but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and
rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up
for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust
destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where
your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 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! 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. 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? 26 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? 27 And which of you by
being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 And why
are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field,
how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even
Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But
if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and
tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you,
O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying,
'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we
wear?' 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your
heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the
kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be
added to you. 34 "Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for
tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its
There are three reasons, at least, why I rejoice to speak to you
today and next Sunday about money and about giving. And these are
reasons why you and your friends should be glad that I am, and
should come to hear what is said.
Being in Good Company
First, speaking pointed words about money and possessions puts
me in good company, namely, with Jesus. Randy Alcorn reckons that
"15 percent of everything Christ said relates to this topic –
more than his teachings on heaven and hell combined" (The
Treasure Principle, Multnomah, 2001, p. 8).
"One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the
poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me"
"Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of heaven . . .
Woe to you rich, for you have received your consolation" (Luke
"Whoever does not renounce all that he has cannot be my
disciple" (Luke 14:33).
"It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than
for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God" (Luke 18:25).
"A person’s life does not consist in the possessions that
he has" (Luke 12:15).
"Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all
these things will be added to you" (Matthew 6:33).
"Sell your possessions and give alms; provide yourselves with
purses in heaven" (Luke 12:33).
"Zacchaeus . . . said to the Lord, ‘Behold, Lord, the half
of my goods I give to the poor. . . .’ And Jesus said to him,
‘Today salvation has come to this house" (Luke 19:8-9).
"The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which
a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all
that he has and buys that field" (Matthew 13:44).
Jesus "saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. And he
said, ‘Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more
than all of them" (Luke 21:1).
"But God said to [the man who built even bigger barns],
‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the
things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is the one
who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God." (Luke
"Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son
of Man has nowhere to lay his head . . . Follow me" (Luke
Over and over Jesus is relentless in his radical call to a
wartime lifestyle and a hazardous liberality ("she put in all that
she had"). One time he refers to the Old Testament minimum of
giving a tenth of your income, endorses it, and then calls for a
way of looking at life and money way more radical than the mere
tithe. "You tithe even your spices," he said to the Pharisees.
"That’s right. You should. But you have neglected the
weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness"
So I am in good company with Jesus, not to mention the stories
of the book of Acts ("They were selling their possessions . . . and
distributing the proceeds . . . as any had need," Acts 2:45), or
the words of the apostle Paul ("In a severe test of affliction,
their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in
a wealth of generosity . . . God loves a cheerful giver,"
Corinthians 8:2; 9:7) or James the brother of Jesus ("The flower
falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away
in the midst of his pursuits," James 1:11).
Today I am in good company and I am happy to be here. I will try
to be faithful to what the Lord said.
Releasing an Avalanche of Mercy, Missions, and Financial
Second, if we as a church – indeed if the entire Christian
movement – were gripped by the radical life and open-handed
liberality that Jesus taught, and if we tasted the freedom from
fear and greed that Jesus bought with his own blood, what an
avalanche of mercy and missions and financial means would be
released among us! O what a responsibility we rich Americans have
in this world of suffering and need (see Luke 12:48).
The average church donor in America contributed a mean of $649
to churches in 2000.
Nearly one-quarter of all born-again Christians (23%) gave no
money to a church in 2000.
12% of born again Christians tithed their income to churches in
The mere possibility that God might be pleased to release an
avalanche of mercy and missions and financial means among us makes
these messages a joy to think about.
Giving People Are the Happiest People on Earth
Third, if you personally were set free to give the way the New
Testament talks about giving, you would be the happiest people on
earth. I say that in spite of suffering. I say that because of
countless testimonies (read some in Randy Alcorn’s The
Treasure Principle), and I say it because of what the Bible
teaches. Proverbs 14:21, "Happy is he who is gracious to the poor."
