Today we are going to talk about investments. And Money. And Possessions. And wealth. We live in a world that tells us how to grow our wealth, and a world that then tells us how to spend our wealth. And if we don’t have any wealth - well, just borrow and spend anyway, so you can have lots of nice things. We are told to buy things, to have the latest gadgets, that life consists of our possessions. We are all told that we should be investors, and in fact – we are all forced to be investors. 9% of our income goes into super which we’ll collect when we retire, and some of you are now living on that super. There are seminars, books, TV programmes devoted to good investment strategy. How to grow your money and create wealth. Some of the biggest selling books are about how to become wealthy, how to make money work for you. You would get the impression that life consists of possessions. Money, a nice house, fast cars, investment properties, a share portfolio, whatever. As the saying goes, “Whoever dies with the most toys, wins.”
Well, the Bible also talks about possessions, about money. It talks about investments and investment strategies. And today we are going too look today at Jesus’ investment strategy. We find Jesus’ investment advice in Matthew 6:19-23:
Matthew 619 “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.
In these t wo verses Jesus gives us two options where we can lay up treasures. That is – where we can invest our time, energy and effort. First he presents the earthly option. And you know, most people on this planet choose the first one - earthly treasures. What are we talking about with earthly treasures? Well, we are talking about the accumulation of wealth. We are talking about using your time, energy and money to accumulate things, whether that’s in a big bank account, a share portfolio, investment properties, investment funds, or a flash car, all the mod cons in your large and comfortable house.
Now, when we we consider making investments, what is one of the biggest things we need to consider? It is risk. Risky investments are big news lately. The whole world economny is on tenterhooks. America very nearly defaulted on it’s debt this past week. America is starting to be seen as a risky investment, let along places like Greece, Ireland, Italy, Portugual and Spain. When we look at investments we look at risk. Why? Well – you can buy shares in a company – and then it loses money, or even worse, goes bust. You can buy an investment property, and then it gets flooded and its value drops dramatically. So when we look for investments, we look for sound ones. And typically, if we are looking for sound investments, traditionally the safest investments have been cash in the bank and houses. There’s even the expression: “Safe as houses.” But even those traditionally safe investments haven’t proved that great in the last few years. Since 20008 and the onset of the Global Financial Crisis, our attitudes to investments have changed. The bottom fell out of the stock market. Some countries went bankrupt – or very close to it. Even the safe investments - like money in the bank, in some countires whole banks went broke and people lost their savings. And as for houses, good old safe houses. Today if you want to sell your house you may have to sell it for less than you bought it for, and they say it may be like that for the next 10 years.
Investments – they can be risky. And so too in Jesus’ day. Back then people tended to invest in expensive clothes, cloth, and precious metals, which is why Jesus says:
Matthew 619 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy
And if the moths and rust don’t destroy those investments, as Jesus says, thieves can break in and steal them. And similar things can happen to the things people invest in today. You can have shares or savings in a safe bank, and then a rogue trader in that bank loses all the bank’s money. You can have an investment property that gets flooded, and then the insurance company won’t come to the party. Jesus is telling us that no matter how sound we think our earthly investments are, there is always the risk they can lose their value – either partially or totally. And even if you do happen to dodge all the financial pitfalls and end your life with the most toys, end your life with a decent amount of wealth, well, as the saying goes, you can’t take it with you. Take Kerry Packer, one of Ausralia’s richest men ever. When he died in 2005 his net worth was estimated at about $6.5 billion. But in the end – he couldn’t take a single cent of it with him. And none of it is any use to him at all when he faces the judgement throne of God.
So Jesus is giving us investment advice. He says that laying up treasures on earth – earthly investments – that’s risky. A bad move. Can’t take it with you. But Jesus doesn’t just leave it there and tell us what NOT to invest in. He also tells us what we SHOULD invest in.
Matthew 620 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.
