Lay Not Your Treasure On Earth
A Message by Pastor Eric Chang
Today we continue our study in the Word of God, in Mt. 6:19-21, as we are doing systematically week by week. And so we will come now to v19. We read in Mt. 6:19-21:
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
Now, in these words, we will have to examine some very important things that the Lord Jesus says to us, and very appropriately of Christmas, when we have become very accustomed to the whole commercialized thing of Christmas. It is all ‘things’. It is all ‘presents’. Everywhere, the department stores and the shops are screaming at us, telling us what a marvelous bargain they have right now. All kinds of sales are trying to tempt the money out of our pockets. So, by the time we have finished with that, I guess there is not very much left that we can store up, at least not in the way of money, [but] maybe in the way of things you do not particularly need anyway and can keep till next Christmas. Thus, we have to look into these words Jesus says to us, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth”. At this point, we want to examine this in some detail because it is going to be very important for our lives. It is because what Jesus is doing here is that He is presenting our faith with a powerful challenge.
We Store Up For The Sake Of Our Future Security
You see, the reason why we store things up - why we store up money, why we store up property - is for the sake of security. Anyone who wants to serve God but is concerned about securing his future, I can tell you right now, dear brothers and sisters, you are no use to God at all because your faith does not meet the challenge. You are no use to God. You can forget about serving God. It is because such people are just no use in God’s work.
The Lord Jesus is, in this passage, going to put us - face us - with a tremendous challenge to our faith. As we go on, I think you will begin to see what the Lord Jesus means. Let us divide this now into a number of points for our spiritual study and consideration.
1. Earthly Treasure Is Transitory, Being Vulnerable Or Corruptible
The first is this: the Lord Jesus tells us a point, which to any thinking person must be exceedingly obvious. He says to us that the reason we should not store up treasure on earth, but rather store it up in heaven, is simply this: that earthly treasure is transitory. Earthly treasure is corruptible and it is vulnerable. It is corruptible, that is, moth and rust do attack it and destroy it. As I have many times mentioned, look at your beautiful car outside there. Do you see how shiny it is? Within a year or two, the salt, the rust or the water will have done its work, and you will have great big rusty holes in the side of it. No matter what you do with it, how you fight against it, the rust will win. The day is just a matter of time, if not the rust, then it will just wear out.
It is vulnerable because the thieves, the robbers are there, waiting like vultures to descend upon it. Last year, shortly before [my wife and I] left England, there was in the newspaper a great flash of a story. It was that a bunch of very skilled robbers had gone down into the American Express vault in London. These are underground vaults secured with all kinds of electronic safety devices. Oh, we have clever crooks in these days who know a lot about electronics. You have got electronics men trying to prevent people stealing your stuff, and you have got electronic men trying to get in and steal your stuff. In the battle of the mind, all too often it is the crooks that win.
Now what these crooks did in London was that they hired a flat neatly in position next door to the American Express. There is no law against hiring a room next door to the American Express. From there they went through the floor and down into the vault, sideways, and into the American Express safe. They disarmed all the electronic devices and they made off with nobody knows how many millions because, as you know, safety boxes are entirely confidential. Not even the bank knows what is inside the safety box. We only knew when some reporters asked some of these desperate people, “What did you lose?” Well, what they cared to tell us - if they were not afraid of the taxman going after them - was already staggering. One lady said she had lost a quarter of a million pounds in deposit of diamonds, jewelry, gold, whatever it was she had inside there. A quarter of a million pounds, at that time, was over five hundred thousand dollars. Half a million dollars! All her savings, all her riches were put into this, what she thought was absolutely safe. Down there underground, even if the bombs came down, they would not have hit it. Huh! Who knows, but the crooks got in! They dug a hole and got inside. It was using exactly the words that Jesus has said. They dug their way right through the wall and made off with all the valuables. To this day, as far as I know, these people have not been caught. What is more, the reporter made a point of asking some of them, “Were your valuables insured?” And, of course, in most cases they were not insured because they thought that the bank vault was very safe, that no crook could get in there. But they did.
