Is Your Treasure Showing?

Sermon by J. Ligon Duncan on October 29, 2006

Matthew 6:19-21

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The Lord’s Day
Morning

October 29, 2006

Matthew 6:19-21

“Is Your Treasure Showing?”

Dr. J. Ligon
Duncan III

Amen. If you have your Bibles, I’d invite you to turn with
me to Matthew 6, and be looking at verses 16-19. This is the passage from which
the theme of the stewardship season comes. Our Stewardship Committee has chosen
once again to emphasize that stewardship is a matter of the heart. You’ll see
why as we work through this passage today, but the battle hymn of the
Reformation, which you just heard the choir sing, admirably points us to this in
its very final stanza: “Let goods and kindred go; this mortal life also. The
body they may kill; God’s truth….” …still stands, doesn’t it? Because his
kingdom is forever. And so Martin Luther is reminding us that though the goods
of this world may go, though our lives may be taken from us, there is something
that lasts, is of greater value, and it puts everything else in perspective. And
I can’t think of a better thing for you to have on your heart as we begin to
consider the issue of stewardship.

I love to talk about stewardship, because it is a
matter of the heart.
And our committee consistently over the last ten years
that I’ve been at First Presbyterian Church has wanted to emphasize that. Jesus
makes it clear that what we do with our material resources is an index of our
love for God or our love for something else. As far as Jesus is concerned,
stewardship is a test, and the Stewardship Committee wants to emphasize that.
Stewardship first and foremost is a matter of the heart. Secondly, it’s a matter
of what you do with everything that God gives to you, not just that which you
give to the church; and, thirdly, it is a matter of how much you care about
God’s kingdom work that is done through the local church. And so I love to talk
about stewardship because it’s a spiritual issue, and especially in our day and
age.

We live in the most prosperous country in the world.
We live in the most prosperous country in the history of the world. And that
means that as pastors and elders, if we don’t help you figure out how to
navigate that prosperity, we are guilty of dereliction of duty. C.H. Spurgeon,
the great English Baptist minister, once said, “Afflictions are a great trial,
but there is no trial like prosperity.” And it’s so true. We’ve seen friends who
through affliction have become embittered to God, although we’ve also seen
friends who through affliction have become sweet, trusting, strong, powerful
believers. But for every friend that we have seen embittered because of
afflictions, we have seen ten fall because of prosperity. And there’s a reason
for that: When we have much in this world, we are tempted to forget the Giver
and focus on the gifts. We become so wrapped up with what we have that we forget
Who gave it in the first place.

Secondly, when we have much in this world, we are
tempted to find our security in that rather than the God who gave it.
When
you have much, what starts happening? You start trying to hang on to it. Why?
Because you think your security is in hanging on to it.

And then, third, and most serious, when we have
much, we are tempted to love the gift more than we love the Giver
, and so
our hearts are torn subtly away from God and we begin to love things–stuff–what
the Bible calls mammon–and what does the Lord Jesus Christ say in this
very passage? “You cannot serve, you cannot love, you cannot worship, both God
and stuff.” One is always going to have the upper hand.

And so stewardship is a matter of the heart, and so
as a gospel minister who is most concerned that you will love the one true God
with all your heart, all your mind, all your soul, and all your strength…as a
gospel minister who is most concerned that you will trust in the Lord Jesus
Christ alone for salvation as He is offered in the gospel, I love to talk about
stewardship because it allows us to get to the issue of the heart. It’s one of
those things that gives us a visible representation of what’s going on in our
hearts, and that’s vitally important.

Jesus, of course, in Matthew 6 (and go ahead and
allow your eyes to scan back over this chapter)…Jesus is getting at that very
issue with the disciples. You remember the matter that He is taking up in
Matthew 6 is people who look religious on the outside, but on the inside there’s
really no love for God. They’re hypocrites, in other words. They may pray and
they may fast, and they may make a big deal about what they give to the temple,
but in their hearts they are not lovers of God, they are not worshipers of God,
they’re not believers in God, they’re not followers of God. They’re hypocrites.

