The Sermon on the Mount
By E.H. “Jack” Sequeira

21 – Investing in Heaven

Turn to Matthew 6.  We are coming to a new section in the Sermon on the Mount in verses 19 to 24.  This is a very important section, one that we need to wrestle with.  It is laying the foundation for a problem that is prevalent in this part of the world.

In this passage, Christ is still dealing with what constitutes true religion.  But now He turns from Christian piety, which we have covered (almsgiving, praying, and fasting) to how Christians should relate themselves to this world.  Let’s read the passage first.  Matthew 6:19-24:

Matthew 6:19-24:

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

“The eye is the lamp of the body.  If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light.  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!

“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.”

Let me remind you that Jesus is talking to disciples, to people who have already accepted Him as their Saviour.  When we accept Christ as our Savior, a radical change takes place in our spiritual status.  Before, we were in the world, of the world, under Satan.  After you accept Christ, you are still in the world, but no longer of the world.

Turn to John 15:19.  This is what Jesus said to His disciples and it is true of us today:

“If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own.  As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world.  That is why the world hates you.”

And if you look at 1 John 5:19, Paul divides the human race into only two camps:

We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one.

Talking to Christians, he says, “We belong to God, but the rest of the world is under the evil one.”  Keep this in mind because, in this world, we are constantly pulled by the two forces.  The world is pulling us and the Holy Spirit is pulling us.  There is this constant pulling and you will see this dichotomy all through.  Jesus gives us the heart with the mind and the will.  He says our hearts should be in heaven and that is where our treasures should be.  Our minds must be on God’s truth because the word “eye” that we just read is used as a symbol, especially in the Old Testament to refer to our mind.  And then our will:  we cannot serve two masters, we must choose one and then we must serve him.

With this in mind, let’s go step-by-step.  First of all, let me explain what I mean by the word “world.” When the New Testament uses the word “world” in its spiritual sense, it is not referring to the physical world; it is not referring to the people who are living in the world.  It is referring to an attitude, a mentality that belongs to the world.  I will give you several texts on that.  Turn to James 1:27 and here James is discussing the same thing:

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this:  to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

Here James is describing it the same as Christ in the Sermon on the Mount.

Turn to James 4:1-4 where he puts it in a stronger way:

What causes fights and quarrels among you?  Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?  [The devil is pulling us.]  You want something but don’t get it.  You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want.  You quarrel and fight.  You do not have, because you do not ask God.  When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.  You adulterous people [you who are having an unlawful relationship with the world], don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God?  Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.

You cannot have allegiance to both camps.  This is the battle that Christians have all the time.  The more wealthy the nation, the more materialism in the country, then the struggle gets worse.  So Jesus says in Matthew 6:19:

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy....”

Now what did He mean by that?  First let’s see what He did not mean.  He did not say that it is wrong to have possessions.  Nowhere in the Bible does it ever condemn private ownership.  In fact, in Acts 5, when Ananias and Sapphira sold part of their land and gave only part of the money and they lied; do you remember what Peter said?  Acts 5:3-4:

Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land?  Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold?  And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal?  What made you think of doing such a thing?  You have not lied to men but to God.”

He said, “When this land was yours, nobody forced you to sell it and, when you sold it, nobody forced you to give it to the church.  Why did you lie?”  The church has always recognized private ownership.

Jesus did not mean that we are not to save for a rainy day.  In fact, if you go to Proverbs 6:6-11, it tells certain things about the ant and one of the things is that, during the harvest, he collects grain for the winter:

Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise!  It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest.  How long will you lie there, you sluggard?  When will you get up from your sleep?  A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest — and poverty will come on you like a bandit and scarcity like an armed man.

You have the same idea in Timothy, which we’ll see in a minute.  Christ did not condemn saving for a rainy day.

Also Christ is not condemning here the enjoyment of the things that He has created if we do it in the right way.  What do you think then on “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth”?  The key word is “yourselves.” “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth.” He is condemning here the hoarding of treasure.  Like the man who built extra barns in the parable.  He said to him, “You fool, tonight you will die.”  Luke 12:13-21:

Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”

Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?”

Then he said to them, “Watch out!  Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

And he told them this parable:  “The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do?  I have no place to store my crops.’

“Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do.  I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods.  And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years.  Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’

“But God said to him, ‘You fool!  This very night your life will be demanded from you.  Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’

“This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.”

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth” means “don’t put your emphasis on worldly possessions.”  The word “treasure” can mean more than money.  It can mean material things, or anything that you cling to on which you are depending for security and which you are putting your trust in.  Don’t do that.

I will give you a couple of examples.  When we went to the mission field (I think the GC has different policies for different countries) but when you go to Africa, the GC cuts your salary by 50% because they say you don’t need that much in Africa.  Which is true; we can survive with less there.  But they realize that, when you come back, you will face a crisis.  So they have what they call a differential.  They do not send the money to you there but they keep some money here and they ask you where you bank, etc.  When we went to Africa the GC did that and, when we came back on our first furlough, one of the brethren told us that we had done the wrong thing.  That we shouldn’t put our money in the banks because the banks are going to collapse; this was back in 1967-68.  So I asked what they wanted us to do.  They said you need to invest some money with the church.