So, the riches in this world, always remember, are vulnerable and they are corruptible. One way or the other, you are going to lose them. If you do not lose them in one of these two ways, then when you die, you are not going to take one single cent with you. As the Bible says, “Naked I came into this world, so naked I go out.” [Job 1:21] I take absolutely nothing.
It makes me think of another interesting incident, that every time I think about it, I cannot help but smile. It was an incident that my father told me about in the war years in China. Now in the war years, if you do not get robbed, then the enemy soldiers might do the job for you. There was this gentleman who decided on a very clever way to carry his fortune around with him - such fortune as he had - and this fortune he reduced to a number of small gold bars because it is very easy to carry in gold bars.
Having done so, he thought of a brilliant idea. At least, he thought it was brilliant. He bought himself a bamboo walking stick. Now, bamboo is hollow inside, you see. So, all you have to do is use the hollow [space] inside there and stuff your gold bars in, making sure, of course, that they are well wrapped so there is no sound when you shake it. And he stuffed those gold bars into his walking stick. Now nobody wants to steal a bamboo walking stick. It is worth nothing. Nobody wants to steal that. He thought this was a brilliant idea. If you put it in your coat, somebody might steal your coat, but who wants a walking stick, especially a cheap-looking bamboo walking stick which nobody wants.
So he stuffed them in the walking stick and there he went. Then at one stage, he came to a Japanese checkpoint. At the line up for the Japanese checkpoint there, some people got a little bit unruly in the queue. The Japanese officer coming around, noticing these people, looked, of course, for the nearest stick that he could get a hold of with which to beat these people into line. And there he saw the bamboo stick! So, he just grabbed the bamboo stick and went off beating the people into line. Well, you can imagine, of course, that this good man saw the last of his walking stick, and all his gold as well which was stuffed inside the stick. So it is with earthly treasure. No matter how secure you thought it was, it still disappears.
2. Your Heart Is Where Your Treasure Is
The second point we see is this: where your heart is. As Jesus said, “…where your treasure is, there will your heart be”. So, if your treasure is in that stick, then your heart is going to be in that stick the whole time. You are going to sleep with that stick and walk with that stick and dream about that stick; the whole day you have to hold onto that stick. Oh, what a terrible stick that is to have around in the end.
And so, if you have your treasures down in the underground vault, then your whole being is going to be underground. Maybe it is better to put the vault up there, at least your mind goes upward than downward. Maybe the direction is important. But in any case, it seems always to be more secure underground than above the ground. So treasures have a way of going downward and bringing you downward as well.
3. You Cannot Serve Two Masters
The third point that the Lord Jesus says here is this: you cannot serve two masters. What two masters? Well, we are going briefly to v24, where the Lord Jesus says, “You cannot serve two masters.” You see, we saw that where your heart is, that thing is going to be your master. It is going to consume your attention, your energy, your time and your devotion. You think how devoted that man is to that stick. You try to imagine that. Can you imagine: you have your gold bars in that stick, [thus,] you will be devoted to that stick the whole time? Other people may be wondering what is special about this bamboo stick as they look around it. But you are devoted to that stick. Thus, in the same way, you will find that that becomes your master - whatever occupies your attention, your energy and your time. That is your master. Where your treasure is, that is going to become your master.
4. We Have Treasure In Heaven When We Give To Those In Need
But we have here another question briefly to ask. Fourthly, how do we have treasure in heaven? How do we get this treasure in heaven? The Bible tells us very plainly. We are not left in any darkness, in any doubt, about this. In Lk. 18:22, the Lord Jesus says to the rich young ruler, “Take what you have and dispose it off to the poor, and then you will have riches in heaven.” Aha! Now we know how we get riches in heaven.
The way to have riches in heaven is to take what you have and supply it to the needy person. In doing so, you have given it to the Lord. The OT tells us, “He who gives to the poor is giving to the Lord.” Give to the brother or sister who is in need. Why do you store up what you do not need when he is going in want? You have too much and he has too little. You say, “Well, that is life in the world.” But Jesus says, “That is not life in the church.” The church is not going to be like this. The church must be a place in which nobody has ‘want’ - that my excess will supply the need of someone who does not have enough. This is the principle.