And the Lord Jesus is talking to His disciples about
how they avoid falling into that very trap of religious formalism or hypocrisy.
You remember Jesus’ great word to them is ‘You’ve got to look at your heart, and
you’ve got to ask questions about your motivations and desires.’ And of course
the disciples’ immediate response is going to be ‘Lord, how can I look at my
heart? I can’t see my heart.’ And the Lord Jesus says ‘Oh, yes, you can!’ And
the disciple says ‘Look, I can stand in front of the mirror and I can take off
my shirt, and I still can’t see my heart.’ And Jesus says, ‘Oh, yes, you can.
Here’s how. First, you look at your treasure–what you treasure in this world–and
you draw a line from your treasure back to your desires, because your treasure
shows you what your desires are, and your desires [draw a line back to your
heart]…your desires show you what your heart loves. And so it reveals the
state of your heart. Your treasure in this world, Jesus says, reveals the state
of your heart.

In this passage, Jesus, in helping His disciples
work through this issue of religious hypocrisy, from this part of the chapter,
from verse 19 on, will tell His disciples that what they desire and what they
fear tells them much about their hearts.
Now we’re not going to get to the
issue of what they fear–what they’re scared of. He deals with that later in the
chapter. But we are going to focus in on His words to them about their desires,
because our approach to our material possessions, our approach to the prosperity
that we enjoy, is an index of our hearts.

Let’s read God’s word, and before we do so, let’s
look to Him in prayer and ask His help and blessing.

Heavenly Father, the word that we are going to
read is plain and clear. It does not take a rocket scientist to understand what
Jesus is saying, and yet, Lord, for a variety of reasons we sometimes miss the
point. Sometimes it’s because we don’t want to hear the point, because the point
is too close to home. Sometimes it’s because it’s because we’re busy applying
the point to somebody else instead of ourselves. But, O God, You have written
this word that we might behold the living God; that we might know the way of
salvation; that we might grow in grace and in discipleship; so, by Your Spirit
help us not to miss the point, but to get the point for us. For Your glory and
our good we ask it in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Hear God’s word in Matthew 6, beginning in verse 19:

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust destroy,
and where thieves break in and steal. But lay up for yourselves treasures in
heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in
or steal; for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

Amen. And thus ends this reading of God’s holy, inspired,
inerrant and authoritative word. May He add His blessing to it.

Jesus’ one point in this passage is simply this:
Stewardship shows your heart.
Your approach to things (material
blessings), your approach to money, your priorities with regard to material
blessings, your stewardship of what you have been entrusted with (with regard to
all the earthly blessings of this life) shows your heart.

In other words, as far as Jesus is concerned,
stewardship is a test.
Your material blessings are a test. They reveal the
state of your heart, and so I want to consider with you four things today as we
unpack Jesus’ one main point: that stewardship is a test, that stewardship shows
the heart.

I. There are two
kinds of treasures: earthly and heavenly, those that last and those that don’t.

First, I want you to see in both verses 19 and 20
the two treasures that Jesus talks about. Secondly, in verse 19, I want you to
see the temporary treasure that He warns us against putting too much stock in.
Thirdly, I want you to see the true treasure which He says we ought to aspire
to; and then, fourthly, I want you to see the treasure test that He speaks about
in verse 21.

Let’s begin in verses 19 and 20, and look at these
two treasures that Jesus speaks about. He calls them treasures on
earth
(verse 19), and treasures in heaven (verse 20). Jesus says
treasures on earth can be destroyed or they can be stolen. In other words, they
don’t last and they can be lost; whereas, treasures in heaven (He says by way of
contrast), cannot be destroyed and they cannot be stolen. In other words, they
last forever and they can never be lost. And so Jesus tells us there are
different kinds of treasures out there. All treasures are not created equal, He
is saying. All that glitters is not gold, He is saying. “There is a way that
looks right to a man, but in the end it leads to destruction.” So what Jesus is
saying is ‘Friend, be careful what you treasure. Be careful what you treasure,
because there are treasures that last and treasures that don’t; and there are
treasures that can be destroyed and treasures that cannot be destroyed.’ And so
Jesus is asking you to think hard about what your desires are set on. He’s
asking you to take stock of what you really want in this life.

Now, so often the world is saying to you, “If you
will trust in God, you can get all that you want.” That’s part of the
“prosperity gospel.” Jesus is saying something very different. He’s saying what
you want is going to be what tells you whether you want God or not, whether you
know the living God, whether you worship the living God; and so, He’s saying,
“Friend, take stock in what it is that you care most about…in what you really
treasure in this life, because it will tell you something very important.”

