DON'T WORRY, BE FAITHFUL
by Steve Zeisler
I felt sorry for our newspaper deliverer on Friday because he had to
make two trips to deliver the newspaper. One trip was just to deliver a
thick wad of catalogs, fliers, and brochures of all kinds advertising holiday
specials. This weekend is almost a national holiday for shopping, as you
probably observed if you were out and about on Friday and Saturday.
We have come to an important place in the Sermon on the Mount, especially
with regard to the current thinking about material goods. It will be very
helpful to us in this season of the year to hear Jesus' words about treasures
on earth and treasures in heaven. The Lord will use illustrations about
treasures, eyesight, masters, birds, and flowers. As he draws each illustration
to a close, he will make a profound point in a simple statement. I hope
our Lord's words will have the challenging and renewing effect on you that
they have had on me. We'll look at three of these illustrations to begin
with in verses 19-24:
"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.
"The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole
body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will
be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great
is that darkness!
"No one can serve two masters. 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 both God and Money.
Storing up heavenly treasures
The first of these teachings has to do with storing up treasures. Jesus
is serving as an investment counselor for us here. His assumption is that
all of us will have some concern about our future and will make investments
for it. One of the key factors by which those who study human behavior measure
maturity, or the change between childhood and adulthood, is the ability
to defer gratification. For example, you can tell a very young child, "Here
is one chocolate, but if you do not eat this one and wait an hour, you can
have two then." You can get some idea of how mature they are by whether
they are willing and able to say no to the short-term benefit in order to
have greater gain later. And of course the deferment and gratification are
So Jesus is assuming that he is speaking to adults who are storing up something
for the future. But the question is, are we storing up treasures on earth
or treasures in heaven? How far into the future does our concern go? Jesus
advocates storing up eternal treasures in heaven because they are so much
more valuable than any treasures we can store up on earth.
The problem with anything that is stored for future earthly consumption
is that it is subject to corrosion, deterioration, and theft. If you're
trying to manage any amount of money at all for the future, you know how
difficult it is to stay ahead of inflation, for instance, and to anticipate
tax decisions that the government will make in the future. How in the world
can our assets be protected against the corrosions that money undergoes
because it changes in value?
I have a friend who owns a beautiful and very expensive car, but he never
drives it. He actually drives an old pickup truck. He is afraid that if
he takes his car out of the garage he will be threatened with car-jacking,
someone will scratch it, or something else will happen. He also lives near
the ocean, so he keeps it in the garage because the salt air will affect
the paint. So he periodically polishes this very expensive device in his
garage, but almost never does he or anyone else derive any benefit from
I know women who own jewelry that is exceedingly beautiful and worth a great
deal of money, but it stays in a bank vault. What they wear out in public
for other people to see is the more ordinary kind of jewelry so that they
won't attract the attention of thieves.
Everything material that we value in this life, that we can hover over and
hoard, is subject to some kind of loss. We cannot protect it absolutely.
I have known people who saved very effectively for the future and arrived
at an age when they might spend what they had saved, but they had been so
miserly in their approach to life that it was completely impossible for
them to learn to enjoy what they had. They were committed to owning rather
than to enjoying. There are also people who arrive at the time when they
might spend what they have and find they have no friends or family to enjoy
it with because those have been sacrificed in the acquisition. What good
is the cabin in the mountains and the boat docked at the lake if there is
nobody in your life to share them with?
Jesus reminds us that if we are committed to storing up material treasures
that are valuable only in this life, we are making a foolish choice, because
there is a wonderful alternative. That alternative is to store treasures
in heaven---to make decisions that will accomplish something that will be
ours eternally in God's presence and in the presence of all God's people
in glory. It is to use the things that God has given us control over as
stewards to do what will last forever. That is the investment counsel that
Jesus gives us.
