Where Is Your Heart?

Sermon on Luke 12:13-32 by Rev. W. Reid Hankins, and read by Elder Marlin Viss, during the Morning Worship Service at Trinity Presbyterian Church (OPC) on 05/01/2022 in Novato, CA.

Sermon Manuscript

Today’s passage is a great illustration of what heavenly-mindedness looks like as it pertains to wealth. You might recall that last month we had a sermon on heavenly-mindedness from Colossians in light of the resurrection and ascension of Jesus. Here, we have some good application of that principle as Jesus calls us to prioritize heavenly treasure over earthly treasure. Jesus gives us this teaching first with a parable and some extended teaching on the topic. The outline then for our sermon today will be to first consider earthly treasure and then in our second half to consider heavenly treasure.

So then, let us begin by thinking first about earthly treasure. We see that Jesus doesn’t just have in mind valuables like gold or rubies or things like that. Verse 14 speaks in general terms of one’s possessions. The parable then references grain for food. Verse 23 again mentions food, and also clothing. If anything, much of Jesus’ focus on earthly treasures have to do with the basic necessities of life. So then, that’s what I want us to acknowledge first about such earthly possessions. There is a certain essentialness to them. There are various basic necessities such as food, clothing, and shelter that humans require to live.

So here is the first point about earthly thing I want us to notice about such earthly treasure. Look at verse 30. It says that your God knows you need them. God, our heavenly father, knows that we need these earthly necessities. We will spend a lot of time today talking about bad pursuits of earthly treasure and how we should prioritize the pursuit of heavenly treasure. But realize, there are various earthly treasures you do need. Your heavenly father knows this. Thus, this passage doesn’t deny this. It even acknowledges that God will give them to us in verse 31, when it says that “and these things will be added to you,” if we but first have the proper perspective and priority. And so having earthly possessions is not inherently bad, nor is it wrong to work hard to acquire such things. And when we do work hard and get them, we should thank God for them. And it would be wrong to be slothful and idle in regards to acquiring such earthly possessions. Verse 30 helps remind us that there are certainly various earthly necessities in this life and we should attend to acquiring them.

That all being said, our passage focuses not so much on the necessity of earthly possessions, but on their trappings. I will highlight four. First, there is a temptation toward covetousness. This is in verse 15. Jesus says to “take care” and “be on guard” against all forms of covetousness. The word there in verse 15 translated as covetousness could also be translated as greed. It refers to a disposition to have more than one’s fair share, or to acquire so much more than others at their expense. But in response, Jesus goes on in verse 15 to declare that life does not consist in the abundance of one’s possessions. That is a helpful nuance to the fact that God knows we need these things. God knows we need various earthly possessions, but while that is true, still, our life does now consist in having a lot of those things. This doesn’t even say that abundance is even bad. But don’t make your life be about the acquisition of wealth. Don’t let getting rich be your chief end in life. Don’t become so enamored with earthly possessions that your identity and purpose in your life is bound up with them. That is where covetousness and greed can end up.

A second trapping of earthly treasure is the temptation to selfishness. When you are coveting or greedy you are focused on yourself and your own gain. In this parable, the rich man who stores up all this grain in his larger and larger barns uses the word “I” or “my” twelve times. In other words, he is very self-focused. His chief end is for his good. Again, there is a proper necessity to care for yourself and your needs. But there is also a call to love other, help your neighbor, and show mercy and compassion on especially those around you in need. It is a common temptation to so love money selfishly for yourself, instead of seeing it as something God has given you to steward to also help others too.

A third trapping of earthly treasure is the temptation to putting your confidence in your earthly treasure. It’s the spirit of the rich man in the parable in verse 19. He says to himself that he has stored up ample goods for many years, so now he can relax, eat, drink, and be merry. He put his confidence, his faith and trust, in his wealth and abundance. Our United States currency speaks against this temptation with the words, “In God We Trust”, because it is a real temptation to put our trust in wealth. There are two related problems with this confidence. One, you can lose earthly treasures in this life. Two, you will lose earthly treasures in the next life. In this life, thieves can steal your possessions. In this life, moth and rust can destroy your possessions. The rich man of the parable could have a fire come through and burn his barns down, grain and all. In this life, our possessions are subject to loss or destruction. And after this life, we have to leave all our earthly possessions behind. That point is made explicitly by Jesus in the parable in verse 20. The rich man is called a fool by God b/c he was going to die that very night. That very night his soul would be required of him, and all his barns of grain will end up belonging to someone else. There are few absolute certainties in life. But this is one of them – that all your earthly possessions, not a single one of them can be everlasting. Not a single one.

