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Invest In The Heavenly Rather Than The Earthy

by Jim Backhouse

"Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth,
where moth and rust doth corrupt,
and where thieves break through and steal.
But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven,
where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt,
and where thieves do not break through nor steal.
For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single,
thy whole body shall be full of light.
But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness.
If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!
No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one,
and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and serve the other.
Ye cannot serve God and mammon."

Matthew 6: 19-24

My lesson tonight is to show how we often invest our time, money and talents to gain earthly and temporal rewards instead of heavenly eternal ones. The Sermon on the Mount is an orderly and thorough study of the principals of the kingdom of heaven. The entire sixth chapter of the book of Matthew is devoted to the kingdom of heaven and our relationship to God. In the first eighteen verses of this chapter, Jesus shows that the secret devotion of the heart rather than the outward acts of religion, is that which counts with God and is absolutely essential to be acceptable to Him. The five verses in Matthew from which our lesson is taken are one of the most important passages in the entire Bible (in so far as daily living is concerned).

In verses 19 and 20: Jesus teaches that treasures in heaven are of far greater value than treasures of earth! Moth consumes the idol of fashion, which so many worship today. Corruption and thieves can quickly remove some of the worlds most worked for and sought after treasures. None of these earthly losses can affect the soul's treasures in heaven: however, Jesus is not teaching that it is a sin to have wealth or to own property, but rather instructs against seeing these treasures as the aim of life and using them incorrectly. The correct use of our possessions to the honour and glory of God allows the rich and poor to lay up treasures in heaven. It condemns the selfish possessions of material things that are not going to get us to heaven, of which Jesus said in Luke 12:15: "And he said unto them, take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth". The lives of many men today seem to be employed to no other purpose than that of building an abundance of earthly treasures. But no true Christian can envy them, or follow their example.

Verse 21: "our treasure" In the Lord's teaching refers to those things which mean the most to us in this life. Where they are - where we truly put our emphasis in life there the heart will be. We all need to be honest and serious in searching to know about our true affections. Some who meet to worship God really only come as the hypocrites that Isaiah spoke of in Isaiah 29:13: "Wherefore the Lord said, forasmuch as your people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men". Jesus added in Matthew 15:9: "But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men".

If our treasure is all on earth our happiness must depend solely on the uncertainty of earthly things and our souls will be lost forever. Matthew 6: 22-23 Jesus continues from what He had just said in the previous verse to apply the thought to our goals in life. In these verses, Jesus uses the figure of the eye and its singleness of vision on important things to refer to the human mind. If our eyes or our minds are fixed on earthly treasures to the extent that they appear better than the heavenly blessings, how great is the darkness! We may exchange the light of heaven for the darkness of the world.
Matthew 16: 24-27 teaches us that we need to set our minds, conduct, affections and eyes of faith on heaven. Then in Matthew 6:24 Jesus is saying that no man can serve two masters. He declares that no one at the same time can serve God and mammon (a Chaldean term for riches or money). People will choose and love one, to the neglect of the other. It is not possible to serve God and money at the same time. We cannot ride two horses at the same time. No one can be travelling North and South at the same time. We all must learn how to use our money and earthly possessions properly and to make sure they do not become our masters and rule us. Let us take a closer look at the three areas that are mentioned in the aim of this lesson, how we invest our treasure (money), talents and time.

Treasure. Such a word is enough to get the interest of any child, woman or man. Webster's dictionary defines treasure as wealth, money, jewels, or precious metals stored up or hoarded. Riches, a store of money in reserve. Something of great worth or value. It brings to mind thoughts of pirates and sunken treasure chests, museums with crowns and jewels in locked cases and bank vaults with bars of gold. However when we look to the Scriptures we see a different picture.

Proverbs 2:4 compares treasures with wisdom. This is a comparison considering wisdom as valuable as the metal and other treasures of accepted worth. Matthew 12: 34-35 compares treasure with mans spiritual possibilities. "Generation of vipers" poisonous, evil and dangerous like vipers. Their hearts were thoroughly evil so they could only speak and do evil, on the other hand the good man out of the good treasure of his heart, brings forth good things. Colossians 2:3 tells us that whatever wisdom and knowledge there is in the world that is worthy of the attention of man, all is found in Jesus Christ.

"Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal." The problem is not merely accumulating things, but against hoarding earthly possessions for selfish purposes. One reason given is that moths and rust corrupt the things we hoard and robbers can break in and steal them.

