Matthew chapter 6, and I would like to read again for you verses 19 through 21, and also verse 24. Our Lord is speaking in this great sermon on the mount. In chapter 6 and verse 19, He says, "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in or steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."
Then verse 24, "No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will hold to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money."
Someone said a few years ago that he had never seen a hearse pulling a U-Haul. And there's a lot of truth in that statement. We say very often in our culture, "You can't take it with you." But the fact of the matter is, there is one group of people who can take it with them.
Contrary to popular opinion, Christians can take it with them. We alone on the face of the earth can literally take our riches to heaven with us. Better yet, we can deposit it there before we ever arrive. Jesus called it "laying up treasure in heaven."
And what He was talking about was using your money, your possessions, in such a way that they produce eternal dividends. On one occasion, Jesus said you ought to use your money to purchase friends who will welcome you into heaven. What an amazing thought, that we could use our money to purchase friends who would give us an eternal welcome into heaven.
It is true, the only people who get to take it with them are Christians. All the rest will leave it here. Furthermore, even Christians will have to leave here what they placed here. Did you understand that? Whatever treasure you put in earth, you will leave here. Whatever treasure you put in heaven, you will take with you. It'll be there to welcome you when you arrive, and you will enjoy an eternity of blessing flowing out from that eternal treasure.
Now, we're talking about investing in eternity. And certainly it should be basic to any Christian's thinking to understand that the spiritual is more important than the fleshly, that the heavenly is more important than the earthly, and that the eternal is more important than the temporal. What you do with material substance on earth in time is not as important as what you do with spiritual substance in heaven for eternity.
We are to set our affections, says the Bible, on things above and not on things on the earth. We are to consider ourselves here as aliens and strangers and pilgrims passing through who have no real dwelling place here but are looking for a city whose builder and maker is God.
Now, one of the best ways I know of, if not the best way, to determine a person's heart, is to find out where their treasure is, because wherever they're investing their treasure is where their heart is going to be. If they're investing it in spiritual and eternal and heavenly things, then their heart will be there. If they're investing it in earthly, temporal and passing things, then their heart will be here in this world.
So the question that Jesus raises here is, where is your heart? And if you want to know the answer, where is your money? That will lead you to the answer.
We would assume, I think, as Christians, that our Christianity would be utterly incompatible with materialism, wouldn't we? I mean, how could a true Christian have a materialistic mindset when we of all people know that this whole world is going to be consumed, and everything that's part of it? How could we possibly spend our lives amassing and accumulating what will be burned up, or what will be left to our children and perhaps to their children and to their children until the Lord does that devastation?
How can we say we are Christians and be concerned about earthly possessions? It's a very basic question. It's so basic that the Bible says, "Be content with clothing and food and let God take care of the rest." It's so basic that Paul says, "Godliness with contentment is all the gain you need." It's so basic that we should understand the great spiritual principle, "My God shall supply all your needs," and live in the light of that.
But we get trapped in this materialistic world. And isn't it strange, listen to this, isn't it strange that the philosophy of the world is, you can't take it with you? They're telling you that up front. That's good theology. "You can't take it with you" is their motto.
On the other hand, the Bible is telling you as a Christian, you can take it with you. How ridiculous to stockpile it with the folks who can't take it, when you know the revelation of the Word of God that you can lay up treasure in heaven.
There should never be, there should never be a lack of resources for the work of God. Never. We as Christians should be moving as rapidly and as decisively as we possibly can to invest in eternity if we're thinking at all in a Christian fashion.
Now, we're looking at this matter of investing in eternity as Christians from some very basic viewpoints. Last time, we talked about the right to possess money. God has given us the right to possess money and things. In fact, He "has given us all things richly to enjoy," it says in I Timothy 6.
God has promised to supply all our needs, food, clothing and that. And God has even promised to bless us so that we might enjoy the bounty of His creation. God does not want us destitute. That's why the psalmist said he had never seen the Lord's people begging bread. If we are faithful to God, and if we belong to Him, He wants us to enjoy His creation and His provision.
We also learned that all money and all things belong to God, and He doles it out in different proportions to different people for His own sovereign purposes. But He's also designed that the process by which He grants that to us is sort of three-fold.
We used three words: work, save, plan. If you work, God has designed, you should earn money. If you save, God has designed, you can earn money. If you plan carefully, God has designed, you can keep and wisely use your resources.
