Topic Scripture: Matthew 6:19-24
Why is the United Nations at odds with the United States?
We were instrumental in founding the UN. The term “United Nations” was first coined by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The organization was created under American leadership, and is headquartered in New York City.
Other permanent members of the UN Security Council include Britain, France, the Russian Federation, and China, each of whom we aided during World War II at the cost of over 400,000 American lives.
Yet most members of the UN have continued to criticize the American position on disarming Iraq. Why?
It’s over purpose.
Europe is committed to socialism, America to capitalism. But there’s more.
Europe affirms secularism passionately, while America is the most religious democracy on earth. Europeans in the main reject moral absolutes and judgments, and find President Bush’s description of an “axis of evil” to be contemptible.
Europe is committed to a collective identity through the UN. Two nationalism-based World Wars have caused Europeans to conclude that national identities lead to war. America believes as strongly in our distinct national identity as Europe does in its collective existence.
And Europe is committed to pacifism, another result of the World Wars fought on its soil. America believes that confrontation is sometimes tragically necessary.
World events are being dictated by purposes. They always are.
What is true of nations is true of their people. Today we will watch as two life purposes go to war with each other. And we will choose our side. Choose well.
You will keep only what you give to God (19-20)
One-fifth of the Sermon on the Mount deals directly with money. This week’s lesson begins, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth” (v. 19). In the Greek, “do not treasure for yourselves treasure on earth.” Rather, “treasure for yourselves treasure in heaven.”
Here’s the conflict: treasure on earth vs. treasure in heaven. As you decide which side to choose, consider two facts. First: you will keep only what you give to God.
Jesus deals directly with the three great sources of wealth in his world: garment, grain, and gold.
Clothing styles didn’t change in the ancient world, so people kept their garments as an investment. But moths do what styles did not. You find your treasure in your garments, but they’re soon gone. And they still are today. How many clothes do you still wear from five years ago?
The ancients built giant granaries and thought they were wealthy when they were full. But “rust” destroys—the Greek word means “that which eats,” referring to mice, worms, and rats. You find your treasure in your grain, but it’s soon gone. It’s still true today: it takes a year to build a house, and a week to destroy it; a car is demolished in a moment. Possessions are soon gone.
And the world has always valued its gold. Most didn’t have banks, so they buried their gold in the ground near the wall of their house. But their walls were thin, made of mud bricks and adobe. Thieves could easily “break in and steal.” And no insurance companies existed to help. You find your treasure in your gold, but it’s soon gone. Stock market investors know it’s still true.
Only in heaven are our possessions safe: “store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal” (v. 20). Our treasure is safe only with its Creator.
If money on earth could last, the Egyptian pyramids would have kept it. But within a generation, thieves broke into the most elaborate safes ever constructed.
Jacob Hammer was wealthy from birth because of a large inheritance. His investors stored his money in salt domes along the Caspian Sea. But a freak typhoon swept it all away, and Jacob went from tycoon to pauper in one afternoon.
The Titanic carried John Jacob Astor, George B. Widener, John B. Thayer, and Benjamin Guggenheim to their deaths. Their wealth could not buy another moment of life.
Alexander the Great left instructions that he was to be buried with his hands outside his casket, to show the world that its conqueror’s hands were empty. The Spanish have a proverb: a burial shroud has no pockets. A mortician puts nothing into the pockets of those he buries. There are never U-Hauls attached to hearses.
A man gave several thousand dollars to help build a church. Then came the 1929 Great Depression, and he lost everything. A friend said to him, “If you had the money you gave to start that church, you would have had enough to set yourself up in business again.” He replied, “I would have lost that money in the crash as well. As it is, it is the only money I saved. It is now in the bank of heaven yielding interest which will accumulate until eternity. Hundreds have come to Christ through the church it helped build.”
Why give God your tithe, offering, and benevolence? Because he can do more with it than we can. We will lose all we own. He will keep all we give. That’s a fact.
We cannot serve both God and money (21-24)
Here’s the other fact: you and I cannot serve both God and money. We must choose which will be our master, for one always is. And that one will shape our life purpose and mold our soul.
How we use our money reveals our true values: “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (v. 21). But money also creates our values. How we spend our money shows and shapes who we are.
We will live either for the Creator or his creation. We will define success either by pleasing him or pleasing the world; accumulating reward in heaven or possessions on earth; acclaim in eternity or popularity today. We cannot have both.
But some try, as Jesus makes clear. He calls the eye the “lamp of the body.” He says it must be “good,” translating the word for “single.” If your eye gives your body a single image, you are “full of light”—you can see where you’re going.
But if your eye is “bad,” meaning diseased or unhealthy, it gives your body blurred or double vision. Then you are “full of darkness”—you cannot see where you’re going.
You can only have one life purpose. To live for two is to have spiritual double vision, a blurred soul. It cannot be done.
Jesus is blunt: “No man can serve two masters.” “Serve” translates “slave.” You are owned by one or the other. Either God or Money. You must choose. You cannot serve them both.
There is an Oriental saying: “No man can carry two melons in his hand.”
Plato was right: “To prize wealth, and at the same time acquire wisdom, is impossible; for a man necessarily disregards the one or the other.”
Do you cheat your competition for earthly wealth, or honor them for heavenly reward? Do you lie and gain the account, or tell the truth and gain heaven’s blessing? Do I exaggerate in this sermon to impress you, or speak only the truth to impress God? Every day, in every way, we must decide.
Peter Marshall said the measure of life is not its duration but its donation. Do you agree?
Billy Graham said, “Our lives should resemble a channel, not a reservoir. A reservoir stores up water. A channel is constantly flowing. God wants us to be a channel of blessing to others. When we are, it is we who receive the greatest blessing of all.”
Benjamin Disraeli: “The secret of success is constancy to purpose.” What is yours? The Creator or his creation? Treasure on earth or in heaven? Will you trust God with your tithe, your offerings, your benevolence, your resources? Or will you not?
William Cowper: “The only true happiness comes from squandering ourselves for a purpose.” The Lord’s Table shows us God’s. He gave his best, his only Son, to purchase our eternal life, our soul’s salvation. Now he asks us to trust him with the money he has entrusted to our care. He finances his Kingdom on earth through the faithful sacrifice of his people. And he blesses such sacrifice with an even greater reward. But we must trust him. We must trust the One who loved us enough to die for us.
H & R Block recently offered walk-in customers a chance to win a $1 million drawing. Glen and Gloria Sims of Sewell, New Jersey, won the drawing. But they refused to believe it when a Block representative called them with the good news. After several more contacts by both mail and phone, the Simses still thought it was all just a scam, and hung up the phone or trashed the mail notices.
Some weeks later, the company called one more time to let the Simses know the deadline for accepting their million-dollar prize was nearing and that the story about their refusal to accept the prize would appear soon on NBC’s “Today” show. At that point, Glen Sims decided to investigate. A few days later he appeared on “Today” to tell America that he and his wife had finally claimed their million dollars.
The greatest gift in all the universe awaits those who will choose the Creation over his creation. The decision is yours.