The world is caught up with materialism. We can't get enough of cars, boats, caravans, electrical items, houses, t.v.'s, wardrobes full of clothes, shoes to match, all the latest toys, diamonds and jewellery, books galore, computers, furniture, the list goes on and on. We get to the point where we believe we have to have these things in order to be happy. We listen to the media and t.v. commercial that tell us we NEED their items, we fall prey to gimmicks and feel the need to rush out and buy, buy, buy as soon as we hear the word 'sale'. Many Christians fall into this category and have put material things before God, who takes second, third or fourth place in their lives.

If you follow the stock market, you check up every day to see how your money is doing. You are interested, because you have put hard earned money on the line. You are always interested in what you have invested. Compare that with your spiritual investment. Do you keep a check on it daily? Do you put a lot of time in? Is it an important part of your life? Galatians 5:17 reads - "For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would." Paul tells us that there is a war going on between the flesh and the Spirit. The winner is determined by investment. The winner will be the one looked after, the one we feed and the one we exercise.

A young man gave so much to God that he lived almost in need. A friend chided him: "Do you think you ought to spend so much on the Lord?" The friend answered: "I'm not spending it, I'm investing it." How can we invest our wealth? In 1 Corinthians 16: 2 we read - "Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come." We are commanded to give back to God a portion upon every first day of the week. But can we do more? Yes. Think of all the possessions we have, how can we use them to glorify God and the church? We can have Bible studies in our homes, use our cars to collect people for church services, show hospitality by having people stay in our houses and many many more things.

God's promises are always true - do we believe God will bless us with sacrificial giving to Him? The Lord has promised to bless the liberal giver (Proverbs 11: 24-25). Paul also taught us to watch what we sow (1 Corinthians 9: 6-7,11). Christians who sow sparingly will reap a small harvest. Those who give abundantly will be blessed in abundance. Our Lord can and does bless us in many ways, He knows what is best for us and what we need to live a Christian life. The greatest blessings of a liberal giver is that their giving lays up treasures in heaven. If we lay up treasures on earth, they will eventually be destroyed.

God is the giver of all our blessings. James 1:17 reads: "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning". Over in the Old Testament God sent a message to His people about robbing Him (Malachi 3: 8-10). Today members of the Lord's body rob God constantly, then they wonder why they have such a difficult time in their daily living. Giving only three, four or five percent of their income or the change they have, is robbing God because it is used to build up treasures on earth. Great blessings have not been promised to selfish people.

To receive the promised blessings from God of liberal giving, the motives of the heart must be right. James 4:3 reads: "Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts". The Lord expects a generous portion of blessings to be returned to Him. We see this in Proverbs 11:28: "He that trusteth in his riches shall fall; but the righteous shall flourish as a branch". Similarly Jesus gave a warning in Luke 12: 21: "So is he that layeth up treasures for himself and is not rich toward God". This man's selfish greedy attitude was evident throughout the parable as he used a personal pronoun 10 times in describing his plan for building up his treasures on earth. He did not include God or his fellow man in his selfish plans. Galatians 6:7 states: "Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap". Being selfish and greedy with God robs us of the Lord's blessings.

Too many of us have talents that go unused because we are shy or afraid of making a mistake to use them, perhaps because we are lazy or do not realise our full potential. Are we wasting our talents? Although we may not be famous, we can still be guilty of wasting our talents and not following the example Jesus left us. Many people will recognise some of these names, they all had several things in common: Kurt Cobain, Judy Garland, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley and Michael Hutchence.
        1. All are dead
        2. All of their deaths were caused by suicide or the result of alcohol and or drug abuse.
        3. All became wealthy because of their talents and seemed to have everything any one could want.
        4. All were gifted and talented.
        5. All wasted their talents.

One of Jesus' missions here on earth was to live His life as an example for us, using His talents to serve other people and God. The people spoken about are extreme examples of how talent can be wasted and are examples of worldly views of what is considered to be talent. None of these people put God in their lives, but all of them touched peoples lives with their talents. Imagine the good they could have done if they had put their faith in God, instead of fame and fortune. Although we may not be famous, suicidal or drug and alcohol abusers, we can still be guilty of wasting our talents and not following the example Jesus left for us.

What is talent? Webster's dictionary defines talent - "a characteristic feature, aptitude, or disposition of a person, a special often creative or artistic aptitude". No where in this do we find the requirements for being a doctor, a singer, speaker, athlete or actor to have a talent. We each have different talents, but if we do not use them, what good are they to us or anyone else? In Matthew 19:19-20, Jesus cursed a fig tree because it bore no fruit. This is a parable in action showing what can happen to us if we waste our talents.