So God has given us the right to possess money. We went through that in some detail. Now, today I want to take you a step further. Going beyond the right to possess money, let's talk about the way to regard money. What is to be our attitude toward money?
Now, simply stated, it goes like this. We're not to love it. That's the negative side. We've not to love it. Our attitude toward money is, we are not to love it. In Ecclesiastes 5:10-11, the preacher writes, "He who loves money will not be satisfied with money." I remember someone asking John D. Rockefeller how much money it would take to make him happy. He said, "Just a little bit more."
He who loves money will not be satisfied with money. There's never enough for the one who loves it. In fact, that same text says, "When good things increase, those who consume them increase." Have you noticed that? Have you noticed as your income grows, your bills increase? And there are more and more and more people to consume your money.
You decide, "I'm going to get a bigger house." All of a sudden, you have bigger maintenance problems. You have a bigger yard. It's correct in Ecclesiastes. "When good things increase, those who consume them increase as well."
Then it says, "So what is the advantage to their owners except to look on?" So you have all that money, so what do you do? You have this unbelievable problem of trying to manage it and oversee all of it. You basically watch it slip through your fingers.
Loving money leads to all kinds of hurtful things, Paul said to Timothy, all kinds of destructive things. So, basic attitude, we are not to love it.
Proverbs 28:20 says, "He that makes haste to be rich shall not be innocent." If you love money and you chase money, you'll corrupt yourself. There's no way to avoid it. You can't maintain purity, integrity, honesty, righteousness and innocence if you are pursuing money. The love of money indeed is the root of all kinds of evil.
Loving money is a very common thing, very common. But the people who love money are not really the kind of group that you and I should want to be identified with. Going back in Scriptural times, there was a man by the name of Achan. Achan loved money. He loved money to the extent that he disobeyed God, he brought defeat on Israel's army and he brought death to himself and his entire family, because of the love of money.
And then there was Balaam. Balaam loved money. And because he loved money he violently and overtly sinned against God in cursing God's people. And then there was Delilah. Delilah loved money, and because of money she betrayed Samson and ultimately was responsible indirectly for the slaughter of thousands of her own people.
And then there was Ananias and his wife Sapphira who loved money, and, because they loved money, they became the first hypocrites in the church, and God executed them as a testimony against their misuse of money, against their selfishness, against their deceit and against their hypocrisy.
And then capping that little list off was Judas. Judas loved money to the degree that he sold Jesus Christ for money. Now, that's a frankly fairly ugly group of associates. It's a wrong attitude toward money. It's destructive, damaging.
Now, how does the love of money affect people? Let me give you a list. I think I'll give you about a dozen ways it affects people. Very practical.
Number one. First of all, love of money leads people to forget God. It leads people to forget God. In Proverbs chapter 30, verses 8 and 9, you have a section of Scripture that was not written by Solomon, whom we assume wrote the Proverbs, but a section that was written by Agur. And Agur wrote these verses while watching Solomon basically ruin his life because of the love of money.
And as he watched Solomon destroy himself over money, this is what he said to God. "Give me neither poverty nor riches. Feed me with the food that is my portion." Lord, don't give me any more than you want me to have. Don't give me any less than you want me to have. I just want what you want me to have. "Don't give me any more lest I be full and deny you and say, 'Who is the Lord?'" There it is.
Don't give me any more money than I need, because, if you do, I'll forget you. I'll be so full and so satisfied that in effect I'll say, "Who's the Lord?" I mean, I forgot Him long ago. Who do you mean? Who's He? I'll be so smug and so self-possessed and so self-accomplished. Please don't do that to me. Don't give me more than I need, or I'll forget you.
Yes, the love of money and the pursuit of money causes people to forget God. You don't need God. You've done it all.
Secondly, the love of money leads people not only to forget God, but to stop trusting God. What's there to trust Him for? What's there to trust Him for? Proverbs 11:28 says, and this is a paraphrase, trust in your money and down you go. Trust in God and flourish like a tree. There you are. You want to trust money? Down you go. You want to trust God? Flourish like a tree.
Job 31, verses 34 and 38, Job writes, "If I have put my trust in money, if my happiness depends on wealth, it would mean that I had denied the God of heaven." Beloved, do you hear that? He says, "If I trusted in my money, I would be in fact denying the God of heaven. I would be saying, 'I don't need you, God. I've got a bank account that'll cover me. I don't need to trust you for anything, because I'm covered.'"