Treasures in heaven. Jesus tells us, have you considered that sort of investment? It’s an investment with eternal returns. Eternal – you can take it with you! And it will be waiting for you in heaven! A place where there’s no moths or rust, where there’s no thieves to steal, where there’s no rogue traders or governments that spend beyond their means, or insurance companies that won’t pay up. A guaranteed investment waiting for us in eternity! It seems like a deal too good to be true! But it is true! But there is a catch. And that is, like all investments – you can’t invest in everything at the same time. If you have $1000 to invest – you can’t buy $1000 worth of shares and pay $1000 onto your house mortgage. You have to choose! If you choose to put your time, effort and money into heavenly investments, then there will be a cost here and now because you won’t be able to put that time, effort and money into earthly investments.
So I guess you might be asking now – what are heavenly investments? Well, let’s look towards the end of this chapter – which we’ll be looking at more next week it says
Matthew 633 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.
The kingdom of God! And last week when we looked at the Lord’s prayer we looked at praying for God’s kingdom to come and His will to be done. That is, kingdom business. Last week we looked at what that meant. It includes things like our own live – our character – are we being obedient to God’s commands in our own life? It includes spreading God’s rule in our families and our church. That as Christians at Gympie Baptist we grow more like Christ. It includes extending His kingdom in Gympie - our own personal evangelism and supporting those who are involved in evangelism. It includes doing what we can to see the Gospel proclaimed to the uttermost parts of the earth, where the name of Christ is not yet proclaimed and people know nothing of the kingdom of God and His will. It also includes feeding the hungry and helping those in need. Jesus’ investment advice is to invest in those things with our time, effort and money. Sure, they won’t help build up our earthly investment portfolio, but they will build our heavenly investment portofolio. They are things we can take with us. People who were fed because we cared for them. People who came to know Christ because we witnessed to them or supported someone else who did. Friends – where are you investing your time, effort and money?
And now you might be asking a question, and that is – does that mean we are saved by what we do? No – we are saved by God’s grace – His gift to us through Jesus. There is nothing we can do - there is no amount of time, effort and money we can invest in the kingdom of Heaven that will buy us a place in heaven. Jesus paid the price for us to get to Heaven. All we need to do is turn from our sins and turn to Him, letting Jesus be the lord and boss of our lives. The heavenly investments you make, in some way we don’t know how, will be of benefit to you when you get to heaven, but they won’t get you to heaven. Only what Jesus has done on the cross will get you to heaven. Only Jesus can pay the price to get you to heaven. And if you are here today and you’re not sure where you are going when you die, I want to tell you that nothing you can do can buy you a place in Heaven. Only turning from your sin, and turning to Jesus, who died and rose again from the dead, will enable you to get to heaven. And if you haven’t come to Jesus yet in repentance and trust in Him, please come and talk to me afterwards about what you need to do to obtain eternal life.
Now, while however, our heavenly investments don’t get us to heaven, they do indicate where our true allegiances lie. And that is what Jesus talks about in the rest of our passage. Jesus is not just giving us advice, but He is telling us that where we put our time, effort and money is a sure-fire indicator of where our heart is and where our allegiance is. In verse 21 He says
Matthew 621 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
That is – how your spend your time, where you direct your energies, what you do with your money - they are the indicators of where your heart is. And in a sense – they tell whether you really are in God’s kingdom, under His rule, and therefore whether Jesus truly is your Lord – and Saviour. A few weeks ago we had Peter Smith from Interserve here. He presented us with some staggering statistics about what Christians spend their money on. I can’t remember all those stats but they were sobering. One stat that has always stuck with me is that American Christians spend more on dog food than on missions. I think the statistic would be similar in Australia. Where we put our time, effort and money indicates where our allegiances lie. Jesus then explains this further with two more sayings. The next saying is
Matthew 622 “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!
