Where is Your Investment?
Tim Temple

Introduction

There is a sense in which today is an historic day in the history of Abilene Bible Church. As you probably know, during the past two years we have been asking the Lord for direction as to whether or not He would have Abilene Bible Church move to another location. During that time, which began with a ninety day period of prayer, He has opened a number of doors, including the provision of six acres of land, an inheritance of over $150,000, which was added to a previous inheritance of $50,000, a promise of an additional $250,000, and most recently, an offer from the Salvation Army to purchase our current facilities at their appraised value.

There are a number of details of each of those events, and some other, maybe lesser, events, too, but taken together, I believe that through all of them together, God is indicating to us that we are to move to the property He has provided on Highway 277. With the offer from the Salvation Army, it seems clear that the Lord is “killing two birds with one stone”—continuing a ministry in these facilities that will be even more effective in this neighborhood, and at the same time providing Abilene Bible Church with a location that will be more visible and offer opportunities for additional ministries in years to come.

One principle that has been followed consistently throughout this process has been the principle of taking one step at a time. That's why it has taken two years to get to this point. Obviously, the next step is to ask the Lord to provide the additional money that will be needed to make this move. Although we will have a more specific number before we are through, an estimated amount is around 2 1/2 million dollars in addition to that which has already been given or promised. It has always been our policy at Abilene Bible Church to not borrow money; therefore, that amount will be needed in cash before we can build the new building, which we hope to do within the next two years.

Let me go ahead and say what I know is probably already on your mind: “That is impossible!” God loves to demonstrate Himself in doing the impossible so that HE can receive the glory. There are several stories in the Bible which prove that point in great detail. So today we begin a series of studies on a topic that is one of the most hotly debated in all of Christianity—the topic of money.

Money is one of the most hotly debated topics in all of Christianity. Some Christians think it is the central idea of Christianity, that it is absolutely God's will for every Christian to have a lot of it and not having it is a mark that a Christian is not what he ought to be. Others think that it has very little or nothing to do with Christianity, that it should be a completely background kind of subject—rarely, if ever, discussed.

As is almost always the case, what the Bible has to say about it lies squarely in the middle between those two extremes, and for the next four weeks we are going to be looking at what the Bible has to say about the Christian and his possessions. I want you to notice carefully how I said that—the Christian and his possessions, not just the Christian and his money. The subject is not just about money, although that is the focus of our study, but about all of the things that God has given us—our possessions. Those possessions include our time, our talents, our spiritual gifts, our citizenship in this nation, as well as those physical assets that we normally think of in terms of money.

I have already said that we are having this study because soon we are going to be asking God to provide, through us and perhaps others who are reached through our various ministries, the monies needed to build a new facility. But I believe that even if He doesn't lead you to have a part in this project—and He may not—the principles we are going to be covering will be of benefit to you in other areas of your stewardship.

I believe that the logical place to begin a study like this is with the words of Jesus in what Bible scholars call the sermon on the mount . There is so much talk these days about what would Jesus do, but let me tell you that it is just as important, if not more so, to know what did Jesus say about whatever it is you are trying to learn or decide. This passage of Scripture, which stretches from Matthew, chapter 5-7, is sort of the manifesto for those who want to be followers of Jesus Christ, an explanation of what it means to be one of His disciples. Jesus Himself said that it was addressed to those who are hungering and thirsting after righteousness, who want to be pure in heart, who want to live the way He wants them to. It is significant that the subject that He discussed more fully than any other in that sermon is this subject of how a disciple is to handle his possessions, even though there are a number of other important topics discussed there. He begins His discussion of that topic in chapter 6, verse 19:

Matthew 6:

19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:
20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:

A Command that Reveals a Difference

In His teaching Jesus usually would state a principle or tell a story and then elaborate on it, and that is exactly what He does here. He begins with a command that reveals a difference in the first part of verse 19, “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth…” and the first part of verse 20, “But [do] lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven.”

The Subject of the Command

We need to think carefully about the subject of the command because it would be easy to misunderstand it, and many people have. If I were to ask you what the subject of this command is, many of you would quickly answer, “Money.” But Jesus had a pretty big vocabulary, and if that is what He wanted to talk about, I think He could have said it that way, but He didn't. What did He say? “Lay NOT up for yourselves treasures …,” and then He said, “DO lay up for yourselves treasures ,” and that is a very positive difference because that word treasures applies to everybody. If He had said, “Lay not up for yourselves money ,” most of us would be pretty relieved, wouldn't we? We would feel very spiritual because everybody thinks they don't have much money, did you ever notice that? Much is such a relative term when it comes to money, but everybody has treasure. Everybody. It may not look like a treasure. Other people might not think of it as a treasure. It may be a person or a lifestyle or a position, or a possession or a reputation. It could be almost anything. Whatever means everything to you is your treasure. Whatever is most important to you is your treasure.