That's why Paul said to Timothy to tell the rich people not to trust in uncertain riches, I Timothy 6:17-19, because you stop trusting God. What do you need God for? You show me a man who has only the bare necessities of life and who has to pray every day, "Lord, give us this day our daily bread," and I'll show you a man who trusts God.
You show me a man who's got it all stockpiled, and I'll show you a man who doesn't trust God. Why would he trust God? What does he need from God? He has assumed that money is everything, and he has that.
Thirdly, people who love money not only forget God, stop trusting God, but, thirdly, people who love money are led to be deceived. They are led to be deceived. Money is a deceiver. Do you remember in Mark 4:19, in the parable that talks about the deceitfulness of riches?
Money is a liar. Money is a fraud. Money is a deceiver. Because it promises it'll buy you what? Happiness. It promises I'll buy you peace of mind. It promises it'll buy you relationships. It promises it'll buy you comfort. It promises it'll give you the sense that God must be blessing you, so it buys you a certain feeling of religious righteousness. It promises all of that, and money is a liar. It is a deceiver.
Money promises it'll satisfy, promises it'll make you content, promises it'll make you comfortable, promises it'll fulfill your life. Not so. Not so. But people who love money forget God, stop trusting God and are deceived.
Fourthly, people who love money sell out. People who love money compromise virtue. Did you hear me? They compromise virtue. Inevitably, if you love money, you can be bought, plain and simple. If you love money, there's a point at which you can be bought.
Every man has his price, they say. That should never be true for a Christian. Nothing should ever cause us to compromise righteousness, to compromise a Biblical principle, no matter how much money is on the line.
And yet there are people who say they're Christians who will lie to make a sale. There are people who say they're Christians who will lie on their income tax. There are people who say they are Christians who will lie in flattering someone because they believe they can gain something.
You see, love of money makes you sell out. Someone said, "When money speaks, the truth is always silent." You see, what you are, if you love money, is a compromiser. It's just a question of the price. Right? It's just a question of where you sell out, of where your virtue stops and money takes over.
Christians shouldn't be able to be bought at any price, at any price, not the price of power, prestige, promotion in your business, none of those things, popularity. Nothing should make you sell out. But if you love money, you'll sell out. You'll compromise. You'll lie, fabricate the truth, set aside what you know is right and true and just and good.
The point at which you sell out is the point at which Matthew 6:33 no longer works in your life. "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness." The point at which you sell out, you're no longer seeking the kingdom, you're seeking money.
If somebody came to you and said, "I'll give you half a million dollars, I'll give you half a million dollars if you'll go over to this guy and tell him a lie," would you do it? "I'll give you half a million dollars if you will falsify this record. I'm going to do a business deal. I can't tell the truth. If you'll falsify the record, I'll give you half a million dollars." Would you do it? If you would, you love money. And if you love money, you can't love God.
You can't serve money and God. God says you can't lie. Money says you'd better lie if you want a half a million dollars. We'll find out where you are real fast, right? Money makes people sell out.
So loving money can cause you to forget God, stop trusting God, be deceived, sell out. Fifth, loving money causes people to rest on an unstable foundation. It causes them to build their life on shifting sand.
Proverbs 23:4-5 says, "Do not weary yourself to gain riches. Cease from your consideration of it." Stop trying to get rich. Stop it. Why? "When you set your eyes on it, it's gone. For wealth certainly makes itself wings like an eagle that flies toward the heavens." It's going to fly away. It's a very unstable foundation.
We all know the long stories of people who were accumulating and accumulating and accumulating, and they were going to put it in their sort of financial barn and eat, drink and be merry, and what happened? The barn burned down. Something went wrong. The investment went sour. They got caught in a trap. Or they found that the investment they thought was going to give them a return is consuming more and more money to keep the thing alive, because the market has changed. And on and on it goes.
Not only do you rest on an unstable foundation, but the more unstable the foundation becomes, the more it consumes your thinking and your preoccupation and the more it takes you away from the things of God.
Number six, loving money leads people to become unthankful. Loving money leads people to become unthankful. You remember back in Deuteronomy chapter 8, God said to His people, Israel, He said, "The thing that I know to be true about you is this, that when you're in the land and you have it all, and the silver is there, and the gold is there, and all that is there comes into your possession, you will forget me." What does He mean? "You'll not thank me. You will think you have gained it with your own abilities."
