by Pastor Cherie Dearth

 

Over the next four weeks, we will be exploring what we treasure, and the effect it has on our hearts. These days when we think of treasure, we may think of money, but it is so much more than that. It is the time we invest. It is our talents or gifts. How are we using them?

 

Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Mt 6:21 NIV). We often think that the opposite is true. We think that if something is important to us that is where we will invest our time, money, and effort. However, Jesus, as he often does, says that it actually works the other way. Where we spend our time, money, and effort is where our heart goes. We may wish it were different. I may wish I could spend more time with my family, but I find that my obligations keep drawing me away. I may wish that I could study the Bible or pray more, but I never seem to have time. I have so many things I have to do. So, we find ourselves drifting from God, and we become “invested” in these other things.

 

This series, Treasure, is meant to help us to identify where we want our heart to be and see if we can start directing our treasure more towards those areas. Yes, this is a stewardship series, and at the end, we will be asking you to make a pledge, but it’s not all about the money. It is about investing your time and your talents, too.

 

Being a Jesus follower, or a disciple, is about creating and developing a life with God. God gave you particular talents and abilities that when used in conjunction with the people around you can bring the Kingdom of Heaven near. God has brought the unique people with their unique gifts and abilities together to fulfill the mission that God has for us, right here, right now, in Joseph, Oregon. The church needs you. Throughout this month, we will be sharing opportunities where you might use your gifts. Think about it. Pray about it. That is also how you invest your “treasure.”

 

If you are visiting with us this week, your home church needs your treasure. Consider what you could be doing. If you don’t have a home church, there is a place that is missing what you are uniquely qualified to do. God created you for a purpose.

 

Our Bible verses for the next four weeks come from the Sermon on the Mount, the longest continuous teaching of Jesus in the Bible. We will be focusing on chapter six. I would like to read all of our verses for you today. Then, we will camp out on several verses in the middle. Hear the word of the Lord…

 

Matthew 1:1-6, 19-21, 24-34
     1 “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.
     2 “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 others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
     5 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

 

     19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 

 

     24 “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.

 

     25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? 

     28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

 

What Do I Really Treasure?

Our Treasure Is Not Found in Our Stuff

When I went to seminary at 39 years old, I had a household full of stuff. I had living room furniture and dishes. I had linens and small appliances. I couldn’t bring any of it with me, and it would be too expensive to replace it all when I finished at school if I got rid of it. I decided to put it into storage. Everything went in there except my Bibles, my computer, and some clothes. Everything else I had ever acquired in my life fit in a 10’ x 12’ storage unit. I left everything there for two years. While I’ll admit that I missed my own bed from time to time, I got along very well without all those things. Now, as I’m merging my household with another person, it is amazing how willing I am part with things. (I never realized how many cat themed items I had…)

There is over 2.3 billion square feet of rentable self-storage space in the United States. We have so much stuff that our homes can’t hold it, but our treasure is not found in stuff. This Treasure series is not an indictment on stuff. When, I moved into my new apartment after seminary, after being separated from my stuff for two years, I found that I needed everything that I saved, my couch, pots and pans, and of course, my bed. However, what I learned through all of this is that my possessions are not my treasure.

In our Scripture passage for today, Jesus says, “19 Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

What We Value in the End

Have you ever sat with or talked with someone in their last days? Very rarely do they talk about their things or their possessions. If they do, it has to do with a memory of a person or something that happened that was special to them. It is because they want a loved one to have it. The things are only important because of their relationship with people. They are not thinking of the kind of treasure that can be destroyed or stolen. Jacob Armstrong says, “People in their last moments talk about their family, friends, moments with God, children they have taught, mission trips they have taken. They talk about vacations and laughter, and they share stories that are amusing and meaningful. They talk less about salaries and more about promises shared with God and with people.”

Perspectives have changed, and it becomes a question of priorities. Jesus talks about storing up treasure in heaven. When you hear of that, do you think of it as a “long term deposit?” When Jesus talks about heaven, he isn’t talking about something that is far off or far away. You shouldn’t suppose that he means that this life isn’t important; we should be anticipating the next one. When Jesus talks about “heaven,” he is not talking about that place we go when we die. “Heaven” is the place where God is … right now. When we store up our treasure in a life with God, we have access to the benefits right away. We don’t have to wait.

 

Heart Follows Treasure

Jesus Talks about Money

This series is about where you are investing your life, but there’s no denying that it’s also about money. That’s because Jesus talked about money. In fact, Jesus talked more about money than about heaven and hell combined. Jesus talked more about money than anything except the Kingdom of God. Eleven of Jesus’ thirty-nine parables are about money. One of every seven verses in the Gospel of Luke talks about money. Why did Jesus talk so much about money?

Jesus Cares about Our Hearts

That’s because Jesus cares about our hearts. In the Sermon on the Mount we see that Jesus is looking at the heart. He cares about the hearts of God’s people. Jesus talks about money and treasure because he knows that they affect our hearts. He knows money stresses our relationships. Money causes division in and among people. Money and its pursuit can be all-consuming and burdensome. Those who have lost jobs or find money hard to find will tell you that it is not just a financial issue but an emotional and spiritual one. Jesus talks about money because he cares about our hearts.

 

Our Treasure Shows Us Our Heart

We usually think that where our heart is, our treasure will follow. Jesus says that it is the opposite. “Where our treasure is, there our heart will be also.” This is not just a change in semantics. Jesus knows that the place where we spend our money will become our treasure, whether we want it to or not. Financial commitments require time and energy. They pull our heart in a direction that perhaps neither we nor God ever intended. If you buy a house that requires a large percentage of your income, you have no choice but to spend time and energy and money in paying for it. When you put your treasure into anything, your heart will follow.

Heart Investment

Billy Graham was asked late in his life, “If you could, would you go back and do anything differently?” His answer may surprise you.

 

“Yes, of course. I’d spend more time at home with my family, and I’d study more and preach less. I wouldn’t have taken so many speaking engagements. . . . Whenever I counsel someone who feels called to be an evangelist, I always urge them to guard their time and not feel like they have to do everything.”[1]

 

What Do You Want to be Investing In?

So think about this … If you didn’t have your debt or commitments, and if you could choose where to store up treasure, where would it be?

 

What Are You Investing In?

As you consider where you would store up treasure, take a moment to assess realistically where your treasure currently is? Do you feel your heart divided?

 

Treasure in Heaven

Jesus tells us we have the opportunity to lay up treasure in heaven. When we are investing our lives in the things of God, we find that our hearts no longer feel disconnected from God but rather are in unity with God. What beginning steps can you take to lay up treasure in heaven?

 

You may have noticed that the “Top Five Ways to Serve” are back in our bulletin. While there are ways both inside and outside the church to serve and connect with God, in this time when we are considering where our focus is and where we want to invest our treasure of our time, money, and gifts & talents, we will be showing you opportunities that we have here in the church, all different kinds of things. Maybe you have an idea for something completely different. Just this past year, we had two different things get started. We have the Free Store, providing things that people want and need. We also have the Legal Aid Clinic. In both cases, someone had an idea, got some more people on board, and now this church is serving the community in a whole new ways.

 

God has brought together just the right people with the right combination of gifts, skills, and resources to do precisely what God would have us do. The question is, are you willing to invest your treasure to be a part of that mission.

 

Amen!

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[1] Sarah Pulliam Bailey, “Billy Graham on Aging, Regrets, and Evangelicals,” Christianity Today, January 21, 2011, http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2011/januaryweb-only/qabillygraham.html.