The Challenge Of Faith: Give To Those In Need In Obedience To God
Here we begin to see where the challenge of faith is. Faith involves obedience to God, and God commands us to love one another. It is so easy to say, “I love my brother and my sister.” We think that love means that I put on a smile for him and I shake his hand; that is loving him. But the Bible tells us that that is not loving him. A non-Christian also smiles and shakes your hand whether he may be concerned about your need. So the Lord Jesus tells us in Lk. 18:22, “If you want to have treasure in heaven, I will tell you how you get it. You take your surplus and your excess and you convert it to help somebody in need: your brother and your sister. If your brother and sister do not have any need, if nobody in the church has any need, then help the non-Christian outside. He also is in need. He also is deserving of your help.” We do not love only fellow Christians; we love anyone who is in need. That is the scriptural teaching, including our enemy. That is the way you will have treasure in heaven.
Do you see what I mean by the test of faith? When the Lord Jesus tests our faith, He says, “You think it is easy to obey My teaching? You think that to get to heaven is an easy business? Well, I am going to tell you now, this is what I require you to do. I am going to see whether you really have faith or not, whether you are prepared to obey My words or not.” So Jesus tests our faith. He puts our faith to the test. [He says,] “You think going to heaven is easy, getting eternal life is easy, being saved is easy, being Jesus’ disciple is easy, that all we have to say is: ‘I believe in Jesus’?” Oh no, Jesus is not superficial. If Christians are superficial and preachers are superficial, Jesus is never superficial. We can thank God for that. He looks at us, and He says, “You say you have faith in Me? All right, go out and love your brother.” You say, “Hey, how do I do this?” He says, “Do you see that he needs a pair of shoes? Get him, buy him a pair of shoes.” You say, “Hey, hey, since when is his problem my problem? Since when have I been my brother’s keeper?”
The problem is, when we say, “Love one another,” it means exactly this, that we become our brother’s keeper. His need is my problem. That is what loving one another means, if it has any meaning at all. And you say, “Well, no. This business of becoming a Christian is getting too expensive. Do you mean I have to buy his shoes for him? Huh! No, no, no.” That is the practical nature of Jesus’ teaching. But if you want treasure in heaven, then do not say Jesus did not tell you how to get it. He has told you! Maybe you do not like the way [to do it], but that is the way He told you.
What Does ‘Do Not Store Up’ Mean? What Constitutes ‘Storing’?
At this point, I want to examine in some depth a number of questions which are very important, in order not to be in any way superficial. And it is very important to understand this teaching of the Lord Jesus correctly. Have we understood the words of Jesus correctly here? Does Jesus mean what He says? When He says, “Do not store up treasures on earth”, does He mean what He says or not? Well, when did Jesus never mean, ever not mean what He is saying? When Jesus says, “Do not store up treasure,” is there any other way to understand it? Could you tell me, is there another way to understand His words? I cannot see. Can you think of another idea? I would be interested if you could tell me when it says, “Not to store up treasure on earth” means something different. Maybe it means to store up a little bit of treasure on earth, hmm? You see, we do not want to face the full force of Jesus’ words. It makes us uncomfortable, doesn’t it? The responsibility of a preacher is to tell you what Jesus says. I have not skipped this passage because I know it is going to make many people uncomfortable.
Now we have to look at Jesus’ teaching and face it honestly. It speaks to me as much as it speaks to you. But then we must ask the next question, and it is this: What constitutes storing? If you are going to face me with a spiritual challenge, I am willing to face the challenge. But what is meant by storing? Storing means, of course, putting something in the safe that we have already mentioned. I think that is not very difficult to understand. But what constitutes storing? Storing is that part of our income that we do not really need, that part of our possessions that we do not need. You can store what you do not need. You cannot store what you need. What you need, you have to use. You store only that section of your income that you do not need. Supposing you get $3,000 a month, to use an illustration, and you only need for the whole month’s supply - of all your payments of your electric bill or gas bill and telephone bill, whatever bills - you only need to use $1,000. You have a surplus of $2,000. That surplus of $2,000 is what you can store. You do not need that money. That is your economic fat, if you like. Store it away; you do not have to use it. So, there is no question about anything difficult here to understand what Jesus means by storing.