II. Don’t set
your heart on things that are passing away

Now that leads us to the second thing, and you
see it in verse 19 very clearly. He warns us there against–what?
Against not
just temporary treasure, but He warns us against trusting in temporary treasure,
or loving temporary treasure too much. Look at what He says: “Do not lay up for
yourselves treasures upon earth.” In other words, He’s saying ‘Friend, do not
set your heart on things that are passing away.’ Jesus is saying that there is
an eternal danger in setting your heart on temporary blessings. There are
eternal consequences for treasuring temporary blessings over the things that
matter the most.

Every man has his treasure. It’s that which he sets
his heart on, that which he delights in. And Christ, notice, is not saying that
you shouldn’t have treasure; He’s saying make sure that you are wise in the
choice of your treasure. He is warning against making the things that are seen
but temporal — the things which are earthly, but will pass away — your ultimate
treasure. He’s warning against your making the things which are good your aim,
and excluding the things that are best. He’s warning against your making the
second things the first things. He’s warning against your so enjoying the
blessings of this world that you forfeit the blessings of the next. He’s telling
you you shouldn’t count temporal things as the best and most important things in
life. You shouldn’t be absorbed in accumulating an abundance of the things of
this life, because they can’t ultimately satisfy you; that you shouldn’t place
your security in the temporary things of this life, and you shouldn’t find your
contentment in the things of this life. Jesus explains that these things are
subject to the law of diminishing returns, and the law of impermanence.

First, the law of diminishing returns. Have
you ever had something that you really liked, and in the repetition of enjoying
it over time eventually you got bored with it? Remember that bike you got at
Christmas? It was the greatest thing since sliced bread! And five months later,
you’d leave it out on the street at night. We get bored with our toys because
God made us for Himself, and no toy can fill the void that only He can fill. And
so everything in this life is subject to the law of diminishing returns. We
eventually get tired of it. It loses its staying power.

And it’s impermanent! It corrupts — it rusts, it
breaks.
Remember that toy that you got at Christmas, and one day later it
was broken? It doesn’t last. And so if you choose that for what you really want,
you’re going to be disappointed. Now, the Lord Jesus is not saying that
possessions are bad and that Christians ought not to have them. He’s saying —
No, no, no! You just don’t put your ultimate desire and hope into your
possessions. He’s not saying that you shouldn’t save or invest, or buy
insurance, or be provident and prudent. No! He’s just saying you don’t put your
trust in earthly things. He’s not saying that you shouldn’t take pleasure in
enjoyment of your possessions. He’s just saying do not take your highest joy in
them.

Nevertheless, Jesus is making it clear
that possessions are a tremendous stumbling block.
You remember what He
would say elsewhere?

“It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than it is for a
rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Why? Because the rich man is tempted to focus on the gift
and forget the Giver; because the rich man is tempted to find security in the
gift, and not the Giver; and the rich man is tempted to love the gifts more than
the Giver.

John Ortberg, the pastor of teaching at the Menlo
Park Presbyterian Church in California, tells the story of his most delightful
memory as a boy–going to the lake in Wisconsin and playing Monopoly with his
grandmother–and she was a robber baron when it came to playing Monopoly! And as
a little boy, she would smear him in Monopoly. He kept wanting to hang on to his
money, and she would end up getting it all. But finally, having played Monopoly
with his grandmother many, many times, and losing, he understood the first
lesson of Monopoly: ruthless acquisition! And so he was ready for his old
Grandmom when it came to summer. And they were going to the lake house, and the
Monopoly board came out, and the money was divided up, and the pieces were put
on the table–and he slaughtered her! He took her every last dollar until he
lifted that last Monopoly bill out of her hand and left her bankrupt. With a
great sense of personal satisfaction, he had won the game! And then, his
grandmother took the board and folded it together and poured it all back into
the Monopoly box and she said, “Now you’re going to learn the second lesson, and
it is more important than the first: When the game is over, it all goes back in
the box.”

Many of us live life as if it doesn’t all go back in
the box, and that is exactly what Jesus is getting at here. He’s saying
‘Remember, My friends, when the game is over it all goes back in the box. And if
you’re trusting what goes back in the box, you’re going to be very, very
disappointed at the end of the game.’

