Sermon preached on Matthew 6:19-21 by Rev. W. Reid Hankins during the Morning Worship Service at Trinity Presbyterian Church (OPC) on 8/17/2014 in Novato, CA.
Rev. W. Reid Hankins, M.Div.
“Where Your Treasure Is”
Today, as we continue in the Sermon on the Mount, we talk about treasure. What is treasure? Treasure is something of value. More specifically, a treasure to is something of value to you. In other words, when we think about treasure, we realize that what someone values as treasure usually includes a certain degree of subjectivity. You might recall the saying, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” Not everyone values the same things alike. And yet, even though there is a certain degree of subjectivity in treasure, there is also a fair bit of objectivity in it too. Certain things should make something objectively more valuable, which you subjectively should appreciate.
Well, it’s this kind of thinking that is in view today in our passage. Jesus calls us to realize that not all treasures are created equal. We need to compare earthly versus heavenly treasure. Jesus is challenging our hearts to consider what we really value. This should then affect what we put our energy into laying up. In realizing how much better heavenly treasure is over earthly treasure, Jesus challenges us to be laying up the heavenly treasure over the earthly.
So then, that will be our three points for today as we think about treasure. First, we’ll compare earthly treasure with heavenly treasure. Second, we’ll consider where is our heart in all this: has our heart been fixed on heavenly treasure over earthly treasure as it ought? Third, we’ll talk about what it looks like then, practically speaking, to lay up heavenly treasure.
Let’s begin then with the comparison. Jesus spends the first two verses here to compare earthly treasure versus heavenly treasure. In verse 19 he begins by noting the problem with earthly treasure. The bottom line is that earthly treasure is subject to loss. He gives three examples, that are surely not exhaustive. Earthly treasure can be destroyed by things like moth or rust. Earthly treasure can be stolen by thieves. Let me say this another way. Earthly treasure is perishable, defilable, and fading, and can be lost or stolen. There is something fragile and fleeting about whatever earthly treasure you gain in this life. You have to work hard to get it, and then you have to work hard to maintain it, and even then it can be fighting a losing battle in some ways. And don’t forget that when you finally die, you can’t take any earthly treasure with you. He who dies with the most toys, still dies.
Of course none of us here yet have died and had to suffer the loss of all such earthly treasures. But surely most of us have had to deal with the heartache of losing or breaking some earthly treasure. Maybe you dropped your cell phone and cracked the screen beyond repair. Maybe you’ve literally had a moth eat a hole in one of your fine suits. Maybe you got laid off from that really great job you worked so hard to get. It doesn’t take too much time in this world to experience firsthand the fragile and fleeting nature of earthly treasure.
In comparison, Jesus says all the opposite in verse 20 about heavenly treasure. In other words, it’s not subject to loss. It’s can’t be destroyed by things like moth or rust. There is no thief who can steal it. Peter talks in similar terms as this passage when describing the heavenly inheritance that we have. Listen to what he says about this in 1 Peter 1:4. He says this inheritance is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you. In other words, heavenly treasure is something safe and secure. And it is something lasting. It will not be destroyed or taken from you. And you won’t lose it when you die, you will actually gain it in the full when you die, and that for eternity.
The security and longevity of this heavenly treasure, of course, flows out of the fact that it is heavenly. When you hear this, we should remember the focus of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. We’ve been saying the last few months that this sermon has a focus on the kingdom of heaven. And so this is the treasure that is laid up in that heavenly kingdom. Think about the significance of that. That means that God and his Christ are there to safeguard that treasure. Who could break into heaven and take that treasure? No one, of course! That’s why when Peter talks about that inheritance Christians have, he says it’s kept in heaven for us, and that is said to encourage us that it is safe there! It’s like if you get a safe deposit box at the bank for some earthly treasure, you do that, because you think your valuables will be safer stored there than in your home. Well, even banks can be broken into and robbed, but no evil can break into God’s heavenly storeroom of treasure.
On a similar note, the fact that this is treasure laid up in that kingdom of heaven, speaks to its eternality. The kingdoms of this world are passing away. One day soon, the kingdom of heaven will come in glory. To say this a different way, the earthly treasure is part of the current kingdoms on earth, and the age of these earthly kingdoms are numbered. It’s like in the book of Daniel when King Belshazzar received the writing on the wall; Daniel interpreted it for him that it meant that his kingdom was numbered and it would be destroyed. Belshazzar rewarded Daniel by making him third in the kingdom, but Daniel said he could keep the reward. I mean think about it. What good is that kind of reward to get a place of authority in a kingdom that is imminently going to be done away with? This is true in general then when it comes to earthly treasure. It is treasure of a realm which days’ are numbered. It is passing away. But the heavenly treasure in comparison is part of that coming heavenly kingdom, which is an eternal kingdom, a kingdom that will come in a glory greater than anything of this world, and one which will never pass away. And so the nature of the these two kinds of treasure: heavenly versus earthly, is closely connected to the nature of the kingdoms to which they both belong.