At the end of Jesus' life, he said that the day would come when some would
be gathered to him and some would be banished. Then he would tell the ones
he gathered to him, "...I was hungry and you gave me something to eat,
I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I needed clothes and you
clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you
came to visit me." And they would say, "Lord, when did we do those
things?" Then he would explain, "Whatever you did for one of the
least of these brothers of mine, you did for me." (See Matthew 25:35-40.)
In glory our Lord will reflect back to us his knowledge of things that we
did from a pure heart for Christ's sake, caring about him and the people
he cares about, even if we passed over them without noticing ourselves.
That will be an extraordinary day, and the echoes of his word of his approval,
spoken so that everyone will know, will never fade. We will carry them with
Three kinds of treasure
There are three kinds of things that I would suggest are treasures in heaven
that will last forever. One of them is our character. What kind of person
have we become, or what sort of soul has been shaped in us? We will be given
new bodies, but the inner person that we have become over a lifetime we
will take into eternity. We will be recognizable as ourselves, having an
identity that is based on this earth's identity. So are we becoming kindhearted
people? Are we merciful people? Is there purity growing in our experience
and in our thoughts? Is there a love for truth? Is there an intimacy with
God? Is there sacrificial love for other people? These are the kinds of
things that shape what we believe, who we are, and what we value. We can
make choices to either see our character shaped according to the Lord, or
to see it shaped by other influences.
Secondly, we will take into eternity relationships with people who love
the Lord, whether we have known them for a score of years or we have just
met them today. Relationships begun here will last forever in Christ. And
we can make choices to build good relationships by, for instance, sharing
in-depth with each other, and by saying no to television and other mindless
recreations when they are taking up too much of our time.
I have been wrestling with a decision for a week or so. My daughter has
been given a marvelous opportunity. She plays on a college volleyball team,
and her team has qualified to play in the small college national championships
next weekend in Tennessee. I wanted to be with her, and my wife was planning
to go back, but I was scheduled to preach here next Sunday. Then a number
of the elders came to me and said they thought I ought to go. I raised the
question of whether I would be shirking my responsibility to go. As we talked,
their point was essentially this: "You have only one daughter, and
she is going to be this age only once. You should be with her when she gets
to be in the center of the spotlight, and enjoy her enjoyment of those things.
Remember, this is a relationship you can enjoy not only for the rest of
this life but for eternity." So with their encouragement, I am going
to go to Tennessee and watch her play next weekend. There are some things
that are wise to do in the bigger picture of eternity in valuing relationships.
Thirdly, any degree to which we reflect the glory of God will reverberate
forever---any true word spoken in his name, any praise offered him that
is of the heart, any opportunity we take to reflect his beauty to someone
else in this life. Choices we make to honor the Lord are treasures in heaven.
Jesus adds a critical observation at the end of this teaching about the
relative value of treasures in heaven and treasures on earth: "...Where
your treasure is, there your heart will be also." The business of what
owns our heart and the choices we make to value things form a circle that
is self-reinforcing. We make a choice to value things that last forever
or a choice to value things of this life. That choice claims some ownership
of our heart. And the more our heart is owned by our choices, the more likely
we are to make the same choice the next time. And the circle reinforces
itself. If we find ourselves regularly and enthusiastically living to glorify
Jesus, love one another, and make righteous choices, these things will reinforce
themselves because our heart will be more inclined to do them the next time.
We are more taken with and more committed to heaven and its values.
But the reverse is also true. Every investment we make in protecting, finding
security in, and being selfish about this world's goods anchors our heart
in this world and makes it more likely that we will make that choice next
time. The only way out of it is to begin to make healthy choices in prayerful
thoughtfulness, with encouragement from one another. We become who we are
by making many choices, often little ones, over a long period of time. That
is why the Lord is urging us here to invest in heaven, to begin to do what
lasts forever routinely and often, and to find our heart more and more owned
by the values of heaven. That is an important warning and an important encouragement
Treasures on earth are not the same thing
The second illustration or teaching is in verses 22-23: "The eye is
the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full
of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness.