Andrews University was trying to buy all the land around its campus so that all the people living around the University would be Adventists (they were having some problems).  There was a man who was dealing with this; he was the head of the Business Department, but he was also the head of a private firm that was doing this, purchasing the land.  They told me that I should invest there because that is “guaranteed.”  We listened and said o.k.  We were in the mission field for 18 years and the year before we arrived that firm went bankrupt.  Eighteen years of savings went down the drain.  And what was worse, when they went bankrupt, the county sent notices to all the landowners (they sent a notice to me by overseas mail; it took a long time) and when mine arrived the deadline had passed.  We learned the lesson that you cannot put your trust in treasures on earth.

When we were deported from Uganda, we had to say good-bye to everything.  The only thing that Iddi Amin allowed us to carry out of that country was $150 for the whole family and a small suitcase each with your personal belongings.  Everything else had to be left behind for the country.  They froze the bank accounts.  We learned from those experiences that it is impossible to put your trust in your earthly possessions.  Enjoy it and be content with it but don’t put your trust in it.

Turn to 1 Timothy 6.  There is some excellent advice concerning this that Paul gives Timothy.  Jesus says, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth.”  I am going to read several verses; we’ll look at verses 6-12 first and then verses 17-18.  1 Timothy 6:6:

But godliness with contentment is great gain.

Learn to be satisfied with what you have.  Christ is condemning materialism.  By the way, “materialism” does not mean possessing material things.  It means never being satisfied with what you have; you want the latest thing and are never satisfied.  Verses 7-8:

For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.  [Remember the fool who built extra barns.]  But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.

As long as we have the daily necessities, let’s be content.  Verses 9-10:

People who want to get rich [they who want to live for themselves] fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction.  For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.  Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

Not money, which is the ingredient by which we live in this world, but the love of money.  Verses 11-12:

But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.  Fight the good fight of the faith.  Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

These are the treasures of heaven.  He didn’t mean for us to lay up money in heaven but to put emphasis on those things which have eternal value.

Then, in verses 17-18, he gives Timothy advice for his church members:

Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.  Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.

Our focus should not be on earthly treasures but upon heavenly.  Let me give you just one text regarding heavenly treasures.  Turn to 1 Peter 1:3-5.  This will give you a glimpse of the treasures of heaven:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!  In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade — kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.

Jesus, Paul, and Peter are all saying the same thing:  do not store up treasures for yourself on earth.  Let’s turn back to Jesus’ famous statement in Matthew 6:21:

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

What does Jesus mean by that?  Your great concern will be where you put your emphasis.  If your hope is not in this world, if it is in the next world, then that is where your heart is.  And, as I said, it is much harder to do that in a materialistic world.

Our young people in Africa are on fire for Christ, but they have an advantage.  Politically, economically, those countries have no future.  They go to the university, but they are not guaranteed a job.  They have nothing to look forward to when they come out of college.  But they have one hope and that is the coming of Christ.  They want to hasten that coming, so they are active for Christ because that is their hope.  But here we have so many blessings and that becomes a hindrance.  Please remember the emphasis of Christ.  He says that earthly treasures are corruptible; they do not last.

Go now to verses 22-23 of Matthew 6:

“The eye is the lamp of the body.  If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light.  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!”

What does Jesus mean, “the light of the body is the eye”?  He is saying that the eye, which is only a small organ, sees for the whole body.  Whatever you use your hands for (driving a car, for instance), can you imagine what would happen without eyes?  The eye is what makes the whole body work in a coordinated way so we can see what we are doing.  If your eye is focused on one item, then your whole body will concentrate on that one item.  But if you are blind, then your whole body is having a hard time.  Blind people learn to adapt themselves to a tremendous degree, but they are living in constant darkness.

My wife and I were giving a series of Bible studies to a group of blind kids.  Ethiopia has a lot of blind people; I think it is some sort of disease.  Once we were rather late and my wife said, “We better go home, it is dark outside.”  And one of the blind boys said, “Sister, it is dark all the time for us.”  Jesus is using the eye as a metaphor meaning the mind.  In the Bible, the eye was often used to denote the mind.  Psalm 119:18:

Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.

What David meant was, “Let my mind be focused on your commandments.”

I will give you a text that brings this out very beautifully:  Philippians 4:8-9.  What Paul is saying here is, “Don’t let your mind be preoccupied with the things of this world.  Let your mind dwell on the things of God and your whole body will be enlightened because where your mind is the body goes; that is the controlling factor of the human body.”  This is the counsel that Paul is giving in one of the last letters that he ever wrote.  Philippians 4:8-9:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things.  [What you think, so you are.]  Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me — put it into practice.  And the God of peace will be with you.

Christ not only said, “Don’t lay up treasure for yourself on earth but in heaven,” but, secondly, “Let your mind be preoccupied with the things of God.”  And as we approach the end, this attitude must be increased.

Then we come to the third item, in Matthew 6:24:

“No one can serve two masters.”