Typical of the materialist, the person who loves money and is materialistic-minded is ungrateful. Why? Because there's no one to thank but themselves. They are living in an illusion that they did it.
You want to understand, don't you, that it was only God's sovereignty that allowed you to be born and not be a moron? It is only God's sovereign grace that allowed you to be able to add 2 and 2. It is only God's grace that you were born in America and not in a mud puddle in some Third World country. It is only God's grace that the scenario of your life played out in a way that you didn't end up a drug addict. To be unthankful is unthinkable. But that's typical of the man or the woman who loves money.
That leads to a seventh characteristic of a lover of money. They become proud. Inevitably, they become proud. They're proud because they have attained it on their own. There's no one to thank but themselves, and they have a habit of doing that. That kind of pride is very ugly.
They flaunt their pride. Some of the very wealthy people love to be in the media. They love the attention. They want to dress in certain ways so that they call all attention to themselves, and they want to drive down the street in such a way to parade their achievement.
They want to live in houses that have absolutely no utilitarian significance whatsoever. They are a monument to pride. In fact, you can basically measure the square footage of some person's ego by finding the square footage of their home, in many cases.
But we have this proud heart that feels like it needs to flaunt itself when it is under the illusion that it has achieved greatness. You know what Proverbs 28:11 says? You say, "Well, MacArthur, you shouldn't be saying that." Listen to Proverbs 28:11. It says this. "Rich men are conceited. You hear that? Rich men are conceited.
You say, "But how do you interpret that?" That's not hard to interpret. Rich men are conceited. Well, poor people are usually what? Humble. They've got not a lot to be conceited about. The truth of the matter is, neither do rich people have a lot to be conceited about, but they misread the goodness of God.
Jeremiah 12:2 says, "Thou hast planted them. They have also taken root. They grow. They have even produced fruit." God, you did it. You put them there. You planted them. They grew. They produced fruit. But you are near their lips and far from their mind. They don't even think about you, they're so enamored with their own achievements.
That was one of the sins, by the way, which God judged against Israel. They thank God with their mouth, but their hearts give Him no credit at all.
Number eight. Number eight. Lovers of money will also rob others. They will rob others. In what way? I John 3:17 says, "Whosoever has this world's goods and sees his brother have need and shuts up his compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?" How can you say you're a Christian and see a need and not meet it? You're robbing someone.
That, too, is characteristic of lovers of money. They rob others. They rob people. He loves his money. He loves his money too much to give it away, to give it to someone else. They will indulge and indulge and indulge and overindulge and overindulge and overindulge while others are on the fringe in bare subsistence.
Number nine, and this is worse. Lovers of money will rob God. They will rob God. When Israel didn't give its offerings, and didn't bring God what was fitting, in Malachi, the prophet said to them, chapter 3, verse 8, "Will a man rob God?"
I mean, are you thinking about what you're doing? How ridiculous is that? Would you, if Jesus were around, would you take money out of His pocket? Would you rob God overtly? How foolish. "Yet you have robbed me in tithes and offerings." The lover of money robs God.
It is bad enough that the lover of money forgets God. It's bad enough that the lover of money stops trusting God. But to rob God is unthinkable, unimaginable. But if you love money, then you'll rob God. What is rightfully His, He won't get. What He wants you to give, you won't give. What He wants you to use for His glory, you won't use for His glory. So you rob Him. You rob others as well.
There's more. Four more. Number ten. Lovers of money violate human relations. They violate human relations. You show me a person who loves money, and I'll show you a person who perverts human relations. Why? Because they're consumed with their own goals and their own ends. You have a proud, conceited, indulgent, selfish, consuming, materialistic person, and I'll show you someone who can't get along with other people.
James tells us why in very, very simple and basic language. He says this, "You lust and you do not have," James 4:2, "so you commit murder." Why do you commit murder? Because you want what you don't have. You want what you don't have. You are envious, and you can't obtain it, so you fight and quarrel.
Now, you show me a person who is envious and covetous and wants things, and I'll show you a person who will use, abuse and misuse people. And when they can't get what they want, they fight and quarrel and argue and even kill people.
I told you the other day, 99 percent of all crimes committed in our country are related to sex and money, and in both cases it's usually because a person is frustrated because they can't get the person they want sexually, or they can't get the money they want. It's related to that strong desire to possess.