The Sphere of the Command

So the subject of the command is treasure, and at this point that treasure is neither good nor bad. The basic point of this whole subject is really seen when we think about the sphere of the command. Jesus is not saying that there is anything inherently wrong in having possessions. In fact, a little farther down in the passage He says, “Your heavenly Father knows that you have need of all these things” (v.32). He knows that in this culture and this era of history, we need a retirement plan. We need a place to live and food to eat and clothes to wear and a means of transportation. We need relaxation and rest. God knows that we need all of those things. They are legitimate needs, and with most of us, He has been extremely generous in meeting those needs.

Jesus is not saying that there is anything wrong with acquiring what we need in this life. What He is warning us about here is the things that we devote ourselves passionately to acquiring for our own pleasure and enjoyment, beyond our actual needs. He is saying that what is important is the sphere, the location of your treasure. He narrows that sphere down to two locations: on earth and in Heaven. What He says is, “Laying up treasures on earth is wrong; laying up treasures in Heaven is right.” It is as simple as that.

It is pretty easy to figure out what treasures on earth are. We have just been talking about it—people, possessions, power, prestige. But what are treasures in Heaven, and how can we go about laying them up? One clue is that if the treasures of earth are these tangible things that we have been talking about, then treasures of Heaven must be intangible things—attitudes and deeds, the intangible, the immaterial, and there are a number of Scriptures that substantiate this. When Jesus described His own activities in Luke, chapter 4, for example, He said:

Luke 4:

18 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,

Good deeds, helpful service, proper attitudes—these are the treasures of Heaven. Paul touched on this subject when he wrote to Timothy in I Ttimothy, chapter 6:

I Timothy 6:

17 Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy;
18 That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate;

You see, even the rich can lay up treasures in Heaven. Good deeds, helping others, contributing to worthy causes—these are the treasures of Heaven. These are things that we can do here and now that will pay dividends in eternity. Isn't this a fascinating thought? If we are going to live forever (and we are), we should make investments for that part of life that lies beyond this life. Not to do so is as shortsighted as to not lay something aside for the latter years of this life, and everyone thinks that is a wise thing to do.

A Comment that Describes a Difficulty

Jesus carries it a step further in the next verses of Matthew, chapter 6. Not only does He give us that command that makes a difference, but in the last half of these same two verses, He adds a comment that describes a difficulty. Notice verse 19:

Matthew 6:

19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:
20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:

The Fluctuating Nature of Earthly Things

Do you see the subject of His comment in verse 19? It is the fluctuating nature of earthly things, and I think this is one of those places where the Lord's sense of humor shows through. It is as if He says, “If your treasures are on earth, I can tell you the whole story of them in three words: moths, rust, and thieves.” That's it! That is the trouble with the treasure of earth, isn't it? There is always the danger of losing them. If our treasure consists only of people, possessions, power and positions, there is always the possibility that we can lose them.

A favorite quotation of mine is from and old banker in Wichita Falls, who used to say, “Men and machinery will fail you.” What is worse is that it can happen in several different ways. A person can change their mind about you, stop loving you or respecting you or obeying you. An investment can lose its value before the day is over. A friend of mine lost one third of his net worth over the weekend a few months ago when the stock market went down a few points. Technology can become outdated. The company can change hands and you can lose you position and your prestige and your power overnight, and almost always, even if we don't actually lose those treasures, sooner or later they stop bringing us satisfaction. Our tastes change, the styles change, the possession or the person that we chased so hard are not what we thought they were. Everything changes as we get older.

As people reach middle age, they often wonder why they ever thought they wanted what they did when they were young and just starting out. If, by some chance, none of those things happen, ultimately every single human being loses all of those things at the point of death. James Dobson often uses the illustration of thinking about life as a big monopoly game. You may acquire all of the important properties and get out of jail free and keep passing go and wipe out all of the other players, but at the end of the game, the board and all the pieces go back in the box. As Paul reminded Timothy in I Timothy, chapter 3, verse 7, “We brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we shall carry nothing out.”

The Fulfilling Nature of Heavenly Things

In verse 20, we see the contrast of the fulfilling nature of heavenly things. Look at that verse again:

Matthew 6:

20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:

Jesus says, “Treasures in Heaven are never lost.” In chapter 10 of this book, He says, “Remember, if you give a disciple even a cup of cold water in My name, you will never lose your reward.” His point was that the simplest act, things that seem completely unimportant, if done in His name, will be eternally rewarded. Time spent visiting or writing a card to the sick or comforting the grieving or trying to cheer up a lonely person out of love for them and for Christ is time invested in eternity.