Proverbs 22:9, "He who is generous will be blessed." 1 Timothy 6:9,
"Those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare,
into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into
ruin and destruction." Acts 20:35, "It is more blessed to give than
O that young people would learn quickly,
and older people before it’s too late, that there is no
positive correlation between having many things and being very
happy. A life of simplicity, with a governor on your spending and a
passion to advance the kingdom through giving, will be a far
happier life than a life of luxury. I plead especially with
teenagers and the young single people to learn these things early
because statistics show that the young are less likely to give
anything than the older, and the single are less likely to give
anything than the married. In Christ you do not need to be old or
married to be smart and Christ-like. I hope you will prove the
pollsters wrong in your case.
So for these three reasons I am happy to speak on money and
giving. 1) It’s puts me in good company; 2) it might,
God-willing, release an avalanche of mercy and missions and
financial means; and, 3) if you embrace the call, it will make you
happier than all the wealth and luxury in the world.
In the text that we will focus on today and next Sunday (Matthew
6:19-34) there are three main imperatives, three commands –
very happy commands. Everything else is meant to help you see the
commands as wise and right and joyfully possible. The three
1) "Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven" found in verse 20
(I am lumping the negative command, "Do not lay up for yourselves
treasures on earth," together with this one as a negative way of
saying the same thing).
2) "Do not be anxious," found three times. Verse 25: "Do not be
anxious about your life." Verse 31: "Do not be anxious, saying,
‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we
or ‘What shall we wear?’" Verse 34: "Do
not be anxious about tomorrow."
3) "Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness" found
in verse 33.
How Do These Imperatives Relate to Each Other?
"Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness" is the
large, overarching command – be passionate about experiencing
the saving, purifying, empowering, love-producing, reign of God in
your life and over all the world. "Thy kingdom come!" – in my
life, and over the nations.
Then "Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven" is a specific
instance of what seeking God’s kingdom involves. Seeking the
kingdom of God and his righteousness involves not trying to be rich
on earth but trying to be rich in heaven, that is, rich in God.
Seeking the kingdom means treasuring God and freeing yourself from
the drag of earth.
Then "Do not be anxious" is the condition of the heart by which
we break free from our addiction to earth-treasure and give
ourselves with passion to heaven-treasure. By faith in his promises
God frees us from anxiety, and in this freedom we don’t crave
treasures on earth anymore.
Those are the three main imperatives in the text. That is what
Jesus wants us to be like: Free from anxiety, seeking his kingdom,
laying up treasure in heaven and not on earth. That is the fruit of
trusting Jesus as our Lord and Savior and Treasure. This is the
normal Christian life – radical freedom from earthly things
and earthly security, with a joyful pursuit of God and his
righteousness as our treasure.
Everything else in these 16 verses is foundation and support.
Jesus doesn’t just tell us to be this way; he gives us at
least 12 arguments to help us. And he spends most of his time
giving us reasons not to be anxious in verses 25-34. That is what
we will spend most of our time on next week. If you battle with
anxiety, I hope you will come back praying that God will make you a
free and radical risk-taker for the kingdom of God.
Lay Up Treasures in Heaven Involves Giving, Not Accumulating,
Today I want to simply focus for a few more minutes on the
meaning of "Lay up treasures in heaven." What does this mean? Are
you doing it? Jesus says to do it. Are we?
Up to a point the text is plain, isn’t it? Verse 19: "Do
not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust
destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for
yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust
destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal." Evidently
there are two ways to live: you can live with a view to
accumulating valuable things on earth, or you can live with a view
to accumulating valuable things in heaven. Jesus says: the mark of
a Christian is that his eyes are on heaven and he measures all his
behavior by what effect it will have on heaven – everlasting
joy with God.
And something else is clear: laying up treasures in heaven and
laying up treasures on earth are not good bedfellows. You have to
choose between them. You can’t say, "Well how about both?"
That’s the point of verse 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
There is something about God and money that makes them tend to
mastery. Either you are mastered by money and therefore ignore God
or make him a bellhop for your business, or you are mastered by God
and make money a servant of the kingdom. But if either tries to
master you while you are mastered by the other you will hate and
despise it. This is why Jesus said it is hard for a rich man to
enter the kingdom of heaven. Much money makes a cruel master.