The Challenge Of Faith: We Are Not To Store Up To Secure Our Future
But you may say, “Well, what I do not need today does not mean that I may not need tomorrow.” That is to say, “Okay, my needs for this month are met, and next month are met, but maybe one day I am going to be sick. You have to be practical. When I am sick, I may face the doctor’s bill of $2,000 or $5,000. I have to find the money from somewhere. So I have to store it up for a rainy day.” You see, here we try to get around the Lord’s teaching. But that is storing up, is it not? And Jesus, whether we like it or not, says, “You have to use what you need now, but you do not store up, because storing up, by its very definition, is for the future.” Of course, you do not need that $2,000 now, but you store it up for the future. But storing up is always for the future. Since when did you store up something for today? The very definition of storing up is for the future. It is precisely this that Jesus does not allow. Is it not so? Is it not very plain?
Now that is where I said is the challenge of faith. It cuts at the very foundation of our faith. It leaves us insecure. You see, what we store is what is our security. In fact the English word, ‘security’ means what we have stored up for the future. And God takes away our security! We have no security. Does that not make you feel uncomfortable? You have no security left. How do you think about it? Do you think Jesus’ teaching is impractical now? Do you see? What do you think? [Do you think:] “Maybe Jesus is healthy; He never gets sick. He never needs a doctor. I am sick. I get sick. I need the doctor, you see. I have to store up something for the rainy day.” Well, you please yourself. I am just telling you what Jesus said. I am not telling you what I think. What is my opinion is of no value. But look at Jesus’ words. He faces us with the future and with the challenge of faith that removes all our earthly security. Is that not so? Is it not very plain, brothers and sisters?
He does not allow us to trust in any earthly security. He leads us only, in this challenge of faith, to become totally dependent on God. If you become sick, Jesus is saying to you, “You are going to be dependent on God; no security to fall back on.” Does your faith stand up to that? Are you willing to cope with that? You say you have faith? Then Jesus wants to look at it. How is that for a test? A test! These words of Jesus test you at the point where it is painful, isn’t it? You say, why did I come today to this church and listen to this message? I was feeling so happy until now. And now you take all my security away. Well, brothers and sisters, I do apologize, but I am not the one that is saying all this. I am telling you and you can examine for yourself if this is not what Jesus is saying. Not me!
Make God Our Security
So here Jesus puts our faith to the solid test. We want to store up for our security. Jesus says, “I do not allow you to have security. Your security is going to be Me! I am your security. Am I good enough? If you do not trust Me in this life, how can you trust Me for eternity? You do not trust Me for a bowl of rice or for your physical needs, your medical needs? How do you know I am reliable when it comes to the matter of eternal life?” Have you ever thought about that?
How do you know Jesus’ word is true that you are going to have eternal life? How do you know? You do not know! It is because you do not know whom you have believed. But if you know whom you have believed, if you trust Him for eternity, do you not trust Him for the few years of your life on earth? There you can see why the non-Christians say to you, “Hypocrite! You say you believe in God? I guarantee you do not believe in God.” And they are right. You dare not trust Him for the few years of your life, but you trust Him for eternity? Oh, no, no. Now you see what I mean: the challenge of faith. Jesus turns on His spiritual x-rays and looks into your life and He sees whether you believe in Him or not.
So then, let us consider what the Lord Jesus has said to us. He is examining our faith. And we are building a church with people in it whose faith can stand up to examination. Thus, those people who do not wish to be put through this kind of a spiritual x-raying Sunday by Sunday, of course, they will look for another church. They will go to a church where you have a very short message, where you do not need to sit on a hard bench for one-and-a-half hours. After that grueling session where you did not even have the relief of one or two nice soloists to sing a nice song for you, after one-and-a-half hours, you say, “Oh, no, no, no. After this I feel so… the word of Jesus has made me so uncomfortable. I’ll look for another church where I can hear some nice stories. Twenty minutes and it is over. You have a nice few songs from a beautiful choir. And you guys do not even have a choir! Then after this, oh yes, I know where to go.” Okay, that is fine with me. But I am aiming to preach the Word of God. If not one person wants to hear the Word, it is okay with me. I am going to preach the Word of God as Jesus wants me to preach it. In the end, I know that this church will be full of people only of that kind of people who are not afraid to be spiritually x-rayed, who really mean business with God. And then we are going to have a church built on a solid foundation.