Number eleven. The love of money will also lead to personal discontent. The love of money will also lead to personal discontent. And I've already quoted a couple of Scriptures. I quoted from the Proverbs that very clear statement that says, "Do not weary yourself to gain riches. When you set your eyes on it, it is gone." It is gone. It's not going to give you what you want. It's not going to purchase your contentment.
Read Ecclesiastes, and read Solomon's testimony, how he says, "I had it all, and I surveyed everything that I had, and my conclusion was, vanity, vanity, all is vanity." And after a whole life of money and wealth beyond imagination he came to the end and he said, "Here's the only advice I give you. Remember your creator in the days of your youth." Point? Don't get caught up in the creation. Get caught up in the creator.
Don't be a materialist. Be a supernaturalist. That's what he says. It isn't there. Discontent, dissatisfaction, never having enough is part of loving money. I Timothy 6:6 says, "Godliness," godliness, "with contentment is great gain." Godliness with contentment, that's great gain.
Number twelve. Lovers of money have an impaired relationship to God, not only to others, not only personally, but their whole relationship to God is skewed, warped. In Ephesians 5:5, it simply says this, "Covetous people have no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God." Covetous people aren't related to God. They have no part in His kingdom.
Colossians 3:5, "Consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire and greed, which amounts to idolatry." It is a form of idol worship. And if you're worshipping an idol, then you're not worshipping wholeheartedly the true God.
And we're back to you can't serve God and money. You can't worship God and money. And, by the way, the word "serve" there is the word "worship." You can't worship God and money. So if you're into money, then you are not worshipping God properly. Your relation to Him is severely impaired.
And thirteenth, finally, loving money hinders spiritual effectiveness. It hinders spiritual usefulness or effectiveness. If you love money, you will be severely limited in your service to Christ.
Luke 16:11, "if you have not been faithful in the use of unrighteous money and riches," in other words, if you haven't been a good steward of the money God gave you, "then who will entrust the true riches to you?" What are the true riches? People, souls, ministry. If you can't handle money, why would God give you souls to lead, people to lead?
Verse 12, "If you have not been faithful in the use of that which is another's, then who will give you that which is your own?" If you can't even manage the stewardship of the money that God gave you to test your spiritual commitment, then why would He give you anything for your own, anything for you to lead, anything for you to manage, anything for you to have oversight over?
No, you can't serve God and money. And then he says in the next verse, "Now, the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, were listening to all these things and mocking Him." Beloved, I know that attitude goes on, and maybe even in some of your hearts right now. I'm saying the same thing Jesus said, and, like the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, you're scoffing at me. But this is the way it's always been. They did it to Jesus, and I'm repeating His words, and some would do it again.
Beloved, if you love money you can see what a tragic plethora of things characterize your life really or potentially. You will forget God. You still stop trusting God. You will be deceived. You will sell out at some price. You will build your life on an unstable foundation.
You will become ungrateful. You will become proud. You will rob others. You will rob God. You will develop warped relationships with other people, personal discontent, an impaired relationship to God, and you will be spiritually useless.
Bottom line, that kind of an attitude lays up nothing in heaven, nothing. And so you're going to live out the world's philosophy, you can't take it with you, and you're going to dump it in the burning bucket. You say, "What's the right attitude? What's the right attitude?" Just the opposite.
The right attitude is to see money simply as a stewardship, see it as a test. Money is a means by which you can honor God. You say, "How?" Let me give you some simple principles. Just listen. I'll just shoot them by. You don't even have to write them down, they're so obvious.
First of all, trust for God to provide. Trust in God's provision. Secondly, be content with God's provision. Thirdly, be humble about God's provision. Fourthly, be grateful for God's provision. Fifthly, use that provision for God's glory. And you've got it. That's the right attitude.
I trust you for my needs. I am content with whatever you provide. I am humble in your generosity. I am grateful for what you've given me. And I will use it for your glory.
Now, that takes me to the third major point, the way to use money. We've seen we have the right to possess it, the way to regard it. How are we to use it? I'm going to give it to you very simply, all right? And this is going to take me just a minute or two.
Here's how you're to use it. Scripture says all of this. I won't take the time to go through the Scripture. Number one, support your needs. "My God shall supply all your needs," and He does it through giving you money and resources. So use it for your needs. That's basic. Use it for your needs. That would incorporate paying your taxes, because that's one of your needs, too. You have to pay your taxes. Romans 13 is clear about that.
