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Nov 7 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

November 5, 2017 – Matthew 6:19-24

Jesus and Financial Planning

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth where thieves break in and steal. But store 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 your heart will be also. Matthew 6:19-21

Intro: I apologize for being repetitive

However, there is much in the Sermon On the Mount that is new to us
– and much that contradicts our assumptions and cultural values
• the initial message of Jesus was, “The kingdom of heaven at hand” (Mt. 4:17; 23)
◦ but now, in the fine print of his sermon he adds:

For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven (Mt. 5:20)

• he is referring to a superior righteousness (not doing more of the same)
◦ inferior righteousness: follow the letter of the law, but ignore the spirit behind it
◦ superior righteousness: find the deeper level of the law and live it from deeper place in one’s self
– from Matthew 5:21 to 6:18, Jesus explained and expanded this truth
• his illustrations and examples help us to see how it works out in real life
• what is he doing now in these verses that we will go over?
◦ we could say that he teaches us how the superior righteousness affects financial planning

First, what are your investments and where are they stored?

Some of our “treasures” have monetary value and others do not
– there are the tangibles, such as family photographs and heirlooms
• and intangibles that we hold in our hearts
◦ for example, we “treasure” certain memories

After the shepherds found their way to manger and told their story of angels announcing Jesus’ birth, we read that Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart (Lk. 2:19)

• in the first half of this chapter, “hypocrites” treasured the reward of being known for their piety
– Jesus separates our treasures into two categories:
• those that can be stored for safe keeping on earth
• those that can be stored in heaven
◦ the difference is that those stored on earth can be lost
◦ those stored in heaven cannot be lost

As a matter of fact, those stored on earth will be lost!
– I have discovered that as we age we reach a point, biologically,
• where we mark each year not by our gains, but by our losses
◦ all the junk mail these days that targets me are advertisements for
◦ hearing aids, vision tests, medicare supplemental insurance, and mortuaries
• Francis Schaeffer argued that we live city dump lives
◦ that all we own will eventually find its way to a dump site
– so, what do we treasure?
• notice how this parallels what Jesus has said about “rewards”
• we can receive a reward for our good deeds from other people or our Father in heaven
◦ in a similar way, our treasures can be saved up on earth or in heaven

Jesus’ concern here is not simply about wasted investments
– although I believe that ruined lives stirred his compassion
• and that is exactly why he came – to redeem and repair broken people
◦ he is far less concerned about the loss of our assets and equity
• in this passage he is going after our hearts
◦ and that is because our treasures and heart are glued together

A friend of mine read a book that explained how to invest in stocks wisely. He gave his wife and one of his children some money, instructing them to read the book and apply its lessons. He did the same. The first problem he ran into was that his wife and child, instead of following the book, kept asking him what he recommended. His intention for them to acquire trading skills never reached its goal. But more importantly, for him what began as a game became an obsession. He found that he was following the stock market every day and sometimes twice a day to follow his investment. It bothered him that he had become that attached to it, and the three of them decided to pull out. He did not want his heart to be bound to that investment and be carried up and down by it.

– the heart has been front and center ever since “Blessed are the pure in heart” (Mt. 5:8)
• the six illustrations in Matthew 5:21-48 are about heart, as are the three examples in 6:1-18
◦ the heart is my inner life – who I am and what I treasure is what I become
• “in heaven” defines types of things we will store in our heavenly savings account

Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches [but] to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed (1 Tim. 6:18-19)

Like most financial plans, we find it difficult to make sacrifices now for gains in the future
– but this is the way of wisdom–for example, Proverbs 6:6-7

Is there an alternative financial strategy?

The eye is the lamp of the body;so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! Matthew 6:22-23

Someone is going to ask whether it is possible to have a diversified portfolio
– that is, to make investments in both heaven and earth
• this is the actual practice of every believer
◦ it is how we survive in this life
◦ even Paul treasured his cloak, books, “and especially the parchments” (2 Tim. 4:13)
• but Jesus is dealing with “ultimates”
◦ he understands that we have to live and what that entails
◦ yet every earthly dependency poses a risk of becoming an ultimate concern
– Jesus is also using the teaching style of the wisdom tradition
• for example, in the book of Proverbs the choice is always either/or
◦ there is no middle ground (cf. 2 Cor. 6:14-16)
• an action is wise or foolish, righteous or wicked

“The eye” in scripture: a way primary way that what is outside can enter us

I will set no worthless thing before my eyes (Ps. 101:3)

– the eye can be generalized into a metaphor for sight
• but it can also suggest proximity
◦ for example, what people do in (or before) the eyes of God
• metaphorically, the eye is the organ of mental perception
◦ the person with eyes to see becomes enlightened

The commandment of the LORD is pure,
enlightening the eyes (Ps. 19:8)

– the Greek word translated “clear” is haplous
• the King James Version translates this as “single”
◦ it can be contrasted with diplous which means twofold or double
◦ “pure in heart” is one – a single focus and orientation (pure gold is solid gold)
• hypocrisy is divided, it is dichotomy and duplicity – the opposite of integrity
– in scripture, integrity is oneness and moral evil is dichotomy
• for example, the cheat is always working on two levels at the same time

