Earthly riches vs Heavenly riches

Sermon on the Mount  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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For many people the goal in life is to become famous or to be a decent person at the very least. I found 10 common goals for people to strive to accomplish in the next 10 years:
Marriage and Family harmony
Proper balance in life
Improved Physical Health
Passion in one’s career and achieving personal satisfaction
Developing gentleness and empathy
Financial stability
Social responsibility
Relaxation and leisure time
Continuing Education
Growing one’s faith
Many of the things on this list are good things! It is a good thing to continue your education in order to learn more and be better at your job. It is a good thing to improve your physical health. It is a good thing to become responsible and include time to relax. It is a good thing to try and balance a family/work dynamic. These things are not bad. But, they cannot be the most important thing for a Christian! The most important thing for a Christian is to store up heavenly treasures, not earthly ones. We all have things that we value. Some of us value memorable things with sentimental value like clothing or a quilt or a paper/trophy won by a family member. Others of us value things like reputation, education, looks or money. These things are not necessarily bad, but again they cannot be the most important for a Christian!
Daniel Boerman puts it well whenever he says, “The Christian lives in this world, but his sights are set on the world above.” This is not just a quote that this man came up with, this is directly what we see in Scripture is it not? says that
Colossians 3:1–2 NASB95
1 Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.
The Christian is called to set their mind on the things above… Friends, life is short. We don’t know what tomorrow holds and we know that our world is temporary. As a result we can’t place our trust and hope in the things this world has to offer! Instead, we pray for heavenly riches rather than earthly riches. We apply the Lord’s prayer into our daily life. We recognize that all other things will fail us with the exception of God and the things of eternal glory.
Matthew 6:16–24 NASB95
16 “Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 17 “But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face 18 so that your fasting will not be noticed by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. 19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 “But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; 21 for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 22 “The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. 23 “But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! 24 “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.

Fast with a Christlike Heart (16-18)

The opening 3 verses serve as a conclusion to the previous section and an introduction to verses 19-24 as it talks about fasting and the need for Christians not fast like hypocrites do. Last week we discussed how followers of Christ are to give and pray with a Christlike heart and not do so like the hypocrites do. We are to give and pray in quiet and out of a genuine desire in our heart rather than doing so for the praise of men and in order to look good in front of others. The same principle applies when it comes to fasting. Christ does not want people to fast so that they will be noticed by others, rather Christ’s call is for His followers to fast and be noticed instead by the Father who sees what is done in secret!
The Pharisees during Jesus’ day fasted on Mondays and Thursdays from food. The disciples of John fasted according to , but this was not a high priority from Christ during His earthly ministry. He did say that it would happen later according to , but in general this was a controversial subject that Christ did not command His followers to do in the same manner that the Pharisees did. Again, we’ve been contrasting the Pharisees and the teachings of Jesus during His Sermon on the Mount as Christ commands His followers to obey Him with the heart rather than simply doing external actions for the sake of maintaining tradition.
Craig Bloomberg offers some help here as he says, “Christians who judge successful ministries by external statistics such as attendance figures, membership, baptisms, and offerings should seriously rethink their criteria in light of Jesus’ words here. God judges the greatness of his servants by searching their hearts, examining their inner attitudes, and seeing deeds done in secret.”
Christians who judge successful ministries by external statistics such as attendance figures, membership, baptisms, and offerings should seriously rethink their criteria in light of Jesus’ words here. God judges the greatness of his servants by searching their hearts, examining their inner attitudes, and seeing deeds done in secret.
At this point, church, we must be mindful and careful, as Christ commanded we do in , as we evaluate the things that we do individually and corporately as a church. It can be easy to play the “we’re better than them” game when it comes to church life. It can be easy to say, “big churches use contemporary songs and have lost their way” or “big churches are too big and put on a show whereas the smaller church follows the Holy Ghost.” - I have heard that exact statement from someone’s mouth. Church, we can’t dare say something like that. You can have a preference, but Christ’s words in put us in our place. We don’t do what we do in order to look good before others. We worship the King and we witness in the community in order to exalt Christ. One of the great ways that we do this is by ministering with our fellow churches. We give, pray and fast with a Christlike heart. We die to self. We pick up our cross daily and follow Christ. We examine our preferences and see if they are of eternal significance or if they are of earthly significance because 99% of our preferences don’t matter in the scheme of eternity. We must put them aside.
Blomberg, C. (1992). Matthew (Vol. 22, p. 122). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

Pursue eternal riches over earthly ones (19-21)

