Kidsgrove 11/3/01 10.30 a.m. Sermon Series : True Religion ;

Matthew 6:19-34 'Material Concerns'

19 "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 22 "The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. 23 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! 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. 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 important than food, and the body more important 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 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? 28 "And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies 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, O 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.

Three boys at St. Thomas' school were bragging about who had the best father. The first boy says, "My Dad scribbles a few words on a piece of paper, he calls it a poem, and they give him 100." The second boy says, "That's nothing. My Dad scribbles a few words on a piece of paper, he calls it a report, and they give him 1000." The third boy says, "My Dad is even better than that. He scribbles a few words on a the back of an envelope, calls it a sermon, and it takes six men just to collect all the money!" This shows how many people measure people's worth. How much money someone earns, the value of their shares or savings, the type of car they own, the size and location of their house, where they go on holiday.

Jesus was talking to his disciples in this Sermon on the Mount ( 5:1 ). In 5:20 he said to them, For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.

This would have astounded the disciples who would have seen the Pharisees as religious and righteous. But Jesus denounced them as hypocrites. They went through the motions of keeping the law outwardly to gain favour with God, while breaking them inwardly. They made a show of their religion but Jesus said we should give, fast, and pray privately too, something you looked at last week with Gerald.

We know that we cannot earn God's favour. But those of us who have received it as a free gift through Jesus are called to live with an undivided loyalty to God. This is what Jesus was talking about in today's reading. The motivation for this teaching may be summarised by the first part of verse 33; But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness. This is the key to this passage, and perhaps the whole Sermon on the Mount.

A kingdom is where a king rules and his subjects come under his authority. Those who follow Jesus should be living under his authority and following his teaching. When we do this we will do what is right in God's sight i.e. what is 'righteous'. Seek is the present imperative and could be translated, 'Seek and keep on seeking'. It is a goal we are to have for all of our lives, for all of our days.

Jesus said in Chapter 5:17 "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them."

Jesus' disciples follow his teaching because they know in their hearts that it is best for everyone if we obey him. This is in fulfilment of Jeremiah 31: 33 "This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time," declares the LORD. "I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people."

Jesus refers to four ways of Christian living, and contrasts this with the way of pagans.

True Treasures, verse 19-21. True Vision, verses 22f. True Devotion, verse 24. True Trust, verses 25-34.

True Treasures, verse 19-21.

At the funeral of Al Capone, journalists were sent to find as much as they could about the life and fortune of this gangster. All the mourners remained tight lipped. Only the clergyman who led the service seemed willing to talk. 'Do you know how much he left?' he was asked. 'I do' he replied and the reporters reached for their notepads. 'So how much did he leave ?' they enthusiastically asked. 'All of it !' came the reply.

Material things cannot provide permanent satisfaction or security. For example, a new car loses its value quickly, breaks down, rusts, and can get stolen. They also need fuel, cleaning, servicing and maintaining. Yet some people are obsessed with their cars.

Albert Schweitzer, the doctor and missionary to Africa said, 'If there is something that you own that you cannot give away, you don't own it. It owns you.'

This is what Jesus meant when he said, verse 21, For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. We should guard our hearts against false gods. We can do this by building up treasures in heaven. But what does this mean ?

I am sure that there are many facets to this, all of which involve obedience to God's perfect will. This would include giving, praying and fasting, as you studied last week. But also things such as faith, hope, love, holiness, service, witness, and worship come to mind.

The context of this passage is about money and possessions, and the early church was noted for its generosity to those who were in need. In the fourth century Roman Emperor Julian the Apostate failed to suppress Christianity, largely because of the distinctive living found among believers. He told his officials, 'We ought to be ashamed. Not a beggar is found among the Jews, and those godless Galileans ( the Christians ) feed not only their own people but ours as well, whereas our people receive no assistance whatever from us.'

I am sure that many Christians are building up treasures in heaven without knowing it. We see this in Matthew 25:37 "Then the righteous will answer him, `Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?' 40 "The King will reply, `I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'

This does not mean that our giving should be without thought or joy. 2 Corinthians 9:7 Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.

Bill Hybels, the senior pastor of the Willow Creek Community Church counsels couples preparing to get married to work on an 80:10:10 split; retaining 80% for immediate needs, giving 10% to God and investing 10% for the future.

Some Christians argue that giving at least a tenth to God is from the Old Testament and not for Christians, but this was a law that Jesus upheld. Matthew 23:23 "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices--mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law--justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former."

We should have an eternal perspective and invest our money and possessions, our time, our energies, our whole beings into putting Jesus first. Only our faith in him will be any use beyond the grave.

It has been said, 'You can't take it with you, but you can send it on ahead !'

True Treasures, verse 19-21. and ...

True Vision, verses 22f.

I don't know if you ever watch the golf on the television. I do if only to listen to Peter Allis' dry wit. But you will sometimes see a golfer getting ready to play his shot and the commentator will say that the right line is to aim for a particular tree, or lady with a big pink hat. Fixing your eyes and attention on a target is what is behind this section. A good eye will direct the body to find its way. We are to fix our eyes on our eternal goal. This is what is to light us up.