So we’ve talked about the comparative difference between heavenly and earthly treasure. The take away point is that there really is no comparison! Now, as we compare this, I think it would be helpful to further think about what exactly is heavenly treasure. That’s a question that people sometimes ask me. We surely all know what are common earthly treasures. We think of money, and precious metals like gold and silver, and we think of very fine clothes and fabrics, and we think of priceless works of art, and even expensive electronics like computers and iPads, etc. These are examples of earthly treasure. But what exactly are the heavenly treasures?
Well, to be fair, this passage doesn’t give explicit examples, so we can’t be overly dogmatic on if Jesus had any one specific thing in mind. But just like there are several examples we could give of earthly treasures, there are certainly several things we could say about what are heavenly treasures. Just think about what elsewhere the Bible says about things of value that we can have kept for us in heaven. As I mentioned, 1 Peter talked about an inheritance kept in heaven for us. He described this as our living hope. That’s talking about something that, in the most general terms, all true believers have through faith in Jesus Christ. In similar terms, the New Testament talks about that citizenship Christians have in the kingdom of heaven. We are also said to be those who now are adopted and have a place in the household of God. We are also those said to be seated with Christ in the heavenly places, and of course, Jesus is seated at the right hand of God — a place of honor and authority. These are all heavenly treasures, and they all belong to every Christian by faith.
We can also then think about those heavenly rewards we get as we bear fruit for Christ in this age. The concept of rewards from the Father is something Jesus already mentioned earlier in this Sermon on the Mount: twice in chapter 5, and seven times already in this chapter. Or you can think of a passage like Jesus’ parable of the talents in Matthew 25. There each servant is rewarded proportionately to his accomplishments, with the man who bore the biggest return on his talents of silver being given even yet more to be entrusted with. Nonetheless, this is where there is again a bit of an unknown for us again. Scripture talks about degrees of rewards based on our godly living in this life, but it doesn’t really explain in detail what that actually looks like. We know that in heaven there will only be blessing and there will be no curse. So, it’s hard to know exactly what a greater degree of reward would even be! And yet Scripture describes how God will measure out our reward in eternity in some way that accounts for the various grace-inspired good deeds done in this life.
So, in our first point today we’ve thought about the two different kinds of treasure that are mentioned here. Now, in our second point, let’s turn to think about where our hearts are in all of this. This gets us to think about verse 21. Jesus says there, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” This is such an important thing to realize. Jesus doesn’t seem concerned about actually possessing some earthly treasures. It’s not wrong, per se, to have earthly treasures — but where is your heart? That’s ultimately what is seems Jesus is concerned about — where your heart is. Is your heart in your earthly treasures, or is it in heavenly treasures? In other words, what do you truly value? What do you love and crave and so desperately want? It’s like money. Money is an earthly treasure. The Lord knows we will need money to function in this world. Acquiring money through work so we can provide for our needs is completely appropriate for a Christian. Ephesians 4 actually commends that for a Christian. On the other hand, 1 Timothy 6:10 says that the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. You see, that’s the question. Where is your heart? Are you in love with earthly treasurers? Do you seek them above all else? Is that what motivates what you do each day? If so, you will be disappointed at best.
We mentioned that we all quickly learn the fragile and fleeting nature of earthly treasures. Well, we all surely know the heartache associated with having set our hearts on some earthly treasure, only to lose it. We know the grip of desiring something in this life that you had really set your heart on, and we know the heartache that comes when it breaks or is stolen. And we know there is almost always a connection between the two. The more you valued something, the more it hurts when you lose it.
And so this is a call for examining our hearts. What is the real desire of your heart? What do you crave? As in the words of Psalm 37, we want to grow to delight in the Lord. Colossians 3:1 tells us to seek the things which are above. Or in 1 Timothy 6, Paul says we need to not trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God who gives us richly all things to enjoy. The point in all such passages is that we need to examine what we put our heart in. If we put our heart in failing earthly treasures, then when they fail, our heart is likewise afflicted. On the other hand, if we put our heart in the imperishable and unfailing heavenly treasures, then our heart is in a safe and secure place. The choice should be obvious for where to entrust our hearts. The logic is undeniable. Clearly this is a logical thing that Jesus presents. And yet when it comes to our hearts, we know how we so often don’t operate logically. And so this becomes a call for prayer to follow the examining of our hearts. We pray that God would change our hearts to want to lay up heavenly treasures.
