Life is a series of choices about what we value.
What do you value? What about me? I like the advice in Matthew 6:19
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
This is a challenging, powerful teaching. It is a good word about our hearts
In Matthew 6, Jesus is challenging you and me with a provocative question, “Where is your heart?”
Jesus says our heart is where our treasures is.
This week Tasia, my office manger and I worked on the REFINERY Church youth center. We bought wood, and paint, and furniture.
We assembled a big black farm table and bench we bought for the youth. We carried out trash. We nailed some decorative wood on the walls. On Friday, we swept the floor, so the youth could have an nice environment for their Sunday group.
You could say, what we bought and worked on is the stuff that rots. The room and it’s furniture will age over time. The youth will sit on that new table, stand on that table, jump on that table. They will break the windows with game balls. They will trash that room!
But remodeling the youth center isn’t about the stuff, it is about valuing young people, loving our youth, creating a safe attractive space for them, about attracting more of them to church so they can know God.
That matters. They matter. That they have a good place to meet matters.
They are the treasure that we use our treasure for. This is what Jesus is teaching in Matthew 6. Keep straight on what the treasure is. Treasure the true treasure, not the lesser treasure.
If we treasure only temporary stuff that rots, stuff that people steal, stuff that goes up and down in value — cars, clothes, food, houses, money, although those aren’t bad — if we put them in the center of our hearts, then our hearts will be filled with insecurity.
The recent great recession, 2007 to 2009, showed us how insecure our earthly treasure is.
But If we treasures stuff that which lasts on into heaven — eternal stuff like young people, all people, Christian community, virtue, beauty, love, God himself — then our hearts will be secure, for these things were made to last.
Ecclesiastes 3:11 says, He [God] has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart.
God has put eternity in us. God has set a desire for what lasts in us. Our souls are eternal, our hearts are eternal, the kingdom of God is eternal. The Bible is clear on this, go for the gold Christians. Pursue what lasts!
Question. Hard question. One Christians have always struggled with.
Does God hate stuff? Is God anti-material? Does God hate earth? Does only heaven have value?
No, no, no. That is not what Jesus is saying here.
The church fathers, our best theologians, the famous historic church councils, the best Christian thinkers have always answered:God loves his creation, God loves nature, God loves earth — in fact heaven will be a new earth. God loves humans, and God loves buildings that his people can be safe in, live in and worship in.
God himself oversaw the building of the beautiful Jewish temple.
In fact I think our need and longing for a place to worship, and a safe place to live is our longing for heaven. It is the old Gnostic heresy that God hates evil flesh and evil material things and that only heaven and spirit are good. That is heresy. It is false.
The whole book of Matthew is about Jesus healing bodies, feeding crowds, loving humans, honoring the temple, teaching with examples from creation.
NT Wright puts it well, “God’s plan is not to abandon this world, the world which he said was ‘very good.’ Rather, he intends to remake it.”
The beautiful thing of this world, nature, flowers, bodies, the beautiful accomplishments of human beings, art, music, literature, dance, our God loves and revels in these things and they are part of the kingdom of God and they will be a part of heaven.
In Matthew 6, Jesus isn’t directing us to be weirdly anti-material and super-spiritual, he is directing us to wrap our hearts around kingdom values, around what is most important:
People, not money
God, not stuff
The body of Christ, not our separated individual lives.
Jesus us saying, “I really care about your hearts. I want them to choose the best things. Matthew 6:19 is Proverbs 4:23, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the well spring of life.”
In my family, when it comes to technology we use Apple products.
Once, my daughter’s Apple device was stolen by a participant in her day program. But we had turned on the app Find My IPhone on the device. So we saw where the IPod went.
It was in Santee. At a shopping mall. Then a house. We contacted the director of her program. He knew the student who lived in Santee. The director called the mom. Surprise! Your son has a stolen iPod. Busted!
The iPod was guarded and protected by it’s finding app and it’s GPS system.
In a similar way, guard your heart. Turn on the GPS in your heart. Watch where your heart goes. Protect it, don’t let it get stolen away by temporary things, by keeping it focused on that which lasts.
Jesus was so serious about this, he came at it again in Matthew 6:22
Matthew 6:22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!”
24 “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”
Jesus is very confrontational here, very strong. The over-valuing of the kingdom of the world can darken our eyes, and darken our hearts, master and rule us.
Money can rule us. And keep us insecure.
How do we avoid this?
How to keep I keep my eye healthy? How do I serve the right master? How do I guard my heart?
Three simple ways.
1. Put the most important things first.
Put God first, not money.
Put people first, not things.
I like things. I have things. But to keep myself balanced, every month I give money to support a missionary, every month I pay for children’s education in TJ, every month I pay for my parents food at their rest home, every month I give generously to my church.
I tend toward being materialistic, but I purposefully counter this by choosing to use a significant portion of my money for eternal things.
2. To guard your heart, invest in the kingdom.
Invest in people. Invest in friends, invest in youth, and children and old people too.Place the value of relationships higher than the value of material things.
Use your time to stop and talk to people. Build up your relationships at church.Use your house or apartment for hospitality.Use your personal skills to volunteer.
Invest in your kids. Invest in family. Spend more time with them that with stuff. If you are a leader in the church, mentor someone, apprentice someone, disciple someone. Build into the life of a younger person
3. Finally, thirdly, go beyond using money for God. Use your skills for God.
N. T. Wright again gets at this perfectly, “What you do in the present—by painting, preaching, singing, sewing, praying, teaching, building hospitals, digging wells, campaigning for justice, writing poems, caring for the needy, loving your neighbor as yourself— that will last into God’s future.
These activities are not simply ways of making the present life a little less beastly, a little more bearable, until the day when we leave it behind altogether.They are part of what we may call building for God’s kingdom.”
Here is how we have good hearts. Here is how we have secure hearts.
We remain clear on what the treasure is.
We put up-and-down things second, and we put lasting, eternal things first.