The contrast to this is a bad or evil eye. Rabbinic teaching of Jesus' day recognised the 'evil eye' as mean and selfish. Such an eye could look at something or someone and covet, wanting to acquire and use that thing or person. This can lead to jealousy, theft, adultery, rape and murder.

A good eye will be selfless and generous, acknowledge God's sovereignty in creating and distributing his good gifts.

So bad eyes that see something and wants to possess it will lead to an inner darkness. Good eyes may see something beautiful and thank God for his creative power leading to an inner light. Earlier, in 5:16 Jesus had told his disciples to let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

True Treasures, verse 19-21. True Vision, verses 22f. and...

True Devotion, verse 24.

Today some people will have more than one job and, therefore, more than one employer or master, if you like. In Jesus' day a slave was a common sight. A slave had one master, he or she was regarded as an item of its master's property and was required to do everything that the he demanded.

When Jesus refers to 'hating and loving' this is a relative term. It is about priorities.

The word translated 'money' in the N.I.V. has a wider meaning, so many versions transliterate the Greek word 'mammon'. This meant 'something in which one puts confidence'. Therefore it means more than money and can include possessions, stocks and shares, profit, and status.

We live in an age where money and profit is a god pursued by many. One aspect of this is the way that people are used and discarded by their employer, with no consideration of past service and loyalty. We have seen this locally in the pottery, steel and coal industries. This is driven by the desire for cheaper goods and something for nothing. It appears that this desire to provide cheaper food led to the B.S.E. and foot and mouth epidemics.

On Thursday morning's 'Breakfast News' they interviewed a woman about the budget. She typified many people's attitude. She said that she hadn't been impressed by the Budget because she was not any better off and that she wanted tax cuts and more money spent on education, the health service and fighting crime !

When you vote, and please do, bear this in mind and, and I am being apolitical , but it is simple economics that, unless you borrow, you cannot spend what you haven't got. This applies to the church as well.

A battered pound coin and an out-of-date twenty pound note arrived at the Royal Mint to be disposed of. As they moved along the conveyor belt they struck up a conversation. The twenty reminisced about its travels all over the country. "I've had a pretty good life; I've been to the finest restaurants and shows in London, Buckingham Palace, the Houses of Parliament, the Millennium Wheel, Vale Park and even a cruise from Southampton."

"Wow!", said the coin, "you really have got around." "So tell me", says the twenty, "where have you been during your life?"

"Oh, I've been to the Methodist Church, the Baptist Church, the Anglican Church and ...." The twenty interrupted him: "What's a church?"

True Treasures, verse 19-21. True Vision, verses 22f. True Devotion, verse 24, and...

True Trust, verses 25-34.

I also considered calling this 'no worries' !

Soon after becoming a Christian I co-led a youth group with three other people including Nick. Nick was, and is happy-go-lucky. We soon discovered that he was disadvantaged on the punctuality and organisational front, so we used to tell him to be ready 15 or 30 minutes before an event so he would be on time. His sense of timing was so awry that, although he is a Christian, he had two children before he got round to getting married. We went to the marriage and reception. The reception was a shambles, the caterers didn't turn up and we sat around for ages while emergency food was rustled up.

By telling us not to worry Jesus is not saying that Christians have to have a personality transplant and become disorganised, late, and lackadaisical. He is not saying that we should fail to provide for ourselves and our loved ones. It is worry that is prohibited and not work !

Jesus uses the examples of nature, birds and plants, to show how God provides for them. We are more valuable to him and therefore we can trust that God will provide us with what we need.

There are three things we need to take into account to qualify this :

1) The promise is made to disciples of Jesus, as we saw at the start of Chapter 5. At the same time 5:45 says that God sends the sun and rain, which is needed for food, on the evil and the good.

2) The promise is for necessities not luxuries. This echoes the words of verse 11, 'Give us today our daily bread'. In the affluent West the vast majority of people have more than enough for their needs. But many are slaves to their wants and make money and possessions their gods, resulting in health problems, stress, broken relationships between partners and parents and children, and wrecking people's faith (1 Timothy 6:10). We are to be different, satisfied with what God has given us 'godliness with contentment is great gain' ( 1 Timothy 6:6 ). Our value is as children of God, not what we do, earn, or own.

We are provided with enough , and more for our needs so we can get on with living for God. There is the opportunity to provide for our fellow Christians who are in want, as we considered earlier.

3) Jesus also promised, 5:10f that his followers would be insulted, slandered and persecuted. Some Christians are unbalanced and focus entirely on the joy, peace, gifts and forgiveness that Jesus brings and ignore the demands for self-discipline and the need to stand up and suffer for our faith. All of these aspects should be part of the normal Christian life.`

I'd like you to think back a year ? Can you remember what you were worrying about ? Probably not. And, if you can, did the worrying achieve anything ?

Jesus calls us to trust God with our worries, our needs, our possessions, indeed the whole of our lives. As his disciples we are required to seek and keep seeking first his kingdom and his righteousness.