So then, we see that Jesus has challenged our faith. Jesus has examined our faith and said, “Is your trust in Me or in your earthly security?” How do you answer that question? I will not be surprised that the majority of us of those here are going to confess, “Well, I believe in God and I believe in the earthly security. I am going to have both. I am going to make sure that I have a road to retreat on. If God does not help me out in my difficulty, at least I can get back on my earthly security.” And that you call faith! That is faith according to your definition. Little wonder the world looks at the church, and says, “Oh, dear me. This kind of people say they believe in God.” In what way do you believe in God?
I Know Whom I Have Believed
Thus, we see that God puts our faith through this test. He wants to examine us, whether or not we are going to trust in Him for our need, or we are going to trust in earthly security. I share with you that when I preach this Word of God to you, I am not blowing hot air. I have tested this Word of God. Otherwise, I have no right to preach it. I know whom I have believed. I have staked my physical life on Him for years, and how He has supplied all my needs! In China, for those three years, how many times I got up in the morning not knowing where I was going to get my lunch - never mind breakfast; I never had breakfast! To this day I do not eat breakfast. I have no habit to eat breakfast anymore. Everyday I looked to God, and I said, “Lord, here is Your child. I do not know where I am going to get my lunch, my food. But you are my Father. I look to You for my supply.” And never once did He fail me. How many years I lived in England, and the English government, because I am a Chinese citizen, would never allow me to work. And yet, God supplied all my needs. Do you think I did not want to work? Sure, I wanted to work. But God would not allow me. He was going to teach me this lesson, year after year after year, right through college, through university. In everything God supplied all my needs. I look only to Him! My God can be trusted.
There are amazing things that He does. When I was going to come to Europe from Hong Kong - when I came out of China, I stopped for a short time in Hong Kong - how was I going to get to Europe? I had no money. The Chinese government allowed me to take out ten Chinese dollars. How far does ten Chinese dollars get me in Hong Kong? I do not remember what was the exchange rate at that time, but I think it was maybe twenty or thirty Hong Kong dollars. How was I going to live in Hong Kong, never mind to get to Europe? And yet God, when I prayed and I waited upon Him, made one thing clear to me, “I am going to take you to Europe. I want you to go there.”
Thus, I did all kinds of things. I looked for a job because I know that Christians do not sit there and wait for the food to drop down. The birds do not open their mouths for the food to drop out of the sky. You speak about the birds. The birds go around to look for the food. Sure they do! God never taught us to be lazy. Laziness is a first-rate crime in the Christian life. I had unfortunately dismissed one of my co-workers in England because of laziness. We do not tolerate laziness. Thus, we find that God wants us to work and do our part. But God has a way of teaching us to trust in Him. And so I looked for jobs and I got some, but none of them were the right ones. None of them would have allowed me to earn enough for me to get very far.
A mission school offered me one hundred and sixty Hong Kong dollars. Imagine how you are going to live on that. I got another very good job that offered me near to a thousand dollars a month, Hong Kong dollars, that is, at that time, which was a long time ago. But the Lord would not allow me to take it, [since] they wanted somebody who was permanent, and as a Christian, I felt I had to be honest with them; I told them that I would not be permanent. Now in Hong Kong where there was so much unemployment, of course, the ideal job was a permanent job. And yet, here was I who only could work for a year because God wanted me to go to Europe. So I said, “I am a Christian. I will tell you honestly, I am going to work only for one year.” And so they asked me to reconsider, and if I did not reconsider, I could not have the job.
