love so many different things. You and I love God, but we also love money and the things it buys. We love God, but we also love power and importance. We want to know and serve God, but we also want to win success and find happiness. When our hearts are divided, our lives often send out contradictory messages, like the automobile I once noticed with two bumper stickers attached to the rear. On the left side was one that said, “I love Jesus,” and on the right another one stating, “Capricorns are sexy.” So which is it?
Jesus makes a blanket statement about divided hearts and conflicting allegiances. “No one can serve two masters. You cannot serve both God and Money” (v. 24). Literally, what Jesus said was, “You cannot serve both God and mammon,” an unusual word, representing the god of this world. Mammon is a word that means things or possessions, worldly success or gain. “Mammon” stands for all the things people pursue to make them feel important, of which money is the most obvious because it can usually buy all the rest.
Notice that what Jesus says is a simple statement of fact. It’s not a request. (“Please don’t try to serve both God and money.”) It’s not an opinion. (“I think it is wrong to try to live for worldly success at the same time you try to live for God.”) No, Jesus says, this is the way it is. It’s just impossible. You can have only one master. It’s either God or mammon, God or money, God or gain, God or the world.
But of course, people keep on trying to serve two different and competing masters at once. Some folks try to do it consecutively. They’ll serve the master of worldly success for a time, they think, perhaps for a long time, and then they’ll turn to God later on – maybe when they get married and start a family, maybe when their career is well established, maybe when they’ve made a certain amount of money, maybe when they retire, maybe on their death bed. Maybe then they’ll start to trust God. But Jesus says no. It can’t be done. If that is what you’re planning on, you are making a great mistake. Others try to serve these two masters simultaneously. They live for the world during the week and for God on Sundays, or at least part of Sunday. They strive for success in one crowd and for sanctity in another. But no, says Jesus, if you want to serve God, you can’t serve anyone or anything else. If you seek God’s approval, you must be willing to give up the world’s. You can live to please God or you can live to please yourself, but you can’t do both. God refuses to share his servants with anyone or anything else.
God, as John Calvin put it bluntly, allows no associate gods.
A SOUND INVESTMENT
If that’s true, what ought we to do about it? I think the reason Jesus is telling us all this is because he cares about us. He really does want us to find happiness in our lives. He’s not just offering us information coldly, on a take-it-or-leave-it basis. He wants us to commit ourselves to God, whose service is perfect freedom – the only master worth serving, the only Lord who will not betray and disappoint us in the end. Jesus knows a truth which most people spend their lives denying. The truth is this: that serving the living God is the only way any human being can find genuine satisfaction, perfect fulfillment, and true happiness.
So Jesus tells us to do something. He wants us to make a decision, and the decision is to serve God exclusively, and for real. So he gives us some sound investment advice: Do you think much about investing? You have to have some extra money to do that, of course, but if you do, there are people who can help you. They’re called “investment counselors.” They are more than willing (for a fee) to help you invest your surplus cash wisely and strategically to your best advantage. Investment counselors always begin by asking you about your goals. What is it that you want out of life? To raise your family? Provide for your children’s education? Set enough aside for a comfortable retirement? Then here’s how you do that. You save and you invest and you watch your capital grow, and pretty soon you’ll be able to fulfill all your goals.
Jesus offers a radically different investment strategy rising out of a very different sort of goal. If your goal is to serve God, to make him your supreme master, then that’s going to affect what you do with your life, how you spend your time, how you direct your abilities, where you put your money.
Here is what Jesus counsels. “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth [i.e. don’t invest in this world], where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven [invest your life in God], where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.”
Notice that Jesus is adding argument to exhortation here. He doesn’t only tell us what to do but why we should do it. “Don’t store up treasures on earth,” he says; “don’t invest your life in the things of this world.” Why?
Because moths and rust will consume them.
They’re not permanent, they cannot last.
And because thieves will steal them.
They’re not secure, you can’t protect them.
Everything in which you can invest on this earth – your money plus whatever it can buy – is all just “perishable goods.” Our stocks and our bonds, our property and possessions, our houses and lands, our families, our bodies, our minds, our fame and reputation, our status, our cities and countries, our world itself, none of those things can last. Either the operations of nature or the passage of time or the fickleness or treachery of human beings will destroy them all and rob us of them.
Because all our goods are perishable, so is even our pleasure in them. I once bought a new automobile. It was beautiful and shiny. It seemed perfect. It even smelled good inside. It brought me pleasure. It made me happy just to get in it and drive around – at first. But my happiness didn’t last. It wasn’t more than a month or two before my car didn’t seem new any more, and a little while after that, it didn’t look new either. But that’s how it is with everything on earth. How sad and how foolish then to invest your life in things which neither last themselves nor provide you with lasting happiness.
Instead, says Jesus, store up your treasures in heaven, with God, “where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.” What he means is this:
Spend your life in God’s cause and for God’s kingdom.
And if you do, you will be making an investment that pays everlasting returns.
Make it your aim to please him
and you will never be the loser.
Doesn’t it make sense to use what we must lose anyway, for remember, all our earthly goods, our youth and our strength and our beauty and our time, as well as our possessions, are slipping out of our hands in such a way as to gain benefits that are eternal?
How exactly do you store up treasures in heaven? By giving them to God. And since God doesn’t need either our wealth or our work or anything else we have, he tells us to give these things on his behalf to others. So serve the needs of people, including their deepest need to hear about Jesus the Savior. Invest your life in the lives of people. Live for them, not for things. Live for God, not for the world. Glorify him, not yourself. Be more concerned about whether your words and actions impress God than whether they impress the “right people.” And if God has blessed you with financial means, then use your money for his kingdom, not to build your own. That’s the way to store up treasures in heaven. Remember, Jesus said that those who give even a cup of cold water in his name will not lose their reward.
He’s really offering you a choice, you know, a very momentous choice. For, whatever you make your goal in life, you also are making your destination. Where you put your treasure is where your heart will be.
And wherever your heart is, that’s the place you yourself will end up! If you set your heart on this world and its things, you may get them – for a little while. And then it will all be gone. But if you invest your life in God,
if you make his glory your supreme concern, if you desire no greater reward than his approval, then you will win an unfading inheritance. So tell me: where is your