Some have had problems with this, because some people work for two employers.  But Jesus did not use the word “employer.”  He used a very specific word and that is the word that is used for “slave master.”  Remember, this was during the slave society.  Forty to sixty percent of the population of the Roman Empire were slaves.  It is possible for you to work for two employers.  But, in the days of Christ, it was impossible for you to be owned by two slave masters.  He is using the word “master” here in the same sense as “slave master.”  Here’s the entire verse of Matthew 6:24:

“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.”

You cannot be owned by two people.  The question is, “Who owns you?”  He closes by saying, “You cannot serve both God and Money.”  The King James Version says “mammon”; the NIV will say “money.”  But the word “mammon” was an Aramaic word that was transliterated into the word “mammon.”  But the Aramaic word simply means “wealth” or “possessions” or “self.”  Let me put it this way:  Who controls you?  Is it your possessions or is it Jesus Christ?  Who owns you?

When God created man, He created him to be in control of his nature and his desires.  When Adam sinned, those desires became lust and the lust began to control the man.  And so we have endless problems today.  There are people who want to give up smoking but they cannot because smoking is their master.  This struggle keeps on going all through our lives.  Our nature wants to control us; our desires, which have become lusts, want to become the master.  And Jesus tells us that we cannot serve two.

I would like to give you a couple of texts.  First I want you to know that, as Christians, we are no longer owned by the world or by Satan or by our nature.  We are owned by Jesus Christ; He has bought us.  1 Peter 1:18:

For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed [bought back] from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers....

Judaism had gone wrong.  Remember how they had turned the temple of God into a money-making racket?  He says, “Please, Christians, do not treat your salvation like that.” Verses 18 and 19:

For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.

Please let us remember that we belong to Christ.  The other passage is Romans 6:16 and is dealing with this same issue from a different angle:

Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey — whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?

There are two slave masters — sin and righteousness — and to whoever you have yielded yourself you must obey.  Look at verse 17:

But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted.

When a slave couple has a baby, is the baby free or is the baby a slave?  It is a slave.  We were born slaves, slaves of sin.  Can a slave free himself?  No.  What was the doctrine Paul was talking about that was obeyed from the heart?  It was the gospel.  The gospel of freedom.  See verse 18:

You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.

You became slaves of righteousness; you have chosen your master.  Now, please, always serve him.  You cannot serve two masters.  What is Jesus saying in this concluding verse of Matthew 6:24?  “We are living in the world but we belong to God.”  Both systems — the worldly system and God — requires total allegiance.  You can’t have one leg in the world and one leg in the church.  The two are going to polarize and it is now happening.  You can’t be a half-hearted Christians because, one of these days, you will have to make a final decision:  Am I all for Christ or am I all for the world?

Remember the young man who came to Jesus and asked what was the greatest commandment.  What did Jesus say?  Matthew 22:36-38:

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied:  “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.”

The devil requires the same allegiance.  He wants total obedience from you and so this struggle for allegiance is constantly our battle and Jesus is saying, “You have to decide who is your master.”

The devil wants you to serve him.  Do you know why?  Because he wants company in the lake of fire.  Unfortunately, there will be some because Jesus will say, in Matthew 25:41:

Then he will say to those on his left, “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”

But the devil has deceived you, he has bluffed you, he has got you, and then he will say, “Join me in the fire.”  God never intended that any man should be in that fire.

Jesus wants you to serve Him, not because He wants to use you as a slave.  He wants to bless you.  He wants to give you His kingdom.  He wants to share His throne with you.  Can you imagine it?  Jesus has shared with us His life and His throne.  That is why Jesus is no longer called, after the resurrection, the “only Son” of the Father (as in John 3:16), He is called the “firstborn.”  Colossians 1:18:

And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.

Paul says in Romans 8 that we are “joint heirs with Christ.”  Romans 8:16-17:

The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.  Now if we are children, then we are heirs — heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

In Hebrews 2:11, we are told that He Who sanctifies us and we who are sanctified are all of one and that He is not ashamed to call us brothers and sisters:

Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family.  So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers.

The only problem is that, when the devil offers us trinkets, He offers them now and we are a now people.  When Christ offers His treasure, His asks us to be patient.  He says that we may have to suffer in this world, but one day we will have what He offers and we will realize that it was worth it.

In closing, I want to give you an admonition that the writer of Hebrews gave the Jews.  They were always in this danger.  In Hebrews 10:35-39, there is some admonition to those of us who have chosen heaven.  The devil wants to get you out of the kingdom of God.  Here are the verses:

So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.  You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.  For in just a very little while, “He who is coming will come and will not delay.  But my righteous one will live by faith.  And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him.”  But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.

Don’t give up your treasure in heaven.  The devil will try to change your mind.  The closer we come to the end, the greater need of patience.  My prayer is verse 39:  “But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.”

Our treasure is not here; our treasure is in heaven.  Our hearts should be up there.  The closer we come to the end, the more we must concentrate on the things up above.  It is my prayer that you will put your heart there and, if your heart is there, you will be living only for Christ and one day you will not regret it.

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