Having gone through this, I went on to the ships to talk to the captain, to say, “Look, can you give me a job as a cabin boy, [or to] sweep the deck, work in the kitchen or in the engine room - whatever you like? I would like to go to Europe.” Some of them were very kind, but they said, “Look, we have a full complement of crew; we cannot take you.”
But God made a wonderful way! Through all these things, He had always to teach me. You know what God did beyond all my expectation? He spoke to a woman in America. I think I shared this with some of you before. He spoke to her in her time of prayer, and said, “I want you to go to Hong Kong.” She said, “What for?” He said, “You go there first and I will tell you then.” God always leads one step at a time. She came to Hong Kong saying, “What does the Lord want me to do here?” She is quite a wealthy woman. Finally, the Lord made it plain to her. Her job was to get my passage, pay my passage to Europe, and then her job would be finished. She came all the way from America - from Portland, Oregon in the United States - to Hong Kong to fix my fare, my passage to Europe. On the day I got on the ship, the next day she flew back to the States, and said, “Praise God! Now I know what God sent me here to do.” I thought to myself at that time, “Isn’t it amazing? Could it be that there was nobody in Hong Kong who could hear God’s voice, that God had to send somebody over from Portland, Oregon, all the way from the other part of the world, to do this one job?” From that time afterward, I never received any supply from her but just to do that one job - to send me to Europe. Isn’t that amazing? God took me out of Shanghai to Hong Kong and brought a person from America over to Hong Kong to send me to Europe. It is only when you know God’s way.
There is much more to it than that and I have to be very brief right now. When you know God’s way, you know He never fails. If He tells you to do something, He is going to see that you get it done if you are willing to walk with Him. God can be trusted. But if you never start, how do you know that He can be trusted? What is your faith based on? Now Jesus is challenging you: “Trust Me to supply your needs.” You have a family to look after? Sure you do. So does the preacher. Some people seem to forget that preachers also have families. Thus, God supplies their every need.
Breaking A Principle Of Life Endangers Your Life
Is this then a commandment of the Lord that we may not store up treasure on earth? It is not a legal commandment. Jesus did not say, “I legally forbid you, under a moral law, that you may not store up treasure on earth.” You store up treasure on earth? This means you have not technically sinned. You have not technically sinned because it is not a commandment, a moral commandment in terms of law, in a legal sense. Then you may say, “Well, that is fine then. In that case I do not have to obey it. That is fine. I am feeling good now.” Not so fast! What is not a legal law is nonetheless important because here we are dealing with the principle of life.
Now you may not break a law, but you have violated a principle of life. And when you violate a principle of life, you threaten your life as much as breaking any law; in fact, even worse. Breaking a law may not cost your life. Breaking a parking law may mean some dollars taken away in a fine. That is not very serious. But breaking a principle of life endangers your life and your eternal existence, in this case. So, for example, there is no law which forbids you to smoke. But you know that smoking endangers your lungs. It increases the probability that you are going to get lung cancer and you are going to get a heart attack. So every time you smoke, what happens? Do the police come and grab you? No, it is because you have not broken any law. But does that mean that you are safe? Not at all! It is because you have done something that violates the principle of physical life. You are doing something dangerous. The same would be true of alcohol, of drugs, of all these things, none of which, [is illegal]. Say, in the case of alcohol, there is nothing illegal about drinking the strongest thing you can get a hold of. No police will come to grab you if you go to the shop and buy fifty bottles of the most powerful drink. There is no law against it. But if you drink that thing down, you have broken a principle of life. You endanger your life.
Prove Him As the Living God
So then Jesus is teaching us the principle of life: how to walk with God, how to come to know that He is the living God. He is giving you the challenge. I have said before it is not God who is afraid of the challenge; it is we who back out. He says, “Prove Me and see. I will never fail you in your physical needs if you are obedient to Me. You do what I tell you to do, and I will do My part.” Isn’t that a fair test? Everybody says I want to be able to prove that God’s Word is true. God gives you the chance to prove it. Go ahead and try. My God never fails. I know this to be true. May God speak to each one of our hearts!
(c) 2012 Christian Disciples Church