Money is important to people. I remember a funny story about riches…
On a secluded island a lone pirate was captured who couldn’t speak English. The captain of the ship told his interpreter to say to the him, “Tell him if he doesn’t tell us where they have hidden all of their gold, we will make him walk the plank.” Through the interpreter the pirate responded, “I’d rather die than tell you where the gold is hidden” The captain tied the pirate’s hand together and led him to the side of the ship.” The pirate again responded, “I’d rather die than tell you where the gold is.” With that, the captain pushed him to the end of the plank. Sharks were just 5 feet below. The captain said to the interpreter, “Tell him if he doesn’t tell us where the gold is, we will push him off the plank.” The pirate could stand it no longer and said, “The gold is hidden in a little cave on the island just behind the large waterfall. The waterfall is one mile over the hill to the right.” The interpreter related the following to the captain, “He said that he would rather die than tell you where the gold is.”
Not only is money important to many people, it may surprise you, but money is important in the Bible. Jesus talked a great deal about money. Sixteen of the thirty-eight parables were concerned with how to handle money and possessions. In the Gospels, an amazing one out of 10 verses (288 in all) deal directly with the subject of money. The Bible offers 500 verses on prayer, less than 500 verses on faith, bt more than 2,000 verses on money and possessions.
If money and our possessions are so important, we surely want to keep them secure. We want to make sure what we have will last.
When John D. Rockefeller, Sr. died, someone asked the accountant one day, “How much did John D. leave? We know he was an immensely wealthy man.” Without a moment’s hesitation, the accountant answered, “Everything!”
But when we die, they say, we can’t take it with us. But can we? The Bible says we can have treasure in heaven.
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21)
How can we invest for eternity?
Two Banks: Heaven or Earth
Earth. Riches and possessions on earth are constantly threatened by such things as decay, depreciation, and theft. Nothing we own is completely safe. People can steal what we have. Time can damage what we have. Things get old and worn out. The value of things don’t last. It has been said, “I can’t think of anything that’s as much fun to own as it is to look forward to owning.” The more a person has, the more they worry about moths, and worms, and rust. And even if we keep our possessions perfectly secure during our entire lives, we are certainly separated from them at death (Job 1:21).
Heaven. Possessions that are used for God’s purposes can be a means of accumulating heavenly possessions. There are only two places to store treasure. When done for the Lord, we can build up heavenly treasures that are completely free from destruction or theft. Jesus suggests heaven because it lasts longer, the vaults are more secure, and the banker more reliable. This is God’s formula for earning dividends that are both guaranteed and permanent.
Martin Luther said, “God divided the hands into fingers so that money could slip through.” Laying up treasure in heaven is to do anything on earth whose effects last for eternity. It is now a kind of credit account in heaven which we and others might draw.
Note: This is not a ban on possessions in themselves. Saving is not forbidden. It is wise. (Prov. 6:6). We are not to despise, but enjoy God’s blessings (1 Tim. 4:3,4; 6:17). What Jesus warns agains is the the selfish accumulation of stuff. Accumulating possessions simply for our own sakes.
Two Attitudes: Now or Later
Jesus illustrates this concept with a ‘good’ and ‘bad’ eye (Matthew 6:22-23). A good eye will help us see everything clearly and make good decisions. However, a bad (“dark”) eye leads to poor choices because we can’t see clearly.
When a person invests on earth, he makes poor choices. He’s only looking for immediate results. But when a person invests in heaven, he makes wiser choices with his possessions. He’s looking for the long term results of his decisions.
Two Masters: Jesus or Money
Just as we cannot have our treasures on earth and heaven, or have our attitudes both now and later, we cannot follow two masters.
“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” (Matthew 6:24)
Men can work for two employers, but no slave can be the property of two owners. To try to share Jesus with other loyalties is idolatry. It is like loving two women. You can, but once you love one, you have sacrificed the love of the other. You are either a slave to Christ or sin (Rom. 6:16-22).
Sigmund Freud’s favorite story was about the sailor shipwrecked on an island. He was seized by the natives, hoisted to their shoulders, carried to the village, and set on a throne. He learned that it was their custom once each year to make some man a king for a year. He liked it until he began to wonder what happened to all the former kings. Soon he discovered that every year when his kingship was ended, the king was banished to an island, where he starved to death. The sailor did not like that, but he was smart and he was king for a year. So he put his carpenters to work making boats, his farmers to work translating fruit trees to the island, farmers growing crops, masons building houses. so when his kingship was over, he was banished, not to a barren island, but to an island of abundance. It is a good parable of life: We’re all kings here, kings for a little while, able to choose what we shall do with the stuff of life. “Lay not up for yourselves treasures on earth… but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven…”
You can read my other Sermon on the Mount articles: Life Redefined: Sermons from The Sermon on the Mount.