Why must we put these aside? Because we cannot serve 2 masters! If God is our master and He is the master of our brother down the road then we are on the same team and praise God for that blessing!
Jesus in the next couple of verses commands His followers not to accumulate earthly possessions for the sake of collecting dust and rust. In the ancient world, as is similar in our world today, wealth was measured by owning things that were made of precious metals and cloth. As a result, the owner feared attacks from moth and rust daily as they were common in the Middle Eastern climate! Even whenever the person keeps their earthly treasures safe and protected, there is still the risk that a thief could break in and steal it! Spiritual treasure, though, is different. Holiness, character, obedience, conforming to the image of Christ are completely different things than riches, possessions, clothing and cars.
As a result of the difference between heavenly and earthly riches, the Christian faces a bit of a conflict here: what should I do with earthly riches? Christians are not wrong to have earthly riches. The call from Christ is to pursue heavenly riches, not earthly ones, but earthly riches will come and they are not bad. So, what should the Christian do with them? Simple. The Christian uses their earthly riches in order to help meet the physical and spiritual needs of others. As we talked about last week in Matthew 6:1-4, the early church and the Jews were expected to help those who were in need. That same responsibility falls upon the church today! We are expected to use our material and earthly blessings in order to help those who are in need. We are not to store up these blessings for ourselves, rather we see everything we have as a blessing given to us from God in order to in turn bless others.
Have you ever heard of the Robert Frost poem entitled, “The Road not Taken”? The poem shows a fork in the road that leaves only 1 path to be traveled. This is much like our life as individuals and as a church, is it not? We must prayerfully consider which road we will take. Will we assist this ministry or will we not? Will we go on this mission trip or will we not? Sometimes the path before us does not have a very serious consequence. Perhaps the question is, “Should I eat cheerios or should I eat cinnamon toast crunch cereal?” Other times, though, there is a clear right and wrong option: God/satan, right/wrong, righteousness/unrighteousness, earthly treasure/heavenly treasure. The decision we make in these situations has a much larger consequence than the type of cereal we eat in the morning, correct? They have eternal ramifications! Jesus helps us in this passage by telling us that we don’t have 100 options. We don’t even have 10 options. We have 2 options. We can either place our treasure in heaven or in earth. That’s it!
Not only does Jesus say not to store up earthly treasure but he does so in a present imperative. This is a command to constantly guard against storing up this type of treasure. Christ gives us a list of things that are worth accumulating in the Sermon on the Mount. Suffering, loving one’s enemies, giving to the poor, praying, humility. These things are worth treasuring. These things have lasting value unlike earthly treasures! So, friends, let’s ask ourselves where our treasure is located. Is it on things that will last or is it on things that will fade away?
The reason that this matters so much is because of verse 21: wherever your treasure is, your heart is also. Danny Akin notes that one of the most basic and fundamental truths of Christianity is that the heart should belong to God. God created us, He redeemed us, He loves us. To love anyone or anything more than Jesus Christ is to commit spiritual adultery - as we saw in the book of Hosea!
Look at Matthew 13:44
Matthew 13:44 NASB95
44 “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
This is the treasure of heaven. The treasure is not wealth it is Jesus Himself! It is worth more than this world has to offer. Friends, we must guard our heart above all else. In verses 19-20 whenever we see the word “yourselves” it is plural and in reference to all the people. In verse 21, though, you is singular. Your treasure, your heart. The application is personal. This is something that only you can answer. Only you know where your treasure is stored. I pray deeply that everyone can honestly say that their treasure is stored on eternal things that will last long past our death on this planet.

Pursue good over evil (22-23)

