Meanderings

God’s Excellent Gift – Matthew 6:19-21

I remember Thanksgiving weekend of 1988 like it was yesterday.  I asked Cindy to marry me and we journeyed to our parents’ homes to ask permission/blessing for our marriage.  I also remember taking a significant portion of my student aid money for that year and investing in a rock and a piece of gold to mark that moment as a sign that I was more than a little in love with Cindy.  Nine years later when I had finished paying off my student loan I gave thanks for the books they had bought, my work with an archaeological dig in Caesarea Maritima, a class on the culture of Puerto Rico for Cindy, and most importantly, that ring was now hers!  That sign of our love was no longer on borrowed resources.

Jesus says in today’s lesson (Matthew 6:19-21), "Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (6:21).  I have often ignored the fundamental logic of those ten words.  Essentially its this, look at your stuff, what you treasure, what you hold dear, where you spend your money, what you buy at the Stuff-Mart, what you accumulate … and you will know where your heart is.  And when I look around at my stuff I am blown away.

Twenty years ago I stepped off a plane after eighteen months in
Kenya saying to myself: "I have learned to live with little, to depend
on little, and I know what Paul means when he says "God is no respecter
of persons" (Acts 10:34, KJV).  I owned four pair of pants, four
shirts, two safari suits, three pair of shoes, carried my possessions
in two duffel bags, and I owe no one anything!  I said to myself,
"Self, if any man or woman tells you what you have to have to marked
successful … just shake the dust off your feet and walk in another
direction."

Two years ago my family moved to Pinehurst with tens of pairs of
shoes, multiple closets overflowing with clothes, furniture to fill a
house (despite having lived in parsonages for the previous eight
years), and my library – over 50 boxes of books.  So when I survey the
wondrous stuff that I have sacrificed my life energy for in big and
small ways … I know what I treasure.

Our newly begun journey of reading through Bishop Reuben Job’s A Wesleyan Spiritual Reader takes into dangerous territory today. Bishop Job invites us to consider John Wesley’s advice on the appropriate use of money as contained in excerpts from his standard sermon "On the Use of Money". The Old Man, as Wesley’s preachers lovingly called him behind his back, suggests that three basic rules on our handling of money suffice:

  • Gain all you can …
  • Save all you can …
  • Give all you can ….

I invite you to go on line and read his sermon following the links at my weblog. Here you will see a passionate man trying to help his people come to grips with their new found wealth. You see, the fruit of the disciplined life of the early Methodist movement was a people who avoided the money traps of the modern industrial world … the myriad of trifles or trivialities that you and I are invited to exchange our hard earned dollars for in order to acquire a moment’s pleasure. By avoiding these traps they begin to accumulate stuff … and the Old Man was horrified!

He had gone to Oxford with an annual stipend of 28 pounds.  He carefully budgeted his money, lived on 25 pounds, and gave the rest to the poor.  In his second year his stipend increased to 56 pounds, lived on 25 pounds, and gave the rest to the poor.  In his third year he received 84 pounds in stipend, lived on 25 pounds, and gave the rest to the poor.  And in his final year as a student, he received a stipend of 112 pounds, lived on 25 pounds, and gave the rest to the poor. The Old Man knew how to pinch a penny – frugality was not a dirty word in his vocabulary – and he saw his people forgetting that everything belonged to God.  Christians should understand that we own nothing … we are only God’s trustees of the gifts and resources placed in our care.

Today, I want us to consider this question from another vantage point if we can. The first portion of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount concludes with these words: "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Matthew 5:38). Today’s lesson finds Jesus explaining himself … what does it mean to be perfect?  Jesus says with regard to your heart, your faith is evidenced by where you place your treasure. Permit me to be bold enough this morning to ask about God’s heart for a few moments.  Where does God’s heart find treasure as Matthew tells his story of the Good News of Jesus Christ (the Gospel)?

  • God chooses Mary to bear his only-begotten son.
  • Jesus calls fishermen – James and John, Simon and Andrew – as his first disciples.
  • Jesus calls a tax collector named Matthew to follow him.
  • Jesus encounters a rich young ruler and says if you want to be perfect – to receive heavenly treasure – then sell your earthly treasure and give it to the poor and follow in the Way.
  • Jesus is crucified between two thieves.

God sends Jesus to hang out with the first and the least, the fast and the last, and the found as well as the lost.  God shows where his heart lies … God shows through Jesus what is the true treasure.  Its folks like you and me. And he gives it all, including the life of his only-begotten Son for us.

And in response to that great love what can we say or do? 

 

Definition of "Treasure" (thesauros) from Strong’s Concordance:

  • the place in which good and precious things are collected and laid up
    • a casket, coffer, or other receptacle, in which valuables are kept
    • a treasury
    • storehouse, repository, magazine
  • the things laid up in a treasury, collected treasures

"Treasure" (thesauros) in Matthew’s Gospel (King James Version):

  • And
    when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary
    his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened
    their treasures, they presented  unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh (2:11).
  • Lay not up for yourselves  treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves  treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your  treasure  is, there will your heart be also (6:19-21).
  • A good man out of the good  treasure  of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil  treasure  bringeth forth evil things (12:35).
  • Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto  treasure
    hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy
    thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field (13:44).
  • Then
    said he unto them, Therefore every scribe which is instructed unto the
    kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which
    bringeth forth out of his treasure  things new and old (13:52).
  • Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have  treasure  in heaven: and come and follow me (19:21).

Definition of "Heart" (kardia) from Strong’s Concordance:

  • the heart
    • that organ in the animal body which is the centre of the
      circulation of the blood, and hence was regarded as the seat of
      physical life
    • denotes the centre of all physical and spiritual life
    • the vigour and sense of physical life
    • the centre and seat of spiritual life
      • the soul or mind, as it is the fountain and seat of the thoughts,
        passions, desires, appetites, affections, purposes, endeavours
      • of the understanding, the faculty and seat of the intelligence
      • of the will and character
      • of the soul so far as it is affected and stirred in a bad way
        or good, or of the soul as the seat of the sensibilities, affections,
        emotions, desires, appetites, passions
    • of the middle or central or inmost part of anything, even though inanimate

"Heart" (kardia) in Matthew’s gospel (King James Version):

  • Blessed are the pure in  heart: for they shall see God (5:8).
  • But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his  heart (5:28).
  • For where your treasure is, there will your  heart  be also (6:21).
  • And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, Wherefore think ye evil in your  hearts (9:4).
  • Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in  heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls (11:29).
  • O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the  heart  the mouth speaketh. A good man out of the good treasure of the  heart  bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things (12:34-35).
  • For as Jonas was three
    days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be
    three days and three nights in the heart  of the earth (12:40).
  • For this people’s  heart
    is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they
    have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear
    with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them (13:15).
  • When any one heareth the
    word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked
    one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side  (13:19).
  • This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their  heart  is far from me (15:8).
  • But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the  heart; and they defile the man. For out of the  heart  proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies (15:18-19):
  • So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your  hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses (18:35).
  • Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy  heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind (22:37).
  • But and if that evil servant shall say in his  heart, My lord delayeth his coming (24:48);

One thought on “God’s Excellent Gift – Matthew 6:19-21

  1. Allen,
    Your sermon posted above is wonderful as usual. I’m sorry I had to miss it. I’m also sorry I missed you on Tuesday. See you Sunday.

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