Now this saying is pretty hard for us to understand, and the reason is that Jesus was using an idiom, a metaphor which was pretty plain and obvious to the people back then, but which we don’t use today. What it is basically saying is that the eye is a small part of the body but it the part of the body we see with. Do we see the needs of this world? The people who don’t have food on their tables? The people dying and going to a Christ-less eternity because they’ve never heard the Good News of what Jesus has done? Are your eyes open and good to see that? Or are they closed, blinded, so you only see your own needs and desires? If your eye is good and generous, then your whole body is full of light. But if your eye is closed to others, then your whole body is dark..
Now the next verse of our passage is easy for us to understand.
Matthew 624 “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.
But although this passage is pretty easy to undertand, it’s pretty hard to put into practice. Let’s have a look at the first line. It says we cannot serve two masters. The word for “masters” here is kurios - the same word that is normally translated as “lord” elsewhere in the Bible. That is – the same word that we use when we say “Lord God’
or when we say “Jesus is Lord.” Jesus is saying that there’s two possibilities of who is Lord in your life. Either God – or your possessions and wealth. Interesting that Jesus says we can’t serve both. You see – it’s not like having two jobs. I could have two jobs. I could work, say, as a bank teller during the day, and in the evening I could work as a waiter in a restaurant. Who is my boss? Well, during the day, it is the bank, and during the evening it is the restaurant owner. I have two bosses, two masters.
But these words here for master and the word “to serve” are not words used for employment. They are the words used in a slave relationship. You see back then, when they had slaves, you were a slave 24/7. You didn’t own yourself. You were owned. You couldn’t have two masters. So Jesus says – if you think you can have two masters, you are kidding yourself. If God is your master – He requires 100% allegiance. And if money is your master – it will also demand 100% allegiance.
Now the actual word here is “mammon,” which you may have heard before. And “mammon” was a general word that included money, wealth and property. Jesus is saying, you cannot serve both God and wealth. You must choose. Friends – who have you chosen to serve? God? Or mammon? When you say Jesus is Lord, is He really your Lord? Your master? Have you chosen Him to the point where as Jesus says here, that if you really have Jesus as your one master, then you will hate wealth and despise wealth! That’s sounds pretty black and white, but that’s what it says here black and white from the mouth of Jesus.
Now let’s get down to practicalities - what does this mean for us Aussie Christians living in a materialistic society, where people are valued on how much their net worth is? What should our attitude to money be? After all – we need money to live on to survive. Is it wrong to save and buy a house? Is it wrong to put money into super – for our retirement? Well, we’ll talk more about some of these things next week when we finish off chapter 6 when Jesus tells us not to worry about our needs. But for now, let’s talk about how to make God, and not wealth, the lord of our life.
Firstly, this passage is not just talking about rich people. Most of Jesus’ disciples were actually poor people, and we as a family have lived in a poor country and seen some poor people there just as driven by the pursuit of wealth as much as rich people. They were poor people whose master is the pursuit of wealth. And I’ve also met wealthy people who are extremely generous, who use their wealth for God’s purposes and aren’t enslaved by it. Whatever our wealth level, we are all susceptible to the lure of wealth. Whether we are rich or poor or somewhere in the middle. Having said that, we do need to bear in mind that as Aussies, even if we are on a medium income, even a low income, we are some of the richest people on the planet, indeed in history, so we need to be especially careful that we are not living lives as slaves to our wealth.
The other thing is that we must be very careful that we actually take this passage of the Bible literally. As conservative Christians we pride ourselves as taking the Bible literally. In Genesis 1 when it says that God made the world in 7 days, we stand by that – literally. When the Bible says that Jesus rose from the dead – bodily rose - we take that literally. When the Bible says that homosexuality and other sexual sins are wrong, we take that literally. But what is kind of ironic is that very often the same Christians who take much of the Bible literally in these areas, who when it comes to Jesus’ teaching on money, they suddenly become allegorical. I’ve heard this passage interpreted so many times allegorically. That is, I’ve heard it said that what Jesus is talking about here is your attitude to wealth. That He’s not actually talking abut what you actually do with your money, but rather He’s talking about your attitude to your money. That is, that even if we devote our time and effort and money to building our wealth, that is okay provided that in our minds, we aren’t slaves to that wealth. And that in our minds and our attitudes, we would be willing to give it all up for God if He, say, turned up on our doorstep and said, hey – your money, hand it over. But if God doesn’t do that – well we don’t need to do anything.. Who’s heard something like that?