A fourth trapping of earthly treasure is the temptation to be anxious about them. Jesus speaks to this in verse 22. He mentions the kinds of related things we might be anxious about. We can be anxious about things like what we will eat and what clothing we will wear. One the one hand, such anxieties are something we probably all can relate to. On the other hand, where we live here, true threats of hunger or having no clothes is almost non-existent. Yet, due to the high costs of this area and the expected norms of society, there are certainly common temptations to anxiety over our finances. Mortgage payments, rent due dates, large bills at the gas pump, soaring inflation, and more, can contribute to such anxiety. Again, there is a right concern for such things that hopefully spurs us to work hard at our jobs, live within our means, and even save for emergencies and retirement. There is a godly concern we should take with such things. But that is different than letting anxiety and worry become a stressor to you and emotionally plague you in fretting and worry.

On that note, we should not misapply this parable to say we shouldn’t save for the future. That’s what some people have done. They point to how this parable shows the rich man rebuked by God after he stored up all that grain for many years to come. But God didn’t rebuke him for saving for the future and prudently planning ahead. No, God rebuked him for his foolish presumption and love of money. God rebuked the rich man because he assumed he’d be alive for years to come and stored up so much in his arrogant presumption, so that he could just relax and party. You can and should store up for the future and for retirement, but still count each day a blessing from the Lord. You can store up for the future and for retirement, and say in your heart, “If the Lord grants me long life, then this will help provide for me in my ladder years when I can’t work like I used to, and if not, then may the Lord bless my children with a bountiful inheritance.” You can save for the future and for retirement with a wrong or right attitude and purpose. Just remember, it was God who told Joseph in Egypt that the Pharoah should save up grain in the years of plenty in preparation for the coming years of famine. That’s just prudent and wise. Or take Proverbs 13:22, for example. It says, “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children.” That envisions someone who both lives a long life and yet has enough abundance left over to bless his grandchildren. Let us look to be prudent with our earthly treasures. Let us look to be good stewards of it. But let us put our earthly possessions in the proper perspective and place in our heart.

That leads us then to our second half to now consider heavenly treasure. Let’s begin by doing some defining of heavenly treasure. This idea of heavenly treasure is described in a few complementary ways in this passage. In verse 21, it connect it with being rich towards God, as in rich in the sight of God. In other words, God doesn’t look at someone who has lots of gold and silver and think that they are rich. God looks at man’s hearts to see if they are rich in love for him and love for neighbor. God looks at man’s hearts to see if they are rich in good works and noble thoughts. This is how Paul also defines heavenly treasure in 1 Timothy 6:18 encouraging us to, “Be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future.” In defining heavenly treasure, we also see in verse 31 that it is closely connected with God and his kingdom. God’s kingdom is certainly a treasure of heaven. Here Jesus tells us that this kingdom of God is a treasure we should seek and that God is pleased to give it to us as we seek it. And of course, the greatest treasure of heaven is God himself. That is why we should set our hearts on God. It is why love of God must be above all. And God even offers to give us of himself, because he told us last chapter, that if we ask, he will be pleased to give us of the Holy Spirit. Is that not also part of the heavenly treasure we are to seek?

So let’s think about seeking such heavenly treasure, starting with verse 31. There we are called to seek God’s kingdom. This is said in contrast to seeking our earthly necessities. Verse 29 says not to seek earthly things like food and drink. Verse 31 says to seek God’s kingdom. It’s the contrast that’s important here because we already acknowledged that there is a need for earthly things and we ought to pursue them within a certain sense. So, by doing the contrast here, we see that this is about priority and primacy. Our pursuit of heavenly treasure versus earthly treasure are on two very different levels. Our chief purpose in life is to live for the glory of God, and so our chief pursuit involves pursuing God, and his kingdom, and his righteousness. Our earthly pursuits of food and clothing should be secondary at most. In other words, we look to provide for our earthly needs as part of our pursuit of heavenly treasure, not as a separate competing goal for life. God made us and gave us life and blesses us with earthly possessions. In obedience to God, we look to steward such earthly treasures but we should do it as part of our greater overall service to God and pursuit of heavenly treasure. This is why when love of money displaces love for God, we’ve reversed the priority and primacy. This is why we call such love of money an idol of the heart, in that it takes God’s rightful position out of that place in our heart. The love of money should never be on par with our love of God, and likewise any pursuit of earthly possessions should never be on par with seeking heavenly treasure and the kingdom of God.