“Bad, bad,” says the buyer,
But when he goes his way, then he boasts (Pr. 20:14)

• in Matthew 20:15, the “evil eye” is envious
◦ it can also be greediness and stinginess

A man with an evil eye hastens after wealth
And does not know that want will come upon him (Pr. 28:22)

Again, we are presented with only two options
– if the eye is the only way light enters us, but it is darkened, how great is the darkness!
• our inner life will be entirely enlightened or entirely darkened

Why the diversified portfolio doesn’t work

My Dad used to point out that Jesus did not say, No one can have two masters
– a person can have two masters, but cannot serve two masters
• the one that has our devotion is the one we will serve
• this is the point that Jesus stressed
– at this point, he goes beyond the teaching of the wisdom tradition
• if wisdom is information plus rational deductions and practical application,
◦ then what matters here is devotion: hate and love, devoted and despise
• it is not enough to be clear on the issues
◦ or to be well-informed about right and wrong
◦ what counts is what has your heart–your love and devotion

And as Bob Dylan sang, “You’re gonna have to serve somebody”

Conclusion: Most of us are very familiar with these verses

But I do not want where your treasure is, there your heart will be also to just be words!
– words get lost, forgotten and then betrayed
• the problem here is that what Jesus says is clear and simply stated
◦ but nothing about it is easy
• our forward movement toward total devotion to God is resisted by the strong forces of:

  1. Our own habits of thinking and doing; habits of brain and body
    – I was reading in gospels yesterday and came to Jesus’ parable of the seed and four soils
    And others are the ones on whom seed was sown among the thorns; these are the ones who have heard the word, but the worries of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful (Mk. 4:18-19)
    I wrote in my notes, “As far as my inner life goes, worldly anxieties, the importance of money, and desires for all kinds of ‘things’ have an advantage over the word of Jesus. The neural pathways of these other things are cemented into my brain and reinforced over six decades. So not only do I need to create new connections between neurons, I have to resist the old pathways, and consistently so that they are diminished and neutralized.”
  2. Our attachment to what we’ve acquired and the grip it has on us
  3. Our culture’s values with which our brains are bombard daily
    – every message and symbol is all about building and storing treasures on earth
  4. Our encounters with opposition that are personal 
    – as Jesus described in the beatitudes: persecuted for righteousness and insulted for his sake
    Joe Dispenza, says that the sort of change we are considering here “takes effort—and, frankly, it’s uncomfortable. And to top it off, ridicule, marginalization, opposition, and denigration from those who cling to what they think they know greet us along the way.”

I do not much care for this word, but we must strive

When Jesus was asked if only a few were being saved, he answered, Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able (Lk. 13:23-24)

– rather than give statistics, Jesus told him what he would have to do
• it is in the daily practice of our spiritual disciplines that we strive
• we are striving against the people we’ve been programmed to be
◦ and striving to become our true selves

I close with a quote from Ed Cyzewski excellent (for its simplicity, conciseness and depth) book, The Contemplative Writer,

“When we grow spiritually, we have grown a capacity to focus on God. We learn to train our minds to reflect on God and to surrender to God in the silence that follows. We will be far more likely to stick with prayer if we understand how good habits can dramatically impact our spiritual lives.”

Something Extra!

Prior to this sermon, we spent a few minutes in guided prayer. The value of prayers like this is that praying them regularly, and especially in moments of contemplative mindfulness, they work on the process of rewiring our brains that is so crucial to the constant turning of our lives toward God.

Here is a way to practice praying this way on your own:
Begin by sitting in a position in which you are both comfortable and attentive.
Slowly draw in a deep breath and slowly exhale. Do this three or four times, allowing your body to relax with each breath.
Remind yourself that each breath brings God’s grace to you, that his kiss on your lips is another gift of life.
Pause after each line, allowing yourself to feel the words.

As I settle into prayer . . .
May I have eyes that see . . .
May I have ears that hear . . .
May I have a heart that feels . . .
May my spirit open to God’s Spirit . . .
And may I be transformed . . .

As those I love settle into prayer . . .
May they have eyes that see . . .
May they have ears that hear . . .
May they have hearts that feel . . .
May their spirits open to God’s Spirit . . .
And may they be transformed . . .

As those with whom I worship settle into prayer . . .
May they have eyes that see . . .
May they have ears that hear . . .
May they have hearts that feel . . .
May their spirits open to God’s Spirit . . .
And may they be transformed . . .

As people everywhere who love God settle into prayer . . .
May they have eyes that see . . .
May they have ears that hear . . .
May they have hearts that feel . . .
May their spirits open to God’s Spirit . . .
And may they be transformed . . .




One Comment

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  1. Bill Livingston / Nov 8 2017

    Chuck, As you advised, I have striven to “get” it. One thing I see is this passage is not about what earthly goods we have accumulated, but is about how attached to them we are.

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