You Should Be Committed! Part 6

We’ve spent some time looking at how we can be more committed to God through our relationship with Jesus Christ. Lack of real commitment is probably the number one problem in the Church of Jesus Christ as we move through the second decade of the 21st century in America. American Christianity has, at various times been referred to as “shallow” at best and “too commercial” at worse. American Christians are viewed as “lazy” and “out of shape, spiritually,” by believers in other countries. I hope they’re wrong, but it’s hard to dispute their assessment. Spend a few minutes around many Christians and it seems that they are well-versed on many things except their faith. They can talk forever about the latest movie or TV show they like, or football and politics, but change the subject to spiritual or Biblical things and, amazingly, they clam up! What’s going on? It’s because too many of us are more committed to the things of this world we like than to the God we claim to love so much.

And that’s a real tragedy because it is only when we become serious about our faith that incredible things start happening to us, in us, and around us. God promises so much to those who are truly committed to Him; things not available to less-committed believers. Really, some Christians who are are barely in the Kingdom are quite literally robbing themselves of tremendous blessings – spiritual and otherwise – because of their stubborn refusal to give their all to Jesus.

In Matthew 6, we read a very interesting teaching that starts off like this:

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. (Matthew 6:19 | TNIV)

As with so many of our Lord’s teachings, He’s exaggerating to drive home a point, which we will get to when He does. In order to fully appreciate His teachings about treasures on earth versus rewards in Heaven, we have to go all the way back to verse 1 –

Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ in front of others, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. (Matthew 6:1 | TNIV)

People who follow God can do so two ways. They can be concerned with the here-and-now. So, as verse 1 suggests, as a believer you can choose to live in such a way as to gain the praise of man. Again, Jesus is engaging in some exaggeration. It’s not that you should hide your faith so nobody can see it; so nobody can tell whether or not you’re a Christian! Everybody should know what your faith is! When people look at you, they should know without a doubt that you are follower of Jesus Christ. What Jesus is getting at here is motivation. Do you live like a believer to impress people? Are you looking for that handshake from the pastor? If that’s what’s important to you, then while you are building up credit here on earth, you won’t be in Heaven.

This teaching of Jesus’ reminds me of something Paul wrote about in 1 Corinthians about this very subject.

If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames. (1 Corinthians 3:12 – 15 | TNIV)

So, certainly you can live looking for rewards on earth. You’ll get into Heaven, but barely, smelling like smoke. Alternately, you can live with your focus on pleasing God, not man, with Heaven in view, not this world. Jesus mentions that if you live with pure motives and are committed to God, then rewards will be waiting for you in Heaven, courtesy of your Heavenly Father. That gets us down to verse 19.

Priorities and Attitudes

It is the height of foolishness of trust treasures on earth. Anything you save here can be taken from you.

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. (Matthew 6:19, 20 | TNIV)

The context of this teaching, though, is really about rewards. Jesus introduced the idea back in verse 1, and here He expands on it. There are rewards for living right and being in a faithful, committed relationship with God. If there were no rewards, what’s the point in being good? The rewards of this world are temporary at best. God’s rewards, however, are permanent and are spiritual. A Christian may be so focused on building up his kingdom here that he forgets about Heaven. It’s not that Jesus is against saving money or saving up for retirement. If that’s what you see here, you’re missing the point. Myron Augsburger wrote this about these verses:

Gathering earthly treasures is not a great enough cause by which to structure a philosophy of life. Earthly treasures offer no long-range security. Rather, the treasures of the eternal life are the securities that remain.

Christians need to live with an eternal perspective, not a temporal one. That’s not easy to do because we can’t see into eternity, all we can see is the temporary world around us. Generally speaking, most of us weren’t raised with an eternal perspective. If we were fortunate enough to have been raised by Christian parents who dragged us to Sunday School and made us sit through sermon after sermon, then we learned about rewards in Heaven. We learned about the dangers of loving money. We learned about trusting God to provide our needs. But at the same time, we were probably encouraged to go to college to “get a good job that pays well.” We watched as we went deeper and deeper into debt so that we could, supposedly, live prosperous lives when we graduated. At best, our well-meaning parents sent us very mixed messages indeed! Trust God, but don’t put all your eggs in the same basket. Hedge your bets. Just in case. No wonder most churches are bereft of members in their 20’s and 30’s! They’re still trying to figure out why they aren’t prosperous and why they’re drowning in debt! The sad reality is that you can be genuinely interested in serving the Lord, but at the same time be running after the elusive and temporary rewards the world has to offer. If this is how you are living at any age, you’re doing it all wrong.