You know, the Puritans were so good about reminding
us of this, especially at funerals. Funerals…it’s one of those few times, even
in modern culture, where we pause to reflect on eternal things. We’ll
occasionally take stock of our lives. And so even as they wanted to comfort
family members who had lost a loved one, they always wanted to make sure that
the gospel went out in the funeral message, so that unbelievers would pause and
think about life. And Richard Baxter had this thing that he once said on the
occasion of a funeral. He said this:

“Both believers and unbelievers, Christians and non-Christians, both want
heaven. But the believer prefers heaven above earth, whereas the unbeliever only
prefers heaven over hell, and consequently he will not have heaven.”

Do you see what Baxter was saying? He was saying
there’s a difference in the desires of heaven that men have. Some want heaven
only as their “Plan B” because they really love earth more than anything else;
but the only ones who will get heaven are those who prefer it even over the
earth. He’s getting right back to what Jesus is saying here: Don’t let the
second things become the first things. Don’t let the temporary blessings become
the primary blessing. Don’t set your heart on things that are passing away.

III. Set your
heart on things that will last forever

And then Jesus says a third thing in this
passage. You see it in verse 20.
He’s told you that there are two treasures.
He’s told you about that treasure which is temporary and will not ultimately
fulfill. Now He points you to the true treasure, and He urges you to place your
highest value on that eternal treasure. Notice His words: “Lay up for yourselves
treasures in heaven.”

What He’s telling you is set your heart on things
that last forever. Christ is counseling you to make the joys and glories of the
eternal world the first things of your life, and He’s asking you to look at the
way you use the treasures of this life and see whether you really value those
eternal things over the treasures of this life, because what you value shows up
in what you aspire for and desire…what you pursue, and how you spend your time
and energy and money…where you put your money. He’s urging you not to place
the highest value on things that will pass away, but to value those things that
will last forever. Does your use of earthly things reveal that you care more
about heavenly things, or about earthly things?

There’s a very moving scene in Stephen Spielberg’s
screen adaptation of the story of Schindler, a German Catholic entrepreneur who
was using over 1,000 Polish Jews to build a factory. And in the course of his
life, Oskar Schindler fell under the pangs of conscience because he realized
that these Jews in the country of Poland were being shipped off to concentration
camps where they were being exterminated…where they were being made to be the
victims of genocide. And he was moved by this, and he began to use his wealth to
literally buy back those Jews from their German captors. In the scene in which
over 1,000 Jews are freed and they finally made their way to freedom, Schindler
breaks down, if you’ll remember. He had a Jewish accountant who helped him, a
man named Sterne. And just as Schindler and these Jews have made it to freedom,
Schindler begins to speak to Sterne, and he says, “I could have gotten more out!
I could have gotten more out if I’d only used my money more wisely. I could have
gotten more out.” And Sterne, this Jewish accountant, says to him, “Look, there
are 1,100 people alive today because of what you’ve done.” But he said, “I
wasted so much money! And he pointed to his car. He said, “See that car? I could
have sold that car and ten people would be alive and free today, if I’d only
sold that car! And you see this Nazi party pin? I could have sold that
pin…it’s gold. I could have gotten money for that, and two more people would
be free and alive today if I’d only used my money more wisely. I could have
saved more.” And he was stricken with remorse that there were not more alive
because he had not been wiser in the use of what he had.

What had happened? In that context of freedom, in
that moment of freedom, it had suddenly dawned upon him more fully than ever
before what was valued. The vacations that he took, the houses that he owned,
the clothes that he wore, the cars that he drove…or human beings with an
immortal soul? And, my friends, I wonder what the great day of assize, what the
great Judgment Day is going to reveal about how we have used what we have and
about what we have really treasured.

Marcy reminded us of that song, Thank You for
Giving to the Lord
. There was an elder in this congregation who was watching
television one day, and he saw a picture of starving children in another
country. Though he was deeply moved by the spectacle of their poverty, he was
even more moved by the thought that as hungry and thirsty as those little
children were for food and water, they also had a need for the gospel of the
Lord Jesus Christ, and he asked himself, “What am I doing to answer the call for
their need for the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ?” And now about half the year
he spends going to tell the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ in a place on the
other side of the world, because he saw the value of an immortal soul. I could
go on telling you story after story of what happens with the way a person
approaches the treasures of this world when they realize the value of the things
that last forever.