So you take the money God gives you and you take care of your needs. Now, you have to deal with the Lord personally as to what your needs are and what your wants are and how to balance all that out, and that's a personal thing between you and the Lord. But the first purpose God has provided you money is to support your needs.
Number two, support your family. I Timothy 5:8 says that if you don't support your own family you're worse than an unbeliever. And it's not talking about a husband supporting his wife and kids, it's talking about the extended family. It's talking about a widow in your extended family. We are to support the people around us. As God has provided for us, we take care of our needs, we take care of the needs of family.
Thirdly, support those outside our family in need, the poor, those who have nothing or have little. Support your own needs. Support your family's needs. And give to those who need charity.
Fourth, purchase, listen carefully, purchase what is spiritually beneficial. Purchase what is spiritually beneficial and works to advance the kingdom. Did you hear that? Purchase what is spiritually beneficial and works to advance the kingdom. That's it.
I have to ask that question of myself all the time. Somebody said to me, "Why don't you ride a bicycle? It's a lot cheaper than a car." Well, I have to decide whether a bicycle will be beneficial to the kingdom for me, or whether I need a car. So do you.
When it comes to purchasing a house, you have to ask yourself, "Do I need any more than a tent?" Well, would it be spiritually beneficial to the kingdom if I had a home, and, if so, what kind of home, given my family and my ministry and the opportunities I have to provide hospitality and to provide a place where the church can fellowship and share?
All of those are questions you have to ask, but the bottom line is always the same. Purchase what is spiritually beneficial and works to advance the kingdom. And God has to work that out for you in your own individual life.
Number five, give to God. There it is. That's the best summary that I can give. Support your needs, support your family's needs, support the needs of those around you who have no support, purchase what is spiritually beneficial and works to advance the kingdom and give to God. That's it. That's how to use your money.
That sum it up simply enough? So you go down your list. Does this support my needs? Yes. Does this support my family's needs? Yes. And the extended family? Yes. Does this go out to help some folks beyond my family who have need? Yes.
Am I purchasing these things on my little checkbook list here because I see how beneficial they will be to the kingdom and how they will work to advance Christ's name? And then I want to give to God. That's it.
That's how we're to think. Now, that's what your conscience ought to be telling you. Tolstoy once said that there is in everybody an antagonism, and that antagonism is between life and conscience. And, he said, that antagonism may be removed either by changing your life or changing your conscience. And most of us would opt out for changing our conscience. We have immense powers of rationalization.
Now, that brings me to the last point, the way to give money. That last little point in that five list was you're going to give money to God. Now, how do you do that? Do we do like people in the Old Testament, just give a tenth to God? Well, they gave a tenth, a tenth and a tenth every third year, so they were giving 23-1/2 percent a year, plus a temple tax, plus free will offerings. They were giving a lot more than that. But do we just start with a tenth?
How do we give? Well, let me give you some principles, okay? We've taught on this in the past, and I have a book that talks a lot about giving, and you can buy that and look it over, but let me give you some principles that are preliminary to this matter of amount and so forth. Okay?
Now, you have to follow these principles. You'll never be able to give properly, and this is the key, why? We want to invest in heaven, do we not? I mean, if we can't take it with us if we invest it here, let's invest it where we can take it with us. Let's get a U-Haul on our hearse. And when we go into the kingdom, we'll be able to take it, only if it's treasure in heaven. So here's how to lay up treasure in heaven.
Four principles. Principle number one, transfer ownership of all your money, time, possessions and earning power to God. That's a point of dedication. That's like Romans 12, presenting your body a living sacrifice and a renewed mind. Starts right there. Transfer ownership of your money, time, possessions and earning power to God. Say, "God, you have total control over everything I own, everything I possess, all the money I have and all my ability to earn money. I give you total control of that."
See, that's what the Macedonians did. II Corinthians chapter 8, "they first gave themselves." And if you don't get over that step, you'll never get to the point where you're giving and laying up treasure in heaven the way God wants you to. Never. You start here. It's a spiritual thing. It's all God's.
My money, my house, my stock, my car, my furniture, everything I possess is God's. My time is God's. My earning ability is God's. It's all His. And that's where you start.
Second principle, make the purpose of your life to advance the kingdom. Okay, all my resources, all my assets, all my possession, all my abilities are God's. And the goal of my life is to advance the kingdom, to exalt the King.