Peter speaks in I Peter, chapter 1, verse 4, about an inheritance which is “imperishable and undefiled, that does not fade away, reserved in Heaven for you.” Even though he is speaking of the salvation which God has provided for us, he is also speaking of the treasures that we lay up for ourselves there, and the only time we can lay them up is in this life, right now. Money invested in missions or to help the legitimately poor or to help some struggling student or spent on some other cause for Christ is never lost. Jim Elliott, the missionary who was martyred by the Auca Indians in the 1950's said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

A Commitment that Creates a Danger

But Jesus isn't finished yet. He has given us a command that makes a difference and a comment that describes a difficulty, but now in verses 21-24, He tells us about a commitment that creates a danger. Look at verse 21:

Matthew 6:

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

The Power of a Treasure

The power of a treasure is an awesome thing. It draws us like a magnet to wherever it is placed. I have known people who would drive 150 miles in driving rain or a blinding snowstorm to spend a few hours with a girlfriend or boyfriend I even did it myself one Christmas Eve. That is the power of a treasure, and there are many other examples. Think of what you do for yours. Jesus explains that power in this verse. First, the heart is involved. “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” This is true whether the treasure is in Heaven or on earth. If our treasures are on earth, we focus on earthly things. We get to the point that we will fight to keep our treasure. The treasures of earth lay hold on our affections and very subtly, but very definitely, begin to change us. Many of us have seen it over and over again. Let a person get overly involved in earthly treasures and there is a gradual cooling toward spiritual things. As someone has put it, “We begin to love things and use people, instead of loving people and using things.”

But that is not all there is to it. First, the heart is involved, but verses 22-23 go on to point out that the mind is involved, too. Notice:

Matthew 6:

22 The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.
23 But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!

This is a complex couple of verses, but let's think about it. When Jesus refers to the eye here, He is referring to the way we look at things, the way we think about things, our mindset. He says there are only two possible ways of looking at things. If our eye is good—that is, focused on spiritual standards and treasure in heaven—we see things clearly and in a right perspective. “The whole body is full of light,” Jesus says. Everything is in focus. But if our eye is bad—set on earthly treasures—then our vision is blurred and distorted. There is not enough light. Everything is out of focus. The terrible truth is that what the heart is set on, the mind begins to justify. If our mind is set on earthly treasures, we can begin to rationalize it and justify it and convince ourselves that it is perfectly all right, even though it may be something that is directly contrary to the Word of God.

The final step in the power of treasure is in verse 24:

Matthew 6:

24 No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

First, we set our heart on the treasure. Then our mind begins to rationalize it and justify it. And then our will begins to serve it, to protect it, to nourish it, to make it grow. When you begin to serve something, you move into the realm of action, of choice, of decision making. What Jesus is saying here is that when we begin to serve our earthly treasure, we are enslaved to it—mind, emotions and will. Jesus said that the problem is that when we come to that point, we can no longer serve God. Oh, we think we can. We still talk about spiritual things. We still go to church. We convince ourselves that we can serve God on Sunday and Mammon on Monday through Saturday. But Jesus says we cannot do it. This statement is easily misunderstood. We often read it as though He were saying, “It is not possible,” and so we say, “Of course it is.” But what He is really saying is, “I will not accept it. I will not allow it.” You cannot do it in that sense of the word.

The Placement of Treasure

That leads us, finally, to a decision some of us may need to make about the placement of our treasure. The question before us is not, “What do you say you believe?”, but, “Whom do you serve?” Everyone, including the preacher, is either serving God or serving Mammon. Our treasure is either in Heaven or on earth. We can't have it both ways, and it is a very difficult choice to make in this nation that worships wealth and power and comfort and the satisfaction of the senses.

Conclusion

Where is your treasure today? Let me ask you three questions that might help you answer that question. First, what do you do with your discretionary time, the time that you have control over, the time that is not spent on the necessities of life? Second, what do you do with your money? Someone has said, “If I can look at your checkbook and your calendar, I can tell you where your treasure is.” But there is a third, even more severe question. To answer it honestly will tell you whether or not you are deceiving yourself in the answers to the first two questions. That question is, would I honestly exert the same effort to take advantage of a spiritual opportunity as I would to take advantage of a material one?

Many of us would borrow money or sell some possessions or any number of things to take advantage of a “golden opportunity” for a financial investment. Would we do that in order to invest in some great, expensive, narrow, but open door into some great spiritual endeavor, some field that is white unto harvest? If not, why do you suppose that is? What is the matter with us if we wouldn't do that? So, I ask again, where is our treasure?


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