Summary: Treasures that last for eternity
Finding Your Niche
Sept. 7/8 2002
Jesus said, "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.” (Matt 6:19-21)
Today I want to ask you this question: What do you do that will last for eternity?
1. Treasures on earth:
Jesus begins with a negative: “do not.” He tells us not to “store up” treasures here, on earth. And He gives a good reason: treasures here are temporary. They don’t last forever, they have no permanence, they are subject to theft and destruction. They will not last.
What are the “treasures on earth” that we are tempted to store up? Well let’s look in treasure chest #1… (remove $5 bill)
Obviously wealth is a big one. We live in a world where the accumulation of wealth and the things that wealth buys is the end goal of virtually everything. Bill Clinton famously said, “It’s the economy, stupid…”, and the popularity of the quote demonstrates how much this is a motivating factor in our lives. We look for security in a bank account, we measure our success and importance by the size of our paycheck, we depend on money to meet our needs.
And yet we know in our heads that it is temporary. We know that when we die, we won’t take any of it with us. Perhaps you’ve heard about the man who was very rich, and as he lay in bed one night an angel appeared to him and said, “your time is up. I’ve come to take you to heaven.” The rich man paused, and then begged to be allowed to bring some of his great wealth with him. The angel said no, but the man persisted and begged and pleaded until finally the angel gave in and said he could bring one suitcase only. So the man got up and thought for a while, calculated the relative value of all the things he could bring, and decided that the best value would be to fill his suitcase with gold bricks. He arrived at the gates of heaven, and St. Peter was a little surprised to see him arrive with a suitcase. The man explained how he had begged and begged and finally the angel gave in, and so Peter asked to see what was inside. The man proudfully opened the suitcase, Peter looked in, and then suddenly erupted in laughter. “What’s so funny?” the man asked, “do you know how much this suitcase is worth??” Peter, still laughing, replied, “well friend, if you want to bring a suitcase full of pavement into heaven, go right ahead!”
What in your life will last for eternity? It won’t be your money. What else is in here (remove photocopy of my M.Div).
Success? That is another treasure on earth. We want others to be impressed by our accomplishments. So we go to school and get degrees and that is what I have here in my hand. We pick jobs that we think we can do well in and succeed at. We spend countless hours investing all of our energies in a particular project or task with the hope that people will see our success and think highly of us. But that isn’t eternal either. At the end of it all, the only one whose opinion of us will count is that of God’s, not of man’s.
So success on earth won’t last for eternity either. Anything else in here (remove an Award Ribbon).
Ahh, an award ribbon. (describe…). Here is an award given to me by others. Recognition for something I achieved. My point here is not so much the action or the gift or the reward itself, but rather the motivation. When talking about giving in general, Jesus said, “Be careful not to do your ’acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.” (Matt 6:1-2).
So Jesus is telling me that if my motivation for any gift or act of service or anything else is to “be honored by men,” that is not eternal. That is a treasure on earth; the reward is complete.
So recognition by others is another thing that will not last for eternity.
Now please do not mis-understand me. I am not saying that wealth and success and receiving an award ribbon are not valuable things. Of course we need money to provide for our needs, we need to work hard and feel some success at the things we do, and we all need the encouragement that comes from having someone recognize something we have done. If I understand Jesus correctly when He says “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth,” the point is that we must not be controlled, fixated, driven, by those things. They cannot be our focus. I don’t think Jesus is saying to get rid of all of those things, but rather to put them in their proper perspective, and to recognize that they are temporary and therefore not worth us putting all of our efforts into.