Now what am I in a position to do? Take all of my assets, possessions, time and abilities and then use them for that purpose. That's where it starts.
Your giving, folks, will reflect whether you've gone through steps one and two. I mean, if you're dropping ten bucks in the offering, dropping 15 bucks, 20 bucks in the offering on a Sunday, and if you're just writing out a little check or taking whatever's in your pocket and plunking it in there, you haven't gone through steps one and two. You haven't yet understood that you don't want to be laying it up down here, you want to be laying it up up there.
And you're saying, "Well, now, wait a minute. I want to have financial security, financial stability." Why? So you can spend the last 20 years of your life floating around the country in a Winnebago? What for? What's your purpose? You say, "I want to evangelize all the small towns." Go for it, if that's what you're going to do. But if you're going to float around and vegetate, better think again.
I mean, you've got to deal with those kinds of issues in your life. People say to me frequently, "Well, what do you think you'll do when you retire?" I say, "That's easy. Play a harp." If the goal and purpose of your life, the goal and purpose of your life is to advance the kingdom, then everything is moving in that direction, all your thinking, all your planning, how can I do that, how can I advance the kingdom.
There's a real practical third principle, and you've got to deal with this one. It's very simple. Get out of debt so you can respond to God. People say, "Oh, I'd like to give more, but oh."
I remember the lady who told me, she was having a baby, and she said, "I'm only going to be home with my baby two weeks. I have to go back to work because I have to pay my mortgage. My husband and I have a big house, and," she said, "I have a mortgage." I said, "Lady, you have a baby. Where's your priority?" You know, live in an apartment, take care of your baby. Advance the kingdom.
See, we get ourselves into debt, and we're in financial bondage, bound by all of these things, and if God said, "Forsake all and follow me," we'd say, "I can't do it, I'd have 48 creditors coming, too. I can't do that."
"I'm calling you to the mission field." "Oh, I want to go, I want to go, but I can't. I'm $48,000 in debt. And I'm only making $2,000 a month. It's going to take me a while."
That's true. People are like that. Young couples, $25, $30, $35, $40 thousand in credit card debt. They aren't even 30 years old yet. Pretty typical, even in the church. Get out of debt, so that you can begin to do what God wants you to do.
You say, "How do you get out of debt?" Let me give you some principles, all right? By the way, let me tell you why it's a good thing to get out of debt. If your outgo exceeds your income, your upkeep is going to be your downfall. That's pretty profound, right?
How are you going to get out of debt? Let me give you some simple principles. Inventory all your expenses in the order of importance and start at the bottom eliminating, and you'll eventually move up to what you really need.
Inventory all your expenses. Put them in a list. Go through your checkbook if you have to. And start at the bottom of the priority. List them in priority, food, shelter, whatever. And as you get to the bottom, start at the bottom and start eliminating them.
You see, the way to get out of debt...are you ready for this?...this is profound...is to spend less than you earn. Get that? That is a very deep principle. Spend less than you earn. So you make your list. You eliminate the nonessentials.
Two, sell all large items that are not on the priority list, that are not necessary. Sell them. And take the cash and begin to pay off the bills. You've got to change your lifestyle.
Next principle, begin buying on a cash basis only. Begin buying on a cash basis only. Cut the credit cards. I told you a few weeks ago about the guy who said his wife had plastic surgery. He cut up all her credit cards. Do it, folks. Do it. And buy only on a cash basis. You'll be amazed how it will affect your purchasing. Amazed.
Another point, consider additional work. Consider additional work. Take on an extra job to get out of debt.
Another principle, listen to this, give God the opportunity to provide an item before you buy it. Did you hear that? Pray and see if God doesn't provide something before you run out on impulse and buy it.
So inventory all your expenses in the order of importance and start eliminating from the bottom up. Sell all large items that have some cash value and begin to pay your bills. Begin buying on a cash basis only. Get rid of your credit cards. Consider additional work. And evaluate carefully whether you need to purchase something immediately or whether you could prayerfully wait and see that God might even provide it for you.
Another principle, don't borrow money for depreciating items or luxuries. Don't borrow money for depreciating items or luxuries.
Another one, stay out of stores. Another one, stop reading catalogs.
Now, another one, begin saving, even if it's a little bit. You see, those are such practical things. If you're going to really become an investor in eternity, you've got to have something to invest. And if you're in bondage because it's all caught up in the stuff that's going to burn, you're in trouble. And your eternity will reflect that stupidity and that sin. So you've got to back up.