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:21 | TNIV)

Is it possible to accumulate great amounts of “wealth” and still be a committed follower of Jesus Christ? Absolutely! There are many, many wealthy disciples of Jesus Christ, who are doing just fine spiritually and materially. The problem occurs when you start to view your wealth as your treasure. Your “treasure” is the most important thing in your life. If that’s how you view your wealth – or anything on earth, for that matter – then you’re in big trouble. Your heart won’t be in Heaven, it will be stuck here on earth. You’ll be living a very limited life and your God will be very small. Ralph Earle, in his commentary on Matthew, made a very astute observation about what I call the “eternal perspective:”

If you encourage a man to give to the Lord’s work, you are are helping to tie him to heaven. Even soliciting a sinner to contribute to a special project of the church may lead to his salvation. Thus we do people a definite service when we give them a chance to make their offering to the Lord. Where their money goes, there also their hearts will go.

That last sentence is what they call, “the money quote.” Mr Earle is absolutely right about that. When we live with an eternal perspective, we will be obvious about it for the right reasons. When we give others the opportunities to participate in living with an eternal perspective, we are engaging in a worthy service. And here’s the point so many Christians miss. The whole of their lives should be devoted to the eternal perspective and pointing as many people in that direction as they can. If you are a Christian, the entirety of your life is an opportunity to show the lost that there is a better way to live; there is way off the hamster wheel of life.

Jesus moves from the heart of a man to another organ.

The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. 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! (Matthew 6:22, 23 | TNIV)

Believe it or not, Jesus is referring commitment to God here; a singleness of purpose. Follow: If your eyes are working correctly, then you’ll see things clearly. But an eye, for example, with astigmatism, produces only blurred vision. They eye is the window through which images filter and perception is brought to the mind. If the window is clear and clean, all is well. But if the window is dirty or cracked, light is warped and images become all distorted. What Jesus is getting at is so simple it’s profound. The light which gets to a person’s heart depends on his spiritual state. Eyes that are clouded with greed or lust lead to distorted vision that produces improper behavior. But eyes that are clear – eyes that are both looking in the same direction in singleness of purpose, committed to God and loving toward others, will see eternity on the horizon and that image will influence the man’s behavior.

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. (Matthew 6:24 | TNIV)

This is a powerful verse that sums up Jesus’ teaching of the two treasures and where we store them. There’s more than meets they eye when it comes to these two treasures. It’s a question of two masters and which one you will let master you. The English “money” comes from the Greek “mamona” or “mammon,” which is actually a transliteration of an Aramaic word meaning “property” or “wealth” in which a person places their confidence. Jesus brilliantly personifies God and money as slave owners and pits them against each other. A man can hold down two jobs at once; a lot of people are doing that today, but God and money aren’t employers, they are slave owners, and nobody can be owned by two slave owners. Either God is served with clear, single-minded devotion or He is not served at all. One scholar lays it all on the line and writes,

Attempts at divided loyalty betray, not partial commitment to discipleship, but deep-seated commitment to idolatry.

So, how does all this tie into our series on being committed to Christ? When you are in a committed relationship with the One who saved your soul, you are serving Him and that includes your wealth – your money. In case you missed it, here’s what Jesus said about your motivation for giving your wealth to God’s work: Store up (or build up) for yourselves treasure in heaven. You show God that you are serious about your relationship with Him by how generously you give to His work here on earth. A lot of Christians view money as dangerous and dirty, but I tell you money is a very spiritual thing. The only way to build up your treasure in Heaven, which according to Jesus is what you should be doing, is by giving some of your wealth to the Lord’s work here on earth. Don’t give blindly to every charity that comes begging; make sure that your church or charity is truly doing the Lord’s work – that the Gospel is being preached and taught both here and elsewhere; that people are being helped in Name of God. If your giving is being used for the sake of God’s kingdom in the propagation of the Gospel and changing lives, then it becomes legal tender in Heaven.

You may think that’s not a good reason to give. You’d be wrong. You should be giving for the purpose of adding to your treasure in Heaven because our Lord said: Where your treasure is, is where your heart is. If you know you’re building up and adding to your treasure in Heaven, then that’s where your heart will be. But if your treasure is in the bank, that’s what you’ll be thinking about because that’s where your heart will be.

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