Do you know how complex the human eye is? The human eye is capable of absorbing 10 million pieces of information each and every second! There are 120 million rods in the human eye that detect even the faintest of light in a dark room - as you’ve witnessed if you’ve ever gone hunting or cave spelunking. The eye has 6/7 million cones that help process color and detail. It has been said that cameras and computers are becoming more and more advanced, which is true, however it has been said that it would take over 100 years for a computer to process 1 second of human vision from all of the optical nerve cells in the human eye. The human eye is incredibly complex and is truly a gift from God.
We know that Scripture speaks about the wonderful gift that eyes are.
Psalm 121:1–2 NASB95
1 I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; From where shall my help come? 2 My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth.
Psalm 121:1-2
Psalm 119:18 NASB95
18 Open my eyes, that I may behold Wonderful things from Your law.
Psalm 119:18 NASB95
18 Open my eyes, that I may behold Wonderful things from Your law.
Just as eyes are wonderful and they assist us in seeing the world that God has created around us, the eye is also a lamp into our body. Jesus tells His followers in
John 3:19–21 NASB95
19 “This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. 20 “For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21 “But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.”
We must be in the light, not the darkness. How many of you are “window” people? You open your curtains and allow the sunlight to come into your home and it makes you feel better than being in a dark gloomy home. Just as a window allows natural sunlight to come into a home, the eye allows light into the body. This is why having a healthy eye is an important thing! If your eye is clear (or healthy) then your body will be full of light. Some people believe that this illustration is in reference to the amount of generosity people have. They will argue that if a person has a clear eye then they are a generous person but if they have an evil eye then they are stingy with their resources. Some subscribe to this interpretation of , but most commentators disagree. They believe that the issue is not related to money but rather related to devotion.A healthy eye is one of single devotion whereas an evil eye suffers from having a double mind or double vision.
DA Carson notes, “The good eye is the one fixed on God, unwavering in its gaze, constant in its fixation… The individual with a single eye toward kingdom values is the person characterized by maximum understanding of divinely revealed truth and by unabashedly pure behavior.”
The person’s eye is on the prize - either earthly or eternal things. Either the kingdom of this world and its master or the kingdom of heaven and God.
Verse 23 flips the script. Just as a good eye is one fixed on the eternal things and practicing the light and walking in the light, the bad eye leads to a life of darkness. Charles Quarles notes, “When greed forces any trace of inner good and only evil remains, the inner person is indescribably evil. The greedy person’s corruption is complete. No room remains for God or pursuit of the kingdom and its righteousness.” These are some strong words, but Jesus is very direct here. If a person has an evil eye, the whole body will be full of darkness. If you view life and what this world has to offer as all that there is and you emphasize making a name for yourself regardless of the cost then you will not see things for what they really are. James Boice is right whenever he says, “If you are absorbed with money, you will miss everything else in life that really matters.”
Piper hits the nail on the head whenever he says, “There is no positive correlation between having many things and being happy.” You can try to accumulate things and satisfy yourself with the things of this world, but at the end of the day we will never be able to satisfy ourselves outside of Christ!

Pursue God over money (24)

Jesus says in
Matthew 19:24 NASB95
24 “Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
It is hard for a rich person to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. shows that the Christian is to be devoted completely to the things of heaven. They are supposed to have single, healthy vision and serve the right master. This is a decision that we must all make every day of our lives. Either you are mastered by money and ignore God, or you are mastered by God and use money as a resource to further the Kingdom of God. But, if you are mastered by God and money attempts to master you then you are in a predicament because you can only serve 1 master. Our world says that money can solve problems and issues and that it should be pursued because it can define our legacy. This is why Jesus addresses the pitfalls associated with money time after time because much money makes a cruel master!
The obvious reaction from this teaching is to say that we need to ensure that we are not bondslaves to money and that we make sure at all costs that we are not mastered by it. While this is certainly true, we must go a step further. Sinclair Ferguson notes that, “We should notice the obvious implication of Jesus’ teaching in this verse. We were made to have a master.” This might rub us the wrong way. We don’t like thinking of Jesus as a master. We like to think of Him as a gentleman who helps us whenever we ask Him to. We are called to show our devotion and loyalty exclusively to Jesus Christ! Paul considered Himself a slave of Jesus Christ in . We see in places like that Christ demands our loyalty
Luke 14:26 NASB95
26 “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.
Have you ever tried to please multiple people at once? Maybe you have 2 commitments going on at the same time and you try to please both people, what usually happens? You end up failing at both! We cannot submit to 2 kings. Spurgeon notes that, “God and the world will never agree, and however much we may attempt it, we shall never be able to serve both. You can live for this world, or you can live for the next, but to live equally for both is impossible.” So stop trying to do it! You will hate one and love the other. The only way that we are to live as Christians is to live exclusively for the Kingdom of God and to use everything in this life to further that purpose.
We live in a world of limited resources, correct? There is only so much gasoline out there. There is only so much fresh water out there. There is only so much coal out there. We know that there will come a time, likely hundreds and hundreds of years from now, where these resources begin to run out, but we know that this time will come. It is the same with our resources. We have a limited amount of resources, a limited amount of time and a limited amount of energy during our lifetime. As a result, we must make hard choices. The more we love ourselves, money and our passions then the less we will love God and the things of the Kingdom. The more that we love the temporary things of this world, the less that we will love the eternal things that Christ calls us to live for.
It is not a sin to have money and resources, but it is a sin to be a servant to it. As the song by TobyMac says, “I don’t want to gain the whole world and lose my soul.”


What is the ultimate point Jesus is trying to get at here in the Sermon on the Mount? Is He simply serving as a good teacher giving wise advice as some people claim? No! He is God in human flesh. He is the Son of the Living God and He wants our allegiance and loyalty. He is showing how unless we to serve Him wholeheartedly in every area of life, especially in the realm of material resources, we cannot claim to be His servant at all! This is what Jesus tells the Rich Young Ruler in , after all.
I pray that we devote ourselves to God alone. That He would be our unquestioned master and that we would set our eyes on the things of the Kingdom rather than the things of this temporary planet that will one day pass away. This type of mindset is difficult to live with in a world that measures success by possessions and materials, but we know that nothing can compare with obeying, serving, and worshipping our heavenly Father in all aspects of life.
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