IV. Your
treasure reveals your heart

And that leads to the last point, because Jesus
takes us now to the treasure test. His point is simply this: Your treasure
reveals your heart.
He says it far more eloquently than that. He says, “For
where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” In other words, Jesus is
saying that your desires show you what you love, what you treasure. Your desires
show you what you worship. He’s saying that what you treasure, what you desire,
will show you who your God is; that what you value is an evidence of the state
of your heart. Remember the trail? From treasure, to desires, to the state of
your heart…so that your stewardship of the material prosperity that the Lord
has given you is a test of Who you love. The whole tenor of our minds, the whole
tenor of our lives, shows our treasure. Our earthly treasures are a test.

Louie Giglio, who works with Andy Stanley and has
promoted the Passion Conference for thousands and thousands of young people over
the last few years, in his book The Air That I Breathe, says this:

“Everybody has an altar, and every altar has a throne; so how do you know who or
what you worship? It’s easy,” he says. “You simply follow the trail of your
time, your affection, your energy, your money, and your allegiance. And at the
end of that trail, you’ll find a throne, and guess what’s on it? That’s right.
What is of highest value to you; what you really love; what you really worship:
your treasure. And the trail never lies. We may say that we value this thing or
that thing more than any other, but the volume of our actions speaks louder than
our words.”

So I have a question for you: What’s on your throne?
What’s on your altar? What’s at the end of the trail of your affections? What is
your treasure? Where is your spiritual vision focused? Who is your master? What
do you love? What do you care about? Or, to use the title of the sermon, “Is
your treasure showing?” I want to assure you, it is. It’s actually not a
question of whether your treasure is showing or not: it is. The question is what
is your treasure showing about your heart?

As a congregation, if we give like other evangelical
Christians give in the United States of America to the work of the church, then
we give somewhere around two percent of our income. Now, you’re generous, so
let’s say you give three percent a year, overall, to the work of the church. Let
me ask you to think about that for a few moments.

What does that say about where your treasure is? You
see, it’s not just an issue of what we could do if the ministry of the church
were more faithfully supported by the congregation. Yes, as you’ve heard Marcy
say, forty percent or so of the congregation make a commitment to support the
budget of the church for the next year. Fewer and fewer are making those
commitments. Money’s going up–we’re thankful for that–it means that many people
here are getting the message.

But what about those of you who haven’t got that
message? What does that say about where your treasure is? Yes, from the
standpoint of ministry of the church, if the congregation were supporting the
work of the church more faithfully, it would mean that instead of every October
me thinking, “Here we are…$800,000 in the negative in cash flow again. I
wonder if they’re going to give in November and December, and if we’re going to
get out of this trough.” Yes, it means that if you were faithfully giving,
instead of supporting this roughly $7,000,000 budget, we’d have $20,000,000
coming in, and we wouldn’t know what to do with it! In October, I’d be saying,
“I wonder what missionary we want to give $2,000,000 to. I wonder what we’d want
to do to expand our outreach in Jackson.” Yes, it means that–and, boy! would I
like that! But more, more importantly than that, it’s an index of what
you love…of where your treasure is…and that, I’m really interested
about! Because I want you to set your love on that which isn’t going to let you
down, and that which is going to be here forever, because “Where your treasure
is, there you will be.”

Let’s pray.

Our Lord and our God, help us not to be tricked
by the richness, the fatness, the luxuriance, the wealth, of the things of this
world, but to seek that city from above, whose Founder and Architect, whose
Builder and Maker is God. Help us, O God, not to love the world but to receive
the things of this world as a gift; but to love You more than the things of this
world. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Let’s respond by singing the final stanza of No. 546
[The Sands of Time Are Sinking], and notice how Rutherford directs us to
prize Christ over everything else.

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Should there be questions regarding grammar or theological content, the reader should presume any website error to be with the webmaster/transcriber/editor rather than with the original speaker. For full copyright, reproduction and permission information, please visit the First Presbyterian Church Copyright, Reproduction & Permission statement.