But you know, if we are to claim that the Bible means what it says literally when it says Jesus rose bodily from the dead, if we are to say that the Bible means what it says when it says that sexual immorality is wrong, then we must also take Jesus’ words here literally and not try to explain them away, no matter how uncomfortable it is. Jesus isn’t just interested in some hypothetical attitude towards wealth that you might have if He just happened to appear before you one day and say, “give it all up.” NO – Jesus is interested in what we actually DO with our money, and also with our time and effort – for we know that Time is money.
Can you imagine saying to your wife, “Look dear – I’m not buying you any presents for your birthday, I’m not taking you on any holidays, I’m not going to help you with the household chores, I’m never going to actually spend time with you, in fact, I’m not going to actually do anything for you, but you should still know that I love you, because in my mind and attitudes I love you. No no no! Why do we think it’s any different with God? He is interested in what we do.
Now we still need to deal with money. We still need to work for money to pay for our needs, and if we have the opportunity, which we generally do in our economic situation in Australia, it can be wise to put money aside for that time in our life when we are no longer able to work. But beyond our basic needs - and of course, we need to be careful when we think about what our needs are, because a lot of what we think we need, we don’t really need. - beyond those basic needs, what do we do with our time, effort and money shows who our real Lord is.
So what I suggest you do is to do the following exercise: Take an inventory of how you spend your time, effort and money. That is, write down how you spend your time, your effort and your money. If you keep a budget – look at what you spend your money on. If you don’t – keep a tally of your expenses and see where your money goes.
For example, with your money: Do you spend more money on dog food or on feeding the poor? Do you spend more money on eating out or on supporting missionaries?
With your time, do you spend more time watching the Broncos or on reading the Bible? Do you spend more time landscaping your property or on giving your time to help get the Gospel out, such as helping out with R.E. in the state school, or helping with brekky clubs or reading programmes in the local schools?
With your effort, where does church come in your life? Do you come to church on Sunday if there’s nothing better on? Or is the priority of the week for you to meet with other Christians to worship God together, hear some teaching and encourage each other in the faith? Do you make the effort to get to home group each week? Do you make the effort to tell your colleagues at work about what Jesus has done for you?
Now these other things I’ve mentioned aren’t all bad, but the questions is, in everything, is the first priority for your time, effort and money the things of God, or do you just fit them in if there’s room after everythng else? You know Jesus is making a pretty bold claim on our lives. He is very black and white. You cannot serve both God and wealth. You must choose. Take an inventory of your time, your effort and your money, and that will tell you who you are choosing, and who is really the Lord of your life.
You know, like all these sermons in the Sermon on the Mount, this is a tough one, and in some ways it doesn’t seem very encouraging. But in the final analysis I’d like to say that it is very encouraging. Why? Because in these few verses Jesus tells us like it is. He tells us that pursuing the world’s wealth is an exercise in futility. It might make us happy for this life, but it is an absolute waste of time and money when it comes to eternity. It’s a bad investment.
But Jesus offers a much better investment. A heavenly investment. An investment that does not get destroyed by moths or rust or GFCs or flat property markets, and doesn’t even get destroyed by death. Invest in the Kingdom of God. Absolutely rock solid returns, guaranteed for eternity. And guaranteed by the safest, most reliable One there is. The eternal God who made the whole universe and everything in it. Now that’s what I call encouraging.
Who is your lord and master? The answer is, it is where you choose to invest. Where you invest your time, effort and money.