Similarly, in Matthew 25:14-30 we see that two men dealt well with their talents, but the third was lazy and had his talent taken from him. Vs. 15 says "every man according to his several ability". We all have differing abilities, some can do more than others, not everyone can accomplish the same thing. The point of the parable, however, is that when we live the Christian life we need to be using our talents wisely and not be slothful with them. The consequences of laziness can be seen in vs. 30: "And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth."

Jesus Christ gave this parable for our learning. God has entrusted us with certain abilities and duties and expects something in return. On the day of judgement, each one of us will be held accountable to the Lord, just as the servants in this parable were accountable. We may believe that we cannot do very much. Moses found it hard to accept that he was chosen to lead God's children of Israel out of Egypt. But God knew Moses better than Moses knew himself. Paul believed he had a handicap of some description, yet he was one of the greatest teachers and missionaries who ever lived.

Talent comes in many forms, In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul compares the church to the human body. Just as every part of the human body serves a purpose, so every member of the church can fulfil a need. Paul said in Ephesians 4:11: "And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers". Obviously we cannot all be preachers, song leaders, elders, deacons and so on, but there is something everyone can do. Maybe you cannot speak publicly or teach a class, but you can hand out a tract, perhaps your talent is cooking, there is always a need for food for the sick. The elderly may need assistance with home repairs, the church building requires a lot of up keep. Maybe you are able to say the right thing when someone is grieving.

We must remember we glorify God by following His commandments and what we find pleasing does not always please God. It is God who blesses us with the abilities we have. We must use them in the right way. Paul tells the Romans, and this applies to us today, that without God, we are nothing (Rom. 14: 7-8). Throughout the brotherhood there have been many faithful men, now deceased, but Christ lives on through them because they chose to use their talents wisely. They followed Paul's advice to Timothy to teach other people. As a result, hundreds of souls have been brought to Christ. Jesus had a mission to save the lost. We have been left with the same mission today. We can only carry this out by us using our God given talents.

Sometimes we find that the pressures and responsibilities of this world come crashing in on us. There are always meetings, activities with the children and their school, work - there isn't time for everything. We want to spend time with our families, time in recreational activities, daydreaming, watching t.v. and heaps of other things. These things aren't wrong, but sometimes they prevent the individual from spending precious time on investing in spiritual matters. But when things are getting busy in our lives and we have to make a choice, what gets cut out? Our spiritual life is usually the first to suffer. Our worldly activities seem far too important to drop and it is easy to ignore a few services of the church in order to catch up on that work brought home from the office, or time for a sleep in or that all important sports game. But at what cost? Firstly it will affect our lives. This is our future we are investing in, we only get one chance. Secondly , it will affect our children. Our example will set a pattern for our children to follow. If we tend to spend more of our time on the world than on spiritual matters, there is a good chance that our children will have a similar attitude. Thirdly it may influence our brother. Romans 14:13 states: "Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother's way"

As a contagious disease like chicken pox spreads quickly from one person to another, so a poor example can spread just as quickly throughout the church. If a member of the church has poor attendance, this may cause a brother to think they can do the same, without any consequences. But are there consequences? Of course there are, and they are serious! We may lose our soul if we become slack or lazy. We must remember also to pattern our lives after Christ and not of our brethren.

Jesus shreds all our excuses for why we can't put in more time: "But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." Simply put, we need to prioritise the activities we all have in our lives. We need to seek God, first. Not second, not third, not when we think we can fit it in, not when we feel like it, FIRST!!!

How can we invest our time? By being at every service the church holds, Sunday morning, Sunday evening and the midweek Bible class. Attend extra activities the church holds. Outreaches, fun evenings, prayer nights etc. We can use our time wisely at home in private prayer and Bible study. Time spent on doing good deeds for others, cleaning the church building, writing encouraging letters and visitation is time well spent.

What do we do with our time? Redeeming the time: The Bible teaches us the value of time and instructs us to "Redeem the time because the days are evil" (Eph. 5: 16). To "redeem" the time is to realise its value and use it to the best possible advantage for things eternal. Brethren we are to make our time count for God, we must decide how we will spend it. A choice must be made every time there is a church gathering: are we redeeming the time or wasting it on trivial things of life?