But let’s be more specific. If Jesus means "devote your
life to accumulating treasure in heaven" – which I take to
mean increasing your joy in God in heaven – what is the main
thing he has in mind that we should do now? My judgment from the
context would be that it is giving rather than accumulating. If
laying up treasures in heaven is the opposite of laying up
treasures on earth, then probably laying up treasures in heaven
will be NOT laying up treasures on earth but giving them away in
ways that magnify the worth of Jesus.
There are several other teachings of Jesus that confirm this
meaning: laying up treasures in heaven is giving money away for
Christ’s sake rather than accumulating it.
For example, consider Luke 12:32-33, "Fear not, little flock,
for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33
Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves
with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens
that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth
Here Jesus explains how you "provide yourselves with moneybags
that do not grow old" and how you "provide yourselves with treasure
in the heavens that does not fail," namely, "Sell your possessions
and give to the needy." That’s how you do it.
In other words, possessions on earth are not for accumulating,
they are for distributing in ways that Christ is honored and our
joy in heaven is increased (see Ephesians 4:23). When we give
– especially when we give so generously that we have to sell
something to have anything to give – we show that Christ is
our treasure and that we love others more than we love our own
security and comfort.
You can see the same thing in Luke 14:13-14 where Jesus tells us
to give to those who can’t pay us back. Why? Jesus answers,
"You will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. You will be
repaid at the resurrection of the just." In other words, when you
give freely and generously because you trust Jesus to take care of
you, you are laying up treasures in heaven. You will be rewarded at
the resurrection of the just.
Randy Alcorn, in that little book, The Treasure
Principle, says, "I’m convinced that the greatest
deterrent to giving is this: the illusion that earth is our home"
(p. 44; see Colossians 3:1-3). It’s not; Christ is our home.
And therefore to live is Christ and to die is gain. And it will be
all the more gain as we learn to lay up treasures in heaven by
The Education for Exultation Building
At the beginning of the last decade of the 20th century
Bethlehem was led, we believe, by the Lord to build a building for
exultation – for worship. We moved into the new sanctuary in
June, 1991. The building was paid for in 1996. We have had no debt
Then with the beginning of the new decade of the new millennium
we were persuaded that the time had come to undergird our
commitment to God-centered exultation with God-centered education.
We called the vision "Education
for Exultation". The Vision booklet for E4E reads:
It is a vision of our children stepping into adulthood grounded
in the word of God, secure in their convictions with an unshakable
faith that will weather the storms of life and will not yield to
the "spirit of the age."
It is a vision of a word-permeated people savoring the taste of
Scripture and the supremacy of its Author, seeing Him as the most
important reality in the universe, the most crucial factor in every
issue facing any people.
It is a vision of the great God who is utterly committed to
joyfully demonstrating his greatness in doing us good, calling us
to go outside the camp, bearing his reproach, seeking a city which
is to come.
In other words, it is a vision to train our children, our youth,
and ourselves to lay up treasures in heaven as we learn to take
risks in loving people.
This meant putting a building for God-centered education where
the old sanctuary was. We resolved to build without debt, God
willing (55,000 square feet for $6.5 million). We raised half of
the cash up front. We pledged the other half to be paid off by the
time the new building was up (this coming December or January).
The challenge before us now is this. Because of some cost
increases and some withdrawn pledges we need about $700,000 in new
pledges to finish the barebones building without finishing the
basement (for youth) and the fourth floor (for offices). To finish
those two floors at the same time would take another $650,000.
That is why we are asking any of you who counts Bethlehem your
home to consider making a pledge for this year, so that we can
enter the building debt free.
This is not the only, or even the main, way that Jesus calls us
to lay up treasures in heaven. But it is one way. And I would like
to ask you to pray and seek God’s leading over the next two
weeks as to how you might invest the money God has entrusted to
you. How should you use it to lay up treasures in heaven?
As we move to the Lord’s supper let this be in your mind:
If there is any inclination in your heart to treasure Christ, and
to love people, and to give for his sake, this is because Christ
bought you with his blood and is working in you by his Spirit. And
so it is fitting that we pause, even while we ponder the use of our
remember the infinitely valuable body and blood of Jesus
broken for us. Amen.