First thing you do is you reckon that everything you have belongs to God. Second thing, your goal in life is to advance the kingdom. Now, in order to do that, you've got to get out of debt.
You say, "Well, you know, I need the deductions, I need the deductions." No. No. You don't need the deductions. Because as soon as you're out of debt, you can give it all, and that's all deductible. That'll all take care of itself. You don't need a financial advisor to tell you that.
Fourth principle, realize that all your giving, listen carefully, is to God. Realize that all your giving is to God. You do not give to the church. You do not give to the minister, the pastor. You do not give to the preacher, the evangelist. You do not give to the missionary. Your giving is to God.
Now, I want you to get this point. This is essential. When you come to the church on Sunday and you put your money in the offering plate, you gave it to God, from God's viewpoint. Why? Because God sees it as treasure laid up where? In heaven. You gave it to Him. You gave it to Him. He knows your heart. You gave it to Him.
If you come and say, "Well, I don't like Grace Church that much. I'm not going to give much," that's not an issue between you and Grace Church. That's an issue between you and God. It's to Him you give it. The stewardship you have of your money is to Him. Now, our stewardship to Him is to make sure we care for that money. But your responsibility is to give it.
Do you remember the Corinthian church? Would you say the Corinthian church had some problems? Yeah, they had some problems. They were a nasty bunch of Christians. And they were on each other's back all the time, arguing about who was the best. I'm of Paul, I'm of Apollos, I'm of Cephas, well, I'm of Christ.
They were committing adultery, fornication. They were suing each other in the courts. They had devastated the whole ministry of spiritual gifts with all their ecstatic tongues and gibberish. They were caught in all kinds of abuses at the Lord's table, and some of them even died because of it.
Now, if you want to be in a church where you could complain, go to the Corinthian church. You can complain a lot. They've got a lot to complain about. They were a mess. You know what Paul said to them in chapter 16? "Every Sunday, you come, and you bring your money as you purpose in your heart, and you give it to God."
Paul didn't say, "Now, you Christians, you really need to think a long time before you give these Corinthians any of your money." No. He said, "On the first day of the week, let every one of you lay by him in store as God has prospered him." You give. Why? You're giving to God. This is your heart giving to God. See, that's the point.
When Jesus said to the rich young ruler in Matthew 19:21, "Go, sell all your possessions and give to the poor and you'll have treasure in heaven," what He was saying is, "When you give your money to the poor, God takes it and accounts it as treasure in heaven."
Now, what do the poor do with the money? We don't know. I've given my money to the poor and they go out and buy a beer. I don't know what the poor do with my money, but God counts it as treasure in heaven. Why? Because I gave it out of a pure heart in response to God's command.
Your giving is to God. You're not supposed to sit back and try to manage the stewardship of everyone you give it to. If you hold back, my friend, you're not robbing the church, you're robbing God, and you're robbing yourself of eternal treasure.
You see, in Hebrews 13:16, it says your giving is a sacrifice to God. It's an offering to God. You give it to God. You put it in His own hands. As if Jesus' nail-scarred hands were taking your money every Sunday, you give it to Him. You're giving it in His name. You're giving it out of love for Him.
And, as you give, the Bible says it is to be joyful, it is to be eager, it is to be secret, it is to be humble, it is to be sacrificial, it is to be generous, it is to be systematic week by week, it is to be loving. Certainly if the Old Testament people started with a tenth, we ought to do better than that, who have come to know Christ.
Beloved, in conclusion, you can take it with you. Isn't that good news? You can take it with you, only if you lay it up in heaven. Let's pray.
Father, we are so struck by the message of your Word to us this morning, because we live in this culture so materialistically bent, and we have been so victimized. God, preserve us from being materialists who ought to be supernaturalists, from investing in time and earth who ought to be investing in eternity and heaven.
Forgive us for worshipping money instead of you, for the idolatry of greed and covetousness, for not realizing that every time we give, we give it to you, and it tells you how we much we love you and how much we thank you, and how we are humbled and grateful for your good provision for us.
We who are the rich of the world should be rich toward you. May it be so. May it be so, that you might receive the glory, and that the treasure might be yours and ours someday in your presence. And we thank you for the privilege and the promise of an eternal reward, in our Savior's name. Amen.