Nothing should be allowed to interfere with our being present at all the services of the Lord's church. Jesus said in Matthew 6:33 and Luke 12:31, "We are to seek first the kingdom of God". This means God's kingdom must come first. Certainly placing the church first in our life and allowing neither work nor play to hinder our obligations to meet with the Saints is one way we can "seek the kingdom first". Let's look at Hebrews 10:25. This does not say once on a Sunday, or once a week, but the "assembling of ourselves together". When we miss an appointment with the Lord's people we have also missed an appointment with the Lord. Our heavenly Father knows that we need these assemblies to increase our knowledge of Him, to develop our character to be Christ like and stimulate our zeal to teach others.

One characteristic of the Christian is that he be "zealous of good works" Titus 2:14, and be "ready to every good work" (Titus 3: 1). Surely every Christian will agree that the various programs arranged by the leaders in the church are good works. To be indifferent toward these services is to disregard divine teaching. Throughout the Bible we can see who were faithful children of God, who loved to worship Him, their attendance is expressed in the Psalms (Psalm 42: 1-2,4; Psalm 84: 1-2,10). Surely this describes a man who finds great joy and satisfaction in worship. He realises his need for God and his heart and soul cry out for the privilege to worship Him. He can hardly wait to get to the place of worship, he would rather spend one day there than a thousand elsewhere. What a contrast this is with the attitude of some today. Worship to some is a matter of offering a mere token of respect to God and heaving a sigh of relief that their "duty" is done for another week.

Rather than looking for an opportunity to worship, they are looking for an opportunity to get out of worship. To all intents and purposes, they aspire to love and honour God at one service, while they completely ignore Him at another. Such people are well described in a poem by brother Gus Nichols:

I love the church Jesus bought, And I know that it is right.
I go there Sunday morn, But not on Sunday night.
I love to sing the songs of God, Such worship must be right.
This I do on Sunday morn, But not on Sunday night.
I love to hear the gospel, too, It gives me pure delight.
I hear it Sunday morn, But not on Sunday night.
God bless our preacher too, And give him power and might,
And put a sinner in my place, On next Sunday night.
I'd go through mud, even snow - Do anything that's right
To be at church Sunday morn - But not on Sunday night.
True, the church can save the world, If its light shines bright,
I help it Sunday morn - But not on Sunday night.
Yes, all of us must die, I hope I will be doing right-
So may I die Sunday morning, And not on Sunday night.

If we receive blessings, strength and help from one service, shall we snub the same blessings in another service? It is understood that it isn't always possible for every member to attend every service. But we also recognise that many members of the church deliberately miss services, when it is possible for them to attend. Let us make some observations on what our absence from the assemblies does firstly to God.
        1. We show improper reverence to God. A service is being conducted in His honour, but we do not come.
        2. We show lack of appreciation for our blessings. James 1:17 teaches that God is the giver of "every good and perfect gift"
        3. Here is a service to express our thanks to God, shall we fail to attend?

We now want to look at what our absence from church services does to others:
        1. We hinder the salvation of sinners. When sinners see us absent ourselves from worship, they conclude that worship must not be very important and that the church and the gospel are of little consequence.
        2. We make it harder for the preacher to preach. It is hard to preach to empty seats. The preacher is told by our absence that what he has to say is not very important.
        3. We discourage other members. Weak members are encouraged to stay away by the fact that we do, even those who are strong feel a certain discouragement by our absence.

Now let's look at what our absence does to ourselves.
        1. We take a step on the downward path. When we miss one service, we have made it easier to miss another one.
        2. We hinder our prayer life. We can't ask God to help us live a Christian life when we deliberately forsake those services which are designed to strengthen and help us grow.
        3. We make it harder to overcome temptation. Worship and study are designed to give us strength and draw us closer to the Lord. We are then better prepared to overcome the world. We need all the help we can get to overcome Satan. We should note that God will not accept any of our service unless we give all to Him. It is not the same with the Devil. He is willing to accept only a part of our service because when we give him even a part of our love and service, the devil really has it all.

We should want to be in heaven. "For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also". WE NEED TO KNOW WHERE OUR HEART IS! This is the more important of the two reasons for where our treasure is. Where the heart is, there is our source of happiness. If our heart is with the world, then it will be lost forever when the world is no longer. But if it is in heaven, there will it remain.

WE NEED TO KNOW WE HAVE ONLY A LITTLE TIME! Our lives are so uncertain. We don't know how much time each of us will have in this world. James 4:14 reads "Whereas ye know not what shalt be on the morrow, for what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time and then vanisheth away". We need to take charge of our lives now and invest in our future. We need to be laying up our treasures in heaven now. God wants wholehearted service, not service that comes from a divided allegiance. The church is a special class of obedient believers - continually obedient believers.


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