So then, as we think of the pursuit of heavenly treasure over earthly treasure, we see here how much of a matter of the heart it is. The concluding line of our passage connects our hearts with our treasure. They will be in the same place. What your heart treasures is your treasure. Our pursuit of heavenly treasure must begin in our heart treasuring the things of heaven. Jesus illustrates that in a few ways here. For example, when he speaks against being anxious over earthly treasure, he says what is missing in such fears is faith. Verse 28, he says to the anxious, “O you of little faith.” Instead of fretting over our daily bread, let us have faith in God’s provisions. Trusting God in such faith is part of the pursuit of heavenly treasure. Similarly, we see another matter of the heart when Jesus speaks here against covetousness and greed. Implied there is that we need contentment with godliness, to realize what God would have our lives truly to be about. Again, such perspective of the heart is part of the pursuit of heavenly treasure. The seeking of heavenly treasure is first and foremost a matter of the heart. Does your heart love God more than everything else? Do you seek his kingdom and his righteousness from your heart? Do you want to please him with all that you are? This is the heart that God would have for you.

Of course, while the pursuit of heavenly treasure is especially a matter of the heart, that doesn’t mean there aren’t also actions one can do in line with such pursuits. Verse 33 gives an example of this. Jesus says to sell your possessions and give to the needy. Note this doesn’t say sell every single thing you have and give it all away. But the act of giving away wealth to others in need is very much an act in line with the pursuit of heavenly treasure. If your heart’s pursuit is earthly treasure, you aren’t going to give it away, unless you think that somehow that will work out so you end up getting even more earthly wealth. I wonder that when I see some companies really publicize their charitable giving – that if they are only being generous because they think it will be good for business. And yet, interesting, Jesus does give a certain sense of self-motivation here. If you are generous with your earthly treasure, that can actually be part of how you gain heavenly treasure. But that is God’s gracious rewarding of putting love of God and neighbor over love of money.

As we’ve thought today about the pursuit of heavenly versus earthly treasures today, I think it would be important to make sure we see God’s grace in all this. In both kinds of treasures, we are supposed to see that whatever we get of them, that it comes from God. In earthly treasures, it is God who feeds the birds, it is God who clothes the lilies, and it is God who provides for our daily necessities because he knows we need them. Likewise, to receive the kingdom of God with its heavenly treasures, we must also receive it as a gift from God. In both heavenly and earthly treasures, we must look in faith to God to provide. As verse 25 said of our earthly treasures, we can’t even add a single hour to the span of our lives. How much less are we able to acquire the treasures of heaven?

No, we need God’s grace through and through. We are fallen sinners by birth. On our own, we would not be rich in God’s sight but poor debtors to God who could never pay off what we owe. And yet God has been rich toward us in Christ Jesus. He sent his son into this world to reveal our poverty and show us the way to graciously receive the riches of heaven through faith in his name. Set your heart on the treasures of heaven today by turning to God by believing in Jesus.

This parable reminded us of how death can catch us off guard. But regardless of when our death comes, we will die. Let us not be a fool, and live only for this life. Let us have wisdom to see that there is a far greater life to live for beyond this life. Let us store up for that future. But if we are tempted to be anxious about preparing for eternity, Jesus says to “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” So then, where is your heart? May your heart treasure the LORD and this eternal life and kingdom that he holds out to you today. Grasp onto it today by faith.

And if you have already done so, may you live your life in light of it. May your hearts be at rest as we are reminded that we need not be anxious of the worldly cares of this life. We need not be consumed with coveting and greed. We have eternal moneybags and the unfailing possessions of glory in Christ Jesus.


Copyright © 2022 Rev. W. Reid Hankins, M.Div.
All Rights Reserved.


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