If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!"
Jesus is talking about the difference between being temporarily unable to
see and being blind. If your eyes are just closed, or if the room is dark,
light can be turned on. But if the light in you is darkness---if the organ
that is to receive light into your body is darkened by blindness---then
there is no remedy for the darkness.
What Jesus is talking about in this context is treasuring earthly things
too much. Our eye is another way of speaking about the values of our heart.
I believe Jesus is warning us here about coming to think that God and his
power exist in order to make us rich in this life, that treasures on earth
and treasures in heaven are the same thing. The reason to be a Christian
is to win the election, the reason to speak of one's Christian faith is
to make sales and get rich, and the reason to be a member of a Christian
community is to take advantage of all the material things that will come
your way as a result. If we have aligned our spiritual insight and values
with this world's goods, then the very "organ" through which we
should receive light is lying to us. And there is no hope then, because
every reference to the Bible, to God, and to prayer becomes no more than
a way of reinforcing our selfishness.
The health-and-wealth gospel is one of the most damnable lies abroad in
the land. It says that deep down, God wants nothing more than to make you
very beautiful, very rich, very successful, and completely self-centered.
He exists for no other purpose than the advantage of our fleshly interests.
But once you believe that, then God becomes a reinforcer of the selfishness
that we are already prone to, instead of having a heavenly realm that we
can value in place of this earth. So the darkness is very great indeed.
Money is a terrible master
In Jesus' third illustration he reminds us that not only are heavenly treasures
and earthly treasures not the same, but we cannot run them parallel to each
other, either. We cannot have enthusiasm for the things of God and enthusiasm
for the things of earth. We cannot have a spiritual compartment and a worldly
compartment, pay attention to both of them at various times, and build up
stores in both places. Verse 24: "No one can serve two masters. 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 both God and Money."
If we love and serve God, and his mastery in our lives is gaining ascendancy
at every point, then we will not be serving money as a god or master. We
will grow to despise it as such. But if we are serving money and we expect
it to make us happy, pay us off, provide security, and give us a sense of
worth---to do what only God can do---then we will grow to despise God. We
cannot have two masters. Money is an excellent servant, but it is a terrible
master. Money, goods, time, energy, and riches of all kinds are intended
to be the things that we use in this world to serve and glorify God.
Seek first his kingdom
We can value money too much, but we can also fear its loss too much. We
can grow anxious when it is absent, or when it appears to be. This is the
second significant problem we can have. Neither takes into account the depth
of what it means to have God as our Father. Listen to what Jesus says about
not being afraid. Verses 25-26:
"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 important than food, and the body more important than clothes? 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
Jesus said at one point that two sparrows were sold for a penny and five
for two pennies. They are the least significant of animals, and yet God
is lavish in his care of them and all of the animal kingdom.
Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?
"And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field
grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in
all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 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, O you of little faith? So do
not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What
shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly
Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness,
and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry
about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough
trouble of its own.
We have an opportunity to make some serious and renewing decisions, to hear
the call of the Lord against the call of the culture, to reorient the direction
of our heart or strengthen the orientation if it is right, to treasure what
is heavenly and not what is earthly. We have the opportunity to serve God,
not money, and to trust our heavenly Father to care for us. We can seek
first his kingdom and his righteousness and let the other things be given
to us, rather than insisting on worrying or being desperate over them ourselves.
If you are a Christian, I urge you to let God lead your thinking, take a
stand on the inside, and let it affect the way you live. If you are not
a believer, but one of those whom Jesus calls unbelievers (pagans) in this
passage---people who are required to worry and to provide for themselves,
who have no heavenly Father whom they can count on---what an opportunity
you have to open your heart to the One who wants to love you, care for you,
and give you what you desperately seek! I urge you to take this opportunity
seriously, not shallowly, to act on what the Lord has been saying to your
Catalog No. 4413
November 27, 1994
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