So then, as we find that prayer being answered, what will it look like? As we find our heart growing to crave heavenly treasure over earthly treasure, what will that look like? In other words, this brings us to our third point to think about what it means to lay up heavenly treasure. How do we store such up?
Well, in general, we need to answer by emphasizing the grace of God in Jesus Christ. If we’ve learned anything as we’ve been studying the Sermon on the Mount, it’s been that there’s no way on our own we have earned or deserved to have any heavenly treasure. Our receipt of such treasure will only be the grace and mercy of God in his Son and by his Spirit. So how do we lay up heavenly treasure? How do we receive such grace?
Well, that answer is pretty simple. It’s simply about living out the Christian life. It begins when we first hear the gospel preached to us, and by the grace of God, repent of our sins and put our faith in Jesus as our Lord and Savior. As we trust in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross to pay for all our sins, we immediately pass from death to life and have begun to secure heavenly treasure. We then are recipients of that treasure which is common to all Christians — described in terms like our heavenly inheritance. And so first and foremost we lay up this heavenly treasure by believing in Jesus, and continuing in that faith. In the grace of God, we then immediately have a storehouse of heavenly treasure. Isn’t that wonderful, by the way? The earthly treasures we used to crave so often require a tremendous amount of work to “lay up”. But the gospel says that we lay up heavenly treasure by faith. In other words, it’s not a work to receive it. It’s grace!
And then in a further display of grace, we can yet grow in our laying up of heavenly reward. We mentioned that heavenly treasure that comes through the way God rewards our grace inspired good deeds. So we can lay up further degrees of heavenly reward as we labor for the Lord and bear fruit for him in this life. An example of this is mentioned in Philippians 4:17. There Paul is thankful that the Philippians financially supported his ministry because Paul saw the fruit that abounded to their account in such giving. Or just look at the start of this chapter here in Matthew 6. Jesus had talked about doing your acts of righteousness, and praying, and fasting, in secret, so that God would reward you.
And yet, don’t miss the grace behind all of this. It’s ultimately a function of the gift of the Holy Spirit in the heart that bears such fruit of godly deeds in our lives. So, it’s amazing that we are then rewarded for this. And yet, this is what we see in Scripture. It’s like in that parable of the sower. All the seed that falls in good soil is a good thing, and yet some of those seeds go on to bear a different amount of grain: some yielding a harvest of thirtyfold and some sixtyfold and others hundredfold.” God wants us to seek and desire the greater harvest, and he even rewards accordingly. How gracious God is that as we seek to lay up such heavenly treasure, we know it’s a function of his grace at work in our lives.
Therefore, given that it’s God’s grace behind our laying up of such heavenly treasure, we need to remember to keep going back to the fountains of grace God gives us. God has told us that he will especially grow us in his grace by things like the Word, and the sacraments, and prayer. As we seek to lay up heavenly treasure, may we make use of these things which are especially given to us as means of his grace.
Brothers and sisters, in closing out our sermon for today, I would like to leave you with two exhortations. First, this passage implies a call for faith. You will need to believe Jesus that treasure stored up in heaven is actually better than earthly treasure. This calls for faith. It calls for faith because for the most part, the heavenly treasure is something that we don’t get to experience yet. Don’t get me wrong. There is some sense of heavenly reward that comes into our current lives here and now. We experience numerous spiritual blessings here and now that connected with this heavenly treasure that we have layed up. And yet for the most part, such treasure is not something we can put our hand on right now. Earthly treasure we can generally see, touch, experience, or enjoy right here and now. Heavenly treasure is largely something we will have to wait to really enjoy. That calls for faith. But that is my first exhortation then for you today. Have this faith. Have this heavenly-mindedness.
The second exhortation is similar. There is a call for renewed hearts in this passage. We need to have our hearts in heaven, not in earth. Fix your heart’s affection on God and his heavenly kingdom. And so not only do we need to be heavenly-minded, but we also need to be heavenly-hearted.
Pray to this end. Pray to the Lord for such grace. That God would direct your mind and heart to the treasures of heaven that are received in Jesus Christ, our Lord. And as you pray that prayer, trust that he is answering it. For it is our Father’s good pleasure to give you these things. Praise be to our loving heavenly Father, in all the grace he shows us in Christ and by his Spirit. Amen.
Copyright © 2014 Rev. W. Reid Hankins, M.Div.
All Rights Reserved.